Album cover for Duran Duran Demo 1979

Album Review: Duran Duran – Demo 1979

Rare is the fan who discovers their favorite band on the ground floor before the fame and fortune arrives.

For the rest of us, we only hear about the early days and those old songs played at smoky clubs in front of a jam-packed audience of 50. OK maybe 100. But sometimes living vicariously through tell-all books gives way to a taste of the old-school life when demos or previously unreleased tracks turn loose at your local record store, whether authorized or unauthorized.

Sometimes raw and unfiltered, these tracks, often as limited release or simply hard to find, become a cult following of sorts.

Introducing Duran:Duran before they were Duran Duran.

Duran Duran’s Demo 1979 EP album of early songs captures the band a few years before they became the next Big Thing but features a significant core of the coming Fab 5 who star in this incarnation of Duran:Duran. Stylized as Duran:Duran on the Demo 1979 album, Nick Rhodes works the keyboards, John Taylor plays guitar and bass (and designed the album artwork), Roger Taylor sits behind the kit and Andy Wickett, aka Fane, holds the mic.

Considered a bootleg, Duran Duran did not release Demo 1979 instead Wickett apparently let the songs out of the dark in 2004 on a CD which eventually got picked up and issued on vinyl by Death Records Recordings in the Netherlands. Is it me or do a lot of bootlegs come from this country?

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Duran Duran Demo 1979 Album Review

Just four songs make up Demo 1979 (recorded in Sept. 1979) which were given to EMI but not until a year later, after singer Simon Le Bon and guitarist Andy Taylor joined the fold, did a contract get signed in December with the classic line-up of Duran Duran. Audibly, Demo 1979 does not sound like a bootleg and for a bunch of young gents looking for a record label the recording and production impress despite some obvious engineering help. A matte finish, black and white cover with simple artwork houses the record played at 45 rpm.

Reverse side of Demo 1979 album cover

If Le Bon was noted as singer I’d believe it. Instead, Wickett sounds like an early but sometime out of tune, if not unpolished, Le Bon on “See Me Repeat Me” a post-punk near goth-rock track a bit darker than eventual Duran Duran material but featuring the catchy keyboard riffs provided by Rhodes and a grooving Taylor bass.

Wickett wrote “See Me Repeat Me” which morphed, after extensive rewrites, into “Rio” but sounds nothing like the eventual smash hit off their second album of the same name.

“Reincarnation” has little in common with mainstream Duran Duran but rather a lot more with Joy Division and the Clash. This rather lachrymose, early-London punk-rock scene contribution begins pretty slow and then turns into a somewhat surprising heavier rocker.

The quick flash of the cameras that open “Girls on Films” gets replaced by a barely perceptible chorus melody keyboard intro in this original version of one of the band’s most popular hits that eventually keeps only the verbal “Girls on Film” chorus melody. At a near breathless pace, “Girls on Film” continues the post-punk sound of the band’s early days and sounds almost nothing like its successor. But notice Taylor’s bass. He’s already got this one dialed in.

“Working the Steel” sounds like a first take and a first song. The potential exists but mostly coordinated chaos emerges from the final track of the EP as Wickett tries out dueling Taylor’s bass while Rhodes geeks out on synth.

Not a bad record by any stretch but just four songs. Despite sometimes sounding off key, Wickett produces a remarkably similar tone as Le Bon, Taylor already proving very adept on bass and he uses the guitar sparingly similar to how Duran Duran used Andy Taylor (likely resulting in his displeasure and eventual departure) and Rhodes in many respects already established as the wizard behind the curtain.

Overall, an excellent audio window into the band Duran:Duran was and how things changed as Duran Duran hit the scene two years later.

Grade: B+

Duran Duran Demo 1979 Track List

  1. See Me Repeat Me
  2. Reincarnation
  3. Girls on Film
  4. Working the Steel

6 thoughts on “Album Review: Duran Duran – Demo 1979

  1. Now this is really cool. I didn’t know this existed. So cool to know there is something with a different singer than LeBon. I would love to hear Girls on Film as that is one of my favorite DD songs.

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