When I’m writing, music is a requirement. Nothing will get me into the mood to work faster than the perfect song. Although I am perhaps not the most widely-listened of people (I’m always looking for new tunes!), I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to come up with the perfect playlist for my work-in-progress. Sometimes a book will simply require a soundtrack or two, and that’s wonderful. THE UNNATURALISTS (my steampunk YA scheduled for release in August) was such a book. I alternated between the soundtracks for “The Duchess” by Rachel Portman and “The Illusionist” by Philip Glass—which was fairly easy, if extremely repetitive over the course of three years of writing and revising!
But some novels are a bit more demanding. Some require a bit more effort and some just require every trick I know to help me finally get to a place where I can work again. For me, the go-to band that never fails me has always been Duran Duran. Go ahead. Laugh if you like. But if anyone taught me the value of a good lyric, it was Simon Le Bon. And if anyone taught me how to pull an entire story from a three-minute song, well, I think Duran Duran gets all the credit. (If any band can claim a more direct bloodline from science fiction, please tell me—they took their name from the science fiction cult film “Barbarella”, after all!)
Most people know Duran’s catalog from the 80s—“Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Save a Prayer,” “The Reflex.” (They also might remember the resurgence in the 90s with “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone”). But it’s always been the band’s lesser-known songs that have spoken deepest to me. If you want to hear some really haunting New Romantic stuff, go listen to songs like “Waiting for the Nightboat” or “Friends of Mine” off of their eponymous album, DURAN DURAN. Or, on later albums like MEDAZZALAND, songs like “Out of My Mind” (highly recommend the video—I watched it endlessly when I was working on my HALLOWMERE series) or “Midnight Sun.” (And of course, there’s the lone album by Arcadia—the Duran that never was, according to some people--which has some lovely songs, but we won’t go there just now).
I’ve always loved Duran’s B sides and unreleased stuff best. See “Secret Oktober” for a taste of what I mean. I nearly died of joy when I first heard the song “Virus,” which was only released on the Japanese version of their ASTRONAUT album. With its slinky bass and spine-tinglingly morbid lyric drive, I’m still convinced it would have been a big hit had it been released worldwide. (Yes, I seriously should be given a PhD in the Discography of Duran Duran).
But I digress…
Even more amazing to me was when I discovered the album POP TRASH. I had avoided it for years because I’d heard it was truly awful. (And hey, everyone has a stinker in their history somewhere). But one day I decided that if I was a true diehard I would listen to every album. And this one was marvelous. The song “Starting to Remember” (which is only two minutes long) carried with it such a vivid, poignant scene that it’s now the basis for a series I can’t wait to write. Other songs on that album like “Playing with Uranium,” “Lady Xanax,” and “The Sun Doesn’t Shine Forever,” also hearken back to Duran’s lush science fictional roots.
I’m not sure if one can psychologically wire oneself into inspiration via sound, but Duran Duran’s music does just that for me. If I am really stuck, I have a special playlist of all my favorite Duran Duran songs and that will usually move me along. Though I love many bands and singers—Snow Patrol, Silversun Pickups, Florence + the Machine, Sia, Muse, Ray LaMontagne—I still go back to the music of my adolescence when push comes to shove. I suppose that means I’m obsessed, but thank goodness for obsessions that don’t fail us.
If you’d like to play along some time, here are a few of my faves:
-The Seventh Stranger
-Lonely In Your Nightmare
-Crystal Ship (cover)
-Salt in the Rainbow
-Someone Else Not Me
-The Man Who Stole a Leopard
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