Duran Duran, Do Rand Do Rand: All You Need is Ayn?

I’m a big fan of Duran Duran and have been for a long time, but I was shocked when I played a gig at Billy’s Lounge–a popular blues club in Grand Rapids’ delightful EastTown district–with The Hip Pocket a few weeks ago, and the lonely old jukebox against the back wall was plastered with ads for Duran Duran’s new album All You Need is Now. Could one of the biggest ’80s pop groups have that much reach and that much pull almost 30 years after their biggest hits catapulted them into superstardom? Apparently, the answer is a resounding yes.

So much pull, in fact, that they’ve got David Lynch producing videos for their YouTube/VEVO site, which is sponsored by American Express. The new album is very strong–solid pop music writing that sounds modern, yet also sounds like Duran, and doesn’t pander to current styles in the way that many tracks on their albums have since the early ’90s. Here’s the catchy title track:

I bought the album from iTunes, and then found the YouTube/VEVO site with the Lynch videos. I stumbled on the video where Lynch is fielding Twitter questions for the band. Lynch appears as a sharply dressed refugee from Eraserhead who relocated to an alternate dimension and found gainful employment as a chatroom host for a race of aliens from Alpha Centauri.  Nice work if you can get it.

I watched the interview, and really enjoyed the bizarre, quirky, Lynch-inspired oddities (Lynch’s digitally altered speech is worth it all by itself!). Here are the first three questions:

1. From jtschauffeur: “Using one word only what is your definition of music?”

2. From dspeleos: “If you could relive one moment from your career what would it be?”

3. From AmyPeikoff: “One thing that I have always loved about your music is its benevolence. How have you managed to preserve that all these years?”

This isn’t a legitimate “interview” of any kind–the band is obviously prepared for the questions, and Lynch’s speaking is not extemporaneous, but who cares? It’s clever and funny, taking a stab at the whole ridiculous notion that a pop band interview can produce anything even remotely insightful or interesting. Interviews of this kind rely upon an assumption that the interviewer and the interviewee are engaged in a serious dialogue in search of artistic truth as part of a legitimate process of “journalistic inquiry.” In truth, most pop music interviews are a complete farce, as is evidenced by virtually every interview ever conducted in this genre. Stupid questions, followed by ironic, or often childish, double entendre answers, occasionally laced with literary references to solidify the band’s intellectual roots and reinforce the fantasy intellectual pedigree; these are all standard fare in this comical dance. This “interview” is simply brilliant as parody (maybe the best since Spinal Tap), with Lynch’s backwards, garbled speech acting as a perfect metaphor for the aesthetic incoherence that resides in the bottomless pit of pop music journalism.

Now, to the questions and the answers:

There’s nothing very remarkable about the first two questions. They’re both the typical blather one might expect from adoring fans. The first questioner’s screen name (jtschauffer) is perhaps telling. “JT” is probably “John Taylor” and JT’s “chauffer” is probably a reference to The Chauffer, their early soft porn video (one of the first ever) that was banned along with Girls on Film. It’s the third question that caught my attention.

AmyPeikoff asks Roger Taylor: “One thing that I have always loved about your music is its benevolence. How have you managed to preserve that all these years?”

Roger Taylor: “Hello Amy Peikoff. Ah, we’ve been able to retain the benevolence in our music because I think we give everything of ourselves to our records and to our live performance.”

First, the response doesn’t make any sense, and no one else comments. Second, the use of the term “benevolence” comes out of left field. Is a random fan asking about “benevolence” as a consistent quality of Duran Duran’s music over the years? Unlikely, but…the only person I’ve ever heard use “benevolence” as a descriptive aesthetic term is Ayn Rand, who used it to describe art that had a “benevolent sense of life” according to her very idiosyncratic and subjective evaluations. (Beethoven, for example, was, according to Rand, not an artist with a “benevolent sense of life;” instead, she preferred silly dance music from the 1920s and ’30s.) Then, I started wondering about the online questioner, “Amy Peikoff.” The last name is not very common, but it is the same as Ayn Rand’s “intellectual heir,” Leonard Peikoff who has a daughter named “Kira” after the heroine in Rand’s early novel We The Living. A little odd, but perhaps just a coincidence, right?

I asked a few people about Duran and Rand, and a friend sent me a link to blog (belonging to none other than Amy Peikoff) that references Simon LeBon’s various connections to Rand. Then I noticed the lyrics in the new album’s title track:

It’s all up to you now 
Find yourself in the moment 
Go directly to the voodoo 
Now the channel is open 
Lose your head 
Lose control 
You come on delicate and fine 
Like a diamond in the mine 

When you move into the light 
You’re the greatest thing alive 

And you sway in the moon 
The way you did when you were younger 
When we told everybody 
All you need is now 

Stay with the music let it 
Play a little longer longer 
You don’t need anybody 
All you need is now 

Everybody’s gunning 
For the VIP section 
But your better up and running 
In another direction 
With your bones in the flow 
Cold shadow on the vine 
But your lashes let it shine 

Every moment that arrives 
You’re the greatest thing alive 

And you sway in the moon 
The way you did when you were younger 
And we told everybody 
All you need is now 

Stay with the music let it 
Play a little longer 
We don’t need anybody 
All you need is now 

All you need all you need is now 
All you need all you need is now 
All you need all you need is now 

The meaning is not exactly clear (as in many pop tunes), but it appears to advocate a zen-inspired philosophy about “living in the moment” as part of a nostalgic remembrance of youthful days? I just don’t remember Duran Duran advocating anything like this in their heyday, so the bit about “when we told everybody, all you need is now” seems a little odd, but still, this is probably more intelligible than most pop tunes (and the writing is much better).

It’s the title of the tune that suddenly stood out to me as I was pondering the other connections. Here it is again, with highlights added:

All You Need Is Now. . . AYN IN

Another coincidence?


About FraKathustra


One Response to “Duran Duran, Do Rand Do Rand: All You Need is Ayn?”

  1. wow what a strange connection.
    for me all you need is now is a dialog between the old and the young singer. and the “all you need is now” is moving from a serious tone to an ironic tone.
    as someone who follow le-bon writing a lot i could not think ever to connect his approach to rand (i hate her).

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