Tags

, , , , ,

Title: ‘None of the Above’
Where to find it: ‘Duran Duran’, known to fans as ‘The Wedding Album’ (1993, EMI/Capitol)
Performed by: Duran Duran
Words by: most likely Simon LeBon

I am a Duranie and I’m not ashamed to admit it. When the internet revolution hit, I was in prime position to take advantage of it: a friend and I started a Duran Duran fans mailing list and group on eGroups, which was later bought by Yahoo! We wanted to start it because being younger and not having first-hand experience with the mental, massive, early heyday of the band in the early ’80s, we’d been mocked and made fun by Duranies, mostly female and of the entitled variety, who had. They claimed, in their deluded little minds, that there was no way that any of us “youngsters” could ever be as big of fans of the band as they were. I’ve experienced this phenomenon with many a band since, and to those small-minded people, I want to tell them this, for this is what I wish them to realise: do not belittle or minimise the experiences or loyalty of a fan for a band. They may be younger, or live in another country from where the band is from, they may not have as much money as you, what have you, but everyone loves and worships a band who means a lot to them in their own way. They do not deserve to be marginalised under any circumstances. Love for a band has no boundaries.

Through our group, I made several friends that I’m still close to today and I cherish those friendships. I also cherish Duran Duran’s music, which unfortunately gets a ridiculously bad rap in most people’s eyes. Yes, 1984’s ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’ wasn’t the apex of Western civilisation, but it meant so much to an awful lot of people. And while Duran Duran’s later work in the ’90s didn’t sell well, there is a hell of a lot of good material in there that some people will never get a chance to listen to, because they’ve already put down the band in their heads. To those people, I recommend 1993’s ‘Duran Duran’, known to us fans as The Wedding Album because the front cover has a photo of each band member’s parents the day they got married. On there, you will find the timeless mega hit ‘Ordinary World’; the infectious ‘Too Much Information’; the incredibly nimble and beautiful ‘Breath After Breath’, starring famed Brazilian musician Milton Nascimento; the fact-based narrative of ‘Sin of the City’, chronicling the real life tragedy of the Happy Land club fire in the Bronx in 1990; the hilariously cheeky yet weirdly erotic ‘UMF’; as well as the song that turned me into a Duran fan initially, ‘Come Undone’.

When I considered a song for Music in Notes to exemplify how important Duran Duran is to my life, I wracked my brain to come up with a song that wasn’t a famous one (think ‘Rio’ or ‘The Reflex’), yet showed off the power of song in a style most people who don’t know much at all about the band wouldn’t associated with them. I hope I have done them justice, as I credit the band for saving my life during my years in university.

First, the words:

Chorus (intro version with just vocals)
I am I myself alone,
I realise I never need to use no-one
When it comes down to my soul,
Freedom puts my faith in none of the above

Verse 1
There was a time I was so afraid
Of everything people around me said
That I wanted to hide my face in the shadows

Verse 2
There was a time on a bed of nails
I was dreaming a plan I thought could not fail
But no power under the sun could pull it together

Pre-chorus
I can’t take this attitude
Got to show now I got to move on
God knows where I’m going to
It’s a lonely burning question

Chorus
I am I myself alone
Realise I never need to use no-one
Money, power, holy roads,
Freedom puts my faith in none of the above

Verse 3
If there’s a time that we ever see
The nature of life in reality
Then I want to be there
To kick at the answer

Pre-chorus
I can’t take this attitude
Got to show now I got to move on
God knows where I’m going to
It’s a lonely burning question

Chorus (modified, extended version)
I am I myself alone
Realize I never need to use no-one
Money, power, holy roads,
Freedom puts my faith in none of the above

I am I myself alone
Realise I never need to use no-one
When it comes down to my soul
Freedom puts my faith in none of the above

Bridge with spoken word

Chorus
I am I myself alone
Realise I never need to use no-one
Money, power, holy road,
Freedom puts my faith in none of the above

I am I myself alone
Realise I never need to use no-one
When it comes down to my soul
Freedom puts my faith in none of the above

Outro
None of the above
My faith in none of the above
None of the above
I stand by none of the above
None of the above
I stand by none of the above

Now, the analysis:

People seem to forget – or maybe they refuse to acknowledge – that Duran Duran could be a very funky band. My favourite album of theirs changes from day to day, and one of my all-time favourites is not ‘Rio’ with its famous Patrick Nagel painting on its cover but ‘Notorious’, which marked the start of the band’s association with producer Nile Rodgers, more famously known as the bassist of Chic. It’s just one example of stuff he did prior to working with Daft Punk that wasn’t rubbish. ‘None of the Above’ is indeed funky and proves everyone who thinks Duran Duran is merely a “pop band”, but far more interesting is how the band decided to go in an agnostic / atheist direction for the lyrics.

Sartre once famously quipped, “L’enfer, c’est les autres”, or “hell is other people”. I think I can relate to this a bit. When I was in my late teens, I was an angry little thing. I don’t think I was necessary mad or angry at certain other people, I just wasn’t happy with the cards life had dealt me, and I became terribly envious of anyone healthy who could do whatever they wanted with their lives. That was not my life, nor has it ever been. I had to give up my dream of being a singer and musician; I knew there was no way on god’s green earth that a girl with issues of terrible fatigue could ever cope with the demands of going out on the road as touring musician.

I’d gotten to the point where I was just sick of being sick, a common thread that runs through the minds of each and every person who copes with a chronic illness. In some ways, I feel like my childhood was robbed from me, from no fault of my own, and it’s been hard coming to terms with that. Even these days when I’m in a pretty good place physically, when I feel great and my body isn’t acting up, I still question the existence of a benevolent, all knowing god. I used to wonder aloud, “why the hell was I given all these terrible things to deal with, why is my body so messed up, why have I been hospitalised so many times, when so-and-so person I know doesn’t have anything wrong with them and she can do whatever she wants?”

I changed my mind slightly when my father died, I think for my own sanity: I had to believe that there was a heaven and an afterlife, because I wanted to believe and expect that one day I would see him again. He was the man in my life who had always supported me in whatever I wanted to do, and that there was something more to life than what I was living here on earth. Two years later, I was hospitalised for 2 weeks with a terrible prognosis and thought I was dying; when I was finally discharged, I came out scared but okay, immediately going out to buy a cross to wear on my neck. I wear this cross now not so much for religious reasons, but because I didn’t know how else to “thank”, and whose decision it was for giving me the chance to live again. I do think I’ve had too many close calls and there must be some reason, some purpose for my life on earth for me to be “saved” so many times. But as for the existence of a god, who knows for sure really, right?

The brilliance of Duran Duran’s ‘None of the Above’ is the universal application of its lyrics. Everyone, no matter what your life situation, has been put in circumstances where you feel like you’ve been forsaken, whether it be by your parents, your family, your friends, or even God. Morrissey has touched on this theme quite a few times in his writing, more specifically about how being brought up Catholic made him come out of his childhood with Catholic guilt. Interestingly enough, this Catholic guilt “phenomenon” is something he shares with Duran Duran bassist John Taylor, who has discussed on occasion his difficulty with the guilt and how drug use “helped” him to reduce inhibitions when sleeping with groupies while on tour. So in essence, the Catholic guilt forced him into a corner with drugs, and the drugs won. John was quite a junkie for many years and all us Duranies are so thankful he was able to become sober and come out on the other side in one piece. He’s still with us. Their good friend Michael Hutchence of INXS wasn’t so lucky, and Simon LeBon seems to have predicted their tragic loss in the haunting ‘Michael You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For’ on 1997’s ‘Medazzaland’ (another one of my favourite Duran albums).

Going back to Sartre’s quote, ‘None of the Above’ questions the importance of people in our lives in addition to religion. The lines “I am I myself alone, I realise I never need to use no-one” are both showing incredible independence. It’s no wonder I used to play this song very loudly before I left my dorm room, headed out to take a midterm. It was the personal, musical pep talk I needed in a life at school that was lived, outside of class anyway, alone. But the follow-up lines are also tinged with sadness: “When it comes down to my soul / freedom puts my faith in none of the above.” It was John Donne who wrote, “no man is an island”, yet in this song, Simon LeBon wants us not only to believe, but to champion that man (or woman) who can do it all without any outside support or interference, human or divine.

Freedom, LeBon says, is the key that we all need to be able go out there, alone, and be a success. This freedom could be from religious ideals forced upon you as a child that no longer ring true when you grow to be an adult and have adult experiences. It could be freedom from societal or parental standards that served as impenetrable shackles while we were children that no longer have bearing on our lives now that we are grown. Just as it could equally represent the freedom from the friends we used to think were well meaning in their advice but we’ve now learned to steer clear of, for everything we used to think about them has now been turned on its head and we are no longer in agreement.

When I first heard the song, I was playing it on a used copy of ‘The Wedding Album’ I’d bought cheaply from the CD exchange on the main drag near uni. Even as the tune crackled and the CD would skip, I felt the confidence, the cocky attitude of this song. I’m not an extrovert. I’m just not. I wasn’t born as one, and I’ll never be one. This song gave the 19-year old version of me through the words “I can’t take this attitude / got to show now I got to move on” the hope that it was possible to not only survive but thrive without having to lean on anyone else.

My mother, ever the pessimist, used to have this saying when I was growing up, “there is no-one you can count on in this life but yourself.” I always hated it when she said that. It made me all the more hard-headed to find the best of friends and the best of lovers. But I am learning, slowly, that as many friends that I have and people I know in this country, in Britain, and in others, there are some that aren’t really looking out for me the way I look out for them. I had my own moments of being forsaken in 2013, and they weren’t at all pleasant. ‘None of the Above’ reminds me not that I have to be a cold, hard, unyielding beast of a person to survive life. That, I believe, was the take home message LeBon wanted to give to the public because Duran Duran were going through a rough period in their professional lives and had felt forsaken by the same industry who had championed them through their hugely profitable years in the ’80s. No, when I listen to ‘None of the Above’, I am reminded of my teenage self, the girl that felt the world was against her. I am no longer that girl. I am a much different woman now, a woman who is still learning from life and experience but can go out there with maybe not 100% confidence in myself (seriously, who has that kind of confidence?) but with enough to know I’m worth something great to this world. Thank you, Duran Duran.

Lastly, the song, a stream of the song from the album (there was never a promo video made for this song, as it was never released on its own as a single).

Advertisements