It was a friend and fellow Duranie, Matt Mocharnuk, who said to me recently that listening to music is the closest thing to time travel we have within our grasp. I thought of those wise words this week as I returned to 1981 to revisit my 15-year-old self.
I didn’t go back to whisper words of advice laced with the benefit of hindsight into my teenage ear, or offer warnings about decisions I know now were perhaps not the right ones to take at the time.
In any case, I cannot change the past so there would be no point anyway, and even if I had the gift of time travel, I know that my teenage self would still ignore what I said anyway. At that age, I hadn’t yet discovered there is only one infallible Catholic in the world and it’s not me!
It was music which propelled me back to the ‘80s, and it’s what links the teenager with the middle-aged man I now am. In particular, it is one band – Duran Duran – and the fact they have accompanied me over the past four decades.
What I do know with some certainty is that the 15-year-old Paul Cuddihy would find it impossible to grasp that, having bought the band’s eponymous debut album in 1981 that, 40 years later, he would be just as excited to be listening to their new album, Future Past, in 2021. And that’s even before trying to explain about streaming services and downloads, never mind the fact he would have had to look up the word ‘eponymous’ in a dictionary!
On Thursday, March 5th, 1981, Duran Duran appeared on the BBC1 TV music show, Top of the Pops, performing their debut single, Planet Earth. I sat in front of the television set in the living room of my parents’ house in Bishopbriggs, a town situated five miles outside Glasgow as I did every Thursday night. It was half an hour when I was allowed temporary control of the TV.
It took less time than that for me to become a fan of this new band which was spearheading the New Romantic movement in British music – three minutes and 57 seconds to be precise, which was the length of Planet Earth.
The following day, I headed to the local record shop after school and bought the seven-inch vinyl single of Planet Earth. That was me a Duran Duran fan, and my love of the band has never wavered since that day, regardless of the highs or lows of any specific album or record.
Indeed, I would say that my appreciation of their music has only grown as I’ve got older.
Some of that is nostalgia, which has become an increasingly intoxicating elixir with each passing year, and many of us enjoy its taste, so long as it does not leave us with a hangover of wistfulness and regret.
For me, it conjures up some wonderful memories of being that age, and it’s nice to spend some time with them.
Yet there is also the realisation that I am a fan of a band who write great songs. They did so back in 1981 when I first heart Planet Earth and they continue to do so in 2021 as I listen to their latest album.
Future Past is the band’s 15th studio album, and the fact that it is one of the strongest in the Duran Duran canon is testament to their collective ability as musicians and songwriters.
From the opening strains of Invisible, the first single from the album, through to the final bars of the last track, the majestic Falling, it’s clear that Duran Duran are still at the top of their game, and they are absolutely loving every moment of it.
I picture them grinning in the studio as they recorded track after track, perhaps with a glance or a nod to each other, a silent acknowledgement that screams ‘We’re pretty good at this, aren’t we!’
I don’t think their smiles could be wider than mine, though, as I listen through the album.
Future Past is an aptly titled album because it manages to acknowledge the band’s past while also doing what every Duran Duran album does – look innovatively to the future.
Tracks like Give It All Up, which features Swedish singer-songwriter, Tove Lo, and the infectious More Joy, featuring Japanese band, Chai, are contemporary and fresh, while All of You is a more classic funky track, infused with clear Chic influence.
Legendary disco producer, Giorgio Moroder, worked with the band on Tonight United and Beautiful Lies, which is evident even on a first listen of both songs, while the album’s title track starts as if it auditioning for the Christmas number one before blossoming into a memorable ballad with an Abba-esque chorus thrown it for good measure.
The album also contains some breathtaking songs. Apart from the aforementioned Falling, which features long-time David Bowie collaborator, pianist Mark Garson, the songs Wing and Nothing Less, placed back-to-back in the track listing, are destined to become Duran Duran classics. And I would recommend the deluxe version of the album for the bonus track, Laughing Boy, alone.
Former Blur guitarist Graham Coxon is an integral part of this album, co-writing a number of tracks, and he fits in seamlessly with the Duran sound, while ensuring his own character and style is still very much audible. And there is a further collaboration with rapper Ivorian Doll on Hammerhead.
The main stars of the album are, of course, the four members of the band – vocalist Simon Le Bon, keyboard player Nick Rhodes, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Taylor. They are all at the top of their game on this album and it’s hard to remember when they have sounded better.
These past few months, I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the Duran Duran Albums podcast, where my friend, Molly Williams and I chat through each of the band’s 15 studio albums in turn. It has been a genuine labour of love, giving me an excuse to revisit albums that I love and reacquaint myself with others that I may have neglected.
I still love that first Duran Duran album I bought in June 1981, just as I already love the Future Past album I’m been streaming in 2021.
In 2061, God willing, I will be 95. It’s fair to assume Duran Duran won’t still be releasing new records in 40 years’ time, but hopefully I will still be listening to the albums they have left us… and that will spark an incredible journey back in time which even Marty McFly with his DeLorean car would be envious of.