Duran Duran – ‘Girls on Film 1979 Demo’ EP

An early snapshot of a band that went on to be one of the biggest British groups ever.

“It is important for people to understand the true origins of the song ‘Girls on Film’ and to hear the edgy sound that Duran Duran had in the beginning. This song was inspired by the dark side of the glitz and glamour, where these perfect idols suffered tragedy and addiction. The film ‘Sunset Boulevard’ was also a big influence with its tale of a fading movie star.” – Andy Wickett.

In 1982, as a nine year old, I was fascinated with the music that my brother, four years older than me, and his friends were currently ‘into.’ Japan, Bowie, Roxy Music et al – albums and tapes would frequently change hands between the boys’ lending library – and then came the day my brother arrived home with a copy of Duran Duran’s eponymously debut album. “A local band”, he declared – he was hooked, and this young impressionable girl, whose record collection at the time consisted solely of ABBA records, soon followed suit.

Still my one of my favourite albums of all time, Duran Duran was released in June ’81 and is still the period of the band that excites me most. Fresh, a little raw, and still finding their commercial feet, before the days of expensive videos in exotic locations and taking the world by storm. In addition, I also find the history of the band prior to the release of the first album fascinating, which is why I jumped at the chance to review the Girls on Film – 1979 Demo release.

Well known about in Duran fan circles, this demo has surfaced in various guises and formats over the years. This release, beautifully packaged, is courtesy of Los Angeles based Cleopatra Records and is available digitally and on CD, as well as on both red and clear vinyl.

To set the scene, and for those who don’t know, a brief overview of the origins of Duran Duran: Formed in Birmingham 1978 by Nigel (John) Taylor with school friend Nick Bates (Rhodes) and fellow Birmingham Polytechnic student Stephen Duffy, they were influenced by a cross section of groups including, The Clash, Roxy Music, Bowie and Chic. The three were on a mission, with Taylor on guitar, Duffy on vocals/bass and Rhodes on synthesiser. The band were shortly joined by Simon Colley, who took over bass duties.

Early 1979 would see further line-up changes with the departure of Duffy and Colley, and the arrival of Andy Wickett, well known on the Birmingham music scene, on vocals, piano and lyrics and Roger Taylor, replacing the drum machine operated by Rhodes.

In September 1979, the band headed to Bob Lamb’s studio in Mosley (where UB40 recorded their debut album just three months later) to record a demo. Four tracks were recorded to showcase the band.

See Me, Repeat Me is a dazzling, fast passed dance tune which highlights the tight rhythm section bond that was forming between Roger and John. Over the next two years this track would be extensively rewritten and would evolve as Rio. You can certainly hear the first faint glimmerings of the classic, especially leading into the chorus, and for me Andy Wickett’s vocal certainly had the delivery and feel that carried over into the re-recording.

The second track, Reincarnation, has a Tubeway Army and early Ultravox feel, with a vibe not too dissimilar to Khanada, a track from the first album sessions that surfaced as the ‘B’ side to Careless Memories.

From the three-note synth intro, Girls on Film is unmistakeable. The chorus, the bridge – the nucleus is certainly there, and though the lyrics were later re-written by Simon Le Bon, the structure is evident. The ’81 released ‘night version’ in my opinion gives a nod back to this demo, especially the verse.

Last up we have Working the Steel – a pulsating, conventional new wave tune with Andy Wickett’s lyrics setting a scene of psychological torment. I approve of Nick Rhodes’ synth experimentation on this track!

Yes – these demos are ‘shaky’ in parts, but it’s a wonderful, albeit raw, slice of history by four teenagers with a clear vision of music domination. Shortly after, Andy Wickett left the band to head into a different musical direction while Taylor, Taylor and Rhodes set their sights firmly on conquering the New Romantic scene. By April ’80 Duran recruited Andy Taylor on guitar and a month later Simon Le Bon became the new vocalist and lyricist.

This demo snapshots a very important era of a band that went on to be one of the biggest British groups ever. Andy Wickett’s contribution speaks for itself through the four tracks – and his part in Duran history should not be forgotten.

Duran Duran – ‘Girls on Film 1979 Demo’ EP was released by Cleopatra Records and is available digitally and on CD, as well as on red and clear colored vinyl at https://durandurangirlsonfilm.bandcamp.com/album/girls-on-film-1979-demo

Andy Wickett & World Service have also just released a full-length album ‘Creatures of Love’ digitally via Cleopatra Records, which will be officially released on CD on March 9, 2017 on that same label.

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