White Label Wednesday: John Taylor, “I Do What I Do”

Written by Music, Popdose, White Label

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Let’s just ask the obvious question: how the hell did this song become a hit?

This is not to say that the song is awful so much as it’s really, really lucky. In the spring of 1986, with America still in the throes of Duranmania, bassist John Taylor – who had admitted that he had not so much as burped on a record before – teamed up with Jonathan Elias (he would go on to co-produce the band’s 1988 album Big Thing) to deliver the sexy for Adrian Lyne’s 9 ½ Weeks. The song, “I Do What I Do,” is an odd little tune – sounding nothing like Duran or the side projects Arcadia and the Power Station – but it had two huge things working in its favor: it was the work of a member of Duran Duran, and it was the work of a member of Duran Duran. Simply put, if “I Do What I Do” had been recorded by any other singer, and released at that or any other time, it would have sunk like a stone.

Again, this is not to say that the song itself is awful (the writer doth protest too much, methinks), but let’s be frank – there ain’t much to it. The vocal covers about six notes, the lyrics’ attempts to be steamy are unintentionally funny (“Is my body heat the right intensity,” gawd), and while it possesses the components of a song – verse, chorus, bridge, solo, etc. – it’s not much of a song. But it’s from a member of Duran Duran! The cute one that plays the bass thingy! Eeeeeeeeeee!

And there you have it. The song becomes a Top 25 single, and an obligatory 12” single is issued to relieve teenage girls around the world of the last of their babysitting money. The direction for the extended mix appears to have been: make the song even less danceable than it already is. John doesn’t get to the first verse until after the four-and-a-half minute mark. What happens up until that point? A whole lot of stop-starting with a sax riff, some vocal snippets – and I do mean snippets – and a wall of electronic percussion. You might, might, be able to dance dirty (or have sex) to the album version. Try to seduce a girl with this mix, and she’ll suffer a grand mal seizure.

The public’s love for all things Duran Duran would last for another six to eight months after the release of “I Do What I Do,” which, as it turned out, was long enough for another Taylor – guitarist Andy – to score a solo hit of his own, the T. Rex-cribbing “Take It Easy.” Duran would reform that fall – minus Taylors Andy and Roger – and release their fourth album Notorious, but after the title track climbed to #2, the little girls had clearly moved on. After all, how else do you explain “I Do What I Do” and “Take It Easy” coming within arm’s reach of the Top 20, while “Skin Trade” – one of the band’s best singles ever – spent one lonely week in the Top 40, peaking at #39? Here, you be the judge. For your listening pleasure, we give you both the “Final Cut” mix of “I Do What I Do” (are you absolutely, positively sure this is the final cut?), and the “Stretch” mix of “Skin Trade,” mixed by the late, legendary New York disco DJ Larry Levan. But first, revel in the glory that is John Taylor in a dark movie theater, singing. Funny, whenever I do that, people throw things at me. Must be because I’m not as cute as John is. But really, who is?

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/kjU3N5nvcD8" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

John Taylor – I Do What I Do (The Final Cut)
Duran Duran – Skin Trade (Stretch Mix)