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Aug 09

DURAN DURAN – “The Reflex”

FT + Popular66 comments • 5,913 views

#534, 5th May 1984, video

At school we had a music teacher, and like most music teachers he decided that the way to reach the kids was to indulge their love of pop. So one day he asked us to name a current song we loved, to talk about in a future lesson. Fully three-quarters of the class gave the same answer: “The Reflex”, please.

The idea was quietly dropped. Looking back I feel for him: getting any kind of teachable grip on “The Reflex” would be a big ask. It’s not really a song, just a collection of clattery effects, thumping along on – to swipe a phrase – the ‘audacity of huge’. The words, for instance, don’t just (famously) fail to make sense – they deny it. Le Bon sings about dancing on the Valentine and treasure in the dark and what he’s giving off isn’t even conviction, it’s a kind of invulnerability.

(Individual lines in the song are terrific, though – “I sold the Renoir and the TV set, don’t wanna BE AROUND when this gets out!”)

In a way the gleaming patchwork abstraction of “The Reflex” is as perfect a product of its individual moment as “Mouldy Old Dough” or “Telstar”. Problem is, you could say the same about so many mid-80s records – “Too Shy”, the first Frankie hits, even Duran’s last single. There’s only so often you can revel in the neon glory of unmeaning before you start to need a different angle.

Luckily it takes more than lyrics or structure to make a song – that massive schoolboy “Reflex”-love wasn’t built on an appreciation of Duran’s PoMo credentials or a sense that they were really saying something. It was more a way for boys with a suspicion – or total ignorance – of club music to say they recognised a banger when they heard it. Even if they were never especially cool, the band had genuine roots in nightclubbing, and “The Reflex” is an stab at fusing that and their new status as global pop stars, creating something massive enough for world-tour arenas to dance to.

So the most memorable instrumental touches in the track are percussive – those steel drums and woodblocks – and the vocal hooks that stand out aren’t by Le Bon but the backing vocalists: the off-kilter opening “Na-na-na-na”, the jagged “Flex-flex-flex-flex!”, the Merseybeat-style “Wheye-eye-eye-eye-eye”. A melting pot of everything that might work in a small club, splattered across an arena. It’s hubristic, it’s messy, it’s emptyheaded – but when I was 11 I answered “The Reflex” in that music lesson like everyone else, and I was just about right.

7

Comments

  1. 1
    Billy Smart on 4 Aug 2009 #

    I once had a conversation with a friend when we tried to decide what was the most cocaine-addled record we could name. In the end, I couldn’t decide between this and ‘Junior’s Farm’ by Wings (blatant things like ‘White Lines’ didn’t count).

    Obviously, the lyrics are nonsense, but its a kind of skittery, boastful, nonsense that people talk when they are high. Being in the company of such people is invariably very tedious, but an advantage of listening to records is that it gives you an insight into how it must feel to take drugs without having to endure the tedious company of people taking them – or at least being able to switch it off when it becomes wearing.

    The combination of enormously loud bangs and stabs and laughing lines about going too far and having to get out is something that I find quite exciting to listen to in moderation, but which soon stops being interesting. So ‘The Reflex’ works best as a single that you come across on the radio, or a track on ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’.

    I wasn’t thinking about drugs when I was eleven, so couldn’t get any sort of a handle on ‘The Reflex’. It just sounded stupid to me then. It still sounds stupid to me now, but I can now imagine some emotional resonances into it.

  2. 2
    admin on 4 Aug 2009 #

    “I sold the Renoir and the TV set”

    OMG. i have never really known this line. all the lines either side, but this one got lost

  3. 3
    Billy Smart on 4 Aug 2009 #

    #2 Watch. Two weeks of The Pointer Sisters’ ‘Automatic’ which – unfairly – sounds sedate and conventional when heard next to ‘The Reflex’, but is quite enjoyable in its own right.

  4. 4
    Billy Smart on 4 Aug 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Duran Duran performed The Reflex thrice on ‘Top Of The Pops’ (the Christmas show we’ll come to in the fullness of time);

    26 April 1984. Also in the studio that week were; Sandie Shaw (and The instrumental Smiths), Belle & The Devotions, Echo The Bunnymen and The Flying Pickets. Simon Bates and Janice Long were the hosts.

    17 May 1984. Also in the studio that week were; Break Machine, Denice Williams, Hazell Dean and Womack & Womack. Simon Bates and Peter Powell were the hosts.

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 4 Aug 2009 #

    Hm, ‘Relax’ is quickly followed by ‘Reflex’ – coincidence?

  6. 6
    Tom on 4 Aug 2009 #

    #1 Amazingly, perhaps because more than any of these records it feels such a part of my boyhood, I had never once thought of “The Reflex” as a coke record until reading your post. Well, not consciously, all that stuff in the review about superhuman invulnerability etc. suggests some kind of awareness of what might have been going on here.

    There’s a distinction to be made, you’re right, between records which give the undrugged an idea of what being on a drug is like and records which simply remind you being with someone on those drugs. We might pick that thread up in the mid-late 1990s.

  7. 7
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 4 Aug 2009 #

    Terrific “constructivist” sleeve, heh.

  8. 8
    Rory on 4 Aug 2009 #

    This is another song I associate with the art class whose teacher loved Jim Steinman and whose students included a Boy George-by-proxy. Our teacher let us listen to the radio while we were working, provided it was THE-FM, the local equivalent of the not-yet-national JJJ. THE wasn’t as alternative as the Js, as it played regular chart tracks along with the indie stuff; actually, it’s more accurate to say that it played the alternative end of the regular charts, because the whole notion of indie/alternative was still well underground in Hobart in 1984.

    So it was no surprise when the DJ cued up the 12″ mix of this one afternoon, a version that cranked up the song’s idiosyncrasies to the point of annoyance. The surprise came just as it was hitting its stride with an extended “the RE-FLE-FLE-FLE-FLE-FLE-FLE”, when I heard my first ever live-to-air “zzzzzzrp” of a needle being yanked off a record, and the DJ saying “That’s enough of that.”

    I can never hear it now without wanting to do the same. That moment has similarly cut off any potential for assessing the track objectively, so it wouldn’t be fair to add my rating to the collective judgement here; I honestly don’t know what it would be. As Duran songs go, I enjoyed this more than their previous UK number one, and more than “Wild Boys” and other hits from their middle period, but just as they never had an Australian number one they were never really number one with me.

  9. 9
    Billy Smart on 4 Aug 2009 #

    B-side watch: An almost unimaginably awful live version of ‘Come Up & See Me (Make Me Smile)’, a choice which made Steve Harley a great deal of money at the time.

  10. 10
    Tom on 4 Aug 2009 #

    #8 – The 12″ had a position in my mind as a stand-in for everything that was terrible but also kind of great about 12-inches of the time, especially the seemingly random cut-and-repeat on individual phrases.

    Now sadly it just sounds like a not especially good one (other Night Versions are much better.)

  11. 11
    rosie on 4 Aug 2009 #

    It’s probably symptomatic of my increasing alienation from chart culture by mid-1994 that I look at the title of this number one and it triggers no recollections at all. Which is odd because even if Duran Duran was a familar name of the time, and the titles of most other Duran hits sound familiar even if I can’t conjure up the sound in my head

    And then I listen to the track, and even that doesn’t jog my memories. I sounds like a generic mid-eighties track that I might encounter while out shopping, probably in the kind of shop that wouldn’t detain me long, and it has a distinct Duran twang. But still it won’t identify itself to me. It sounds to me like a succession of the kind of gratuitous electronic effects that annoy me – that bit of guitar vibrato grafted onto the vocal track – euch! I have a hunch that this works best with some pharmaceutical assistance, and probably not the kind of pharmaceuticals readily available in my student day.

    In 1994, the year of my 30th birthday which I was already dreading by May, I was either becoming a dreadful olod fogey or on the cusp of a new departure in life. We shall see!

  12. 12
    Kat but logged out innit on 4 Aug 2009 #

    I only found out the title of this record a couple of years ago. I suppose ‘Reflex’ is easier to fit on a 7″ sleeve than ‘Why-Ay-Ay-Ay-Ay’.

    It’s a good song though – definitely one of DD’s better ones. I mean, I still can’t remember how the verse goes but at least I don’t start singing something else halfway through the chorus.

  13. 13
    will on 4 Aug 2009 #

    I love this. Favourite bits? It has to be the breakdown: ‘why-yi-yi-yi-yi-yah, wah-wah-why-yah-yah’. (Computer noise): ‘BLUERGH!’

    And the bit in the vid when the wave crashes through the video screen, drowning the front two rows of Duranies.

  14. 14
    Steve Mannion on 4 Aug 2009 #

    Wow we’re up to here already! Although now that it is I think I’d rather be talking about the brilliant ‘Automatic’ oh well. I find it highly memorable at least, lines like “Ill cross that bridge when I find it, Another day to make my stand, ohhhhh” as much as anything else.

    Just another for the ‘how much joy did it bring me as a kid? lots / how often do i want to listen to it now? never’ file. I made the fun mistake of singing this in a New York karaoke bar a few years back and that kind of killed it for me (and for everyone else witness I expect). What a compliment for Le Bon.

  15. 16
    Tom on 4 Aug 2009 #

    I thought we were in the same country!

    This is what happens when the world cannot live as one :(

  16. 17
    lonepilgrim on 4 Aug 2009 #

    re 15 look up Reflex on Google Videos and you can see it on Daily Motion

    What struck me about this on listening to this again for the first time in ages is how much it reminds me of Yes – not just ‘Owner of a lonely heart’ whose use of a sampler may have been a big influence – but earlier songs like ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Yours is no disgrace’. It may be something to do with the intense dynamic of a band whose members are intent on showing off their skills by banging away at their instruments at maximum velocity without much clue or care where they are heading – and with a singer spouting nonsense in a high voice.

    The video seems aimed at a US audience – promoting their attraction as a live act. I’m sure the lighting and video screens must have seemed state of the art at the time

  17. 18
    Mark M on 4 Aug 2009 #

    Oddly enough, I remember feeling at the time that this sounded a bit dated. I certainly would have guessed it was some time before Relax, although I dislike(d) it for many of the same reasons.

    Feel fairly sure that none of the boys in my class in Mexico at the time (13/14 year olds) would have admitted to liking the Durans – that was strictly for girls (and blimey, did the girls at my school love DD). AC/DC would have probably be the boys’ choice with votes for Van Halen and Def Leppard, with my pretentious mates opting for Talking Heads. Our music teacher played us Sid Vicious’s My Way and Bob Marley’s Burning And Looting.

  18. 19
    Mark M on 4 Aug 2009 #

    Re 17: Duran Duran were well prog in many ways by this time, all that Union Of The Snake nonsense…

  19. 20
    Erithian on 4 Aug 2009 #

    #16 – you see, Tom, Lennon was right!!

    I quite enjoyed this one at the time, without going overboard – it was, to coin a phrase, meaty, beaty, big and bouncy (soz Pete Townshend for that). The video was definitely a departure from the travelogue and fantasy ones they had made their name with, and seeing an audience digging it was a good advert for the band (whether they could cut it on stage for real might be another matter – thinking of the famous bum note at Live Aid!) Speaking of the Le Bon pipes, I can never hear that line “everyTHING the reflex does…” without hearing Monty Python’s version of “Anything Goes” (“AnyTHING goes in, anyTHING goes out…”)

  20. 21
    Tom on 4 Aug 2009 #

    #21 There is a 1982 live album coming out in a couple of months I believe so we shall see/hear.

  21. 22
    johnny on 4 Aug 2009 #

    tom, i agree with your summarizing of this song as “a bunch of clattery effects”. it feels like a direct attempt to outdo Frankie, but their clumsy attempt to ape that martial drum drive is no match for Trevor Horn’s genuine dancey know-how. still, this seems to presage the “ringtone” style of writing which runs rampant in our current decade. a continuous stream of 3-second hooks in place of a song. maybe they were pioneers after all!

  22. 23
    col124 on 4 Aug 2009 #

    “this seems to presage the “ringtone” style of writing which runs rampant in our current decade. a continuous stream of 3-second hooks in place of a song. maybe they were pioneers after all!”

    that’s a good point. There’s so many weird “non sequitur” hooks, phrases, noises throughout this track, it makes you wonder if it’s designed to be listened to randomly–you turn on the TV or radio, and even if it’s the middle of the song, there’s something to grab you immediately.

    For the 12-year old me, this was the Duran song that turned me off them, though I did like “New Moon on Monday” (same LP, right)?

  23. 24
    Stuart P on 4 Aug 2009 #

    It’s basically the sound of Nile Rogers (he remixed the stodgy album version) getting his new Fairlight out of the box. And all the better for it …

  24. 25
    lonepilgrim on 4 Aug 2009 #

    re 22 & 23 “weird “non sequitur” hooks, phrases, noises throughout this track” also describes much prog music but then those qualities would have been spread out across one whole side of an LP such as ‘Close to the Edge’ or ‘Supper’s Ready’ from ‘Foxtrot’ by Genesis.
    Here they’ve been compressed into a 3 or 4 minute single.

  25. 26
    dickvandyke on 4 Aug 2009 #

    Stuff that turned pretty boys into millionaires. Jealous? Not necessarily – just mighty frustrated. I didn’t get it then and, even with the benefit of 25 yrs of venom dilution and laughter lines, I still don’t. It brought nothing to the music table except e.coli.

    Perpetuating a drug habit on the back of 12 year olds’ pocket money is hardly a new phenomenon. Wound me up a little to see the Duran bleach boys win the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ at the Brit Awards – whilst the likes of Ray Davies go without the briefest mention in despatches.

    If Le Bon and his mates brand of pop music is escapism, then lock me up in Alcatraz with a rabid panther.

  26. 27
    Lex on 4 Aug 2009 #

    I have never heard it and can take or leave Duran Duran generally but this blurb makes me want to listen to the song!

  27. 28
    Poptrash on 4 Aug 2009 #

    Their first number one was Planet Earth and it was Australia….the Reflex was mixed by Nile Rodgers, so hence the disco sound. Not my favourite DD song by a long shot….but I will now dutifullly give it a re-listen.

  28. 29
    Steve Mannion on 4 Aug 2009 #

    pretty sure you’d hate it Lex (for the same reasons as ‘Relax’, minus the gay)

  29. 30
    Snif on 4 Aug 2009 #

    >>And the bit in the vid when the wave crashes through the video screen, drowning the front two rows of Duranies.

    I thought that part was the biggest disappointment/laugh in the whole thing…a huge wave rises up and goes crashing down – cut to some fans having a bucket of water tossed at them from off-frame.

    This song also reminds me of a friend who worked in a record shop at the time and loved importing DD merchandise from Japan. When he showed me the Duran Duran AA batteries, I figured the end couldn’t be too far away…

  30. 31
    wichita lineman on 5 Aug 2009 #

    Always my fave Duran hit (until very late in the day) because it had – yes! – a sense of humour, far away from their usual D&D mewlings. “Why don’t you use it? Try not to bruise it” That’s cheeky. And funny. The production, as mentioned already, is fabulously random, but still sounds twinkle-toed by DD standards.

    That “why-yi-yi… BO!” is a belly laugh – are they referencing The Face Of Bo, maybe?

    And what, I wonder, did Norwich City player Robert Fleck Fleck Fleck make of it all?

    Ahhh, what a blast. Best thing of all about The Reflex is that it has none of the mutton-handed rhythmic problems that wrecked Is There Something I Should Know (as well as anything beyond the first two singles). But with the stuck pig vocal and creaking leather minimalism of Wild Boys later that year, they fucked up afresh. So club footed. Duran Duran are ergonomically unsound; The Reflex is the exception that proves the rule.

    Re 26: Ray Davies hates the industry, and they hate him back. I’d like to think he doesn’t lose much sleep over the Brits and wouldn’t show even if they did give him an award.

  31. 32
    TomLane on 5 Aug 2009 #

    Their first #1 in the U.S. (for 2 weeks). Not my favorite at the time, but it’s aged better than “Wild Boys” or “Union of the Snake”.

  32. 33
    LondonLee on 5 Aug 2009 #

    I never noticed “I sold the Renoir and the TV set” before (I usually find it fatal to the song to listen to Le Bon’s lyrics) but it’s a great line, isn’t it? Sounds like a Ray Davies and Bowie cutup.

    Like ‘Is There Something etc.’ this is a bloody mess, lots of parts stapled together, but I loved it. The other one seemed like it was trying to be a big statement record (more about the band themselves than anything) while this is just big and barmy and highly enjoyable as a result. When this came on pub jukeboxes my mate Andy and I would stop what were doing and mime playing the drums during the skittering drum break. We were usually drunk.

  33. 34
    swanstep on 5 Aug 2009 #

    This is and was atrocious. There was some speculation at the time that the alleged ‘song’ was about playing video-games, but its main social function seemed to be to show *just* how misplaced all quibbling about ‘Let’s Dance’ (e.g., as somewhat lumbering) the previous year had been, and how utterly great Thriller *still* sounded (first copies were wearing out by this point…).
    3

  34. 35
    intothefireuk on 5 Aug 2009 #

    Yep an appalling mess of a song from the Duranies who up to this point and maybe even beyond could do no wrong. The stuttering vocal samples, nasaly why aye y ayes & bollocks lyrics kill it stone dead for me.

  35. 36
    Rory on 5 Aug 2009 #

    Re #28, “Their first number one was Planet Earth and it was Australia” – I can’t see it here, or remember it being number one nationally – Wikipedia puts it at #8 in Australia, which sounds right. Their first top ten hit anywhere, but not their first number one.

  36. 37
    snoball on 5 Aug 2009 #

    This was one of my favourite records of 1984 – one other being “Relax”, and another one is coming up in a short while. The Renoir/TV set bit is the best line by quite some way. Ten year old me also liked the “BLEURGH!!!” sound, which might very well have been Nick Rhodes burping into the microphone of his Fairlight.

  37. 38
    pink champale on 5 Aug 2009 #

    “i sold the renoir…” another vote for who knew?yowsa! but it shows how far they’d come – there’s a smash hits interview from not *that* long before this where simon declares that what he wants to do with his money is buy lots of thornton’s continental! obv i loved the reflex at the time but i’m not too keen anymore. next to frankie sounding effortless massive, this all seems a bit lumbering and blustery. lyrics that get their defence in first by drawing attention to their own meaninglessness are also a bit of a pet hate, though the one that really gets my goat is macca’s “..puppydog tales in the house of lords – tell me darling, what does this mean?”.

  38. 39
    Matthew H on 5 Aug 2009 #

    #37 They claimed the belch was Andy Taylor saying “Yeah!” Although that may have come from the Smash Hits lyric sheet, who knows?

    Obviously this was a remix of the Seven and the Ragged Tiger version – my first experience of a remix of a familiar track. Couple that with a poster sleeve, and I simply had to waste my money on it.

    And all my classmates thought I was dead cool for doing so.

  39. 40
    Erithian on 5 Aug 2009 #

    In “The Young Ones” book, Rik’s favourite party trick apparently is to go “Look everybody, I’m a Duran Duran record”, and sit on the turntable, spin around and sing The Reflex very loud. Could anything be more 80s?!

    I like the idea that the “why-aye-aye” bit is the Geordie remix!

    Self-consciously meaningless lyrics – inside my head I’m getting Weird Al Yankovic’s “Smells Like Nirvana”: “What is this song all about? / Can’t figure any lyrics out … We’re so loud and incoherent / Boy this oughta bug your parents…”

  40. 41
    Caledonianne on 5 Aug 2009 #

    With “sold the Renoir” they were clearly channelling the future as delivered by Microsoft Word. To testify from my travel writing days, the spellchecker renders “Pack the rainwear” as “pack the Renoir”!

    Perhaps Macca is similarly gifted – dog tails in the House of Lords (and Commons) became a big issue in 2006 during the passing of the Animal Welfare Bill, when there was an amendment to exempt working dogs from the ban on tail-docking; the example most commonly used being the sniffer dogs who check both Parliamentary chambers for explosives every day, and which were allegedly in danger of serious damage to their (vigorously wagging) tails as they crawled under the red and green benches to perform their task..

    I find it very hard to differentiate between Duran Duran records; all sounded dreadful to me!

  41. 42
    Andy Pandy on 5 Aug 2009 #

    Once again a very disappointing Number 1 (although a slight improvement on Is There Something I Should Know)IMO just about the whole of the first 2 albums (and all the Night Mixes/other non-album mixes from 81-82)being better than this or 99% of the stuff that followed.
    FRom making classic Japan-influenced New Romantic dance pop to mullet headed going-for-the-rock-market within 12 months. This being at least a final vague stab at something more “modern”.

  42. 43
    Blue Tyson on 6 Aug 2009 #

    Good one! :)

  43. 44
    jeff w on 6 Aug 2009 #

    Like Matthew H @ #39, I heard this first in the original version. My sister was a massive DD fan, so she bought the Seven and the Ragged Tiger LP almost as soon as it came out. It was about the only track on the album I could stomach.

    The remix is stupid and fun and I like to think people bought it because of that and not because they were actually wowed by all the stutter FX. I mean, I was pretty fond of 80s 12″ remixes at the time an’ all, but really…

  44. 45
    MikeMCSG on 6 Aug 2009 #

    #42 Andy I’d agree with that.I didn’t like “Is There Something I Should Know” either so for me their two chart-toppers misrepresent them.

    At the time I was really surprised this did so well as the previous single “New Moon On Monday” (Bowie on Mogadon)was a relative flop stiffing at no. 9. I thought releasing a third single from the album was asking for trouble. In that respect this showed there was a considerable resilience to the band and their following which has served them well over the decades.

  45. 46
    pink champale on 7 Aug 2009 #

    #41 – yes, this is true. it is after all a fact that, when properly decoded, a good two thirds of nostradamus’ writings concern this issue.

  46. 47
    Caledonianne on 8 Aug 2009 #

    I’ve just listened to this. I am lost for words by how truly awful it is – even worse than I had remembered.

  47. 48
    Tracer Hand on 10 Aug 2009 #

    There’s only so often you can revel in the neon glory of unmeaning before you start to need a different angle.

    Speak for yourself!

  48. 49
    ace inhibitor on 10 Aug 2009 #

    strained. sounds like everyone involved needs a dose of laxative. which makes the fact (re #17) that you can see the video on Daily Motion kind of ironic.

    sorry.

  49. 50
    wichita lineman on 11 Aug 2009 #

    Not as strained as Wild Boys on which a mercilessly upfront Le Bon vocal sounds rather like Bully from Bullseye attempting a falsetto: “iiiiiin one”.

  50. 51
    Conrad on 12 Aug 2009 #

    Funny career trajectory, Duran.

    Their peak in commercial terms, 1983-85, saw only 1 album (the duff Seven and the Ragged Tiger – even that title!), and a clutch of singles that generally disappointed. I think NME got it right when it reviewed “Notorious” and described it as their least strident, least paranoid single since “Rio”.

    The bit between Rio and Notorious was a bit all over the place really.

    This I quite like – it does have a few hooks but it’s not a patch on the 81-82 output, which I’m glad to see is getting more rerelease treatment soon.

    “Like An Angel”, now there’s a song.

  51. 52
    DV on 12 Aug 2009 #

    This is a dreadful song; its spending so long at number one (unlike many other more poptastic Duran Duran tunes) says much about the problems of the world.

  52. 53
    Steve Mannion on 12 Aug 2009 #

    #50 if only the windmill to which Le Bon has been strapped to in the video had been on the base of a dartboard in which the rest of the band were flinging darts, with Jim Bowen in place of the strange mechanical bald guy.

  53. 54
    wichita lineman on 14 Aug 2009 #

    The opening track on disc one of Now That’s What I Call Music 3, which ran like this:

    Duran Duran : “The Reflex”
    Nik Kershaw : “I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”
    Sister Sledge : “Thinking of You”
    Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark : “Locomotion”
    Ultravox : “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes”
    Howard Jones : “Pearl in the Shell”
    Blancmange : “Don’t Tell Me”
    Phil Collins : “Against All Odds”
    Frankie Goes to Hollywood : “Two Tribes”
    Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel : “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)”
    The Special A.K.A : “Nelson Mandela”
    Womack & Womack : “Love Wars”
    The Style Council : “You’re The Best Thing”
    Bob Marley & The Wailers : “One Love”
    Bronski Beat : “Smalltown Boy”

  54. 55
    lonepilgrim on 14 Aug 2009 #

    re54 That’s not a bad selection – despite Nik Ks droning dirge – which would probably make me all nostalgic for a few seconds if I heard it again.

    Sister Sledge: ‘Thinking of you’ is my all time desert island disc for it’s sheer syncopated joyfullness.

    I saw Womack & Womack at the Brighton Dome in 1984 and got to bellow ‘Love Wars’ into one of their microphones at the front of the stage – and I remember listening to Two Tribes on the way to the gig.

    ‘One Love’ a hit because of the release of ‘Legend’ that year I presume.

  55. 56
    Tom on 14 Aug 2009 #

    Pretty sure the cassette versh of that Now was the tape I listened to Two Tribes on in the story I tell in the FGTH entry. “White Lines” was the first hip-hop record I really liked too. I would love to say that it sparked an immediate interest in rap but it didn’t really, don’t think I owned a hip-hop record until ’88.

  56. 57
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 22 Aug 2009 #

    is it my lolcatz-damaged ears or is lebon singing “teh reflex”?

  57. 58
    Brooksie on 4 Mar 2010 #

    Like this song, but then I’m a Duran fan. I think this might be the official point they became a ‘singles’ band. Their first two albums were solid enough, but ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’ was weak, and the fact that this outshone it speaks volumes. They had two more big singles (‘Wild Boys’ and ‘View to a Kill’), but the duff live album ‘Arena’ just continued the downward trend. Then they did a bunch of side projects which, again, generated a couple of good singles but weak albums – and their time was up. First half of their career – album band, second half – singles band. At the point that ‘The Reflex’ topped the charts there was still time to save their careers, everything hung on their next album, but all people got was a live album and some rubbish sideshow albums, by the time ‘Notorious’ hit the shelves Duran were done. The Notorious album didn’t even bother the top 10.

  58. 59
    abaffledrepublic on 7 Mar 2011 #

    Late to this one, I heard it for the first time in a while recently, and realised how ludicrously enjoyable it is. It may be, as Tom says, that both song and video were geared towards the band’s leap into bigger live arenas, but to me the song sounds like an FX-crazy studio creation, and nothing wrong with that.

    At the time (I was nine) the lyrical content of songs like this fascinated me endlessly, seeming to hint at mysterious territories yet to be explored, but not to spoil it by telling all. Who or what was the reflex? What would happen if I accidentally bruised it? Why didn’t I use it? Because nobody showed me how to. But as Simon says on the fade, all these things are answered with a ?.

    #39: poster sleeve or twelve inch picture disc (yay!); take your pick.

  59. 60
    punctum on 8 Mar 2011 #

    Although “The Reflex” was their second number one and their biggest British hit, Duran’s career was on a downturn, and, much as with Bowie a year earlier – and indeed as with Trevor Horn and Spandau a year still earlier – Nile Rodgers had been roped in to try to turn an utterly humdrum pseud-funk album track workout into something resembling pop. Rather cynically he simply repositions Duran in Let’s Dance land with the same meaninglessly booming, distant drums, echoed instrumentation of indeterminate origin and some elementary messing about on the Fairlight.

    Duran needed the smash, since both the parent Seven And The Ragged Tiger album and its first two singles had underperformed badly – although the fanbase ensured that they initially charted high, they slipped quickly – and unsurprisingly so since even by Duran’s humble standards Seven And The Ragged Tiger is an inedible bouillabase of semi-digested Japan and what Robert Palmer might once have led them to believe was electrofunk.

    Even remixed, “The Reflex” is enough to engender indignant heartburn. I’m not going to waste time pointlessly working out whatever they meant by “dancing on the Valentine” or “watching over lucky clover” since it is highly likely to be random doggerel pieced together out of stray strips of chewing gum by kids who think that Burroughs just did it (the tragedy of Duran Duran is that they think they are the reincarnation of the New York Dolls, when in reality they are the Bay City Rollers). LeBon bellows his unlovable roar – like an ageing trout unable to extract the hook from his strutting nostril – and despite Rodgers (and indeed the original producer, the late Alex Sadkin, who seems to have been content with kipping in his hammock and letting them get on with it) the record is top-heavy, as stodgy as a seven-week-old Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie and boasts a turgidity worthy of summoning the plumbers.

    Thereafter Duran more or less fell apart as a group; despite two further number two hits with “Wild Boys” and “A View To A Kill” (and what a right pair of number twos those were) they soon atomised, and by 1985 had detached into the dual studium factions of Arcadia and the Power Station. There would be reformations, further albums, more hits (at longer intervals) and even a little more screaming; by supposed virtue of their trudging on they have inexplicably emerged the heroes of the latter-day Stalinist rewriting of New Pop history. I was there, Reader. Costermongers will always be costermongers, no matter how prettily one dresses them up, or how many Renoirs or TV sets they manage to sell, or to whom.

  60. 61
    thefatgit on 8 Mar 2011 #

    Not so much “Reflex” as reflux…heh heh…um

    …coat.

  61. 62
    punctum on 25 Mar 2014 #

    TPL comes to some surprising conclusions about the parent album.

  62. 63
    Red Seeker on 1 Dec 2014 #

    Never ever got into this song – looking back not sure i really got Duran Duran . Found Le Bon’s vocal too whiney on this song.

  63. 64
    Tommy Mack on 1 Dec 2014 #

    Couldn’t sleep last night and watched an old TOTP2 that featured this. It’s grown on me a lot since I first heard it and though ‘huh, call that a song?’ I’m pretty much with Tom on this – it’s the audacious sound effects and ludicrous couples lines that impress most and the cut-up vocals and proto-sampler-noises in the third verse, like a comic book story that doesn’t make much sense as a story but contains lots of stand-out single frames. Weakest for me is the pre-chorus instrumental that really dissipates the momentum so that the chorus, when it comes, feels really tacked on when it could have flowed more naturally.

  64. 65
    hectorthebat on 3 Dec 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Face (UK) – Singles of the Year 54

  65. 66
    Gareth Parker on 23 May 2021 #

    Endearingly bonkers, but in all honesty I can’t go higher than a 5/10 here.

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