Music videos have become so ubiquitous that we take them for granted. We automatically assume that every song should and does have a video to accompany it. It could be argued that music videos have been around for nearly a century, as footage of bands performing songs has been captured on film and broadcast on TV for decades. But, it wasn't until the 1970s that the idea of making a little movie to go along with a song began to take hold. And, of course, it was in the 80s, with the advent of MTV that this idea began to become widely accepted.
One band which helped pave the way for this concept was the British pop group, Duran Duran. With their pin-up good looks and their penchant for vivid imagery, Duran Duran created a body of videos which not only helped to make music videos an accepted art form, but set the standard for years to come. The newly released DVD Duran Duran: Greatest contains 21 of the band's videos, from 1981 to 1997. And while the band has changed their sound over the years and gone through line-up changes, the videos were always eye-catching.
1. "Planet Earth" (3:56) -- Directed by Russell Mulcahy -- The band's first video is the only one in the set to have actually been shot on video. The video may be primitive by today's standards, but it certainly laid the groundwork for Duran Duran's future shorts, as it combines some performance footage (in which the band is playing next to a blue-screen abyss) with seemingly random images of posing people. The song is unadulterated pop with its "Bop bop bop" refrain, but it is a catchy tune. There is no grain on the image, but there is obvious video-noise.
2. "Girls on Film (Long Uncensored Version)" (6:25) -- Directed by Kevin Godley & Lol Creme -- A censored version of this video aired on MTV in the U.S. (and can be found on this DVD somewhere as an Easter Egg), but one must see the uncensored version to fully appreciate the genius of this video...and so that one can marvel at the fact that a censored version was even created. The video features the band performing in front of a boxing ring. As they play, we witness six vignettes in which scantily-clad or even nude models enter the ring and do unabashedly sexual things, such as when two models have a pillow fight while straddling a candy cane which is covered in whipped cream. Now, that's genius! This incredibly risque would have never aired in the U.S., and it certainly makes one re-think any rumors concerning the band's sexuality which may have surfaced in the 80s. As for the song (what, there was music?), "Girls on Film" has always been one of Duran's best and it really display's John Taylor's work as a bassist (and not just a pretty face). While the video must be seen, the transfer doesn't look very good, as there is overt grain, pixellation and artifacting, and the colors are clearly washed-out.
3. "The Chauffeur" (4:59) -- Directed by Ian Emes -- Someone was certainly having fun thumbing their nose at the censors, as the video for "The Chauffeur" follows in the footsteps of "Girls on Film", but presenting more sexual imagery. In fact, the band, who always "starred" in their videos, isn't even in this one. The video, which was shot in black & white, features three lingerie-clad women, one in a limousine, one in a bedroom, and one who arrives at the end, all of whom appear to be thinking about one another. There's really no plot, and the video could have well been an ad for Victoria's Secret, but it is eye-catching, and does contain some nudity at the end. The song is an oddly downbeat number, but it does grow on you. The b&w photography looks rather good, and this is very little grain here.
4. "Hungry Like the Wolf" (3:40) -- Russell Mulcahy -- Although this was the band's second collaboration with Australian director Mulcahy, who would go on to direct Razorback and then Highlander, the "Hungry Like the Wolf" video represents the first chapter in a loose trilogy, which would continue through Duran's next two videos. In this one, singer Simon Le Bon is a sweaty traveler in a foreign country, where he frequents bars, markets, and the jungle. In the jungle, he is pursued by a cat-like woman. Meanwhile, his bandmates are searching for him. The video implies that Duran Duran are a very exotic and international band, with the hypnotic rhythms of the song helping to back that claim. The video itself doesn't look very good, as it's grainy and washed-out, with noticeable pixelation.
5. "Save a Prayer" (6:05) -- Directed by Russell Mulcahy -- In this travelogue-esque video, the boys wander an exotic locale (I've been told it's Sri Lanka, but I can't confirm that), where they walk on the beach and visit intriguing ruins. There isn't any sort of plot here, although Le Bon is seen dancing with a woman in several shots. The song is another departure from the usual dance-pop of the group and remains a haunting favorite. The colors are much better in this one and the grain is less noticeable.
6. "Rio" (5:03) -- Directed by Russell Mulcahy -- The band's video triumph is this DVD's nadir. The video for "Rio" became well-known for its emphasis on vivid colors, sexy images, and tropical beauty. On this transfer, the colors look awful, as they are either too bright or too dark. Also, visible haloes surround everything in the picture. That's too bad, because the video, while quite silly, is still a shining example of the excesses of 80s music, and the song has lost none of its addictive flavor. Although, I do have trouble hearing the song now, for at my alma mater, the song was adapted to suit a certain student and it will forever be, "Her name is Rio/and she dances on John Bland."
7. "Is There Something I Should Know?" (4:28) -- Russell Mulcahy -- Please, please tell me what this video is about. Mulcahy once again shows his mastery of setting a song to seemingly random images, as the band walks giant stairs, which are surrounded by spheres and triangles. What does it all mean? I have no idea. This was never one of my favorite Duran Duran tunes, as it's far too monotonous. The colors here are very good, and there is a slight bit of visible grain.
8. "Union of the Snake" (4:19) -- Directed by Simon Milne -- With the release of the album "Seven and the Ragged Tiger" (what does that mean?), Duran Duran appeared to be creating a new mythology and this was reflected in their videos. This video features the science fiction elements which would pepper their future pieces. In the video, Le Bon is stranded in the desert, and follows a mysterious woman into an underground lair, which appears to be experiencing some sort of civil war. (I think.) The video is very imaginative, and further explores the concept of a music video being a mini-movie. Other than some grain, this video looks pretty good, as the colors are fine.
9. "New Moon on Monday" (5:30) -- Directed by Brian Grant -- Ah, the video which actually has a story. Duran Duran are the leaders of a rebel movement in an Eastern European country, where they distribute leaflets, while soldiers on horseback wield light-sabers. I hate to spoil the ending, but the band triumphs by setting off some fireworks. Hey, I don't make this stuff up, I just report it. The video is good, but the song, in which Le Bon makes the mistake of changing his vocal style, is mediocre at best. The video contains an introduction which was rarely shown on MTV. The video quality is good for this one, as there is only a mild amount of grain.
10. "The Reflex" (4:29) -- Directed by Russell Mulcahy -- At the height of their popularity, Duran Duran sold out many, many concerts. For those who didn't get to see the band live, the video for "The Reflex" was there to appease them. The video is made up almost exclusively of concert footage, but Mulcahy does sneak in some odd S&M visuals. The guys put on a lively show, with Le Bon showing that he's a good front-man. But, why does Nick Rhodes look so serious? The song may share the same percussion style as "Union of the Snake", but I've always liked the tunes' ridiculous popiness. The video looks good, showing fantastic colors and only minimal grain.
11. "Wild Boys" (4:12) -- Directed by Russell Mulcahy -- Now we're talking. Duran Duran begins to get serious, perhaps too serious, as the period following "Wild Boys" marked a decline in their popularity. No matter, this remains a great song and a classic video. The song and video both are apparently based on the William Burroughs novel of the same name. (Although there's no explicit homosexual sex in the video.) Yes, the video is very Mad Max-esque, as a leather-clad Le Bon must escape from his windmill prison and fight off a legion of savage men. But, that doesn't take away from the fact that this is a great high-concept video, and I for one always wanted to see this expanded into a movie. As for the song, "Wild Boys" is a far cry from "Rio", and leans more towards today's alternative music. Only a minor amount of grain taints the visuals in this one.
12. "A View to a Kill" (4:07) -- Directed by Kevin Godley & Lol Creme -- Duran Duran fulfills the dreams of many, by contributing the title track to a James Bond film. And as with "Wild Boys", the song is more sedate than the band's early work. For the video, the band is placed in the Eiffel Tower sequence from the movie, A View to a Kill. Unfortunately, this feels very forced and comes off as quite silly today, as Le Bon uses his Walkman as a detonator. (Ooh! Auto-reverse cassette player! Sweet!) The video quality really suffers here, as the video is plagued by some truly awful optical effects, and shows severe artifacting.
13. "Notorious" (3:57) -- Directed by Peter Kagan & Paul Greif -- Lest you doubt my commitment to Sparkle Motion, I now can't hear this song without thinking of Donnie Darko. "Notrious" kicks off what Spinal Tap would probably call "Duran Duran, Mark II". Now shorn of two original members, the band goes in a slightly different direction, incorporating a sound which has more of a club/dance sound. This is basically a stylized performance video, as footage of the band playing is intercut with shots of dancing women. The image looks very good, with the only grain being an intentional artistic choice.
14. "Skin Trade" (4:23) -- Directed by Peter Kagan & Paul Greif -- The video looks great, but man is this a bad song. Harking back to Duran's early videos, "Skin Trade" is made up of shots of the band, women, and other random images. There are no overt video defects here.
15. "I Don't Want Your Love" (3:58) -- Directed by The Molotov Brothers -- Duran Duran participates in a courtroom drama for the "I Don't Want Your Love" video. The legal proceedings are peppered with footage of the band performing. The video shows some minor artifacting, but otherwise looks fine.
16. "All She Wants Is" (4:28) -- Directed by Dean Chamberlain -- Weird, psychedelic images dominate this video, for a song which seems to be tailor-made for a trance dance-floor. The video features many bizarre images, but contains some nice effects using light. The song has a similar hypnotic effect, and will grow on the listener. This video looks good, showing no problems.
17. "Serious" (4:00) -- Directed by Big TV -- "Serious" is a pretty benign song, sounding like something that would be featured on a "lite rock" radio station, but the video isn't bad. Shot in black & white, it shows Duran Duran performing in a carnival environment, and incorporates many elements from a circus-like setting. The photography looks grain and there is virtually no grain here.
18. "Burning the Ground" (3:54) -- Directed by Adrian Martin -- Serving as an audio/video retrospective, "Burning the Ground" is a mix song which bring in elements from many of Duran Duran's greatest hits. Likewise, the video contains shots from the band's past videos. The result is a visual feast which is accompanied by a great, addictive song. As the video contains many different clips, the video quality varies widely.
19. "Ordinary World" (4:40) -- Directed by Nick Egan -- The CD was entitled "The Wedding Album", and the video backs up that point, as the band attends a wedding, in which the bride is played by Le Bon's real-life wife. These wedding scenes also contain some performance shots of the band. "Ordinary World" is a great song, which is very reminiscent of classic songs like "Save a Prayer". There are no recognizable defects with the video playback.
20. "Come Undone (Uncensored Version)" (4:21) -- Directed by Julien Temple -- Hey, is this PM Dawn? As with "Ordinary World", "Come Undone" is another mid-tempo song which has a certain dreamlike quality to it. The video matches this feel with its aquatic themes, as it features a drowning woman, the band playing in an aquarium setting. For an "uncensored version", this is a quite tame video, and doesn't even begin to compare to "Girls on Film" (Did I mention what a great video that is?) The visuals look great and the video features fantastic colors.
21. "Electric Barbarella" (4:51) -- Directed by Ellen Von Unwerth -- Finally owning up to their namesake, Duran Duran brings up "Electric Barbarella". In the video, the boys buy an electric woman, take her home, and make her the maid. Hilarity ensues. This catchy dance number is perfectly matched to the videos colorful images, which show no real defects.
Duran Duran: Greatest comes to DVD courtesy of EMI. The videos are all presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio, even if they are letterboxed. For an overview of the video quality of each video, please see the descriptions above.
Each video on this DVD carries a PCM (48 khz) audio track. These tracks provide clear sound with no evidence of distortion or hissing. The music has a great deal of presence, and the stereo effects (especially when dealing with percussion or odd mixing) are quite noticeable. The track is a bit light on bass response, and doesn't compare to a surround mix. Nonetheless, these track offer acceptable reproductions of the music.
The only true extra on each disc is the "La Galerie De Duran", which is an interactive gallery displaying the cover art for all of Duran Duran's albums and singles. This gallery can also be used to access all of the main videos in the set. Duran Duran: Greatest also contains a slew of Easter Eggs, many of which are actually listed on the package. Now, I'm not an Easter Egg hunter, so I don't consider the extras which I found in the "La Galerie De Duran" to be Easter Eggs. On Disc 1, There is an interview from 1984 in which Simon Le Bon and John Taylor discuss the making of "Wild Boys" and the process of recording an album. There is a similar interview with Le Bon and Nick Rhodes, in which they discuss the making of "Seven and the Ragged Tiger" and the way in which the album's producers influenced its sound. In "La Galerie" on Disc 2, there is an alternate version of the video for "Serious", as well as an alternate version of "Come Undone". The rest of the extras will be for you to find on your own.
Duran Duran: Greatest is a must-have for fans of the group. The set serves as a perfect companion piece to the "Greatest" CD, and admirably explores the group's history. The videos are still quite interesting and the band's music has actually improved with age. Anyone who wants to examine the history of music videos should considered this DVD a touchstone for such a study.