518. ‘Is There Something I Should Know?’, by Duran Duran

From Michael Jackson, past ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, to Duran Duran. Our head-first jump into the heart of the 1980s continues…

Is There Something I Should Know?, by Duran Duran (their 1st of two #1s)

2 weeks, 20th March – 3rd April 1983

Please please tell me now! It’s an aggressive intro, as Simon Le Bon pleads, again and again, while those trademark eighties drums blast through the speakers. In come some jangly, filtered guitars, and an insistent, galloping beat. This is a record that grabs you from the start, and doesn’t really give you a chance to decide whether or not it’s any good…

And it is a good record. After a few listens I’ve settled into it, and am spotting some cool touches. There’s a great bassline, for example, and a nice moment when, just before the choruses, everything fades apart from a pulsing synthesiser that sounds like it’s trying to send a message by Morse Code. I also like the soulful urge in the pre-chorus: With broken glass for us to hold, And I got so far before I had to say…

There are bits I’m not so hot on, though. The weird, harmonica-led ‘solo’ feels like a missed opportunity, and the line You’re about as easy as a nuclear war… jars as much in today’s world as it probably did forty years ago. I also find Le Bon’s delivery, as much as I like it in the chorus, a bit much in the verses. Although they have very different voices, it was the same with Limahl in Kajagoogoo’s ‘Too Shy’: there’s something about the new romantic style of singing that’s a bit too arch at times…

(Possibly the worst picture-sleeve yet? It looks like it’s been printed on a school jotter…)

Speaking of ‘Too Shy’, that was actually the first #1 that a member of Duran Duran had a hand in: it was produced by Nick Rhodes. Duran Duran, though, had been around for a lot longer than Kajagoogoo – ‘Girls on Film’ was their first Top 10 hit in 1981 – and would go on to have many more hits. And to me, speaking as someone who doesn’t know them away from the big hits, they are probably the quintessential mid-eighties band. The poster boys of New Romanticism and the 2nd British Invasion. Brash, loud (both musically and in their fashion), and a triumph of style over substance.

But I’m here to have my mind changed on that. I like ‘Is There Something I Don’t Know?’ I don’t love it, but there’s an endearing urgency to the song that sees it through. And in entering the charts at #1, it announces Duran Duran as the biggest band in the nation at this moment (and, unlike many of the biggest British acts since The Beatles, they were about to be huge the whole world over, too…)

Advertisements