On this day in music history: June 15, 1981 - “Duran Duran”, the debut album by Duran Duran is released. Produced by Colin Thurston, it is recorded at Red Bus Studios, Abbey Road Studios, Utopia Studio in London, and Chipping Norton Recording Studios, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, UK from October - December 1980. The Birmingham, UK band are at the forefront of the New Romantic movement sweeping England at the time of its release. Boasting a wide variety of musical influences including David Bowie, The Sex Pistols and American R&B/dance music innovators Chic, Duran Duran marry these musical genres together, creating a unique hybrid and develop their own distinctive sound. The album is a huge success in their native country spinning off three singles including “Planet Earth” (#12 UK) and “Girls On Film” (#5 UK). It goes largely unnoticed in the US on its initial release, until it is reissued in April 1983 following their breakthrough success with their second album “Rio”. The original US release removes the original single version of “Planet Earth”, replacing it with the extended “Night Version” of the song. The track “To The Shore” included on the UK LP is not featured on either version of the US LP. Also, initial US pressings are issued with Harvest labels, with a subsequent re-pressing using maroon Capitol labels in 1982. The 1983 US reissue (w/ black rainbow colorband Capitol labels) is repackaged with redesigned cover art (cover photo taken by photographer Brian Aris), restoring the short version of “Planet Earth”, and adding the then new single “Is There Something I Should Know?” (#1 UK, #4 US Pop). The album is first remastered and reissued on CD in 2003, featuring the original UK LP track listing. It is remastered and reissued again in 2010 as a double CD + DVD special edition, with the first disc including the non-LP B-sides “Late Bar”, “Khanada”, “Fame” and “Faster Than Light”. The second disc includes fourteen bonus tracks including demo recordings, live BBC 1 radio performances, and the night versions and night mixes of “Planet Earth” and “Girls On Film”. The DVD includes the music videos for all of the singles, and television performances. “Duran Duran” peaks at number three on the UK album chart, number ten on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: April 23, 1983 - “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Kevin Adams, Jimmy Patterson and Kevin Rowland, it is the biggest hit for the Birmingham, UK based pop band fronted by lead singer Kevin Rowland. The Celtic influenced pop song is influenced by remembrances of Kevin Rowland’s childhood girlfriend, and how the nature of their relationship changed while growing up together. Born into a very religious Irish Catholic family, Rowland often felt guilt and ambivalence over how his feelings for his girlfriend had evolved from purely platonic to being more sexual in nature. The songs memorable music video filmed in the Kennington district of South London is directed by Julien Temple (“The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle”, “Absolute Beginners”) and features Máire Fahey (also pictured on the single sleeve), the sister of Siohban Fahey of Bananarama and Shakespeare’s Sister as lead singer Kevin Rowland’s girlfriend “Eileen”. Released in the UK first in the Summer of 1982, it is an immediate hit rocketing straight to number one spending four weeks at the top. The single is released in the US five months later in December of 1982. Entering the Hot 100 at #79 on January 22, 1983, it climbs to the top of the chart thirteen weeks later. Regarded as one of the quintessential songs of the 80’s, “Eileen” is covered by Save Ferris in 1994, with the original version being featured in the films “Tommy Boy”, “Get Him To The Greek” and “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower”. “Come On Eileen” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: June 23, 1984 - “The Reflex” by Duran Duran hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Duran Duran, it is the first US chart topper for the pop/rock band from Birmingham, UK. The members of Duran Duran write “The Reflex” while recording their third album “Seven And The Ragged Tiger” at AIR Studios, on the island of Montserrat in the Spring of 1983. The songs distinctive steel drum percussion breaks are not performed on real steel drums, but are played by keyboardist Nick Rhodes on a Roland Jupiter 8 synthesizer. Big fans of and heavily influenced by the American R&B band Chic, Duran Duran contacts guitarist Nile Rodgers, asking him to remix “The Reflex” for single release. Rodgers goes into the studio and gives the song a dramatic makeover, giving it a more forceful and pronounced dance oriented groove. Rodgers uses a Synclavier to sample and play back parts of the track including Simon LeBon’s lead vocal and the background vocals to give the track its distinctive “stutter” effects throughout. Upon hearing the remix, Duran Duran’s record label (Parlophone/EMI in the UK and Capitol Records in the US) initially refuses to the release it, feeling that it sounds “too black”. The band have to fight with their record company for its release, with the label eventually relenting. Capitol Records in the US packages some copies of the single in a picture sleeve that folds out into a poster, with EMI and Capitol also issuing a 12" single along with a limited edition picture disc (with different artwork for the US and UK releases). Released as the third single from “Tiger” on April 6, 1984 (Worldwide release on April 16, 1984), it is an immediate smash, becoming Duran Duran’s biggest selling single. Entering the Hot 100 at #46 on April 21, 1984, it leaps to the top of the chart nine weeks later.
The song is later featured in the films “American Wedding” and “Corky Romano”, as well as in an episode of the TV series “That 80’s Show”, featuring a guest appearance by John Taylor. A reference to “The Reflex” is made by comedian Dave Chappelle in the controversial “Pixie Sketch” (from “The Lost Episodes” DVD), where Chappelle appears as a pixie in white face singing the chorus of the song while performing the twist.
“The Reflex” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
2015 was an amazing year for new music and new bands, producing a huge amount of wonderful new albums.
One Great Song personal favourites are:
Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool
Wolf Alice have thrived this year. With a Glastonbury spot and huge sell out tours, they have really proved to the world just how great they are.
My Love Is Cool is for me, the best album of 2015. It isn’t very often that I can listen to an album and think ‘Wow. This is genuinely incredible.’ But that is exactly what came to mind a few songs into this album.
Nothing But Thieves - Nothing But Thieves
Having signed a record deal in just 2014, it has been a whirlwind year for Nothing But Thieves. With sets at Reading and Leeds festival, to supporting Muse in front of 32,000 people, things are really kicking off for this band.
For me, this was the most anticipated album in a long time. From the hit tracks ‘Itch’ and ‘Wake Up Call’ to the more mellow, haunting sounds of ‘Lover, Please Stay’ and ‘Tempt You’ this album really has something for everyone.
Catfish and The Bottlemen - The Balcony
Catfish and The Bottlemen have simply exploded this year. Having gone from a sellout tour of 1000 capacity venues to a whole tour with multiple dates at Manchester Apollo selling out in mere minutes, they have really shown their true potential.
With huge sing along tracks like ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Kathleen’ all the way to the beautiful sounds of ‘Hourglass’ this is a hugely impressive debut. A consistent, but not boring sound throughout provides a beautiful album, perfect for any mood.
Peace - Happy People
Kicking off the year with an intimate tour showcasing the new album before moving on to a larger tour at the end of the year, Peace have had a great year.
Happy People shows a new side to the Birmingham band. ‘Perfect Skin’ captures this generations desires to be as good as everyone else, ‘Happy People’ the stress and sadness of growing older. Peace have grown up, but their sound is still just as great as before. Happy People shows their growth, and proves their talent.
Another Birmingham band, Superfood! They came up last year with their three tracks Melting, Bubbles and also Superfood. They have already shown us how special was their sound. But they are back today with TV, which is very DIY, for its lyrics, and for their kind of noisy guitars too. And here the link of the video.
Superfood, not only because of their name, but mostly because of their fresh songs, bring us some good energy and is definitely one of the most promising bands of the moment! I think it is now safe to say: What the hell is happening in Birmingham?