Duran Duran “The Medicine” [ Midnight Beat MB CD 034 ]
‘Big Thing’ Rough takes and alternates. I Am The Medicine ( Vocal Comp. ) / I Am The Medicine ( 2nd. Verse Insert ) / I Am The Medicine ( W/Alt. Chorus ) / I Believe ( Instrumental ) / Nick – Simon ( Instrumental ) / Bomb ( Instrumental ) / Bomb ( W/Vocals ) / Do You Believe In Faith ( Alternate / Different Lyrics ) / Too Late For Marlene ( Alternate 1 / Different Lyrics ) / Too Late for Marlene ( Alternate 2 / Different Lyrics ) / All She Wants Is ( Alternate / Diff. Lyrics ) / Welcome To The Edge ( Acoustic Rehearsal ) / Welcome To The Edge ( Electric Rehearsal / Diff. Lyrics ) / Pressure ( Piano Chorus ) / A View To A Kill ( Duranies Studying ) / A View To A Kill ( Rough Take ) ( 73:50 )
“Big Thing” was Duran Duran’s ( Or Duranduran’s – dependendent on which side of the bands era’s you’re looking at this from ) breaking 5th album. Through the 80’s the band seemed to have become styled as one of the foremost and eminent synthpop bands of the time but it was a theme that the band were wary of being stuck with and as a new wave of house, electronic and rave music began to creep over the horizon, threatening to leave the sound of the band behind the way it had done or would do with a few other of their contemporaries. Thus they knew they had to strike back and switch styles.
This meant “Big Thing” was to be the bands ‘dance’ album, pumping up the bass lines and grooves while, not wanting to distance themselves from their already steady fan base, also relying on the plump orchestration of the band’s earlier albums.
Midnight Beat uncovered a good handful of alternates and demos from the bands sessions to the album and also a few other odds and ends that came from their sources. Pretty much all the tracks featured are in perfect studio sound quality with the only exceptions being the piano chorus to “Pressure” and the “A View To A Kill” rehearsals.
The first 3 tracks – entitled “I Am The Medicine” but on the album, it’s the title track – are of a solo Simon Le Bon composition from his own album “Follow In My Footsteps” which was also being recorded at the same time and the same studios ( Davout, Paris ) as the Duran Duran album. The first take of which is a run through of the song with a compilation of Le Bon’s vocals, cut and sewn through out the session and over laid through out the track.
The second version is a re-recording of the 2nd verse to be used as an insert in to the main. The third track, an alternate chorus is fitted to the song although not so noticeable unless you’re quite familiar with it.
The “Big Thing” demos begin with ‘I Believe’, an instrumental version of the medley that, while recorded for the album, was instead added to the B-side of the single “All She Wants Is” ( Of which more later on .. ) The song was twinned with “All I Need To Know” on the single but here it’s on it’s own.
“Nick / Simon” is an unused interlude recorded by Nick Rhodes and Simon Le Bon. A brief piano and twanged guitar noodle that would join songs together rather than be furnished with lyrics later on. It’s one of the prettier things on the album but barely scratches a minute in length.
Next up we have two variations of the song “Bomb” – later known as “Capitol Chill” before being discarded all together – An urgent, throbbing fluttery synth piece driven by the percussion. The vocal version also saw appearance on the Duran bootleg ‘Maison Rouge’ but here it is in much better quality.
“Do You Believe in Faith” ( Or “Do You Believe In Shame” ) is less busy, more of a ballad if you could term it as such a thing. It’s lyrics are wildly different to the album version, only just scraping the form of the words of the commercial version.
“Too Late For Marlene” has two different versions – they both reflect changes within the chorus and second verse but musically there isn’t much different between the two.
“All She Wants Is”, the second British single from the album, features different lyrics than the official recording once again but as the chorus is just the title regardless there’s no change there.
The acoustic rehearsal of “Welcome To The Edge” is actually a work in progress for “Palomino”. The track is cut in to segments as the tape is stopped between rehearsals while the band run through various parts of the production. A piano tune begin the rehearsals while the pitch is worked on then a guitar joins the floor before fuzz bass is added behind. There are the sounds of lyric sheets being turned and judgements made as the band trek through the workings of the track.
The second, electric, rehearsal is an early studio demo of the “Big Thing” song “The Edge Of America” which was twinned with “Lake Shore Driving.” ( The song was also ‘officially’ released by the band under the pseudonym ‘The Krush Brothers’ by sending out a promo to American radio stations. ) “Welcome To The Edge” was very probably a working title. A guitar based track on the CV here it is a slow synth track with an atypical 80’s electronic drum machine sound. Towards the end the band can be heard shouting to each other with regards to changes that can be made within the song. It’s nothing that Le Bon can’t sidestep by falling straight back in to the song exactly where he’s supposed to be singing.
“Pressure”, the most linear thing here, is simply a few chords played as an idea for the chorus to the song. A minute and a half of Nick toying around with progressions and paces. At the very end he submits himself to saying “Something like that, Johnny’s ( Taylor ) got it written down ..”
To finish, we skip back to 1985 and a studio session for the theme to the James Bond movie of the same name. “View To A Kill”. Both tracks are really just jam sessions as the band throw ideas back and forth towards each other. Kind of close to the Beatles “Day By Day” sessions but in rougher quality we hear the song beginning, stopping, starting and then running again with something else new. Simon’s vocals are buried almost underneath the music but they are still audible just about. This would be the last session that the 5 members of the band would play at, the following year both Roger and Andy Taylor retired from the band, only rejoining at the grand reunion 16 years later.
The real downside is that track 16 is silence between 4:59 and 13:05 where after we hear the sound of a very distant guitar being strummed and muted speech but nothing of any interest.
The artwork is simple but effective – Arty shots of the band on stage alongside the bands name written large on the front cover, a theme that continues through the 4 page sleeve, with a clear type for the track listing on the back.
This wasn’t the labels only Duran Duran release – there was also a live CD featuring 2 American shows from 1987, entitled “Dance In To The Fire”, two more soundboards from the bands most popular era.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)