Got my Classic Album DVD in the post this morning. Was having a grey week (and it's only Tuesday) so I saved it until this evening, and now that the winter nights have drawn in, I turned all the lights off, cranked up the DVD through the stereo, and got comfortable on the sofa.
I've gotta say, if you watch this as one big whole, ploughing straight into all of the extra interview material straight after the main doco, it's hands-down the best Duran documentary I've ever seen. All of the comments are great, the contributors are concise and informed, and the diverse and fantastic background information provides such evocative context that, for once, the real, true Duran seems to have been nailed. In short, the story this Classic Albums has to tell is of a stunningly innovate art-rock band, with great ability, who like all landmark pop before or since, defined a moment; utilizing a fab creative team of record execs and video makers, sleeve designers and a hungry management team to create a perfect piece of blistering pop music out of nothing but passion and belief.
On it's own as the standard hour long episode, it's pretty disappointing. Such a crying shame they didn't have the function to watch it as one big extended mix. A Night Version, if you will! The key issue I have with this, and a lot of the later Classic Albums, is that the producers have tried to cover too many bases by crowbaring parrallel biography into what is essentially, according to the name above the door, a documentary series about the making of those modern pieces of art: albums. As a result, you kinda get a pleasant but hardly inspiring homogeneous mush of the two pursuits aimed more at the occasional, passing viewer (the musical lowest common denominator) instead of actual music fans looking for something fresh and new. This, I fear negates the whole point of the series, and The Doors' episode springs to mind as an example of where this series can really come off the rails if its not focused.
Overall though, this documentary DVD actually serves as the alternative history of Duran Duran: it tells of the music, the passion and the talents, not the pin-up teen appeal and screaming girls. The clever interplay of the six major creatives involved in making the album (the five musicians and Colin Thurston) shines through. The five Durans come out looking like the kinds of people that were actually capable of making a great album (instead of being the cutsie-pie patsies of a cynical music industry, and which I suspect stops all those glum faced NME journos from ever admitting the album was a bone-fide addition to the propulsive lifespan of great pop). And perhaps the greatest joy is (because he's been the last to be acknowledged in these things) Simon Le Bon, who finally, and quite rightly, gets major props for his harmonies and lyrics.
So for all my dislike for the main broadcast version of this Classic Album episode, if you take the overall disc as one it does actually manage to do what it claims on the tin: it explores, reveals and celebrates a truly great, iconic album; but in the case of Duran Duran, it actually, and very importantly, validates a valuable piece of work which is so often, and most cruelly, derided by the po-faced indie snobs of the early 80s music inkies.
This album honestly changed my life: I can still remember quite vividly the shock of hearing the beginning of Rio oozing, then blasting out of the speakers. It had such an impact on me that, once the arm lifted back off the end of side one of the vinyl, the only thing I could think to do was put it straight back to the start and go again. Such was its hypnotic perfection. I honestly think the rest of my musical life started then. And whilst I don't often forget this, I'm genuinely pleased to see the album get the respect it deserves.
One PS: after all is said and done, they never tackle the album title. I've read it was John Taylor that suggested writing a song called Rio, but how come it never comes up here?