“Ordinary World” — Duran Duran

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Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

Given the events of the last few years, I think we’d all like the world to become a bit more ordinary again.

I was never a Duran Duran fan back in the 1980s. There’s only so much prancing around on yachts with a supermodel on each elbow I can take in a music video, and that was pretty much the template for a Duran Duran music video back then.

The first time I heard “Ordinary World” I had no idea it was a Duran Duran song. I was on holiday in Malta at the time and had just bought some drinks in a bar when this amazing song came over a sound system that, in fairness, was a cut some way above the sound systems you tended to find in an average tourist bar in the early 1990s.

It moved me so much, I went back to the bar to ask the server if she knew what song was playing, but she had no idea. It was just the next track on some random mix-tape CD the bar staff tucked into the CD player every once in a while.

It wasn’t until some time later that I found out this amazing record was by Duran Duran, a band I’d been rather sniffy about until that point.

“Ordinary World” also marked a return for Duran Duran to their ordinary world…at the top of the charts around the world. After dominating the music industry in the 1980s, by the early 1990s they weren’t the force they once were.

But great songwriting always wins through in the end. And with the release of “Ordinary World”, the lead track from their 1993 “Duran Duran” album…sometimes referred to as “The Wedding Album”…the band demonstrated they had a lot more to offer than a string of hedonistic music videos.

“Ordinary World” is, rightly, famous for an exceptional guitar solo…courtesy of Warren Cuccurullo in this case, rather than Andy Taylor who played lead guitar on most of Duran Duran’s 1980s hits…but the great lyrics and haunting vibe also make this song a creative masterpiece.

This is much more than a hum-drum song enlivened by a great guitar solo. “Ordinary World” would have been an exceptional song regardless. The guitar solo is just the final element that sends it into the stratosphere.

Although the four main band members at the time share the writing credits for “Ordinary World”, it started out as a way for Simon Le Bon to process the grief he felt following the death of a friend a few years earlier.

This is a song about finding peace in world of inner turmoil…

With few exceptions, human beings like things to be the same from day to day. Not necessarily without enough ups and downs to keep things interesting, but within a framework where we know the rules, we understand what’s going on and we can make sense of the world…even if we don’t necessarily agree with everything that’s going on in it.

We tend to be much less good at processing sudden shocks, like the unexpected death of a friend, a partner walking out on us, or the outbreak of war.

Often, our motivation is to “get things back to the way they were”. But things will never be the way they were again.

No amount of grief will bring a loved one back from the grave. No amount of pleading will bring back someone who left us for someone else. No amount of reconciliation will take away the suffering of war from those who lived through it.

The world we “want to get back to” no longer exists. We have to learn to work with the world as it now is, not the world we fondly remember from a time before the pain and suffering.

That’s not to say we need to put our loved ones or the happy times we remember from the past out of our minds. We’ll keep those memories for the rest of our days.

But the experience will only live on in our minds and our hearts. We will never be able to recreate the physical experience, where we can see, feel and touch the world of times gone by which we remember so fondly…

The sad aspect…or the empowering aspect, depending on your perspective…about humanity is that we have to learn to move on.

For as long as we’re mired in a past that’s gone for good we remain mired in sadness. Ultimately our life comes to a stop if we don’t move on.

That’s not to say we should just “get a grip” or “snap out of it”. We all have different ways to process our grief…although not many of us write songs as beautiful as Simon Le Bon to do it.

And I’m not one to talk. Most of my life has been spent mired in grief for one reason or another. I’ve spent most of my life mired in grief, so I’m not the poster child for this process.

By the early 1990s, though, Simon Le Bon was clearly processing his grief a lot better than I’ve ever done. When he wrote “Ordinary World”, he’d reached the point where he had to find a new “ordinary world” to secure his future.

Not to disrespect the past or forget about it, but to come to terms with it and accept it for the blessing it was for as long as it had lasted…

If there’s one attribute humans are programmed to do even better than wanting things to be predictable, it’s the way we’re programmed to survive.

Every year, millions of human beings around the world suffer unimaginable hardship, pain and loss. Yet they keep going somehow.

Elegantly and eloquently delivered, that’s what Duran Duran describe in “Ordinary World”. It’s a song for our current times, on a global scale, but it’s a song for each individual one of us any time we suffer grief, loss or tragedy.

A UK and US Top 10 song in 1993, I don’t think Duran Duran ever wrote a better song than “Ordinary World”. In fact, I don’t thing many other bands ever have either.

What I can tell you is that I’ve never got up from my seat and walked across to the bar to find our what song was playing before or since the first time I heard “Ordinary World” in that bar in Malta.

Nearly 30 years on, “Ordinary World” still helps me process the grief and trauma I’ve experienced for as long as I can remember, and it keeps me going on those days when it’s extra-hard to just to plaster a smile on my face and keep going regardless like I do most other days.

One of my very favourite songs…with a soaring guitar solo that to my astonishment generally doesn’t appear on the “greatest guitar solos of all time” lists…here’s Duran Duran with “Ordinary World”…

(PS: The official music video has a lot of flashing, strobe-type effects. If you’re sensitive to that sort of visual stimulus, I’d strongly recommend visiting the Spotify link instead. But however you listen to this, it’s a fabulous song.)

https://open.spotify.com/track/0wokCRaKD0zPNhMRXAgVsr

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Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.

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