Following the News

Fifty-million streaming apps

Yesterday, I sat down to watch Strangeways Radio’s Week in Music video, hosted by our very own Jason Lent (VelvetRebel). If you missed it – you can catch it on our homepage, or right here. I love that it’s a quick wrap-up of what happened in the world of music for the week. I’m lucky to have five uninterrupted minutes to myself, so this short program fits the bill!

As I watched, Jason pointed out a couple of new albums that are out by The Chromatics and The Pixies, and even played a little snippet from each. While I’ve heard of both bands (more so Pixies that Chromatics), I never paid close attention to either of them, but I liked the new songs played, each for very different reasons. I made mental note to search for the new music on Spotify or the other 50 million music streaming apps that seem to be out these days. For me, it’s all a little overwhelming.

I’m lazy and admit it!

I don’t know what it is with me, but over the past five years or so, I don’t bother seeking out new music nearly as often. Complacency is comfortable, I suppose, but it’s also limiting. I listen to what Walt has collected over the years on vinyl, channels I enjoy on SiriusXM or traditional radio, and that’s about it. Finding new bands requires dedicated time and effort that I just don’t have to offer.

Cognitively, I understand that listening to First Wave, or even my local radio station – I’m not likely to hear “new” music, even if it comes directly from one of the artists played on First Wave (in case you’re not familiar, the station focus on New Wave music from the 80s). The problem is, I’m lazy. Plain and simple. I don’t have hours to sit around clicking endlessly to find new music and/or new artists I like, much less time to actually listen. While Walt and I still see bands fairly often – most of them are cover bands, not playing original material.

When I think about it, I don’t know that I was ever one of those people to work hard to seek out new music. I’d watch MTV, read the occasional magazine or hear things on the radio and go from there. Today, it’s similar, except MTV is no longer the same, and since I listen to First Wave when I’m in the car (which truly isn’t all that often now – my comments are less than 10 minutes these days!), I’m not exposed to much. I’m guessing that I’m not the only one in that camp.

How do bands manage the tsunami?

On the other hand, I have friends who seem to know all the new albums, new bands, new music. This is why I appreciate Jason’s work, both here and on Strangeways Radio – he does my a lot of my homework for me. Now all I have to do is go to a streaming service, or purchase the music and listen. I value their time and tenacity, because honestly – I don’t have the patience to do it myself!

As I was considering all of the above, I realized that my own quandary is exactly the same sort of tsunami that bands like Duran Duran are fighting to survive each day. Can you imagine trying to get a new album played on the radio these days? I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but there’s not even a station in my area that I could for sure say would play (new) Duran Duran. Again, I’m betting I’m not alone.

When I post statements about radio, there’s always someone who pipes up, saying that radio doesn’t matter anyway. Maybe not, but then what? Internet radio? Streaming? Great, except that it’s not enough to just throw a new album up on a streaming service and cross fingers for luck. How do you attract listeners and grow your audience at this point? Unless you’re already following Duran Duran, or they get extremely lucky with just the right song placed in just the right place…how does it work?

How do you do it?

All of this did get me wondering though, how do other music fans my age do it? Do they still try to keep up with what is new, or are many beginning to settle back with music they already know and love? Where does the good music news come from? Drop me a line and let me know!

-R

Transcendence

Where were you?

I can’t ignore the elephant in the room this morning. While I don’t know how many people outside of the USA follow basketball, I know that most people who live here knew of Kobe Bryant. Yesterday, he was in a serious helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. None of the nine people on board survived.

At some point during the afternoon, one of the television news anchors commented that this would be one of those moments where we would all be able to recall where we were when we first heard the news. I was sitting on the retaining wall overlooking our side yard. I’d lazily picked up my phone, quickly scrolling through Facebook when I saw something my sister had posted about the accident. At first, I thought it had to be a hoax. Within seconds though, I was able to see it was real.

There are some people who just transcend. For example, I am about as far away from a basketball fan as possible. The last time I sat through a full game, Michael Jordan was still playing for the Chicago Bulls! Yet, I knew who Kobe Bryant was. I was neither fan, nor foe. As time wore on past his retirement from the sport, he successfully redefined himself from basketball player, to philanthropist and business leader. He earned the respect of the public not through words, but action.

Elevated beyond fandom

I think what surprises me most in this particular situation is that nearly everyone I know took at least a second to send their good wishes, whether on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere. It doesn’t seem to matter if you were a fan of Kobe, a basketball fan, or just a regular person – he transcended all of it. He was someone that people globally looked up to, admired, and/or hero worshipped. There are some people who are elevated beyond fandom. Kobe Bryant was one of those individuals.

This morning, I can’t help but think about how forty-one years wasn’t long, yet he did so much with that time. Now, I realize for his wife, family, and surviving children – it wasn’t nearly enough time. That, I understand completely. Even so, to most people who aren’t personally affected by the loss (beyond that of being a fan, I mean) – Kobe did an amazing amount of “good” with the time he had on this planet. That alone seems to be something to admire.

I’m sure some may point out that he had less-than-perfect moments. In 2003, Bryant was accused of rape. I watched as his wife Vanessa stayed by his side, even as Kobe admitted to adultery. At the time, I wondered if the seemingly perfect Bryant was really a rapist in disguise. I’m sure many people still wonder. It would seem to me, though, that the body of work left behind is worth a lot as evidence of the true person.

Legacies live on

Ultimately though, Kobe Bryant’s legacy will live on, at least as long as his fans are alive. When things like this happen, I wonder how I’ll feel when the day comes that one of my biggest heroes passes on.

I’ll be blunt (as always) – for me, Duran Duran changed the direction of my life as an adult. I became a blogger. I traveled a little, made friends, and learned a lot about myself, music, and people. The idea that people who created something so pivotal for me will eventually pass on isn’t a good one. I don’t know what that day will be like, only that I would eagerly opt out if at all possible. I’m sure that is how many of Kobe’s most ardent fans felt as they read the news yesterday.

Rest In Peace

My thoughts are with Vanessa Bryant, her surviving children – who lost not only a husband and father, but also a daughter and sister yesterday, along with the families of all those on board that helicopter yesterday.

Yes, it is likely that I’ll always remember where I was on this fateful day. Similarly to how I recall coming out of my sixth grade science & math classroom to see my friend Marsha sobbing over the loss of John Lennon in 1980. There are some things, and some people, that just transcend everything else.

-R

Question of the Day: Monday, January 27, 2020

Yesterday’s winner: Before the Rain

Which song better represents All You Need Is Now: The Chauffeur or Come Undone?

Coming Soon
Which Song Better Represents the All You Need Is Now Tour?
The Chauffeur
Come Undone

Year End Katy Kafe with Nick 2019

I’m still in the process of listening and blogging about the year end Katy Kafes. So far, I have blogged about John’s and about Roger’s. Today, I will move on to Nick. As always, I am not sharing everything. I’m focusing on what struck me and what I reacted to. If you want to want to know about the whole thing, please head over to DuranDuranMusic and listen for yourself.

Event of the year:

Nick mentioned that there were a lot of “ghastly political things” that he doesn’t want to remember. Instead, he would rather remember the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. He distinctly remembers being a little kid watching it, which he believed had a massive impact on what he thought about life. Additionally, it was “such a significant achievement that was positive for everyone.”

Favorite Movie:

Like John, Nick loved Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. While he acknowledged that it was a little long and slow, in places, he enjoyed every minute of it. He feels that both the writing and acting were great.

Favorite TV Show:

While Nick does not typically find a lot of time for TV, he made a point of doing so this past year. He mentioned two shows: Black Mirror and The Crown. He raved about the latter stating that it looks amazing with casting that it right on.

Favorite Book:

Leave it to Nick to talk about a book of photography. In this case, he talked about the latest Stephen Gill book that focused on photographs taken in rural Sweden.

Favorite Music:

Billie Eilish was Nick’s choice in this category. Fascinating. He acknowledged that she is very young but finds her clever and more interesting than others. When questioned about this choice, he stated how he believes that female singers are leading right now.

Favorite Thing Saw:

In this category, Nick focused on museum and art gallery shows. Nick discussed the various shows he saw in great detail. I took note of a couple including the Stanley Kubrick exhibit with props and clothing from his movies and seeing The Last Supper in person in Milan.

Favorite Duran Duran Moment:

Shocking to no one, Nick chose playing at the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 11 rocket to the moon. He described it as surreal, being at that exact location with rockets all around them, a big choir, a string section and a full moon. He shared a little about how this happened. Apparently, he had visited NASA a year earlier and the NASA people mentioned the idea of Duran playing at this and he jumped at the chance. Fascinating.

Looking Forward to the Most in 2020:

The first thing Nick popped out with was a nap. As someone who has been grading all weekend, I definitely could relate to that. Of course, he turned more seriously to the fact that they have spent a lot of 2019 working on the album. He said that he 100% thinks that the album will be out in 2020. His prediction is that it will most likely be between April and June. The worst case would be September. They have about 6 songs all set but have to battle to decide the rest. Katy asked how that happens. He explained that it was a democracy that works (unlike the UK and the US, he added!). Either they work on a song until everyone thinks it is the best it can be or it doesn’t get added. One story Nick shared was how he loved Northern Lights but Simon did not agree with a certain part. Apparently, they compromised by including it as a bonus track which Nick thinks it is the right way now.

All of the album talk got me excited! Maybe I’ll have new Duran music by my birthday. I would approve!

-A

Question of the Day: Sunday, January 26, 2020

Yesterday’s winner: Blame the Machines

Which song better represents the All You Need Is Now Tour: Before the Rain or Careless Memories?

Coming Soon
Which Song Better Represents the All You Need Is Now Tour?
Before the Rain
Careless Memories

I Should Be on Solid Ground

Before I dive into today’s blog, I want to apologize again for yesterday’s lack of a blog. I had hopes that I might be able to do a quick blog of sorts in the morning before I left for work but the brain and computer weren’t working. It might have something to do with me being overwhelmed with finals (many of them still await my grading). Anyway, I apologize.

The last couple of weeks have meant finishing up the first semester and getting ready for the next one. Part of me hates this time of the year as the grading is way too much but another part of me likes that we get to restart. It also means a number of meetings to reset there, too. In the middle of one of these meetings, I had a realization. Bear with me as I try to explain this. It seems to me that there are some fundamentals in which people build their lives. For many people, this foundation of sorts includes family, friends, a career, a community, etc. If all of those are working as they should, life feels good. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is perfect, just that it feels normal, safe, relatively predictable.

In thinking about all of this, I realized that my foundation has been shook over the last decade or so. In some cases, there have just been little cracks like my parents have both had health concerns and I recognize that they aren’t getting any younger. Other areas have been more dramatically affected. In teaching U.S. history, we discuss how the United States have ideals that include liberty, democracy, equality, etc. Through actions both at the state level and nationally, those ideals seem like nothing more than pipe dreams, at times. Even with my career, aspects that I expected no longer seem possible, forget about probable. All this has left me feeling shaken, disturbed, anxious, unsafe.

Where does that leave fandom? Good question. When I first started touring, it was all about fun. Life was relatively good and going on tour, posting on message boards just made life a little better. Then, as more and more has happened to shake my foundation, fandom has taken on a different role. For awhile, when the rest of life began to be so uncertain, I looked to fandom to provide the one “normal” part of life. I could count on it to be an escape, a fun time with friends. I desperately clung to it. If you even look back to blogs I had written in 2011, 2012, 2013 you could sense this. I needed the band to finish an album, go on tour, etc. It was the only thing that felt right. Now, I’m not even sure that fandom feels that solid as well and I don’t even know why. Maybe it is simply because the rest of my foundation is so badly shaken that the cracks have hit even fandom. I don’t know. I know that if I were to go on tour, it would still be an amazingly fun time but the going on tour part seems uncertain for the first time.

I don’t know where this goes from here. I have no clue. Really, the only thing I know is that I would like some part of my life to feel safe, that I could trust it. I would the ground to stop shifting beneath my feet. I would welcome it if that part would be fandom. One hundred percent. But like everything else, I have more questions than answers about whether or not that is possible and what if anything can be done about it.

So what about the rest of you? Has fandom changed in terms of where it fit into your life or why you participated? How do you feel about your fandom moving forward?

-A

Question of the Day: Saturday, January 25, 2020

Yesterday’s winner: All You Need Is Now

Which song better represents the All You Need Is Now Tour: Being Followed or Blame the Machines?

Coming Soon
Which Song Better Represents the All You Need Is Now Tour?
Being Followed
Blame the Machines

It’s Just Music

It’s rigged

If you’ve escaped the news regarding the US Senate Impeachment Trial, it is entirely possible you have heard about another scandal. Deborah Dugan, the recently ousted CEO of the Recording Academy, claims that the Grammy award system, among a myriad of other very serious allegations, is rigged.

Dugan filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission this week. She is alleging sexual harassment and discrimination against the Recording Academy. This was following her own untimely exit on January 16. She was placed on administrative leave following another female staffer complaints of misconduct (by Dugan). Complaints of sexual harassment in Hollywood are not new. Given the complexities and drama enveloping the situation, I suspect there will be more news to come. However, I did find the allegations about the awards system worthy of comment.

Clown-car acts of try-hards

With each passing year, I pay less and less attention to the music award shows. Call it aging, call it a lack of care or concern. The fact is, the awards, and certainly the visual spectacles they create for television, are boring to me. They resemble circuses of excess, complete with clown-car acts of try-hards, attempting to outdo whomever stepped onstage before.

I used to force myself to watch. Desperately trying to stay informed, as well as exercise and maintain a decent ear for new music. I never could quite understand why I had zero trouble listening to music from my parents day and prior. I appreciated the history and where music has traveled since. Yet listening to modern music (at least the most “popular” being heralded on these awards shows) makes me crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found plenty of new music to enjoy – just not the stuff pedaled on these shows for mainstream audiences.

As I’ve watched shows like the Grammy Awards, I’ve sat back in wonderment over some of the nominees, and most definitely the winners. I can’t count how many times I wondered how fill-in-the-blank-here actually got nominated, much less won. That isn’t about my own personal taste, either.

Finger on the pulse of mainstream

I can’t ignore the fact that people of color dominate many of the categories. Yet far too often it ends up being white people getting the award. Yeah, I’m playing the race card because it’s been way too damn obvious to ignore. Certainly, I could never prove a thing; but if me, “little-white-woman-from-California” was wondering about it, rest assured, I wasn’t alone.

Granted, I don’t have my finger on the pulse of mainstream music these days – but some of the choices felt (and sounded) completely out of left field. Sadly, it didn’t surprise me when news reports about this alleged “rigging” began surfacing this week. In fact, I believe my sarcastic comment was, “No. You don’t say!!” I mean, come on. Who DOESN’T think these shows are a joke??

Did you know that the membership in the Recording Academy (according to Slate) is only 21% female, and only 28% people of color? Interesting, given those groups of people often dominate entire categories. Yet, their role in the voting and governing body is minimal. The process is that the full membership casts choices in all categories. Then, for each of those categories, committees cull through the top 20 choices, down to a final 5-8 nominees.

All of this sounds familiar

What I found interesting here, this committee meets and the members push forward their own choices. So for example, if you’re someone who works with say, Ed Sheeran – you’re going to push forward his nomination in whatever category you’re working on, regardless of whether or not he’s truly the best example of this years artists in that category. Doesn’t matter because, well – this is a popularity contest. It also doesn’t matter if Ed (again, just an example!!) was even in the top 20 voted by the entire membership body for that category. Dugan’s complaint claims that for the 2020 Grammys, 30 of this year’s nominees were added to the final list of nominees, despite not making the initial cut to the top 20.

I wish that were all, but she also claims that this year, one of the nominees for Song of the Year came in at #18 in the top 20 (meaning that the entire membership made their choices for this category, and this nominee was the 18th most popular choice). Yet they made it through to the top nominees. Maybe when faced with the choices that were in the top 20, this particular committee of people decided that #18 was really one of the top 5-8 choices for the category. Sure. I suppose in this day and age, anything is possible. But really??

Hearts and ears of the white men

While I’m the first to say that I think the award shows are a joke – it is a little numbing and disconcerting to read that they’re REALLY this messed up. I’m a lot less surprised that Duran Duran didn’t win more of them during the course of their career, I’ll say that much.

No, I’ll even go one further. We already know that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is political. Getting on that nomination ballot is an exercise in futility. At the very least, you’ve got to have the hearts and ears of all the white men in the room. Then there’s the Grammy Awards, which has also now proven it’s own irrelevance, assuming that even some of the allegations are true. I can’t imagine they’re untrue at this point. With so many patterns of behavior emerging, it is difficult to imagine otherwise.

Does it matter?

I guess that at least for me, I have to wonder when it stops. Will it stop? When does the public finally say no more? Or, perhaps it doesn’t matter enough to anyone to bother? “It’s just music.”

Yes, it is music. This week, it is the Recording Academy in the crosshairs…it’s also The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Oscars, the entertainment industry, business, and beyond. It is about equal opportunity, People of Color, LGBTQ, white people, women, men….about humans. Our behavior, our history, our collective culture, and our future.

Sure, it’s just music and this is just an awards show. All of it superficial and irrelevant…except it’s not.

-R

Question of the Day: Thursday, January 23, 2020

The song that best represents the Paper Gods Tour: Pressure Off

Which song better represents the All You Need Is Now Tour: All You Need Is Now or A View to a Kill?

Coming Soon
Which Song Better Represents the All You Need Is Now Tour?
All You Need Is Now
A View to a Kill

Rhythm of Youth

While back in England visiting friends and my wife’s family, we took a cold, evening drive to have dinner at her dad’s house in Stokenchurch. This perfect little village was not only home to my future wife as a teen, it is also where synth-pop hero Howard Jones grew-up. So, when her dad opened his record cabinet, I hoped that in those rows and rows of wax that a treasure might await, like an early demo from HoJo or, perhaps, a Duran Duran artifact. Well, I sort of struck gold.

Between the Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley singles, a few 80s gems began to appear from Human League to the first Adam Ant 7″ in a black and white sleeve! As I looted my father-in-law’s record cabinet of any records that belonged to my wife or her sister, I slowly lost hope of finding a Duran treasure until I came across a handful of flexi-discs, the flimsy plastic records that came inside magazines.

One of them promised a Merry Christmas wish from all the Smash Hits stars. Knowing the magazine’s fixation with the Fab Five, I looked closer and saw them listed on the label. A little unsure if the flexi-discs would still play, I packed them in the bag and now you can hear what I heard last night when I put it on.

Smash Hits Christmas Flexi-disc

Not exactly a well-scripted moment…..and that is perfect! It sounds fun. And that is what the band and the world started to lose by the end of the 80s. MTV started to become a well-oiled machine and everyone had expensive, boring videos that aspired to be “Rio” or “Hungry Like the Wolf”. The era was winding down.

It took a little stumble but when Duran Duran returned on a mission with the Wedding Album, the videos had style and looked modern. The band were ahead of the pop-culture curve again. In “Come Undone”, John and Simon are wearing the infamous Seinfeld pirate shirt before the episode had aired! Kidding (sort of).

Everyone gives U2 credit for making the creative leap from the masterpiece of Joshua Tree to the equally brilliant Achtung Baby but it was harder for Duran Duran to get to the Wedding Album. The band had to convince an audience, and themselves, that there was a place for them in music a decade after ruling the world. As the bad-ass commercial proves, they were ready for the new decade.

A slick commercial for the Wedding Album.

An outspoken examination and celebration of fandom!