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The song of the decade

Duran Duran – The Wild Boys

They tried to tame you, looks like they'll try again
Wild boys never lose it
Wild boys never chose this way
Wild boys never close your eyes
Wild boys always shine
#DuranDuran #TheWildBoys

The golden period of the 1980s, when the production of great pop hits was truly unprecedented, began in the autumn of 1984, and ended with Live Aid, on July 13, 1985. A date that marked the watershed between two generations of phenomenal artists. Perhaps this golden period began on November 24, 1984, the day when all the best of British pop gathered to record Do They Know It’s Christmas, but we can go a little further behind and speculate that it started on October 26, 1984. On that day the song that probably best represents 80’s music was released: The Wild Boys.

The song was born from a favor, if you want to put it that way, that Duran Duran wanted to do to their favorite director, the director par excellence of the 80s, Russell Mulcahy. Mulcahy had directed, by now we know by heart, the most important videos of those years, from Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star, to Kim Carnes’ Bette Davis Eyes, or Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of The Heart. And also all the great videos of Duran Duran: Planet Earth, Save a Prayer, Rio, Hungry Like the Wolf. So when Russell asked Duran Duran for a song for the next movie he had in mind, Duran Duran didn’t hesitate to accept, and asked him for more details.

Mulcahy had bought the rights to a 1971 book by Beat Generation writer William Burroughs called The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead. Mulcahy wanted to make a film based on this novel that told of a post-atomic future in which gangs of teenage humanoids lived stories of violence in an underworld in an attempt to subvert the order of the world’s nations. In the background there is also the theme of pornography, because Burroughs himself in 1972 tried to make a pornographic film from his own story. The humanoids in the book were homosexuals, and Burroughs’ film would probably have been directed to this audience.

Mulcahy actually didn’t have the pornographic element in mind for his film, so much as the post-atomic setting, the surreal setting of an underworld, and the stories of youth gang fighting. On this he asked the Duran Duran to make a song: he would then shoot the video, and later the video would drive the viewing of the full film. Russell would have spared no expense for video and film.

Duran Duran accepted, and created probably the most symbolic and evocative song of the entire decade. An absolutely enthralling music, a text that has entered history, and a video that remains in the masterpieces of the 80s.

Let’s start from the text: after a first verse that actually seems to bring back to the setting of the book, the second verse seems instead to externalize the situation of strong stress and alienation that the Duran Duran were experiencing at that time. After the global success of the album Seven and the Ragged Tiger, Duran Duran had been continuously on tour, practically never stopping even for a day except for travel and travel. Living on tour for a whole year is different from living in a recording studio, and Duran Duran had built up unbearable tension. In fact, in less than a year Duran Duran would have split into two groups, after the not exciting performance of Live Aid, but evidently already in the autumn pressure was excessive.

And so in the second verse they talk about welcome sirens, because the police came to escort the Duran Duran from the moment they landed in each city, and they talk about blood and pain in reference to the fingers of John Taylor and Andy Taylor, who played bass and guitar for hours and hours every evening, we talk about phones that ring while dancing in the rain, because Duran Duran were constantly sought even during concerts, which took place with any weather conditions, and finally they talk about a war with arrows about secrets that could have been revealed, which could be a first allusion to the tensions that will lead the group to part.

And this feeling halfway between frustration and rebellion is also very present in the video, because obviously Mulcahy was aware of it. And so we see a Simon Le Bon tied to the windmill that literally takes him underwater, an expression we use when we are too busy, we find Nick Rhodes as a prisoner in a cage with his synthesizers, probably the cage of creativity and precision from which he could no longer go out. We find Roger Taylor driving a flying machine, which probably represents the fear that the bubble of success could suddenly break and crash to the ground. We find John Taylor tied to the roof of a car, symbolizing all the forced transfers of their tours, obliged to look at images from his youth. And finally, we find Andy Taylor tied to the bow of a ship, as in the act of feeding himself to the public during concerts. The Wild Boys video was the most expensive video ever produced not at that time, and even outweighed the cost of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

During the scene where Simon Le Bon is tied to the mill there was a technical problem and the mill wheel stopped. Of course, this happened in the position where Simon was with his head underwater. A kind of mouthpiece was brought to him to breathe, and in a minute or so the mechanism was working again. The newspapers reported a Simon le Bon on the verge of drowning, but the singer always downplayed and sometimes even denied this episode.

Among other things, one of the dancers in the video, dressed in gray and with white hair, is Perri Lister, a friend of Mulcahy’s and at that time Billy Idol’s girlfriend. She was the bride in the White Wedding video, so to speak. And we shall not forget the ultimate protagonist of the video, the big humanoid head that shows up through all the video.

The Wild Boys (which we all call “Wild Boys”, but looking at the covers of the single and the cover of the Arena album, where it was the fifth song and the only unreleased before, I would say that there is no doubt that the title also includes the article) was a resounding success and became in fact the most famous song of Duran Duran, and probably of all the 80s, perhaps approached only by Thriller and Madonna’s Like a Virgin. Surely The Wild Boys‘ popularity was unrivaled in Europe. Even the single The Wild Boys came out with six different versions of the cover: one depicting each member of the group, plus one with the whole band together. Obviously Duranians and collectors searched and bought all six copies – and in those days they certainly couldn’t buy online!

In short, the wild boys from Birmingham had now left the Rum Runner forever, the place where their career had begun four years earlier, and had now conquered the world. In less than a year, however, their story was destined to end, at least in this lineup. And even Russell Mulcahy’s film, by the way, never came out.

Duran Duran on Wikipedia

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