Girls On Film

Album: Duran Duran (1981)
Charted: 5

Songfacts®:

  • This song is about the exploitation of fashion models, who must deal with dehumanizing shoots in a frenzied environment where they are objectified for the masses. The group was known for dating models, so they had plenty of firsthand accounts to draw from. It was written by the five members of the band.
  • A track from the band's first album, this was Duran Duran's third single. It would be another year before they had any impact in America, but in England, they had a swift rise as leaders of the New Romantic movement, and answer to the rebellious and politically indignant punk and two-tone movements of the '70s.

    England was still dealing with a harsh economic and social climate, but this is a country that loves its royals and is fascinated by its most glamorous citizens. Duran Duran filled that craving with upbeat pop music and relentless decadence. Most critics laughed them off or derided them as lightweights, but they quickly found an audience, with "Girls On Film" rising to #5 in the UK on August 22, 1981.
  • This song is best known for its video, which was the first extended video ever made and was quite racy. In an interview on the band's Greatest Hits DVD collection, Simon Le Bon says that the controversy over the song's notoriously raunchy music video eclipsed the song's message of fashion model exploitation. The video was directed by Lol Creme and Kevin Godley, who were the leaders of the group 10cc and also recorded as Godley & Creme.
  • The band manager Paul Berrow's Nikon camera can be heard clicking at the start of this song. "I'm always taken by that thing that catches my ear that I haven't heard before," Nick Rhodes told Lori Majewski in her book Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s regarding beginning the song with the camera clicks.
  • MTV did not exist when Duran Duran made the video - they made it to show in nightclubs and on video jukeboxes that were going in bars and were not subject to broadcast regulation. It showed the band looking on with lots of girls posing for the camera, some of them in the nude. The BBC banned it, but MTV aired an edited version with the nudes removed.

    The band had a following in England, but were unknown in the US until MTV went on the air in August 1981 and started playing "Girls On Film." MTV had very few videos, and most were concert clips. Duran Duran supplied them with high-budget videos that went into heavy rotation and made them stars in the US. As it became clear that videos were a big part of marketing a band, groups like ZZ Top, Van Halen and The Rolling Stones embraced the concept, while acts like REO Speedwagon faded away.
  • "Girls On Film" is not the only hit released in 1981 with camera flashes in the first five seconds: "Freeze-Frame" by the J. Geils Band also incorporated shutter sounds.
  • In a Songfacts interview with Kevin Godley, he talked about making the video: "The management, as well as the band at that period of time, were very into pushing the boundaries, and they could obviously sense that something was coming, that visuals were becoming more and more significant. They had heard that music videos or whatever they were called back in those days were being played in dance clubs in the States, and there were no restrictions put on what was played, so the content could be anything you wanted it to be. So, the brief was, do something that's kind of provocative, but it's sexy, and don't hold back. Make it beautiful, make it interesting, and provocative.

    So, that's precisely what we did, and the fact that it was played in clubs and noticed in clubs probably before MTV was what gave them some kudos in the States and started to build the fanbase in the States. A little bit of daring in the early days always bears fruit, and that's precisely what happened here."
  • This is one of the songs that demonstrated impact of MTV. After the network went on the air and started showing the "Girls On Film" video, Duran Duran's album enjoyed a measurable uptick in sales in markets where MTV was on cable systems. When Duran Duran released their next album, Rio, in 1982, MTV was ready for them, giving the first single, "Hungry Like The Wolf" lots of airtime. That song became their first American hit, rising to #3. They soon became one of the network's biggest stars, rivaling Michael Jackson and Prince in the teenage girls demographic.
  • Duran Duran learned the power of music video when they made one for their first single, "Planet Earth," which helped the song take off in Australia. Videos helped them leverage their movie-star looks, but the one they made for "Girls On Film" has little to do with them - they are simply voyers to the action. Subsequent videos ("Rio," "Save a Prayer ") placed the boys in exotic locations and established them as jet-setting playboys, and image they lived up to.
  • In 1983, Duran Duran released the video, along with the one for "Hungry Like The Wolf," on VHS and Beta. Selling the video made it eligible for a new Grammy category: Best Short Form Video, which it won.

    Putting the video up for sale also renewed the controversy that gave them so much free publicity in 1981. In a dastardly clever marketing move, the VHS copies contained the clean version and the Beta the uncensored. Most people had VHS, but by putting the dirty version on Beta, it meant stores could "ban" it, generating a new round of press.
  • Billy Preston covered this for the 2002 album When Pigs Fly: Songs You Never Thought You'd Hear. Cevin Soling put the album together by having artists record songs they were unlikely to be associated with this. He explains why he chose this for Preston: "First, I think it's a great song. But Duran Duran, you think of them as being quintessentially white, and Preston having that real funk background. So I thought it would be an interesting match-up to hear how it was done."
  • This was used on the season 2 episode of Stranger Things "Trick Or Treat, Freak" when Nancy fights with Steve and spills a drink on herself.

Comments: 9

  • John from Washington, DcBetween the video and the lines like "wider baby", "shuddering...I'm shooting a star" and "see you together", this song is either cleverly walking the line between exploitation and criticism of porn, or hypocritically trying to have it both ways. I'd have to say it's the former, and it's actually a great song. Probably the only one this group can claim amongst a lot of nonsense.
  • Paul from Geelong, Australiadoes anyone know the girls in the video. i have a feling they were all page 3 girls.
  • Aaron from Columbus, OhThe "Big Hair" guy was Nick Rhodes, the keyboardist. He had flaming red hair, and in the early 80's it was big!
  • Andrew from London, EnglandOne of life's little mysteries that will remain unsolved until the end of time: what on Planet earth was the music appeal of Duran Duran?
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrI bet you when people first saw the video for "Girls On Film", they probably gasped in shock as they stared at those naked girls. Aside from that, lots of girls probably had the hots for Simon LeBon! By the way, which one of Duran Duran's band members is "The One With The Big Hair"? The reason I ask this is because when I asked my Dad which band member of Duran Duran was his favorite Band Member, his answer was, "The one with the Big Hair".
  • James from Albuquerque, Nmohhhh, i loved that video. Duran Duran is the bomb diggity
  • Katie from Memphis, TnThe version of the song played on the unedited video is the Night Version. At the time, sampling didn't exist so the band actually went back into the studio and wrote and performed a whole new arrangement for the song. They did this on all their early remixes.
  • Karsh from London, Englandthis song was used as the opening theme to a japanese animation series "Speed Grapher"
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiathe video was the best Jerry, the best
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