The Reflex

Album: Seven And The Ragged Tiger (1983)
Charted: 1 1
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • One of the more mysterious Duran Duran songs, "The Reflex" seems to have a very deep concept. We know The Reflex is a lonely child and a door to finding treasure in the dark, but why can't you bruise it? And why is Simon Le Bon dancing on the valentine?

    Le Bon, the lead singer and lyricist for the group, won't reveal the meaning and sometimes gets aggravated when asked. "It's a kind of childish song," he told Absolute Radio. "There have been times when I've felt a little tired of it, but that's also to do with the fact that people always ask me what the song's about, and I never tell people what songs are about."

    "It's a really interesting lyric," bass player John Taylor added. "You wouldn't hear a lyric like that today. The early '80s was really great for profoundly weird, paranoid pop lyrics."
  • "The Reflex" is a very early and effective use of sampling, which is how they created the "re-re-re-re-flex" sound.

    The original version of the song appears as the first track of their third album, Seven And The Ragged Tiger, and doesn't contain the samples. This version runs 5:29 and wasn't deemed suitable for a single.

    After the album was released in November 1983, the band heard the INXS song "Original Sin" and became smitten with Nile Rodgers' production. The commissioned him to do a remix of "The Reflex," and working with Duran Duran synth guru Nick Rhodes, developed the famous version of the song (cut to 4:26) that was released as a single and used in the video. Sampling was so new, when he sent his remix to the band, they weren't sure what they were hearing. "We weren't sure if he was scratching," Simon Le Bon said. "Then we figured out he was repeating certain tracks but within the mix, not the whole track. It was quite innovative."
  • The Nile Rodgers remix was released as the third single from the Seven And The Ragged Tiger album, following "Union Of The Snake" and "New Moon on Monday." It went to #1 in America in June 1984, seven months after the album was released.

    It was the first Duran Duran song to top the US chart, and their second to do so in the UK, where "Is There Something I Should Know?" went to #1 the previous year.
  • Instead of staying on brand by shooting in an exotic locale, the music video was shot at a Duran Duran concert. Directed by Russell Mulcahy, it's a concert footage with a twist, using the giant screen above the stage to insert the kind of random images (silhouettes with chains) that were hallmarks of early MTV. There's also a digital effect to look like water coming out of the screen and dousing the audience. It looks crude today but was pretty advanced for 1984.
  • The band were asked in an interview with Q magazine (February 2008) whether they were sending themselves up when they recorded the Seven And The Ragged Tiger album, which was recorded at great expense over a period of several months in a French chateau and on the island of Montserrat. Bass player John Taylor replied: "I think so. I hated the procrastination of that album. It was approached like an old-school Dutch painting. Hours spent perfecting a cymbal sound. There was a lot of sitting around and I felt like a caged animal. I was drinking and looking for a way out really." Singer Simon Le Bon added: "The title was supposed to be about us seven (the five band members, plus their two managers) in this fairy tale, with the ragged tiger who was "fate" or "luck." I don't think anyone got it."
  • Duran Duran were living the high life around this time; they were video stars in America and top sellers in their native UK, where the Seven And The Ragged Tiger album went to #1. Their subsequent tour was sponsored by Coke, which was somewhat ironic because cocaine was a big part of it. In his memoir, John Taylor recalls anxiously waiting for the shows to end so he could get high.
  • This features in the British 2015 rom-com movie Man Up. It plays during a memorable scene where actress Lake Bell performs an enthusiastic dance routine to the tune. It also shows up in the 2003 movie American Wedding.
  • Duran Duran performed "The Reflex" in their Live Aid set along with "Save a Prayer," "Union Of The Snake" and "A View to a Kill." After Live Aid, the band split into two side projects, with John and Andy Taylor forming Power Station (with Nile Rodgers' Chic bandmate Bernard Edwards), and Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor teaming up for Arcadia.

Comments: 21

  • Grimtraveller {lower Case 'g' !} from North West LondonWhy do people bother to try to tell us what the song is about when its lyric writer is on record as saying he never tells people what it's about ?
    It's a great song, leave it at that.
  • Susan from Illinois This is one of the best songs from the 80’s. I never tried to analyze Duran Duran lyrics. They take stream-of-consciousness to a completely different level!
  • Pooh From Mn from MnSam from KY nailed it! Great job!!!
  • AnonymousI remember listening and watching a documentary on Duran Duran and it’s about erections
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenLike its creators, I also had no idea what this song meant.
  • Thea from CaliforniaThe Reflex is about card gambling addiction. The Reflex itself is the excited rush a gambler feels. The rest of the lyrics, that some seem to think are nonsense, are the consequences of a gambling addiction; abandoned child, stealing at night, selling your possessions, superstition for luck, dumbfounded when they don't win "answered with a question mark". "Four leaf clover" - Clubs, "Valentine" - Hearts. ....and lots more.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1984 {June 16th} a video of Duran Duran's "The Reflex" was aired on the Dick Clark ABC-TV Saturday-afternoon program, 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time "The Reflex" was at position #2 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, the following week it would peak at #1 {for 2 weeks} and it spent twenty one weeks on the Top 100...
    As noted above, it also reached #1 in the United Kingdom, and in Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands...
    Between 1982 and 2004 the British band had twenty one records on the Hot Top 100 chart, eleven made the Top 10 with two* reaching #1, besides the above "The Reflex", their other #1 record was "A View To A Kill", for two weeks on July 7th, 1985...
    * They just missed having two more #1 records when both "The Wild Boys" {1984} and "Notorious" {1987} peaked at #2 on the Hot Top 100 chart...
  • Esskayess from Dallas, Txdick, are you saying that sometimes songwriters don't know what they're writing about? I'd hate to hear some examples.
  • Mandy from London, United Kingdomthis song is about Nick Rhodes, just as My Own Way is about John Taylor. As a lyricist you just can't help writing about the people close to you.
  • Dick from Washington, DcAt some point, even if the songwriter tells you what a song is about (if he knows), it's not interesting.
  • Don from Benton, ArThe song has to be a drug rant. The description above says the song was written over a couple bottles of wine but wine doesn't put someone on a trip like that. The only other option is that Simon had a break from reality. Hope he's feeling better now!
  • Layla from Vancouver, BcI can't remember where I read this but the article quoted Simon calling 'The Reflex' a song about forgetting your lyrics while performing/
  • Blil from Kansas City, KsWhen I saw them in Atlanta in 1984 (just before this song was released as a single), Simon introduced this song by holding up a little stuffed animal tiger and saying "This song is about a little friend of ours...."
  • Dale from Henderson, KyThe song seems to be about oral sex.."The reflex"
    or the "Gag Reflex" of a woman perhaps?
  • Sam from Wilmore, KyThe lyrics seem to have something to do with drugs--"why dontcha use it?" if a syringe is used, "try not to bruise it," and if you have wasted time using it, you need to "buy time (and) don't lose it." Particularly the third verse, he's on a ride ("high" ride), want to get off but he can't slow down (want to stop but can't?) so he needs to sell his Renoir and TV--to do what? to buy drugs? Hopelessly(?) maybe, he doesn't want to "be around when this gets out" (or when it loses it's effect?). Other hints--there is waiting in the park to find treasure in the dark, and what the reflex does leaves a question.
  • Mike from Santa Barbara, CaThe video to this song caused a minor uproar, and those who have seen it know why.
  • Kevin from Tampa, Fli guess if it is about erections, it would give a definate meaning to "high tide is no time for deciding if i should find a helping hand"
  • Patrick from Portland, Or"The Reflex" has at least two levels of meaning. (1) It's about unwanted adolescent erections. (2) It's about a challenging process of psychic, spiritual, magickal, occult awakening that every soul eventually undergoes -- one frequently misunderstood and mistaken for psychopathology.
  • Dean from Potomac Falls, VaIf you read the chorus carefully, you might conclude that The Reflex is Simon LeBon's ode to the penis/male libido. It's clever. I grin every time I here it.
  • Emily from Abingdon, VaSong lyrics are pointless but one must admit there is a significant amount of musicality there.
  • Kendall from Thomasville, Gayeah the lyrics don't really make sense to me either
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Butch Vig

Butch VigSongwriter Interviews

The Garbage drummer/songwriter produced the Nirvana album Nevermind, and Smashing Pumpkins' Gish and Siamese Dream.

Randy Houser

Randy HouserSongwriter Interviews

The "How Country Feels" singer talks Skynyrd and songwriting.

He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss): A History Of Abuse Pop

He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss): A History Of Abuse PopSong Writing

Songs that seem to glorify violence against women are often misinterpreted - but not always.

Female Singers Of The 90s

Female Singers Of The 90sMusic Quiz

The ladies who ruled the '90s in this quiz.

Jesus Christ Superstar: Ted Neeley Tells the Inside Story

Jesus Christ Superstar: Ted Neeley Tells the Inside StorySong Writing

The in-depth discussion about the making of Jesus Christ Superstar with Ted Neeley, who played Jesus in the 1973 film.

Eric Clapton

Eric ClaptonFact or Fiction

Did Eric Clapton really write "Cocaine" while on cocaine? This question and more in the Clapton edition of Fact or Fiction.