40 Years Ago: Duran Duran Close 1981 With Throwback ‘My Own Way’
On Nov. 16, 1981, Duran Duran released a non-album single, "My Own Way," in the UK.
The song bore little resemblance to the Roxy Music- and Japan-inspired music on the Birmingham band's 1981 self-titled debut — and it also sounded far different than a rerecorded version of "My Own Way" that would eventually surface on 1982's Rio.
Instead, the single take boasted nimble disco strings, a brisk tempo, head-spinning rhythmic grooves and Nick Rhodes' viscous synthesizer blooms. It felt more like a late-'70s dance-floor fire-starter than a new wave tune — and the band members ended up not quite liking where the song landed.
"The single version of ['My Own Way'] is a little misguided," bassist John Taylor said in a 2017 interview around Rio's 35th anniversary. "We were kind of going for a very disco, Donna Summer-y [approach]. … I mean, it was probably the most blatant kind of disco song we wrote."
"The single version was very different from the album version," added drummer Roger Taylor in the same interview. "I made some notes on some of these songs [on Rio] and at the top next to 'My Own Way,' I'd written 'problem child.'"
To that end, Duran Duran tried multiple times to cut a version of the song they liked. A demo of "My Own Way" recorded at EMI's Manchester Square headquarters on Aug. 28, 1981, was streamlined. While also brisk, that take included different instrumental flourishes: prominent ferocious percussion, light-touch guitar riffs and even a sudden burst of Andy Taylor's signature electric guitar.
The frantic disco flourishes came later, as Duran Duran recorded the song with producer Colin Thurston in late October, after returning to the UK from their first trip to the US. The band also filmed a video with director Russell Mulcahy (who had also filmed "Planet Earth") with a red-and-black motif.
Watch Duran Duran's 'My Own Way' Video
Bolstered by the success of Duran Duran's previous single, "Girls on Film," the "My Own Way" single was another success. The band appeared on Top of the Pops in early December, a few weeks before the song peaked at No. 14 on the UK singles chart. It was Duran Duran's third top 20 UK single of 1981 and fourth top 40 single overall.
The band would later change up "My Own Way" considerably in early 1982 while recording Rio, slowing down the song, removing the strings and adding touches such as jagged Andy Taylor electric guitar runs and singer Simon Le Bon yelling out the address of New York City landmarks.
This time, the band was much happier — mostly. "For me, it was always a slightly tricky song," Le Bon said in the Rio look-back interview. "I still think that the verse is a lot better than the chorus, you know — [Sings] 'Saw you at the air race yesterday / April showers, get out of my way.' That was really catchy, but … I don't think that the chorus ever quite fulfills the promise of the verse."
Roger Taylor, however, was more satisfied: "By the time we cut it for [Rio], we slowed it right down, and we got the groove a little bit more where it should be. I much prefer the album version of it."
In a nod to this satisfaction, the band played "My Own Way" consistently between 1981 and 1984, and in 2006 even dusted it off a few times, segueing right into the song after performing the Power Station's "Some Like It Hot."