Duran Duran writes amazing original music. Duran Duran sometimes performs good covers… but not always. If you were to look at my list of worst Duran Duran tracks, an inordinate number of them would be covers they did that I didn’t think were worth the studio time. In this two part blog post, I’d like to deal with four such tracks each in some way related to David Bowie and/or John Lennon. Two of these covers I like quite a bit, one I’m somewhat impartial to, and one I think was pretty bad.
David Bowie – Fame
This is an odd song for me. It was co-written by David Bowie and John Lennon and released in 1975. In spite of the powerhouse of songwriters, it’s a song that I’m largely impartial to. I won’t turn it off if it comes on, but I don’t really seek it out the way that I often seek out other songs by either artist. I think that it’s just personal listening taste, because I can’t deny how original and instantly recognizable the song is. It’s good songwriting and features good playing, plus the studio side of creating the sound was well executed. It’s not like I ever turn the song off in disgust. It’s just nowhere near my favourite David Bowie song.
Duran Duran – Fame
Duran Duran released a cover of “Fame” in 1981 as a b-side to “Careless Memories.” I’m a completionist where it comes to my Duran Duran collection, meaning that I will buy anything they put out. In spite of that, I’m glad that there was an additional b-side, “Khanada” on this record.
I enjoy Andy Taylor’s guitar work on their cover of “Fame,” so ignore my grousing.
Given that I was already impartial to the original version of “Fame,” it was unlikely I was going to be excited by a cover. As is often the case with a Duran Duran covering songs, what makes it work is the “Duran Duran sound.” I can listen to this cover from time to time and enjoy the instrumentation (sounds a bit like “Friends of Mine” or “Sound of Thunder”) but I can also listen to “Careless Memories” or “Khanada” and enjoy the instrumentation, so it’s not a great argument for the track. To me this is one of Duran Duran’s weaker covers.
David Bowie – Space Oddity
This is a song that has been so influential that it’s hard to deny. It’s significantly high on my list of favourite David Bowie songs, and also on my list of all-time favourite songs. This is one of many songs that opened me up to how amazing David Bowie was. Prior to hearing the “ChangesBowie” compilation, all I knew of David Bowie was singles from “Let’s Dance,” which I thought were great. Hearing his early work showed me how deep his talent went.
Duran Duran – Planet Earth/ Space Oddity (live)
Duran Duran’s album “Paper Gods” was released on September 11, 2015. David Bowie released his “Blackstar” album, officially, on January 8, 2016, and then passed away two days later on January 10, 2016. “Paper Gods” was Duran Duran’s biggest commercial success since 1993’s “The Wedding Album,” so they pushed forward with a couple of years of touring. I saw them four times on this tour (twice in Oklahoma and twice in Texas.) By the time I saw them on this tour, David Bowie had been dead for half a year, and Duran Duran had arranged a tribute.
I have what I call my “Duran Duran Bingo Card” which is simply a list of songs I’ve heard them perform live. If their tribute had just been to play their cover of “Fame,” it would have been good for purposes of my Bingo Card, but we wouldn’t have been treated to one of the greatest medleys ever. They added elements of “Space Oddity” to their song “Planet Earth,” and the result was amazing. I seriously think they should have done a studio version of this song. They could have made it for some charity or another; maybe something Bowie contributed to when he was alive. It might only work live though. I don’t know.
I’ll deal with two more covers in Part Two, next week. When I post it, I’ll come back and place a link to Part Two somewhere around here.
Chris McGinty (not pictured here) is a blogger and Duranie who has heard “Planet Earth” played live by Duran Duran eight times, four times with the “Space Oddity” elements added. What’s my point? Just that it doesn’t feel like quite enough. I wonder how many times I would have to hear Duran Duran live to finally decide I’ve had enough. I bet it’s a higher number than most of us would actually guess.