Book Discussion–In the Pleasure Groove (Chapters 17-21)

It is Monday!  I like that we have book club Monday as this means that I have something to look forward to every Monday!  We continue discussing John’s book.  This week, we are talking about Chapters 17-21.  Read, respond to the discussion questions, and/or come up with your own questions to keep the discussion going!

Chapter 17:  Legs for Days
What was the significance of the first girl John slept with?
A -I was surprised to read that the significance of the first girl John slept with wasn’t a boost to his self-esteem or feeling loved.  Nope.  It was clear that her real purpose in his life and in his story is that she was an ex-girlfriend of the Hawks’ guitarist.  The Hawks were a band that were in a feud of sorts with Duran.  The fact that this girl and Jane, another ex-girlfriend of the Hawks, began dating Duran members ended the feud, which I find fascinating.  While the feud seemed to be partly about the musical styles, girls ended it.  Was it really about the music at all?
R- They were teenage boys.  I think that pretty much settles that.


Chapter 18:  Enter the Eighties
What did you think of how John explained the cultural shift that was taking place at the end of the 1970s?
A- I loved this chapter.  As a historian who has often looked at how music and culture follows larger societal patterns, including political changes, I was fascinated to see how music, art, fashion and politics all seemed to shift from the punk movement of just a couple of years previous to something new, something that embraced ambition.  He also did a great job showing how quickly things were changing and how significant some of the influences were.
R- I agree that John did a great job describing the scene at hand.  I also feel that the band was one of those things that came together at just the right time, as though it was all meant to happen exactly as it did.  I loved taking a look back at the time, both because when you’re living it – you don’t necessarily see all the same nuances – and also because living here in the US in the 80’s, we had different things going on.  I like reading a broader view.

Chapter 19:  Music Never Sounded Better
It seems to me that they gave a lot of control to the managers.  Do you think that was a good move?
A- On one hand, it bothers me a little that they would decide a manager over a singer.  What if they thought that Jeff Thomas was the best singer ever?  Would they have sold their vision for the financial backing of the managers?  On the other hand, I understand the need for someone to help them.  They probably couldn’t have done what they did without managers like the Berrows who were willing to fork over cash for equipment, touring slots and more.  I guess in the long run it is about how John and the rest of the band felt about it.  If they are okay with it, I can be, too.
R- I think that at the time, the band must have felt more confident with their managers. They were bonded, and they believed that the management could get them what and where they needed. I will also say that this is not the first band that ditched a lead singer due to a conflict with management. My high school boyfriend was in a pretty serious hard rock band, and just prior to getting signed to a label, their manager took them aside and told them that if they wanted to make it – they had to find another lead singer because the guy they had (who was WILDLY popular with their fans) tended to be very “pitchy” and had a real attitude with the manager. (which he did)  The band said “good bye” to the guy and ended up with another lead singer that while was far more reliable, was not nearly the “personality”.  So, it happens I guess. 

Chapter 20:  The Poetry Arrives
How did you respond to John’s description of Simon as he acknowledged him as the “star”?
A- I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by how super over-the-top positive John was by Simon.  I don’t know why.  I think we can all admit that Simon’s entrance into the band was significant.  Of course.  Yes, he was the poetry.  Yes, he was the front man but this just seemed SO positive.  John seemed SUPER impressed by him.  Maybe, he was.  Would we all sound so positive about a very good friend of ours when we first met him/her?  Perhaps.
R- I’m typically pretty cynical and hard on Simon, but the fact is – there are some people who just have that star quality.  Simon was older than the rest of the band by a couple of years, and I have no doubt that played into John’s outlook too.  I’m sure he looked up to Simon in some regard.  I also feel very confident that Simon really did fit the frontman part – and they needed that. The fact is, John is writing the book in hindsight, and so while he might have truly felt that Simon was the perfect fit (which I believe was his point), I also think that there’s something to be said for John acknowledging from the full perspective he now has to say that yes – Simon was indeed the star they needed. Simon IS a star on stage. He brings the show to life even when the rest of them have had less-than-fabulous shows.  I’ve seen it.  

Chapter 21:  The Final Debut
Thoughts about how John describes how the band functioned with everyone equal and Nick and John as the master planners vs. dictators?
A- I have mixed feelings about this description.  As someone who likes to think of herself as a planner and organizer vs. a dictator, or boss, I like it.  Then, I do wonder if the rest of the band thought in the same way.  Did they look at Nick and John in this way or did they think of them more as dictators?  Then, if they really were equals going in the same direction, how did that happen?  Honestly?  Rhonda and I are pretty much on the same page at the same time but I can’t imagine that would be easy to achieve if there were 3 more of us! If it really was this way, then, I’m even more impressed by this!
R- I think there is always someone who takes more of a directive role, and others that tend to fall back. We all know from John’s book that Roger was easy going, that Simon didn’t like to cause conflict…and those types of personalities probably helped the cause.  I am not surprised that Nick and John were the planners because they were with the band from day one, and I think that this band just fit together well – the personalities (at least at first) blended well.  

What were your thoughts about that final debut?
A- I was surprised to hear that they started the show with Nightboat.  I wonder what that song would be like as an opener.  I did like how he talked about the addition of Simon and Andy made the band more interesting and that they appeared on stage different than the previous time.  John describes it as the “‘X’ factor”.  I completely agree that there was something special by that band.
R- Having seen the band with others in the lineup, I would agree that there is something very special about that particular lineup. (no offense to current guitar-playing members of course)  I can’t put my finger on what it is, but when it was working – it really did work.  I don’t think they ever found that same energy with other members until they found Dom and he began to feel more comfortable within his position in the band.  They are lucky.  I know other bands who lost members along the way that have never seemed to find what gels for them since.  

Final Thoughts:
I really loved that John took the time to describe each little step of forming the band that we know and love.  He didn’t just describe the different singers and guitarists but also the cultural scene and the influences that affected them directly and indirectly.  This added to a story that I was already pretty familiar with and I loved that he got it how they truly did have something special.

Next week, we will discuss Chapters 22-27!

-A 

 

3 thoughts on “Book Discussion–In the Pleasure Groove (Chapters 17-21)”

  1. I took John's comments about Simon a little differently. I thought they were very nice, not saying they weren't but I didn't think he was “acknowledging” him as the star, I took a little less over the top.

    I felt his quote, from his diary of the time, which is where the star comment came from, was more just an acknowledgment that the final piece of the puzzle had arrived with what they needed, a frontman with charisma, which is one thing pretty much everyone involved at the time has said, whatever his other flaws and strengths, Simon had a lot of charisma, as well as the words they needed for their songs to go with it.

    I think that guy who signed them to EMI who saw them perform with Hazel O'Connor made a similar comment in that “Wild Boys” documentary from when was it 1999, 2000? I think he said Simon was an “absolute star” when he saw them perform.

    So I felt it was more along the lines of what Rhonda was saying. Simon has a good command of the stage and the audience, which is terribly important in consistently putting on good shows.

    So I didn't take it as John was making some sort of statement of Simon being THE star or being over the top about it, just quite kindly acknowledging a needed quality Simon brought to the band.

    For the rest I think this was my favorite part of the book, where John talks about the music scene of the 70s, first from a fan perspective and then as a new young participant. To be honest it reminded me a lot of some of the fan scenes in Velvet Goldmine, in realistic form of course. 🙂

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