Sunday, October 12, 2014

Boys on film

Wild Boys: The Story Of Duran Duran was first screened in 2000, but was presumably shown again recently to coincide with the release of Soul Boys Of The Western World, the documentary film about Spandau Ballet - the other outfit who, perhaps more than most, became the musical embodiment of Thatcherite Britain.

In the words of Dave Ambrose of EMI, who signed them up, Duran Duran were "a celebration of 'Let's go out and get it, let's enjoy it, and who cares?'". As the Pet Shop Boys sang, "Let's make lots of money" - and suddenly it wasn't taboo to do so. Consumption had rarely been more conspicuous, and no one - least of all the members of Duran Duran - seemed remotely interested in exercising restraint.

The film charts the band's history, from the early fusion of influences (punk, glam, disco, German electronica) through the heady pop megastar high-life of the mid-1980s to the low points of the 1990s. During that time they got mobbed by obsessed shrieking fans, got pally with Andy Warhol (according to Debbie Harry, "He was very attracted to Duran Duran - I think that they were a picture of pop art come to life") and got to work with Nile Rodgers (who somewhat implausibly claims that 'Wild Boys' could easily have been recorded by The Clash).

Nick Rhodes talks affectedly and arrogantly throughout it all, claiming to have "launched" a sound and sniffily dismissing erstwhile bandmate Andy Taylor's side-project with Robert Palmer, The Power Station, as "very rockist". He'd be well advised to listen to his own band's 2000 incarnation with replacement guitarist Warren Cuccurullo.

Thankfully, Paul Morley is on hand to puncture the pomposity of Rhodes and others, at one point claiming that Simon Le Bon wearing a yellow suit in the video for 'Rio' was like "a lump you'd find in your custard". (Le Bon himself comments that "All that mattered was the image" - call me an old fuddy-duddy, but surely the music should come into the equation somehow...)

In truth, Rhodes does show a sliver of self-awareness, describing covers album Thank You as "another one of our commercial suicide bids" - the mauling of 'White Lines' with Grandmaster Flash and others produced as Exhibit A in the prosecution's case. Lou Reed claims to be "absolutely wild" about their rendition of 'A Perfect Day', though, and Iggy Pop pops up as another unlikely character witness, describing the band as "a group of warm, wonderful and civilised human beings working in today's music industry". Perhaps it's tongue in cheek - it's hard to tell. Duran Duran themselves didn't really deal in such subtleties.

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