Holiday Cheer: Best of Duran Duran–ranking all their albums


Hi Blog, and Merry Christmas. I’m going to talk about something completely unrelated to Japan for a change. Duran Duran. Yes, the 80’s rock band. And give you a line up of both songs and reasons why you shouldn’t dismiss them too quickly.

(NB: If you don’t want to read my ponderings regarding the Durans as a phenomenon, page down to a listing of albums I would recommend if you want to give them a listen.)

It’s long been an open secret that I am a Duran Duran fan. Why, you may ask (and you would be forgiven) would a person like me (or for that matter, a person like anyone) like a band like them?

Well, of course there is no accounting for taste, especially musical, when so much is influenced by where you grow up–and what seems to be floating around the airwaves and the zeitgeist when you’re growing up. But Duran Duran caught me at just the right point in my musical-taste development to lodge themselves irretrievably into my playlists. Their RIO album took America by storm in 1982, and it got quite a lot of radio play in my Upstate New York hometown. Not to mention our hungering for any videos when we didn’t have cable (hence no MTV), meaning all we could do was wait for weekend morsels from “Friday Night Videos”. And the Durans (along with Billy Joel) made the most memorable vids. (To this day: Any time you have an 80’s tokushuu on MTV Japan, sooner or later you get a Duran in there. No wonder. You Tube Duran Duran or Arcadia and watch what you get.)

RIO was one of the first albums I ever bought with my own money (the first one was, for the record, Supertramp’s BREAKFAST IN AMERICA, and that album holds up very well too even if Supertramp itself fizzled out in the American market with their next album, …FAMOUS LAST WORDS…, which is still one of the most depressing albums I’ve ever heard). Even if “The Reflex” was wildly overplayed, and NOTORIOUS both as an album and a single pretty blah, I could still work backwards and discover enough gems on PLANET EARTH, move forward to their interesting outing on ARCADIA, and catch them live (they’re really good live, believe it or not) both on ARENA and at our local concert shell (where yes, they came to play in one of their frequent sales troughs; and I still have the concert shirt). Then as I got older and saw how dark and cynical the world is, Duran offered me solace and good tunes with fine outings like BIG THING and WEDDING ALBUM. Then I was sold well enough to forgive further foibles and stumbles they would make, culminating in the payoff of their two good recent albums ASTRONAUT and RED CARPET MASSACRE.

That’s what I mean by good happenstance. They just kept catching me at the right junctures in my life. But here are a few more objective reasons why you should give the Durans a second chance and at least a third listen:

1) They’ve been around for closing in on thirty years now. There’s a good reason for that. They keep crafting tunes and staying together long enough to have not one, but two, renaissances (first with top ten hits in the early 1990s, and again nowadays with their current lineup and great tunes all over again).

2) Their tunes are uniquely theirs. From Simon LeBon’s voice to Nick Rhodes’s colorful magenta and hot pink tones, you know you’re listening to a Duran Duran song when one comes on. Yet they have enough edge and guitar to keep people who like more rock than pop listening. Consider songs such as “Girls on Film”, “Rio”, and “Is There Something I Should Know?”–to cite three you probably have heard already. Like them or not, they’re quite unique. There are hundreds of imitators of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, U2, and all the supergroups (because they are so imitable). But who imitates Duran Duran? Who can?

3) Their lyrics are surprisingly deep at times. Really suggest you give them a try.

4) Duran Duran as a group makes me smile, even laugh. They don’t take themselves at all seriously. For example, watch the video for “View to a Kill”–and witness Simon’s awful pun at the end (and his face just before he gets blown up). When all the weight of the world is on one’s shoulders, putting them on cheers things up (so do the B-52’s, but they get a little too corny at times, especially to those who have gone through their Dr Demento Phase). In other words, they’re fun. And we all could use a little more fun in our lives.

5) Durannies are a great crowd to hang out with. It’s like being in any closeted minority–we learn how to have fun our own way.


Want to give Duran Duran a try? Here are my rankings of their best albums with the best tracks in descending order–based upon my star rankings (five stars being the best) in my iTunes folder. I only include tracks with four or five stars. The more tracks with high rankings, the higher I rank the album, so if you want to start somewhere, try the top albums. (NB: I haven’t included their greatest hits (DECADE), compilations (NIGHT VERSIONS, STRANGE BEHAVIOUR), live bootlegs, or singles.)

I also have sampled some of the songs on my Podcasts, so if you want a preview, listen to the very end of the podcast and you’ll get a taste.

ALBUM IN CAPS, Track name in smalls:

Box Full o’ Honey (5 stars)
The Valley (5)
Red Carpet Massacre (5)
Skin Divers (4)
Tempted (4)
Tricked Out (4)
Zoom in (4)

BIG THING (1988)
Too Late Marlene (5 stars)
Land (5)
Do You Believe in Shame? (5)
Big Thing (4)
The Edge of America (4)
I Don’t Want Your Love (4–excerpted on my Dec 8, 2007 Podcast)
All She Wants Is (4)

Girls on Film (5 stars)
Tel Aviv (4)
Planet Earth (4)
Anyone Out There (4)
Careless Memories (4)
Is There Something I Should Know? (4)
Night Boat (4)

What Happens Tomorrow (5 stars–excerpted on my Nov 28, 2007 Podcast)
Reach Up For the Sunrise (5–excerpted on my Nov 12, 2007 Podcast)
Point of No Return (5–excerpted on my Nov 19 2007 Podcast)
Still Breathing (5)
Want You More! (4)
Finest Hour (4)

Come Undone (5 stars)
Ordinary World (5)
Breath After Breath (5)
None of the Above (4)
Sin of the City (4)

RIO (1982)
Last Chance on the Stairway (5 stars–excerpted in my Oct 20, 2007 Podcast)
The Chauffeur (5)
Rio (5)
New Religion (4)
Hungry Like the Wolf (4)

Lady Ice (5 stars)
El Diablo (5)
The Flame (4)
Keep Me in the Dark (4)
The Promise (4)

ARENA (Live) (1984)
New Religion (5 stars)
Careless Memories (4–excerpted on my Oct 13, 2007 Podcast, beware middling sound quality as it was my first podcast.)
The Chauffeur (4)
Planet Earth (4)
Is There Something I Should Know? (4)
The Wild Boys (4)

Be My Icon (5 stars)
Michael You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For (4)
Silva Halo (4)
Undergoing Treatment (4)

THANK YOU (1995)
Watching the Detectives (5 stars–excerpted in my Nov 5, 2007 Podcast)
Drive By (4)
Lay Lady Lay (4)
Crystal Ship (4)

Of Crime and Passion (5 stars–excerpted in my Oct 29, 2007 Podcast)
Shadows on Your Side (4)
The Reflex (single version–4)

LIBERTY (1990)
Serious (5 stars)
First Impression (4)
My Antarctica (4)

Winter Marches On (5 stars)
Hold Me (4)

POP TRASH (2000)
Playing With Uranium (4 stars–excerpted on my Dec 19, 2007 Podcast)

So you see, according to my tastes, however questionable, Duran Duran have gotten better over time. I’m glad I stuck with them. Here’s to many more years of good music, and hope to meet them someday.

Merry Christmas 2007, everyone! Arudou Debito in Sapporo

8 comments on “Holiday Cheer: Best of Duran Duran–ranking all their albums

  • I too like Duran Duran. Their music makes me feel good.
    About 1000 years ago, I actually went to the same grammar school as Simon LeBon. He was in the year below me. He and Elton John must be the school’s most successful “old boys” I guess.

    Happy Christmas and a successful 2008, Debito!

  • seven and the ragged tiger was the first musical compilation (cassette tape) I ever bought. That summer I was lucky enough to be invited away with a family of one of my high school friends. It was a nine hour drive and I asked them to play it over and over and over again in the car on the way.

    I have a lot of good deeds to do to make up for what I subjected that family to. 🙂

  • “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” was the first cassette tape I ever bought as well. I drove my family insane playing it over and over at home.
    I am a big Duran Duran fan, but I haven’t listened to anything after the “Wedding Album”. One of my favourite songs is “Lonely in your nightmare”.

    Also, I really really wish I had stumbled upon this excellent blog when I actually lived in Japan!

  • I knew this list was coming sooner or later.

    I liked DD, secretly bought their albums (my friends were Who fans) and even convinced our band to play a cover of New Religion.

    However, I have to admit that I was first attracted to the girls that liked DD in H.S. So, ah, that’s how I first “got into them” (no pun intended).

    So, where’s the all-time 1980 – 2007 best list (only one song per year). You’ve already seen mine.

    Best to ya,



  • uh..uh…no way…I’m not posting my list here (if that’s what you mean)–I fear your commentary!

    How about you and everyone else? Here are the rules: you must start with the year that you became seriously interested in music (13-14 for most people) until now. You’re only allowed one song per year (that you think best defines the genre you like–my case: alternative). You can repeat bands and even skip years (if you became musically “comatose” during that time).

    Oh…and, uh, you don’t have to stick to just one genre.

    Anyone interested (hima-jin for the holidays)? Go!



  • Here goes (now please remember that these songs were mostly alt. at the time they were released). Bent some rules–sorry.

    Twenty Five Years of “Alternative Music” 1981 – 2006

    1 (1981), R.E.M.: Radio Free Europe
    2 (1982), New Order: Age of Consent (released ’83)
    3 (1983), This Mortal Coil: Song to the Siren (Fraser/Guthrie of “Cocteau Twins”)
    4 (1984), U2: Unforgettable Fire
    5 (1985), Bryan Ferry (formerly “Roxy Music”): Slave to Love
    6 (1986), New Order: Bizarre Love Triangle
    7 (1987), David Sylvian (formerly “Japan”): Promise (The Cult of the Eurydice)
    8 (1988), Cocteau Twins: Carolyn’s Fingers
    9 (1989), The Cure: Pictures of You (Live)
    10 (1990), Orbital (w/Elizabeth Fraser of “Cocteau Twins/This Mortal Coil”: Omen
    11 (1991), Everything But The Girl: Talk to Me Like the Sea
    12 (1992), The Cure: Friday I’m Love
    13 (1993), Sarah McLachlan: Possession
    14 (1994), Portishead: Sour Times
    15 (1994), Dead Can Dance: Sanvean (live)*
    16 (1995), Deep Forest (with Peter Gabriel): While the Earth Sleeps
    17 (1996), Cocteau Twins: Treasure Hiding
    18 (1997), Depeche Mode: Home (Grantby Mix)
    19 (1998), Deep Forest: Media Luna
    20 (1999), Delirium: Silence (Sarah McLachlan)
    21 (2000), Lisa Gerrard (formerly “Dead Can Dance”)/Hans Zimmer: Now We Are Free
    22 (2001), The Cure: Cut Here
    23 (2003), Sarah McLachlan: Fallen
    24 (2005), Muse: Starlight (released ’06)
    25 (2006), Massive Attack: Live with Me

    *attended this concert in Santa Monica, CA (video available at–Recommend it.

  • Seven and the Ragged Tiger was also the first cassette tape I bought! It seems like it was a pretty common first buy. I still love The Reflex, but Union of the Snake was a good song, too. Or at least it seemed so in 1983…

  • Wow- such terrific (Duran-tastic) reflections on the Fab Five! I have a unique perspective on Duran’s career as a DD poster archivist in the States. Their career spans generations and has made an impact on the music world that is rivalled by precious few. I wish you all my very best, and if you might like to browse my archive, I’d love to see what you think:

    Only a portion of the collection is currently visible, but I think it’s enough to offer a View To A Thrill. Stay hungry out there, and may The Duran be with you!


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