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Making Duran Duran Seven And The Ragged Tiger

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After sailing their way to superstardom with rio, Duran Duran’s Seven And The Ragged Tiger saw them threatened with becoming victims of their own success. In danger of being overexposed, they saved their reputations – and their money – by spending the year abroad… By Mark Lindores

Duran Duran Seven And The Ragged Tiger

After a whirlwind two years which had seen them release two albums, tour the world twice, become video age posterboys and spark scenes of fan hysteria, Duran Duran were firmly established as one of the biggest bands in the world.

However, as Duranmania reached its zenith, the group was perilously close to implosion due to constant scrutiny into their personal lives – be it from the press or the ardent acolytes that followed their every move with militant accuracy.

As the band began work on its third album early Seven And The Ragged Tiger in 1983, the decision was made to write and record abroad to avoid a burgeoning backlash and a hefty tax bill. 

“It’s an adventure story about a little commando team,” Simon told Rolling Stone. “The Seven is for us – the five band members and the two managers – and the Ragged Tiger is success. Seven people running after success. It’s ambition – that’s what it’s about.”

As many of the songs from the first two albums had been written around the same time and recorded close together with the same producer, Duran Duran and Paul and Michael Berrow agreed a change of sound would be beneficial to illustrate both their musical progression and the story of their success. 

“We decided on a change production-wise because we wanted a different sound,” Nick Rhodes says. “Instead of Colin Thurston, we worked with Ian Little, who had worked on Is There Something I Should Know? and Alex Sadkin, who had done great stuff with Grace Jones, the Thompson Twins and Bob Marley.

The combination worked extremely well for us. Alex worked really well with rhythm, which was something we hadn’t exploited to its full potential within the band before. At that point, it was definitely the most rhythmic thing we’d done.”

Escaping to a three-storey chateau outside Cannes in the south of France, the band, along with Little, set up a writing camp, taking a 24-track mobile studio from London’s RAK studios and beginning writing and recording lengthy jam sessions before listening to them back, cherry-picking segments and ideas and using them as a foundation on which to build new songs.

Little had learnt the technique while working on Roxy Music’s Avalon, and he deployed it to great effect on Duran Duran’s music.

Read our feature on Duran Duran’s cover art

Read John Taylor’s interview with Duran Duran guitarist Dom Brown

“That was the first time we’d done anything like that,” Nick says. ”The songs were built rather than written. On Union Of The Snake, I started off putting down a pattern all the way through, then another pattern, and then a third.

“Then as I played them back I could press a button and punch in and out, switching between the three patterns at different points, and that resulted in a very interesting arrangement. Then Simon could see where he wanted to put the vocal parts, where the bridges and the choruses should go.”

After three months of demo work in Cannes, the band moved to Montserrat’s AIR Studios for six weeks, where Alex Sadkin took over main production duties on Seven And The Ragged Tiger. “EMI was getting nervous about me and the band co-producing the album, and to be honest I was a little bit out of my depth, so the decision was taken
to use Alex,” Little recalls.

“I was devastated. I went to the band’s management and said ‘You can’t do this to me. I’ll be finished,’ and they said ‘We’re sorry, but this is a big project and we can’t risk it, so you’re out.’ The band members all appeared to want me involved, but they weren’t prepared to stand up to their managers or to EMI, so I went to Alex and he said ‘From what I can see you’re like a sixth member of this band. I won’t do it without you.’

“He needn’t have done that – from a financial standpoint he would have been better off if I wasn’t involved, but that shows what kind of person he was; an absolute gentleman [Alex died in a car crash in 1987]. But he also wasn’t an idiot, and this signalled a recognition on his part that I was an integral part of Duran Duran’s work process at that time. I didn’t get writing credits and I don’t believe I deserved them, but I know I helped come up with ideas during that time.”

Read our feature on Duran Duran’s 1990 album Liberty

Read more: Duran Duran Superfan

Now that the band was favouring a more dance-oriented direction, Duran Duran saw the album as an opportunity to take risks and evolve from their Rio sound. Is There Something I Should Know? became a blueprint for the sound of the record, along with recent favourites such as David Bowie’s Let’s Dance (which influenced Union Of The Snake in particular). 

As the album was nearing completion in Montserrat, recording was interrupted after Nick Rhodes fell ill and was airlifted to hospital suffering from complications due to an irregularly fast heartbeat.

The band also flew back to the UK to perform two charity concerts – one in Birmingham’s Villa Park in aid of MENCAP, and a Prince’s Trust Benefit Concert on special request from their fan Princess Diana. 

After the gigs, the third phase of album sessions took them to Sydney, Australia, where they spent the rest of 1983 finishing the album and kicking off their next tour. The first single, Union Of The Snake, preceded Seven And The Ragged Tiger by a month in October 1983.

It was a Top 10 hit, yet this performance was a letdown (likewise with second single New Moon On Monday). With the album receiving poor reviews, and their inability to promote it as much as they would have liked to due to commitments in Australia, the boys were relieved when the album went to No.1 in the UK. 

For the third single, the group decided to remix The Reflex. As huge Chic fans, they were thrilled when Nile Rodgers agreed to rework the song. His use of samplers and mixers proved invaluable, giving Duran Duran their biggest hit to date.

“We didn’t really nail it on the album… we were, like, ‘There’s a hit song in there somewhere,’ but we didn’t get it,” John recalls. “When Seven And The Ragged Tiger came out, it was a little underwhelming that there was no obvious follow-up to Hungry Like The Wolf or Save A Prayer but we sent the song to Nile and said, ‘Could you do anything with this?’

“And then he turned it into something extraordinary, with all the ‘fleck, fleck, flecks’ and the ‘why-yi-yi’ and all the magical things that he applied to the original recording. Then we did something wacky with the live video and… yeah, we were still in the game. Back in the game again!” 

For more info on Duran Duran check out their official website here

 

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Watch “Cherish the Day” (Sade Cover) by Javi

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Not in a big-headed way. I like to think I have a pretty good knowledge of the last four decades of pop. I had to track down the Sade track “Cherish the Day” for a listen before sharing my thoughts about a new cover of the song from NYC vocal maven Javi. Sade wasn’t someone I tuned into out of choice when I was in my teens. Their dreamy, soulful brand of pop didn’t resonate with me at the time. Since I am now entering my mid-life years. I have more of an appreciation for soothing kinds of music like this.

From the 80s, I recall Sade having hits like “Smooth Operator,” “Your Love Is King,” and “The Sweetest Taboo” from albums “Diamond Life” and “Promise.” Sade’s pop music of the era was in a lane of its own and stood out from other pop songs of the day.

Cherish the Day‘ is a single from the band’s fourth album “Love Deluxe,” released in 1992. Although the singer is most commonly recognised by the name Sade. Sade isn’t a solo artist, as many people still assume it’s the name of the band led by Helen Folasade Adu.

Listen on Apple Music

Therefore, with the music and vocal being so unique and distinctive, what does Javi bring to this update on “Cherish the Day?”. He bathes the song in his own unique style of dreaminess. His slick voice takes charge with effortless ease in the song. Masterfully, he retains the emotive and evocative soundscape of the original. His vocal runs and high reaching falsetto notes are both excellent and things of beauty to behold.

Javi has put his own stamp on the track, completely. Thanks to Raj, I learned about this cover version. It is not something I would have listened to if not prompted by someone for who I have massive respect for their music tastes. Javi’s vocal control and command of the song blew me away at first, even though I was a tentative listener. He has a well-tuned set of pipes. Regardless, of whether you enjoy a soothing listen to Sade or not, you should take note of him. His voice is as gorgeous as melting chocolate sensations, and you will (I promise) soon become addicted.

Connect with Javi
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CallMeJavi/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/callmejavi
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/callmejavi/





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Interview: Tim Finn talks Split Enz, Forenzics

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Forenzics
Tim Finn (left) with his Forenzics partner Eddie Rayner

The co-founder of Split Enz, one half of Finn Brothers, and co-writer of Crowded House’s most successful studio album, Tim Finn discusses 50 years in the business and his new project with Forenzics… By Felix Rowe

Tim Finn rose to fame in the 70s with the fabulously eccentric Split Enz. Later reuniting with younger brother, Neil, in Crowded House, together they conquered pop with the landmark album, Woodface, co-writing totems Weather With You and Four Seasons In One Day. Surely a first, the brothers both picked up an OBE in 1993 for services to music on the same day.

Impressively prolific, Tim’s steadily released a string of albums since, whether with Finn Brothers, his umpteen solo records, collaborations and musical theatre projects. Now half a century since Split Enz formed, he’s teamed up with former bandmate Eddie Rayner, using “shades and echoes” of Enz tracks as the impetus to create something entirely fresh. As Forenzics, they are looking back to look forward.

Shades And Echoes is a cracking album. You must be rather pleased with it?
Yeah, we’re both delighted with how it all turned out. It was an exciting way to work.

It’s an interesting approach, taking snippets from classic Split Enz tracks and using them as the basis for creating something new…
People have obviously created songs from samples, but I’m not sure anybody’s written a new song over an old bit of their own, you know? It wasn’t something that I thought about a lot over the years, then suddenly it just seemed the time was right. I was intrigued by this idea of that section of Walking Down A Road which Brian Eno had commented on at the time, when Phil Manzanera was producing us. [Eno implied they should just retain that one part, scrapping the rest]. I thought it was interesting to just zero in on one section, because we were definitely kind of maximalists, and he was heading towards his minimalist propensity.

It was a meeting of two kinds of worlds in a funny way. It drifted back into my mind, around 2018. I said to Eddie, “Why don’t we write a new song over just that one section?” We did a bunch of others like that, then we branched out into new ideas that he’d been jamming with his band [Double Life]. I wrote lyrics and tunes over beds of music, which lots of people are doing these days, but for me it was something I’d never tried before.

So how did that process work with Eddie’s band?
Eddie would spend quite a while editing them into shape, so they arrived feeling like songs that just needed tunes and words. There were a couple of cases where I tried singing this tune from a completely different song over these music beds, and it actually really worked, without requiring any edits whatsoever. The Rules, Unlikely Friend and Strange Stars – three songs that pre-existed in a sense, but they were completely reinvented. It was just the sheer bliss of creativity.

Tim Finn Split Enz ForenzicsThere are several character pieces – Premiere Fois channels your inner Serge Gainsbourg with a suave, throaty French…
Absolutely! I’ve been doing a bit of work creating music theatre in Australia and even got involved with an opera not so long ago. It’s just a whole new world other than your own, which was a huge liberation for me. So it fed back into these tracks. It’s very easy for me to slip into character, which is still part of myself, but it’s an extension. I did an album with Phil Manzanera around the same time [Caught By The Heart], and wrote a few songs in Spanish – because Phil grew up in Cuba – and it just somehow connected with the first wave of COVID through Europe.

It was a very global moment, basic human preservation instincts coming through. So I was connecting with Spain and France. The joys of translation are many, because it really bends the language into different shapes. You find because of the syllables and the way they scan, the lines become a bit misshapen, and that’s quite fun to play with. If you try to squeeze them into shape, then you have to change the entire meaning of the line, and say it in a more abstract way. So, it actually works on you, the writer.

Incredibly, it’s 50 years since the formation of Split Enz. Was it a good opportunity to rifle through the band’s back catalogue?
There’s a mandolin part in Matinee Idyll, on the Second Thoughts album. It just had this really evocative mandolin-strumming intro, and I just knew that there was a song there to be had. By returning to those motifs, you can never go back to who you were at 22 or 23, but it evokes a huge wave of pathos and, not nostalgia, it’s definitely richer than that… it’s just a feeling. Our son was 21 or 22 when I was doing this, our daughter was 16 or 17.

Being around them a lot, it brought that age back to me. I was always someone who never looks back. Like a lot of people in the Western world, it’s always, “What’s next, what’s next, what’s next?”, this relentless looking forward. But as you age, you do look back more. So there’s an element of yearning that can never be satisfied, but also an elegiac component as well. It’s a beautiful feeling to get into. The songs were definitely responding to the music from 47 years ago, but they felt brand new to us.

Music seems to run in the family. Are your kids also musical?
Yeah, they sang on one of the tracks. They are musical, they can both sing. Our son Harper, he’s got a deal now with Warners. He’s writing well and he’s really into it, so it does seem to flow on through. I’ve seen that with Neil’s kids, too.

So when can we expect the next Finn Brothers record? I’d say we’re overdue a comeback…
We don’t talk about it. These things tend to creep up on us every 10 years or so. I mean, it’s always on, but it’s just a bit unpredictable exactly when or what. But we are actually singing… [laughs] Funnily enough, we’ve been roped into singing a few songs at a wedding on Saturday for one of our nephews! So that will be the first time that we’ve actually sung together for a while.

Neil’s kids are now playing in Crowded House. Maybe you could extend the idea with a Finns supergroup, featuring all the family?
I wouldn’t mind that. It would be fun to do that one day. Like, who were the famous American family? The Carter Family!

Tim Finn Split Enz Forenzics
Forenzics – Shades And Echoes cover

Going back to Forenzics, are there plans to carry it forward?
I think there’ll be a Forenzics II at some point, now we’ve opened the door. Eddie and I first wrote together in 1977 when Split Enz began touring America, and the other co-founder, Phil Judd, left the band after that tour. He and I had a sort of falling out, and it was really a terrible time. But Eddie and I went off and wrote a bunch of songs. Weirdly, we never wrote together again. Literally 40 years went by, and now we’ve rediscovered something between us, it’s good.

You worked with some other old Split Enz cohorts, too…
Yeah, Noel Crombie, he was our percussion player and drummer for many years, pretty much a founding member. He also created our clothes and our haircuts – basically the whole Split Enz look, because he was a sculpture student at art school. I always felt we were an organic sculpture to him! So he played on a couple of things and that was just wonderful. And Phil Manzanera played guitar on quite a few of the tracks.

Was there ever any talk of Shades And Echoes being a Split Enz album?
No. There is an essence that is very of Split Enz, but it’s not Split Enz. We did a few reunion shows probably 10 years ago now that were great. It’s great to play those songs again, but it’s always great to play new stuff, as well. We never really got to the point of making new music. When I think back sometimes, we didn’t ever actually have to break up… But it’s funny the different attitudes, back then you had to make a big statement: “We’ve broken up!” like The Beatles did.

Do you have plans to tour this record?
I’m sort of 50/50. I’d like to, if we could do it justice, perhaps give it a theatrical context, maybe using some old imagery and projections of the Enz. Create an atmosphere that shows how it all began; link people in the audience back to that, and bring them forward into the new songs.

Do you miss the road more generally, and that direct interaction with audiences?
Yes and no. I often think that’s why Bob Dylan stays on the road. He writes so well, and I do think you lose something when you don’t tour anymore. But there’s things I don’t miss about the road… I guess I just did it a lot! Whenever I do play a gig it’s great, but I do much less of it now. I was lucky to be around for my kids when they were growing up, and I’m very thankful for that. 

Shades And Echoes is out now via Warner Music New Zealand 

Read more: Lost & Found – Crowded House

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Listen to “Yo Yo” by Mika

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If you did so. I hope you did not get up to get fresh air for long during the half-time entertainment segment. (Which featured after each Eurovision entry performed on Saturday night). As tempting as it was to stretch our legs and take a break from all the craziness. (Given the rollercoaster ride of results coming in still lay ahead). There was pre-warning that aside from co-hosting the show, the adorably eccentric Mika would perform a short medley of his hits in this part of the live broadcast.

While listening through a sizeable selection of ballads, spanning both good efforts and some less exciting ones. The news about Mika’s performance, in particular, was what kept me from tuning out the show for a bit. The medley featuring the tracks “Love Today“, “Grace Kelly“, “Yo Yo“, and “Happy Ending.” The vibrant half-time performance was every bit as colourful and upbeat as I was hoping for.

It was in the showcase we saw the new Mika track “Yo Yo” live for the first time.

“I wanted to write a song that could make you cry and dance at the same time.” MIKA comments, “A song to make the world, in all its harshness, feel better. Something that will always be there to comfort you. I wrote this for you, as you listen in your room, or in a club: it doesn’t matter it’s just about you.”

Listen on Apple Music

I was craving to hear it. In “Yo Yo” there is no trace of Mika’s brilliant trademark falsetto. Instead, the topline from the global pop sensation hovers around the lower vocal register. It took a few spins of the track to get me into it. (Additionally the Eurovision teaser helped my developing appreciation of the song grow stronger, still.) Regardless of what happened in the competition. It was Mika, who was always going to turn out as my shining star of the night. And come through for me and you, he did. I hope he did not shelve the falsetto indefinitely. I miss it a touch already.

Connect with MIKA
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mikasounds
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mikasounds
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mikainstagram/





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