I’m back! Sorry, life got in the way, but happily I have just enough time left over in my incredibly hectic, hellz-a-poppin’ schedule to bring you this, my latest dissection of Duran Duran’s video output from the 1980s.
Today we do their biggest hit, The Reflex.
What do we need to know about The Reflex before we start?
It was their second single to top the UK singles chart, and was their last UK #1. It was also Duran Duran's first single to hit number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (for two weeks) on 23 June 1984 (see 1984 in music), and it was a huge hit internationally.
By the way, the remixes for both the 7" and 12" singles were done by the legend that is Nile Rodgers, of Chic fame, so he is responsible for the frankly astonishing 12” Dance Mix which features in the Arena (An Absurd Notion) concert video I will cover this in the weeks to come.
The video was shot during the Sing Blue Silver tour at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, so them’s Canuck’s dancin’ in them isles. Russell Mulcahy is back in the helm for this one. I've kind of missed him, I know we've had lizard people and light-sabre waving horsemen, but nothing says Duran Duran like Russell Mulcahy and his crazy antics. Well, I say that, you actually need headbands, pretty ladies and Simon over acting and doing that crazy intense stary thing he used to do.
Having said that, this is a concert video, so there probably isn’t that much to say really. Like most videos of the oeuvre (do you like that word? I like that word, I’m going to use it a lot next week) it concentrates on giving the fans a good view of their favourite band members, so lots of honey shots of Simon & John and lots of happy bouncing fans.
So we start with some electronic noise, backing singers doing the ‘Ta-na-na-na’ bit and some interestingly lit completely hairless models superimposed on the big video screen suspended like the sword of Damocles over the stage. We also get some shots of Simon illuminated by a slit-lamp, like in those early videos like Planet Earth and Careless Memories (Just like Angelica Houston in Addams Family Values). Good pouting from the Le Bonster and he’s doing that intense crazy eye thing again. I wonder why-eye-eye-eye (I'll stop that right now) they told him to stop doing that? It looks great, Simon, really.
So, to sum up the intro:
- Swift blow to the solar plexus
- Simon's eyes.
- Into the concert (nice jump guys).
- And the crowd go wild.
Simon is wearing one black glove, I assume been shot by Boba Fett whilst trying to rescue his twin sister from Jabba’s sail barge.
One other thing, Simon. How many belts do you need to keep those trousers up? It looks like you are wearing about seven.
We get our first look at Nick, his Fairlight CMI II and his Jupiter 8. Nice. We also see Roger. We don’t get to see much of Roger, so cherish this moment of drumming goodness.
Simon’s pointing and looking cross. He’ll cross that bridge when he finds it, AND NOT BEFORE!
Now, Andy’s hair. That is the most extreme mullet this side of Billy-Ray Cyrus. It is a crime against mullets, really. I know he takes himself fairly seriously these days, but he should be shown this mullet regularly in order to remind him why he had trouble being taken seriously after he left the band.
Simon seems to be mocking the Geordie guitarist with his ‘Why-eye-eye-eye-eye don’t you use it?’ singing. Cruel, but strange. It is rumoured tha t the band wanted The Reflex to be the lead single from Seven and the Ragged Tiger, but their label didn't like Simons singing during the "why-eye-eye-eye don't you use it" segments. What did they know? Eh? Labels.... Pffft... (and so forth).
We are getting glimpses of John at this point, but not the full effect. A shame because the full effect of John here is quite stunning. We also get glimpses of the backing singers and the percussionist (Raphael De Jesus) but very, very little Roger. Poor Rog. Rog sad....
We do get the classic John – Simon – Andy line up across the front of the stage, and some pretty crazy split screen editing thrown in to boot. Nice, it’s like proto-stereographic mullet-watch. I bet Kate Humble is developing a Mullet-Watch Live programme for BBC as I write this (Joke for the UK based only, I’m afraid).
"...whenever I hear that steel-drum part it always brings a smile to my face because it's so out of tune. Steel drums always are, but it was exactly right in terms of rhythm and tone. So a wood-block sound was mixed in to make it even more percussive and, successfully, it did the job."
Thanks Ian. That’s great.
In the run up to the chorus, we get Simon dancing and jumping. You know that star jump that they freeze frame there didn’t really end well, don’t you? Watch Sing Blue Silver for the raw footage, it’s funny. Though admittedly, probably not for Simon. Or the stage. Or the peoples of the Pacific rim whose lives were destroyed by the ensuing tsunami.
So Chorus – Dancing fans, Dancing John wearing nylon curtains straight from the pages of the 1983 Littlewoods Catalogue and, incredibly, a garter, pouting Nick, drumming Roger, mulleted Andy and frowny intense Simon. This video just lacks something, it is funny, but there isn’t a plot. There’s no hook to get you involved. There’s only the passing flash frame of a back-lit poster-painted nipple to keep you engaged.
So, we hit a section of shots of Nick, John and Roger having a pout-off. John wins from Nick in second place and Roger a distant third. Kudos to Nick for the shoulder action, though.
Simon is being lit by blue lights, so he does a little twirl! Right there, on the spot. And he claps. Isn’t he sweet. By the way, does anyone have the faintest notion as to what the hell this song is on about? It makes Nik Kershaw seem coherent (almost).
OK, we hit the next chorus and get to the stammering Geordie bit (‘why-eye-eye, wh, wh, why-eye-eye’). It’s a bit underwhelming, there’s painted, well-lit bondage models, chains, sadomasochism and a dancing Simon, but no real reason for it.
The crowd seem very happy though.
Hang on, the screen’s going fuzzy and a painted man covered his eyes. The fans do the same, why? Well, remember that tsunami caused by Simon's ill advised jump earlier on, well it’s become a massive computer generated tidal wave which is about to engulf them and kill them all! That’s made them stop their dancing.
The effect when it hits the crowd is similar to having a small cup of water drizzled on them from a medium height. A bit underwhelming, really, much like the rest of the video. And that’s it, it’s never mentioned again, never referenced, in no way does it appear again in any form. SO WHY WAS IT THERE, RUSSELL?
It just fades out after that. God knows why.
One last quick question. What is Simon doing in ths shot?
I’m sorry, just let me off this one (keep saying that), I’ll do Wild Boys next. That’s funny and weird. It’s even got Rusty Lee in it.