My Night with Duran Duran

By August 2, 2019 September 30th, 2020 Music, News

When you own an entertainment agency, sometimes you get phone calls that are out of this world. This one was from Duran Duran’s road manger, wanting us to provide them with a 40-voice choir as they were going to be at the Kennedy Space Center doing a special concert for the 50thanniversary of the Apollo 11 moon launch. Shalisa answered the call, and I have to say, as a teenager who idolized John Taylor, the guy who set the standard for rock bassists and straight guys wearing eye-liner, she was surprisingly chill.

“Forty voices this Monday, no problem,” she said.

“I know a great studio,” she said.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Simon Le Bon wants us to sing the opening of his show to honor the astronauts at Kennedy Space Center…and he said it would be cool if our basses could hit a low D.”

I immediately freaked out. I called everybody I knew. I was gonna sing with Duran Duran. Holy 80s heaven. I needed a bass who could hit a low D.

Our singer Chris, could do it, and because his first response was, “Duran who?” we knew he would keep his cool. Here is the video we sent to seal the deal:

Specific arrangements were put together by Joshua Blair, an English producer who had written “The Universe Alone” and would never in a million years call himself the musical director of Duran Duran. He had a specific vision of a choir of “space angels descending from the heavens.” Shalisa had gathered a crew of experienced space angel session singers who could read the spots off the wall and me…kind of a space angel in training, who could hear something once and pretty much get it. Fortunately when I was added to the mix, he liked my subtle uncertainty and “close enough for rock-n-roll” vocal quality.

Holy crap, I was on a session for Duran Duran.

"Joyful Noise Choir! We are lucky to share the stage with such talented people."

Simon Le BonLead Singer, Duran Duran

Kennedy Space Center is an amazing venue for a show, particularly for a live concert dedicated to the astronauts who landed on the moon. However, for an outdoor venue in Florida in the middle of July, you might say it was a little warm, 80 degrees and humid, with the full moon daring us to land on it again. You’d think the boys from England might have complained, but no. They came on for rehearsal in full dress. Simon ever the 80’s kid, wore a white sportscoat and Nick sported a blue velvet crushed suit with high-heeled boots. I was freaking out. Simon came over to the choir.

“Hi I’m Simon,” he said. Then he told some funny stories about how his choir director paid him a shilling a week to sing because the choir didn’t have any decent boys in it. He was very hands on during the entire rehearsal, talking to Shalisa, who found herself at the head of the stage, directing the choir and even at times helping out with the orchestra’s down beats. Simon was on headset, in communication with the operators at studio drift, who were also putting together an amazing lighted drone display to kick off the show. He was bouncing up and down with excitement at the video wall, the strings, the choir, and the drones.

“I just want to say how lucky we are to have such talented people share the stage with us,” he said.

It’s heart-warming to see your childhood music heroes being generous to local singers and musicians. Instead of being “burnt out” as many of us get in the entertainment industry, Simon and the band were truly excited about the creative process. They were still jazzed about doing a cool live show for space, for the astronauts. Of course space has always been Duran Duran’s muse, from “This is Planet Earth” to “The Universe Alone.”

The show, of course was amazing. Our choir ooooh-ed and aaaah-ed over actual recorded audio from that historic moon launch. The drones danced in the sky like UFOs. The band played covers of “Walking on the Moon” by the Police and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. Highlights included John Taylor hugging Shalisa after the show and Simon asking the crowd to show some love to the “Joyful Noise Choir!”

But the best part was when all forty voices came in on the first chorus of “Save a Prayer.” John and Simon looked back at us with teenaged smiles of affirmation and enthusiasm for the wall of sound we were making together.

And just for a moment, we were all part of the band.

-Jeremy James