And Still They Come To Hear The Drum

Amanda’s post earlier this week on the new Depeche Mode film struck a chord with me. Not only am I excited to see the film, I have a feeling it will affirm my belief that serious fandom for a band (or three) fills a void in our soul that would otherwise remain empty. I knew early on in life that I was that sort of person and my Duran-fanaticism blossomed when I was only ten. By the time I was in high school, my tastes were expanding and my fandom was stretching into new sounds.

By the end of the 1980s, I was becoming a, for a lack of a better term, “serious” music fan. I was exploring the birth of the delta blues as I followed Eric Clapton’s influences back in time. I was absorbing the country music that my parents were listening to as well as the garage rock they grew up on. I was intrigued by the T. Rex cover from The Power Station which led me towards Bowie and glam rock. Eventually, all these threads reached a crossroads with one band: Cowboy Junkies.

On paper, Cowboy Junkies are an extreme departure from Duran Duran but my fandom for both has co-existed peacefully. How extreme is too extreme when you’re a fan of a band? Can you see too many shows? I am about to reach 150 Cowboy Junkies shows since I first saw them in March of 1994. I quit my job in 2010 and literally followed their tour around America. And I still look forward to more shows. Their music fills a need that I cannot explain. 

One of the things that gets lost in translation when talking to people who do not share the obsession for music that we have (you’re reading a Duran Duran blog so clearly you are one of us) is the community that grows around fandom. With a band as massive as Duran Duran, there are still individual friendships born from attending shows and seeing familiar faces. This is even more pronounced when your favorite band has been consistently playing small theaters year after year.

Through an old-fashioned message board on the band’s website, friendships were born around Cowboy Junkies. Once, I arrived in San Francisco for a show and walked into an apartment of someone I had never met in person. Five minutes later, he left me in his apartment and went to work before we met up at the Cowboy Junkies show later that night, trusting me not to steal his furniture. I’ve crashed on more couches than I can remember over the 147 shows I’ve attended. Everyone helped each other out with the single goal in mind: see the show. If crashing on a floor or even sleeping in a car means one more show, serious fans go for it! 

I’ll leave you with one story from my travels with Cowboy Junkies. After a show in California, a handful of us following a week’s worth of shows were chatting with Margo Timmins, the singer. One of the guys mentioned that he was bringing his wife and daughter the next night and that a specific song had helped them as a family during the difficult “teenage” years. He asked if the band might play it and Margo looked concerned. This was an obscure song from them. It was a bit like if Rhonda asked Simon to play “Late Bar” the next night at a Duran Duran show!

The next night, the band invited us in for soundcheck as is the norm with the core fans and my friend had his wife and daughter with him. As they worked through a few songs, Mike the guitarist called out “A Few Simple Words”, the song that had been requested. The drummer’s initial response was something along the lines of, whaaaaatttt???? But Margo whispered to him and the band pulled off a totally unrehearsed version of the song for the fan and his family. There was only about 12 of us there but there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. I don’t remember what the band played during the show but I’ll always remember that soundcheck. 

Like Depeche Mode, almost every band has a flock of fans who will fly anywhere and do anything to see them. Last week, I met a guest at my restaurant who feels like that about Sister Hazel. Remember them? He takes cruises with them and showed me tons of pictures of his adventures to see shows. While I might not love Sister Hazel, his narrative felt like my own. Being a Duran Duran fan comes with the added bonus of being the underdog, of being slightly dismissed by the “serious” music fans. To me, that makes it all the better. So fly your Medazzaland flags high and proud!  As a man I worked for once said, if we weren’t crazy, we’d all go insane.

Cowboy Junkies covering David Bowie

2 thoughts on “And Still They Come To Hear The Drum”

  1. I’ve never heard of this band but that soundcheck story was beautiful and such a gift for the fan who requested the song.What a kind thing to do and shows that they care about their fans.

  2. This kind of reminds me of Duran Duran in the late 90’s. I wasn’t aware of the get togethers then (no internet) but people told me about them years later and they sounded interesting. However, in 2003 I did something like what you mentioned, I had been chatting for years with someone from one of the Duran Duran message board. She then invited me over and though we never met before, I went to her house. We’re still friends and people will tell me I took a chance but I just knew she was who she said. There is a local band who were big in the 60’s and had several huge hits (including a number one song on Billboard) and they perform mostly around the area (and probably some of those festivals) and they have a devoted fan base after all these years. They will often perform shows just for these fans and the funny thing is many of the fans were from when they were big in the 0’s and these people will bring grandchildren to the shows. The original members (many are replacements by now as several died) are now in their 70’s.This is how to treat the fans. I got to meet the band and talk to them and they went from “that oldies band from my parents era” to “what a cool band”.

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