I would love to say that I remember where I was when I first heard Duran Duran’s eponymous debut album. It was released on June 15, 1981, just a month before my fifteenth birthday. I don’t know if I rushed out and bought the record straight away – it might even have been birthday money which helped purchase it although, like most of my record purchases back then, it was most probably funded by paper money I earned from delivering the Evening Times newspaper every day after school, most of which found its way into the cash till of Tom Russell’s Record Shop in Bishopbriggs.
I still have my original copy of the album, and taking out the vinyl disc from the sleeve, give it a rigorous dusting before putting it on the turntable and placing the needle on the record. The crackling sound sends an instant wave of nostalgia over me and I’m back in 1981 again.
The album kicks off with the rapid sound of a camera snapping pictures signifying the start of Girls on Film, a song that would become the band’s third single release and their most successful single to date. That might have had something to do with the controversy surrounding the video for the song, which featured semi-naked women cavorting, or wrestling, or at least doing something titillating (pun intended!). I don’t remember when I first saw the video, though it’s unlikely that it would have been when I was 15, and a heavily edited video was shown on TV at the time. Still, there’s nothing like a bit of controversy for selling records.
Following Girls on Film is Planet Earth, the first single and the song which first alerted me to this new band. It was a great song and it still is. From the first time I heard it, I became a Duran Duran fan. They might have been a boy band before the phrase had been invented, wore make-up and strange clothes that I would never have attempted to imitate – black suede tukka boots were the closest I got – but for me, it has always been about the music, and Planet Earth made me an instant Duranie.
I’ve always loved Anyone Out There, and have felt it’s a sometimes neglected and under-rated song. It comes immediately after Planet Earth, and adds to an extremely strong first side of the album. The guitar and bass intro to the song is instantly catchy and I always thought it would have made a great single.
To The Shore is a song that contrasts sharply with the rest of the first side of the album. It is a slower track, allowing the listener a chance to catch their breath after the energy of the first three tracks, and it’s also a song which has Andy Taylor’s guitar and Nick Rhodes’ synthesisers battling for supremacy; the latter ultimately triumphs, a sign perhaps of the direction the band were heading.
Careless Memories is the last song of the first side of the album and the band’s second single release. It came out in April although I bought it in the summer during a family holiday to Great Yarmouth. I still have the seven-inch single, on the sleeve of which is the name and address of a girl I met on holiday. She stayed in a nearby town to where I live – I would say that I won’t reveal her name to spare her embarrassment, but it’s more to spare mine, since she ignored my efforts to contact her when I came home!
Flipping the album over, side two begins with Night Boat, a synth-infused track that, like the rest of this side, grows on the listener. It’s perhaps no surprise that all the singles were on the first side, though I think that a case could be made for Sound of Thunder, which is the strongest track on side two.
Friends of Mine is another song which grows on you the more you listen to it, and on the rare occasion I’ve heard the band play it live, it’s been a highlight of the concert. ‘Georgie Davis’ mentioned in the chorus is apparently in reference to someone wrongly jailed for armed robbery in the 1970s, though he was, apparently a bit of a wrong ‘un, and after being freed, later returned to prison on a number of occasions. Whether or not he was aware of being immortalised in a Duran Duran song, I don’t know.
The Duran Duran album finishes with an instrumental – Tel Aviv – which, at five minutes, twenty-one seconds, is one of the longest tracks on the record. I have to confess that I didn’t listen to it much at the time, and I only give it a solitary listen now. Without Simon le Bon’s vocals, it doesn’t feel quite like a Duran Duran song, and it is perhaps the only disappointment of the debut album which finishes not with a bang but with a whimper. Still, that’s a minor criticism of an otherwise impressive album.
I remember the album cover being featured in Grange Hill, which I thought at the time to be the greatest programme ever made, when one of the characters was listening to it while doing her homework. I think it was Claire Scott – actress Paula Ann Bland, who later turned to glamour modelling when her acting career evaporated. Maybe it was the influence of the Girls on Film video which sowed the seeds for her revealing change of direction?
Listening to the Duran Duran album again in 2015 gives me goosebumps as I try to remember my fifteen-year-old self sitting in my bedroom and listening to the record over and over again, which is what we did then, before picking out certain songs and doing the same thing – lifting and laying the needle on the groove of the specific track.
I can’t recreate the feelings I had back in 1981 – for one thing I’ve got over my obsession with Sarah Greene (pictured left), who was a Blue Peter presenter at the time – but I’m glad, upon listening to it again, that the record has stood the test of time, and with considerably more style than me!
Favourite track: Planet Earth
My book, ‘As Easy As A Nuclear War: short stories inspired by Duran Duran song titles’ is out now and available to buy HERE