On November 13th, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks rocked the French capital. One of the targeted venues was the Bataclan Theatre, where American garage rock band, Eagles of Death Metal, were performing. While the band escaped without harm, a number of attendees, including the band’s merchandise manager, were murdered in the senseless attacks.
In light of the tragedy, a Facebook campaign has been launched, encouraging the public to purchase Eagles of Death Metal’s cover of Duran Duran’s “Save a Prayer.” The aim of the Facebook page, “Eagles Of Death Metal For No.1,″ is to get the song to number one in the UK charts, as a way of showing “solidarity against terrorism and support for peace.”
This is a fan-generated campaign; Eagles of Death Metal are not involved, nor have they commented on it. Additionally, despite worldwide support for the endeavor, only UK downloads of the song count towards the chart. Meanwhile, as writers of the original version, Duran Duran were headed for a small windfall in increased royalties — however, the band has agreed to donate all royalties to related causes. While specifics have yet to be divulged — the band says “There are a number of causes under consideration, all of which are peaceful, effective and unifying” — it’s a gracious and appropriate response during this confusing time. There is already dissent about whether this chart campaign is appropriate or not, but it doesn’t matter — the Eagles of Death Metal cover is quite good.
The original Duran Duran version is a romantic ballad. Previous slow-jams like “The Chauffeur” had failed to find a mass audience in the US, so after opening their American chart fortunes with buoyant ‘80s anthems like “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Rio,” “Save a Prayer” became their first successful ballad. Aiding the song’s success was an exotic video, set in Sri Lanka. A hit on MTV, it propelled the song to number two in the UK in 1982 (the song was initially not released in the States, but a belated “single” release charted at number 16 in 1985). Given the size and scope of the band’s career, “Save a Prayer” is never anyone’s favorite Duran Duran song, but it’s still a solid, tender addition to their oeuvre.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Eagles of Death Metal version is a faithful cover of the original. Taken from their recently released Zipper Down album, they’ve replaced the opening, eerie synthesizer with wailing backing vocals. It’s a simple yet effective substitution, as it amps up the creepy factor that’s inherent in any ballad. When Eagles of Death Metal frontman, Jesse Hughes, sings the immortal line “Some people call it a one night stand, but we can call it paradise,” it sounds dirty and carnal instead of sweet and sentimental; you can easily imagine a girl named Candy stripping to this version. The Eagles Of Death Metal cover is close enough to the Duran Duran original to appease purists, but it adds a new element by sounding sleazy and dirty. It’s a bizarrely inspired reworking of a beloved ballad.
In a weird bit of synchronicity, Duran Duran played the song with Eagles of Death Metal on October 31, just days before the attack. The unlikely pairing works wonders, and shows that Duran Duran clearly appreciate what Eagles of Death Metal have done with their song.
Of course, in the grander scheme, none of this matters: People are dead and we’re all in shock at these cold-blooded attacks. People cope with tragedy in different ways, whether it’s changing your Facebook profile picture to red, white, and blue, or donating money to the French Red Cross, or downloading a cover of an ‘80s classic. Regardless, the Eagles of Death Metal’s version of “Save a Prayer” will forever be tied to the horrific events that occurred in Paris. Save a prayer… for Paris… for humanity.