Number Ones: #14

014_Duran_Reflex

  • DURAN DURAN The Reflex (EMI)
  • Week Ending 26th May 1984
  • 1 Week at #1

 

For 1983’s Holy Trinity Of UK Pop – that is, Culture Club, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran – 1984 would prove a testing year. Boy George and co. would come unstuck later that Autumn (as documented in the post on It’s A Miracle), while the Spands were about to launch their eagerly-awaited sequel to True (the so-so performing Parade, as it transpired), which leaves us with the minor funk that Duran Duran found themselves in.

Received wisdom, and a general consensus at the time from people who seemed to know what they were talking about, ran something along the lines of: Union Of The Snake was pretentious rubbish, and its #3 peak a disaster, but New Moon On Monday was even worse and deserved to flop….what the hell are they going to do now?

Well, putting aside the relative merits of its two predecessors (which are both much, much better records than their reputation might suggest), what Duran Duran did next was fairly drastic. But it shaped the direction their sound would take for a long, long time.

The Reflex, in its original version, makes for a rather ordinary opener to an album (Seven And The Ragged Tiger) which bore all the hallmarks of a band who were paying more attention to photoshoots, artwork and videos than to the actual music. The sleeve looks a million dollars, yet the material is often half-hearted and threadbare. Union Of The Snake and New Moon On Monday really are the standout tracks, the most fully-realised moments on the record. The problem, as peers Culture Club would soon discover, is that what was chart-conquering one year is not necessarily as palatable when re-heated 12 months down the line.

New Moon On Monday shared the same terrific guitar-pop leanings of Is There Something I Should Know? but by early 1984 the pop stakes had been raised and, just as The War Song came across as a limp, insipid take on the Colour By Numbers formula, that sound just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. No fancy longform promo video, with incomprehensible arty stuff and the band looking windswept and beautiful, could change that. Duran Duran simply needed to up their game.

This was achieved via the enlisting of Nile Rodgers to remix The Reflex into something that would arrest their chart decline (New Moon… had only reached #9 less than a year after Is There Something… sensationally debuted at #1). Rodgers didn’t so much remix the track, as totally deconstruct it. Very cleverly, he found parts of the track which could be used to much greater effect, once he’d chopped and changed everything around.

Just as he’d made Bowie sound utterly contemporary in 1983, Rodgers’ work on The Reflex effectively rebooted the Duran Duran sound, steering it away from impenetrable pop that took itself too seriously and giving it back some swagger and commerciality. From funk to funky, you could say….

 

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