Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we focus on notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. Today, two decades after its release, we imagine an expanded edition of an album that sent an iconic ’80s band flying into the new decade – and back toward the top of the charts.
The bizarre narrative that seems to plague pop music is that, with each new decade, the trends of the last 10 years should be relegated to the past as soon as possible. The psychedelic sounds of the ’60s weren’t immediately swept away in the ’70s, but acts had to adapt considerably, lest they be drowned out by harder-edged rock, glam, disco and eventually punk rock. Those rawer styles (and even – or especially – disco) would find themselves out in the cold come the ’80s, a decade of synthesizer-based New Wave and big-haired metal.
Ironically, the secret to Duran Duran’s monolithic success in the 1980s hinged on their ability to take several trends that peaked the decade before and put a new spin on them, namely the cleanly-mixed, bottom-heavy disco overtones of groups like CHIC and the minimalist, keyboard-assisted rock approach of Roxy Music. Add a dollop of modern sensibility (namely a focus on physical appearance, served to perfection in scores of music videos for the nascent MTV), and it’s no surprise even Rolling Stone gave in to their charms, dubbing them “The Fab Five.”
That didn’t make Duran’s journey through a decade they largely owned any easier, though. By 1986, the quintet was reduced to a trio – vocalist Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and bassist John Taylor – and struggling to create music that was both artistically satisfying and commercially successful. (The criminally underrated Notorious (1986) and Big Thing (1988) did have several hit singles, including Notorious‘ title track and the latter album’s Chicago house-call “I Don’t Want Your Love.”)
Though Duran was anxious to start the decade off right – going so far as to hire touring guitarist Warren Cuccurullo (formerly of Frank Zappa’s band and Missing Persons) and touring drummer Sterling Campbell to the lineup, creating another five-piece outfit – they were tripped up by not only their inability but anyone’s inability to know which direction to move. Neither grunge nor hi-NRG dance nor Britpop had set in as musical trends, and the lack of general musical direction was twice as harmful to bands struggling to find their footing in the first place.
Whatever the cause for Duran Duran, 1990′s Liberty failed to post any hit singles, and the band’s decision to forego a tour did them no favors, either. Campbell would drift out of the lineup, and even Taylor – still battling drug addiction and testing out a marriage with model Amanda de Cadenet, who was carrying his first child – debated exiting the band.
The secret to their impending second wind was a most unexpected one, but the rewards were rich indeed. We tell that story – and imagine a reissue to celebrate that era – after the jump!
Ultimately, the one man to right the Duran ship was the only non-original member: Warren Cuccurullo, who’d been a familiar presence to Duranies since some last-minute subbing for exiting guitarist Andy Taylor on Notorious. At his offering, Duran camped out in the guitarist’s home studio in Battersea, aptly named Privacy; shielded from the press or the hand-wringing of executives at EMI, they were free to get creative with these sessions.
And create they did. Rather than lean on a new session drummer, Duran and producer John Jones used a mix of live and artificial percussion to best effect. Aided by a loop from The Soul Searchers’ classic breakbeat record “Ashley’s Roachclip” (which gained plenty of traction in the late ’80s with acts like Eric B. & Rakim and Milli Vanilli) and a liquid guitar riff repurposed from “First Impression” from the band’s previous LP Liberty, “Come Undone” was a fine example of where Duran were going with the new record, at once familiar to longtime fans but modern enough to attract new listeners. They weren’t afraid to experiment, though; killer lead track “Too Much Information” saw Duran fly in the face of their New Romantic image, singing lyrics about media control (“Destroyed by MTV/I hate to bite the hand that feeds me”) over an insistent acoustic guitar riff. Elsewhere, “Breath After Breath” featured lush keyboards from Nick Rhodes and a countermelody sung in Spanish by Milton Nascimiento, while closing tracks like “Shelter,” “To Whom It May Concern” (a middle finger to record company middle management) and “Sin of the City” saw the band hinting at what a more confident, focused version of Liberty might have sounded like, with fiery riffs and danceable rhythms.
The album’s undisputed masterpiece of The Wedding Album (officially self-titled, it was differentiated from their 1981 debut by the album sleeve, which features pictures of each band member’s parents in holy matrimony) was “Ordinary World,” a heartrending, uplifting ballad featuring a delicate acoustic hook from Cuccurullo and impassioned vocals and lyrics from Simon Le Bon. (Le Bon’s typically cryptic meditation on love and loss was inspired by the death of old friend David Miles, who also inspired 1988′s ”Do You Believe in Shame” and 1997′s “Out of My Mind.”)
But even the band’s label didn’t know what to make of what they had, until a Florida radio station played the song in the fall of 1992. Demand for the tune was tremendous, to the point where Capitol moved the single’s release up in the States; it peaked at No. 3, the band’s highest chart placement since “Notorious” peaked at No. 2 in 1986.
Happily, the follow-up release of “Come Undone” in the spring of 1993 proved the band wasn’t merely blessed by a rogue wave of nostalgia; it peaked at No. 7. What followed was a whirlwind year for the band: several years of world touring featuring dramatic new arrangements (many songs treated with acoustic or orchestral stylings), band milestones (a taping on the popular MTV Unplugged saw Duran assert the quality of songs both new and old in an intimate setting) and personal setbacks (Le Bon lost his voice toward the latter half of the tour, prompting a wave of rescheduled dates).
Even though the rest of the decade would be a trial for Duran Duran – Taylor would leave the band in the late ’90s to treat his addictions, and the less said about 1995′s covers record Thank You, the better – they were able to mine their deep reserves of pop songcraft and establish them not only to new generations but their own loyal fan base, a skill they’ve utilized more than once in the two decades since.
Our pipe-dream deluxe edition of The Wedding Album follows the same thread as EMI’s lavish 2CD/1DVD editions of their studio albums issued in 2009 and 2010. Bonus material was surprisingly rich for a band that was not the label’s prime focus at the time. (Indeed, early singles of “Ordinary World” came packed with the band’s earlier A-sides, as if to remind prospective new fans that this was a band with a lengthy, successful career!) Three non-LP cuts were included on singles and import versions of the album; we’ve also added a well-known, relatively complete outtake that’s been bootlegged but never formally released.
On Disc 2, we’ve tried to avoid overlap with The Singles 1986-1995 box set (which did not have any of the aforementioned non-album cuts), opting for the best remixes that did not make that set. This includes U.S.-only mixes or ones found on the Strange Behaviour remix compilation alongside some of the best ones you might be more familiar with.
The DVD portion is particularly ripe for visual treasures. In addition to all four promo videos (only two of which are readily available on DVD) and select live television footage, we’ve also included two major highlights of the Duran videography. One is Extraordinary World, a 1994 videocassette release that chronicles the evolution of Duran Duran up to that point. The other, of course, would be the band’s performance on MTV Unplugged. Recorded around the same time, on the same set, as Nirvana’s iconic performance, Duran runs through several dramatically rearranged numbers with aplomb. Our theoretical edition would include the full set, not just the edited 30-minute aired program.
Then, in the interest of emulating EMI’s release plans for every other Duran reissue, we’ve included a theoretical digital live extra: on May 15, 1993, the band did an in-store performance at Tower Records in Los Angeles. Three of those tracks were released as both non-LP B-sides and on a promotional cassette, but the full show has yet to see the light of day. Perhaps it would make most sense alongside a reissue of this beloved album?
Sound off below with your Duran memories, and thoughts on this special time in the band’s history!
Duran Duran, Duran Duran (The Wedding Album): 20th Anniversary Edition (Capitol/EMI)
Disc 1: Original LP (released as Parlophone/Capitol 0777 7 98876 2 0, 1993)
Too Much Information
Breath After Breath
None of the Above
To Whom It May Concern
Sin of the City
Disc 2: Bonus material
Falling Angel (B-side to “Come Undone” - Capitol CD C2 0777 7 15981 2 8 (U.S.), 1993)
Stop Dead (B-side to “Come Undone” – Capitol CD C2 0777 7 15969 2 6 (U.S.), 1993)
Time for Temptation (B-side to “Come Undone” – Capitol cassette 4KM 0777 7 44918 4 6 (U.S.), 1993)
Matter of Fact *
Ordinary World (Single Version) (single A-side – Parlophone DD 16, 1993)
Come Undone (US Remix) (single A-side – Capitol CD C2 0777 7 15981 2 8 (U.S.), 1993)
Too Much Information (Unplugged Remix) (from promo CD single – Capitol DPRO-79256 (U.S.), 1993)
Come Undone (Come Undub) (12″ promo B-side – Parlophone 12 DDDJ 17, 1993)
Love Voodoo (Sidney St. 12″ Mix) (from Strange Behaviour - EMI 7243 4 93972 2 4, 1993)
Ordinary World (Acoustic) (single B-side – Capitol cassette 7 44908 4 (U.S.), 1993)
Too Much Information (12″ Jellybean Mix) (from Strange Behaviour – EMI 7243 4 93972 2 4, 1993)
Come Undone (TV Synth Strings) *
None of the Above (Drizabone 12″ Mix) (from Japanese CD single – EMI TODP-2452, 1994)
Drowning Man (D:Ream Mix) (12″ B-side to “Too Much Information” – Parlophone 12 DD 18, 1993)
Come Undone (La Fin de Sciecle) (CD single B-side – Parlophone CD DDS 17, 1993)
Disc 3: DVD
MTV Unplugged (rec. @ Sony Music Studios, New York City – 11/17/1993 and broadcast 12/15/1993 – previously unreleased)
Hungry Like The Wolf
Girls on Film
Too Much Information
Extraordinary World (released as PMI VHS PMI TOVW3164, 1994)
Ordinary World (promo video)
Come Undone (promo video)
Too Much Information (promo video – previously unreleased on DVD)
Breath After Breath (promo video – previously unreleased on DVD)
Ordinary World (Top of the Pops – 1/14/1993)
Come Undone (Top of the Pops – 4/15/1993)
Digital Extra: No Ordinary Tour – Live in Los Angeles 1993
Hungry Like the Wolf
Girls on Film
Too Much Information
Save a Prayer
recorded live at Tower Records, Los Angeles – 5/15/1993. Tracks 3, 4 and 7 released on Capitol promo cassette 4XPRO-79235 (U.S.), 1993
Courtesy Second Disc. Please check the site for their selection of videos to illustrate this article.