Category Archives: All You Need Is Now

Media Representations of Fandom–Duran Songs!

What does Duran Duran say about fans?  More specifically, what do they say in their songs about fans?  I ask as part of my continuing series of blog posts regarding media representations of fans.  In previous weeks, I have looked at movies, TV shows and books.  Now, I ask about music.  I ask about what the subject of our fandom has to say about fans.  Do they show fans to be normal but passionate people?  Do they show one or more of the common stereotypes like being obsessive or demonstrating behaviors common with “stalking” or being a “groupie”?  Do they show fans as unthinking or immature?  Do the fans in Duran’s music have lives or they just focused on fandom? 

What songs discuss fans or fandom?  It seems to me that there are a couple of songs in which fans or fandom is the obvious subject matter.  Still there are other songs which could be metaphors for fans or fandom.  Likewise, Duran has quite a few songs that deal with being famous, which I will not discuss at this time.  Thus, I’ll focus on the obvious songs and leave those songs for another blog.  To me, the obvious songs are Be My Icon and All You Need is Now.  Let’s discuss in chronological order.

Be My Icon:
This is a song featured on Duran’s Medazzaland album.  As many of you might know, this song’s lyrics started out dramatically different.  John Taylor was on vocals and the title was “Butt Naked”.  The focus of those lyrics, from what I have heard and believe, is John’s ex-wife.  Obviously, after he left the band, the lyrics and title changed to what we have now.  Here are the lyrics:

I follow you, I wait for you
You know there’s no escape from me
You’re more than wallpaper in my room

I write you letters and bring you gifts
I’m going through all your trash
I love you so much,
I keep your cigarette butts

Now is the time to come out
Come out of the shadows

No need to be scared
You’re gonna be so happy
I built you a shrine
Now you can Be My Icon

I’m out on the edge
There’s no way back inside
All my friends are gone
They didn’t understand me

It makes so much sense
It’s no coincidence
Just you and I alone here
And I need you
Oh

How many hours have I stared at my face in the mirror
I get worried sometimes that the image will shatter

No need to be scared
You’re gonna be so happy
I built you a shrine
Now you can be my icon
No need to be
Scared
Now you can
Be My Icon

I know this is real
Believe it
We belong together
What ever happens
You’re gonna be with me
Forever

Be my icon
You will be my icon
Be my icon
You will be my icon

How does this Duran song represent fans and fandom?  Not good.  Not good at all.  Let’s assume that this is about one fan.  Clearly, this person has become obsessed and stalker like.  The very first line after all is about following the celebrity and that the celebrity cannot get away from this fan.  Then, of course, this person searches through the celebrity’s trash and keeps some of it, including cigarette butts.  In fact, this person is so obsessed that s/he has lost all of her/his friends because they don’t understand the obsession and the behavior that goes with.  What is the ultimate goal?  The goal is to have a relationship with the celebrity with lines like, “We belong together.”  The celebrity, in turn, is freaked out.  What will this fan do?  What will this obsession lead to?  Of course, not everything that this fan does is unusual or out of the norm of fan behavior, including having posters, buying gifts or writing letters.  The key is moderation and it is clear from the rest of the song that there was no moderation.  At all.  Now, are their fans like this?  Certainly.  Are there fans like this in Duranland?  Definitely. 

All You Need Is Now:
Duran has been introducing this one by saying it is a message to the fans.  Let’s look at the lyrics and see what that message is and how they show fans and fandom.

It’s all up to you now
Find yourself in the moment
Go directly to the voodoo
Now the channel is open
Lose your head
Lose control
You come on delicate and fine
Like a diamond in the mind
Oh whoa oooo, yeaaaa

When you move into the light
You’re the greatest thing alive
Oh whoa oooo

And you sway in the moon
The way you did when you were younger
When we told everybody
All you need is now

Stay with the music let it
Play a little longer
You don’t need anybody
All you need is now

Everybody’s gunning
For the VIP section
But you’re better up and running
In another direction
With your bones in the flow
Cold shadow on the vine
But your lashes let it shine
Oh whoa oooo, yeaaaa

Every moment that arrives
You’re the greatest thing alive
Oh whoa oooo

And you sway in the moon
The way you did when you were younger
And we told everybody
All you need is now

Stay with the music let it
Play a little longer
We don’t need anybody
All you need is now

All you need all you need is now
All you need all you need is now
All you need all you need is now

And we will sway in the moon
The way we did when we were younger
(When we were younger)
When we told everybody
All you need is now

Stay with the music let it
Play a little longer
(A little longer)
We don’t need anybody
All you need is now

Oh whoa oooo
All you need all you need is now
Oh whoa oooo
All you need all you need is now
Oh whoa oooo
All you need all you need is now
Oh whoa oooo
All you need all you need is now

The very first line that catches my attention in relationship to fans is, “you come on delicate and fine
like a diamond in the mind”.  This time the fan isn’t coming on strong.  The person is like a gem, something to be treasured.  A few lines later, the fan is the “greatest thing alive”.  From there, of course, Duran encourages the fan to “stay with the music”.  Obviously, they want the fan to continue to be a fan and to embrace the now.  In fact, the fan could “lose your head, lose control”.  This is the exact opposite of Be My Icon.  In this song, the fans are absolutely welcomed.  Interestingly enough, the fan is also encouraged to not try to be in the VIP section.  Could this mean that while the fan should stay with the music, the fan shouldn’t worry about being the biggest and best fan?  Maybe.

In the two songs that Duran really focused on the fans, they really show two very different pictures.  On one hand, the fan seemed obsessed and demonstrated stalking behavior, for sure.  It painted a picture of the extreme fan.  It also feels like they are just talking about one fan, an individual.  All You Need Is Now, on the other hand, feels like they are talking to a group, more than one fan.  In this case, the fans are welcomed. They are more than welcomed.  They are treasured and admired.  What is the take away then?  How does Duran show fans and fandom?  It seems that their depiction of fans is balanced, from the celebrity’s point of view.  Some fans can be nightmares but most fans are dreams.  That makes perfect sense to me.

-A

Let It Shine–2011 Highlights

Last Sunday, I talked about the documentary featured on Duran’s latest DVD release, A Diamond in the Mind.  I questioned why it wasn’t talked about more and then I introduced the main topics of the documentary.  Before I dive into the first of those big topics, I want to explain what I learned after last Sunday’s blog.  The reason that many people aren’t talking about this documentary is because they don’t have it.  Apparently, the iTunes version, for example, did not include extras.  Thus, the only people who have access to it are people who bought actual copies (DVD or Blu-ray).  There was also some confusion between this and the commentary.  Let me do my best to clarify.  The commentary is not included on the actual copy of ADITM.  The commentary was played on the day that ADITM premiered through the Qello application on facebook.  Later, it was made available to download on Eagle Rock.  This was/is the only means I know of obtaining it.  The commentary is much like a movie commentary in which voices talk about the show over the original visuals.  The documentary, on the other hand, is available only on actual copies and features interviews with the band as well as other footage, including behind the scenes shots. 

The first main topic of the documentary is the 2011 highlights, according to the band.  Nick introduced this topic by talking about how the year was so exciting and renewed their music and live show.  Simon then listed many of their highlights, including the release of All You Need Is Now and their participation in some American festivals like South by Southwest and Coachella.  Nick and John later discuss the Unstaged show with David Lynch.  After watching, I wondered if I agreed with their assessments and what my own highlights were.  Let’s take each of those 3 highlights, one at a time. 

The first highlight that the band mentions is the release of All You Need is Now.  I would think that anytime the band releases an album that must be THE highlight of that year since they haven’t released that many albums.  It isn’t like they release an album a year or more than one album a year.  Writing, recording, mixing, and putting out an album must be an incredible amount of work.  I really can’t wrap my head around how much work it must be.  I know how hard it is to write a book.  Maybe I could compare book writing to album making.  Like recording an album, you can’t just sit down and publish a book.  You have to take time to outline the book/chapter, then you have to write it which often takes a great deal of time as serious revisions can happen.  You start thinking the chapter might be one way only to have it go in a completely different direction.  I am sure the same thing happens to songs.  Then, you still have to edit, perfect, add, change, fix everything that is written.  Even after that, there are more details to add.  In our case, for example, we add quotes to separate sections of a chapter.  Perhaps, this is like all of those little sounds, pieces that get added to Duran songs.  Once all of that is done, there is still all the packaging that needs to be figured and what is going to be included, etc.  My point is simple.  Releasing an album is a ton of work and a super big deal.  Of course, the other important detail to this highlight is that the album is FABULOUS.  Frankly, this album should always be a Duran highlight and not just for 2011.  It is a career highlight, in my opinion.  It is filled with quality music that feels like essential Duran.  If anything, I was surprised that they didn’t talk more about the album on this.  Although, maybe they felt like they shouldn’t because the iTunes version was available at the end of 2010. 

The next highlight was American festivals.  They mentioned South by Southwest briefly before spending more time talking about Coachella and the scene there with the sunset that really created a special moment for the band.  I wasn’t surprised that they talked about this one as I know John talks about it in his book.  (Hope that wasn’t too spoilerish!)  I also know that it was a huge crowd and that this festival is a big deal in comparison to many other ones.  It was one of those shows that aired online at the same time they played so that the rest of us, who weren’t there and wouldn’t step foot on a festival’s grounds even if paid, could watch it.  I enjoyed the show.  I did and I thought that the band sounded really tight that night.  Thus, I completely understand why it was a highlight for the band BUT I don’t know that it was a highlight for a lot of us, fans.  Obviously, fans, like me, would have a different set of criteria.  Festivals aren’t for fans.  Yes, some fans attended, including some friends of ours, but they typically don’t get to play a full set and include ONLY greatest hits and a few new ones.  Yes, I realize that appearances in festivals could broaden the fanbase.  I get all that.  Yet, when I think highlights, I think it has to either be something that had a HUGE impact on a large number of fans or majority of fans or really do or say something about the band’s success.  This event didn’t do it.  Frankly, they should have mentioned those rehearsal shows in the UK in the late summer of 2011 in which Simon practiced his voice for the first time since he had vocal problems and in which the band played lots of obscure songs in small venues filled with all fans.  I wasn’t there at any of those shows but I do know that they meant everything to all of us.  It was proof that Simon was going to be okay and that the band would continue.  That meant everything. 

The last big highlight that was mentioned was the Unstaged performance/production with David Lynch.  For this, the band played a live show in Los Angeles while the David Lynch production was streamed online with numerous effects and images shown on top of shots of the band performing.  Again, I wasn’t surprised that the band mentioned this one.  After all, many (most?  all?) of them are fans of David Lynch’s.  It also got a lot of attention.  I think there is something to be said for doing something different or showing something different.  I applaud it for that.  Yet, I know that when I watched it, I found myself either wondering what the heck was now on the screen or why I couldn’t just see the band perform.  In my opinion, it was too much style and not enough substance.  All of those images almost took away from the quality of the band’s performance.  As a Duranie, I don’t mind some additions to a live performance but this felt like it wasn’t a live performance and I was sad by that.  My full review of this could be read here.  As I said there, it was cool, to some extent, but I missed just seeing the band.

If I had to say what the band’s highlights of 2011 were, I think I would have to say the album’s release, the return of Simon with those rehearsal gigs and the UK tour at the end of the year.  I’m not surprised that my highlights for the band didn’t match theirs.  After all, we have different priorities.  My highlights have to impact a lot of us or all of us.  For them, they thought about their personal highlights or thought about those big events that are easy to pick out.  I get that.  I can understand that.  My highlight choices are personal, too.  Did those events I mentioned help the band’s career, though, at the same time?  I actually think they do.  It is a big deal to release an album and an album with super quality.  It is huge to be able to perform again after the fear we all had that Simon would never be able to sing again.  It is so cool to be able to play shows like they played in the UK at the end of the year.  It was the proof that they really are back and are 100%! 

What about the rest of you?  Do you agree with their highlights?  What are your highlights for 2011?

-A

Duran Duran Roundtable Part 2: Touring, Online, and Miscellaneous

On yesterday’s blog, I responded to the first half of Duran Duran’s roundtable released this week, which, again, you can find here.  The first half of the roundtable focused on music, including albums, singles, unreleased material and more.  The latter part of the roundtable contained some questions regarding touring, online presence and questions that did not fit into any category.  Like yesterday’s blog post, I won’t transcribe questions and answers but respond to what I heard. 

The first question under the touring section regarded how much input the band has on what countries, what cities and what venues they play.  Simon mentioned how their are certain countries they won’t play due to the countries due to political regimes of those places, which makes sense to me.  He then went on to say that they really let the booking agent work out the details of a particular tour.  The only time they might step in is if the tour misses an obvious city like Los Angeles or New York City.  I have two thoughts in hearing this answer.  First, I hope that their booking agent takes some factors into consideration.  I couldn’t help but to think of this summer when the band played outdoor venues in the heat of the summer.  I couldn’t also help but to think of Nick getting sick at the end of the tour, too.  Second, I think this shows how much we, fans, do not know about the business.  We don’t know all of the details that must be worked out when it comes to planning a tour.  We don’t know exactly which pieces the actual band members have their say with.  I guess this helps me realize that there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes and that the band can’t do every little thing themselves.  They must have help and must trust that the help knows what they are doing. 

The next question regarded writing on the road.  I was pleasantly surprised that they started to record some of the jam sessions or warm-ups as something interesting things were heard.  I wonder, of course, who all is involved in the warm-up.  I remember back in 2005 that there were clips of the warm-up and, at that time, it consisted of John, Roger and Andy Hamilton.  Is it still John, Roger and Saxy Simon?  What about Dom?  Is he involved? 

There were a number of questions that touched on the setlist in some way, which isn’t surprising to me as setlist discussions are frequent ones in Duranland.  They were asked if they would ever play Palomino, if they would ever do a B-Side tour, or if there is one song that they must play.  They did not think that there is one song that they must play.  I suppose that I agree.  I have kept track of the songs I have heard live.  I have been to 32 shows and have not heard one particular song 32 times.  Thank goodness.  I could say, though, that there are far too many that I have seen about 30 times.  As far as Palomino and the B-Sides go, the response was predictable.  They like the idea but…as Simon pointed out it is a job.  Thus, they have to be sell tickets and leave people with a lasting positive impression so that they want to come back for more.  This makes perfect sense to me.  As much as I would love, love, love a B-Side tour, I get that the crowd isn’t made up of just us die-hard fans.  Much of any audience is made up of people who only know the hits.  Those people wouldn’t enjoy a show of B-sides.  John did suggest an idea of Nick’s to do a 5 show residency in which each show would have a different focus.  One night might be B-Sides.  One night might be So Red the Rose, etc.  I don’t know about the rest of you but I would LOVE this.  I think it would be a great way to thank the hardcore fans!

The last touring question that caught my attention was whether All You Need is Now, the tour, was the best ever.  John said it was consistent and “up there”.  Roger said that the quality had a lot to do with the right album and the right band.  (We think so, too.  Have we mentioned that we kind of like that Dom Brown guy and think he offers a lot, especially live!)  The part that really caught my attention was how John said the band no longer focuses on numbers.  They aren’t going to hit the numbers of the 80s.  Now, they just focus on playing better than ever.  Rhonda rightly pointed out that this seems like a bit of the All You Need is Now philosophy!

The online question focused on the use of twitter.  John’s and Simon’s responses clearly show how they use twitter differently.  For John, it is “therapeutic” and he likes (kind of) being in touch with the fans and knowing what we are thinking.  Simon, on the other hand, uses it to be “unprofessional”.  He gets to say what he thinks without it being what Duran thinks.  Then, he points out how that can be scary because he can say the wrong thing.  I’m glad to hear that my thoughts about their twitters match exactly to what they think of their own twitters.  It has always seemed to me that John typically uses twitter to converse.  Simon uses it to say what he thinks.  Obviously, neither one is wrong.  They are just different. 

The last serious question that I noticed had to do with John’s book.  He was asked why was now the time and if there were any events that pushed him to writing it.  He said that his father’s death and Simon losing his voice.  He didn’t say much after that but how Simon losing his voice gave him extra time.  Yes, that would be true, but he could have done other things to fill the void.  I have to wonder if both of those events reminded him that nothing lasts forever.  Again, how very All You Need is Now!

The rest of the roundtable was fun and kind of silly with questions about hair, cooking and hobbies.  I enjoy those light moments and it sounded like the band did, too.  Overall, I enjoyed the roundtable and would love to see more of them.  They seemed to be tired but perked up as it went along, which is usually how I am when I first start teaching in the morning!  The one thing that Rhonda and I really picked up on, though, is how curious the fans are about the business side of Duran Duran.  We don’t really know much about so many elements of their jobs and we have to remember that.  It is a job.  It is what they do for a career.  We may think we know what they should do, but most of us don’t have a clue.  We know what we like.  For example, we know that we would like them to do a B-Side tour or, at least, play a song like Palomino.  We forget that it is about ticket sales–not just current ones but future ones.  The same is true when it comes to locations of where they play.  We don’t know who is making the decisions and why they are making them.  Again, we know that we want them to come to our locations and most of us rarely think about why they might not.  I would also say this.  I think this must frustrate both sides.  We don’t know how things are run so we get frustrated when it seems like they should be doing something that is obviously what we want or think makes the most sense.  I’m sure they also get frustrated that we don’t understand how the business part of it works.  It seems to me that the best way forward would be for all of us to try and be understanding. 

Now, my new understanding self is going to wait patiently for the next roundtable, tour, album, etc.  I can do this, right?  🙂

-A

Duran Duran Roundtable Part 1: The Music

I had planned to discuss all of Duran Duran’s Roundtable, which was posted yesterday, which you can find here but I have simply run out of time.  Besides, there is plenty of material with which to work from with just the first part when the band answered questions related to music.  To catch people up, Duran had fans submit questions then Katy read them and compiled some to ask the entire band at one time.  In this case, the roundtable took place at the end of the tour and Nick was not present, which one might assume was due to his illness.  I noted that this took place at the end of a very long tour, which may have an impact on what was said and how they sounded.

In the music section, they were asked 9 questions regarding the following topics:  All You Need is Now, box set of all material, redoing songs, releasing singles, Reportage, fans, critical acclaim and the next album.  I won’t transcribe the questions and their answers as you can listen for yourself, but I will comment about what I found interesting or what struck me.  Rhonda also sent me comments as well so I will include those, too. 

The first question regarded All You Need is Now.  The band, in response, discussed both Mark Ronson and Red Carpet Massacre, their previous album.  John talked about how RCM was the “farthest” out from the Duran sound they had gone.  This, of course, is reassuring to those of us who felt like the album didn’t feel like Duran.  Clearly, there was a reason, which as John pointed out, included that there was few live bass, drums and guitar.  He’s right about that not being typical and many of us missed that.  John also said that they were happy with the results.  I wished there could have been a follow-up to that since those ideas don’t seem to go together.  What about the results made them happy?  Did he think they were quality songs?  Did the songwriting work?  As for AYNIN, they acknowledged that they don’t look back at their own history but were ready to after RCM.  For that, I will be grateful that RCM happened as it sounds like they wouldn’t have been ready to recapture their sound without that experience.

The next question that caught my attention was the one about whether or not they would redo any of their songs.  Roger said that he wouldn’t, which is the standard answer for them.  Simon, on the other hand, would want to rerecord Someone Else Not Me as he felt it would be too slow.  John said that he would be up for it.  Fascinating.  They also mentioned a song called, “Don’t Look Back” that was done around the time of Wild Boys.  I’m sure that all Duranies would love to hear that one along with the Reportage album that they hope will be released one day, according to this roundtable!!!!  Then, John also mentioned adding a choir and strings to Finest Hour, which thrills both Rhonda and I.  Of course, I doubt any of those will see the light of day but dreams are free.  It was interesting to me that Simon and John did say they would redo songs as I have always heard them with their philosophy of no regrets and how they love all their songs equally.  I wonder what changed, especially since later in the roundtable John says that he wouldn’t have done anything differently as he likes where they are at now so little decisions don’t matter that much. 

Then, of course, they talked about singles.  To John, they truly don’t seem relevant anymore.  Hmm…he did say that radio play doesn’t matter as they can still have good shows and get the music out there.  I wonder if he would think differently if they were an upcoming band trying to make it.  Yet, they did say that they chose AYNIN as the “focus” track as it had many of the album’s ideas in it.  I have to agree with this.  I know that there was much discussion when it first came out, especially with that jarring beginning.  Yet, that song does, at least, for me, capture the spirit of the album.  As for wishing some songs made it as singles, Roger mentioned Beautiful Colours that didn’t even make it on the album and John mentioned using a Timbaland track for RCM.  My thoughts on those songs are this.  Beautiful Colours should have, at least, been on the album.  They had many quality tracks from that era that wasn’t used and should have been, including Salt in the Rainbow and Virus.  As for Timbaland, I may remind him that they had Night Runner up on some site before the album for people to listen to and it was not well-received.  Maybe that had something to do with the decision to release Falling Down instead.  For me, it would have been tough to take a Timbaland song as the single since I really pretty much hated them.  I, at least, liked Falling Down. I wonder what the fan community would have been like if they had released Night Runner as the single.  That said, I suppose one of those tracks would have better represented the album, which could be important, if that is the main purpose of “singles” now. 

The last two questions that caused me to react were the ones about critical acclaim and AYNIN influencing the next album.  As far as critical acclaim goes, they acknowledge that it did hurt to have some particular magazines that they read and believed as kids be critical.  Yet, they knew that what they were doing was right and that outweighed any of the negative statements.  They wondered if the critics didn’t like them because they weren’t needed for their success unlike other artists.  My response to this is simple.  There are many reasons why the critics slammed them from what I have been reading, which I have been writing about in the chapter I’m working on for the book. 

As far as AYNIN influencing the next album, Simon’s response, especially caught my attention as well as Rhonda’s.  Simon said that the main objective to AYNIN was to connect to the fans and that he doesn’t think they would have made another album if that didn’t happen.  We think he is absolutely right both about having another album and about having their focus be on connecting with fans.  We were around during the RCM days.  The fan community was dejected and divided.  It seemed like all the positive feelings that came with the reunion and Astronaut were gone, even for the fans that liked RCM.  It wasn’t that fun to be a Duranie then and many (most?) of us felt that the wall between the band and the fans was so tall that there would never be a connection made.  I think a lot of us were wondering if the end was near.  Thus, like John, I, too, think it is good that they are working with Mark Ronson again.  I’m sure it makes things easier for them and it helps all of us, fans, look forward to what is next.  We have hope that the connection will remain moving forward.

Tomorrow, I will discuss the rest of the roundtable!  Until then, let us know what you thought of their answers.  What caught your attention and why?

-A

If I Listen Close I Can Hear Them Singers

Since Rhonda and I officially ended our part of the tour together (Amanda is going to one more show in Chicago next week), we thought it would be good to really look at this leg of the All You Need is Now Tour as a whole and comment on what people did or would have experienced. Before we dive into the meat of the blog, we want to make sure that we are aware that the band nor their management can control everything related to a tour. In fact, after having planned meetups and other activities, we know how challenging it is to plan for events from far away.

Based on our observations and experiences, this tour was truly affected by the following elements: venues, the crowd, elements within the show itself, and the setlist(s). The venues, in general, were and are a big deal about how the show or tour is going to go. I’m sure the band has their favorite venues for whatever reasons and the fans also have their favorite venues for probably different reasons. While on the surface, the venues appeared to be a variety of styles (small theaters, outdoor amphitheaters, casinos, etc.), there was a common theme. Each venue that we went to and many others we know of on their tour, have seats/tickets reserved. These seats might be comp tickets for high rollers at a casino or subscribers/donors at an outdoor amphitheater or small theater. Thus, a certain percentage of those shows is not made up of hardcore fans or fans, at all. People then are deciding to go to a show because they got these tickets as part of a package or because the tickets were free as opposed to the fans who are just dying to see them live. This is a serious problem. While the seats might be filled, the crowd might or might not be be willing to get into the music. This frustrates the hardcore fans there and makes the band would harder. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for the band to look out into the audience and see 10% or 30% of the crowd sitting down. I know how it feels for us. On one hand, there is an immediate concern that the show will not be as good and there is frustration that non-fans often have better seats than the fans. That’s not okay. Now, I’m sure that some people could say that Duran should be able to get those non-fans involved. Frankly, they often do. They did in Durham but why should they have to work THAT hard, especially since they have been on the road forever. Why add that challenge? Plus, it affects the experience of the rest of us. Beyond this issue with the crowd, another challenge many of these venues provided was the heat. Why play outdoor venues in places like Georgia in August? Is someone trying to make the band suffer? I know that I was horribly hot at those shows and it must have been worse for the band. During the Portsmouth show, for example, Simon was just dripping with sweat. Why not make it more comfortable for the band? I don’t get it.

Beyond the crowd and outdoor/indoor element, some venues have other factors to deal with, which can affect the experience. For example, the stage in Portsmouth is so high above the crowd/ground. I’m sure that people further in the back liked that but those of us in the front (typically the hardcore fans) had no interaction with the band. They didn’t look down at all of us and I can’t blame them. How annoying! Other venues required that the band play shorter sets for whatever reason. What fan wants a shorter set? Then, venue organization makes a difference. Are they selling seats all the way on the right or the left? Are the sections so big that people get shoved in to such a degree that people can’t move, forget about dancing. Are the seats obstructed in some way? It wouldn’t be surprising that our favorite show this tour didn’t have any of those negative factors. Right??

Once the show starts, still other factors come into the picture. This leg has started with a 10-12 minute short film. The film is very obviously artistic in nature and features classical music. We are all for art. In fact, we go out of our way to go to art museums whenever we are in a new town. That said, the addition of this film is a bad one. First, it is too dang long. WAY too long. Most American crowds could handle two or three minutes. The band is asking for them to tolerate 10-12 minutes. Second, I’m willing to bet that most people out there don’t get it. They are there to see Duran, not some art piece. Typically, what happens is that the lights go down and the crowd stands in anticipation. People start clapping and screaming. By the end of the first song in the film, people are sitting back down. By the start of the third song, they are openly annoyed. We have heard, more than once, things like, “I didn’t pay to see this.” Why get the crowd excited to see the band only to not appear? Yes, I’m sure that they might be thinking that anticipation might be a good thing and it is within reason. Besides, this ends up feeling more like the band trying to give culture to the crowd. It is like they want those of us who eat cheeseburgers to appreciate broccoli. That isn’t going to happen by forcing the broccoli on people. Then, the first song doesn’t help improve the mood. Don’t get us wrong…we LOVE Before the Rain and feel like it is a fabulous opener. Yet, it doesn’t provide the energy that is needed to combat the frustration over the film. This again makes the band’s job much harder. Why do that? We don’t get it.

The beginning of the show was different for the first couple of legs as they showed video of people’s tweets using the #Duranlive hashtag. That has now been removed. Why? This kind of activity increased anticipation and focused people’s attention to Duran. It also allowed fans around the world to be able to participate. Why wouldn’t they want to bring fans together like that? One answer could be that the venues aren’t capable to doing that. Again, we would then advocate different venues that can accommodate this type of interaction. Beyond the use of twitter, the heads above the stage are now gone. We didn’t miss those as we didn’t like them to begin with. The videos are basically the same but flowers that light up as background are included. That’s fine but the flowers do nothing. They don’t hold anyone’s interest and doubt they actually make the lighting better. In fact, the lights were blinding, especially in front. That’s not cool either. Then, there is the costuming or clothes. Usually, Duran goes out of their way to have a coherence to their outfits. This time, there are some elements that seem to sort of go together…but overall the feeling isn’t there. Nick looks great, as usual. Roger and Dom are also dressed well. Simon clearly tries to do something with his clothes and then there is John. Oh, Mr. Taylor, what is with those pants? They might be comfortable but they are faded and not very flattering. Ugh.

Speaking of ugh, people always want to complain about the setlists. While we were pleased that they had a number of tracks from All You Need is Now, the rest of the setlist needs an overhaul. It isn’t even so much that they play the same songs every night but the fact that we know what ORDER they will be played. Here’s our simple solution: Let’s say that they are going to play 20 songs. Have 10 hits, have 5 songs off latest album and 5 obscure songs per show but have double that number prepared. The band would then be ready to play any of 20 hits, any 10 new album tracks and 10 obscure songs. Then, each night, the hits, album tracks and obscure songs vary and their location in the setlists change as well. When they don’t change things up, it bothers those of us who do travel. The band should make sure that this group of fans remain wanting to tour. Of course, we want them to consider where in the setlist some songs go. For example, in Portsmouth, Save a Prayer was played during the encore. That is a wrong move. The end should be upbeat and energizing. The end of that show was affected and they should want people to want more when they leave the stage for the night. We do give props to their playing of Leopard in Portsmouth and skipping Come Undone in Atlanta!!!

Of course, while there are lots of elements to the show or tour that we question, at best, or criticize, at worst, there are others that we cheer and applaud. First, we still LOVE Before the Rain as an opener. We like that it starts slowly and builds to an all-encompassing sound that sends chills down our spines. We love it, especially with following up with Planet Earth. It works well to get the audience into it. Of course, the crowd gets into the show the more the band moves around, the more they interact with the crowd by asking them to clap, sing, or reach up, and the more the band explains the significance of various songs. Now, we don’t necessarily want Simon to intro every track but a few during each night works well. For example, after an intro of Ordinary World and how it really saved the band, we have new appreciation for it. Another huge part of the show that everyone we know loves and works to get the crowd into it is the intros of the band. Now, these intros can’t be this is Anna, Simon, Dom, Roger, Nick, John and Simon–just the names. They have to be the ones within the middle of a song and has to allow each person to showcase himself/herself. After all, Duran is about the blending. The intros allow the audience to see what each person really brings to the table. Probably the only interaction that doesn’t work is the cell phone use in the beginning of Save a Prayer. While people love that song, they aren’t into holding up their phones. The merchandise was also an improvement. The styles were cooler as there was a band t-shirt in either gray or red/white/blue of the Union Jack and there were t-shirts of each band member (Simon, John, Nick and Roger). On top of having good styles, the material was a higher quality than we have seen in years. We also LOVED that the tour dates were listed on the back of the band t-shirts.

While this leg might have been different from the previous ones, it still showcased the greatness that is AYNIN. This leg, in fact, marks the end of this era. The band should still be VERY proud about the album and what they accomplished since it was released. There are many songs that should be included in their basic catalog forever. For example, while Ordinary World meant a lot to the band, that’s how many of us feel about the song, All You Need is Now. It remains a very meaningful song to the fans and always will. It really was a message from them to us. We did sway in the moon like we did when we were younger and plan on doing that for as long as we can.

-A and R

Be My Icon – Is the band purely our 80’s band?

If you follow the blog, our Facebook page or Twitter, you probably know that last week there was quite the discussion over why it is that the press tends to keep Duran Duran tucked into the nostalgia box.  I think it’s fair to say that by and large most fans have at least a certain amount of distain for the statement “That band you were all fond of in the 80’s – Duran Duran – is BACK.”

One comment that was infrequently made, but still very well read/heard amongst the calls for slaughter(ing the press), was that it’s not just the press who tends to keep Duran Duran in that memory box from 1984. Many fans believe that other fans are just as responsible for this characterization. My knee jerk reaction is of course to deny, but when I sit down and really consider the truth, perhaps fans including myself in that group are at least partially responsible. How can this be?!?

Let’s go back a bit before you all decide to call for my beheading. (Besides, as you read this – I am definitely sitting under an umbrella, reading a great book and enjoying the heat of the day while on a very peaceful vacation sans children. I don’t return home until later in the week, so calling for the guillotine is a bit premature. You’ve got time.) I’m sure most of you remember Duran from the mid-80’s. They were difficult to forget, am I right? Then Notorious came along, Big Thing, Liberty, Thank You….and none of these were blockbusters. We lost some Taylors, gained a Cuccurullo and a couple drummers…you know the drill. Then around about 2001 or so, we heard murmurs of a reunion of the “Fab Five”. How many of you did NOT immediately think back to the times of Planet Earth, Friends of Mine, Rio or even Hungry Like the Wolf (I won’t hold it against you)? My point of course is that at least initially as a gut reaction we tend to associate the original band members with a certain period of time. Then Astronaut was released, and while I can’t be sure of how many people absolutely hated the album – I know I heard more than a few comments that attempted to compare the music to what had come previously. On Rio. On the first album. That continued through the years after and including the release of Red Carpet Massacre. What comment did I hear (and make) most during that period of time? “It sounds nothing like the Duran Duran I know and love.” I stand by that statement, but I also recognize the idiocy behind feeling that way as well.

So that brings us to All You Need is Now, naturally. I distinctly recall panning the band (and Mark Ronson) for making comments about how that album was intended to be the follow up to Rio. (How dare I say such things after being so critical of Red Carpet Massacre? I know.  My worry wasn’t that they were dating themselves, but rather that they’d never be able to live up to such a statement. I was wrong. You can read that blog here.) Of course now in retrospect I can see that it wasn’t necessarily about making the album sound like it was Rio’s child – it was the spirit with which it was recorded. Even so, if we continue to laud the band for attempting to spread their wings, evolve and grow their sound beyond what we knew the 80’s to be – how are we helping them to feel confident in their abilities to remain relevant?  I’m not sure.

On one hand, I really do believe that All You Need is Now is fresh, relevant and living in the moment. The very theme of the album speaks to the concept and I feel the album is extremely solid, even if it didn’t perform well on the charts. Some say it flopped. While I hate using that word, I don’t know how the band feels about it. I really hope they don’t look at the album on those terms. I love this album on a personal level as much if not more than Rio – I just can’t look at it as a failure because for me, it’s anything but. On the other hand, I can’t be the only one to recognize that the chords from Leopard or the tom-toms from Girl Panic sound vaguely familiar. It’s not that I don’t welcome the music (Hardly!), but I think we have to be honest with ourselves as well. Duran Duran has never been the band to “play it safe”, and I’d hate for them to stop taking chances at this point in their career simply because the fan base (including myself) through a monster sized tantrum over Red Carpet Massacre.  Was All You Need is Now purely an album to placate the fans? I really hope not. The album is worth so much more than that.

At least one fan out there mentioned that she felt the characterization of Duran Duran as an 80’s band was spot on. Her comments were that when she goes to the shows, they transport her back to her childhood, and she welcomes that. Duran Duran isn’t known for songs like Undergoing Treatment, Chains, Sunrise, Falling Down, Nite Runner or even All You Need is Now. They’re known for songs like Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf. She feels that the band tries much too hard (I would probably at times agree). While she still loves the band, her opinion is that they’re an 80’s band and should accept that rather than fight it. I’m not pointing out her difference in opinion as a way to flog her, but rather to prove that while many of us want to continue to insist on their relevance, many are happy to accept them for what they once meant. Neither way is wrong.

I fall back to the statements I meant last week. This album and this band has fostered a relationship between their fans and themselves that cannot be denied. We stand here in this moment, and we all want the music to last a little longer. For many, this band was iconic of the 80’s. For others, it was the quintessential band of the 90’s. Still plenty more see this band as the music of a lifetime…with more to come.

-R

Ordinary World?

I have been sitting here for the last half hour trying to figure out what to write about.  I pondered writing about the announcement about promotional appearances in the UK, which you can read about here.  I also saw that the band posted a link about Duran fans from back in 1984 talking about their fandom then and now, which you can read about here.  I’ll be honest.  Neither one hit me to talk about.  I don’t think I have the brain power to critically analyze much today.  I’m recovering or something like that.  The campaign I was working on ended on Tuesday in an extremely disappointing fashion.  Since then, I have tried not to think about it too much and have tried to catch up on everything else.  This hasn’t been easy, especially since next week will prove to be tough, emotionally, as well, as Tuesday will be my last day at my current job as I’m transferring schools next year.  Thus, I’m on emotional overload.  In fact, I would go so  far as to say that I’m feeling numb and unable to process much.  I need to clean my house and get ready for a trip but all I want to do is sleep.  Seriously.  I know that it will take time to find my way back to an “ordinary world”.  I wonder how the guys do it after facing an overly emotional time or an overly busy, stressful time or a time like I’m in the middle of, which is both busy and overwhelming.

It seems to me that some people have jobs and/or lives that pretty much provide a constant stream of activity.  At times, this constant stream might become a little more busy than normal or a little less busy than normal but it never or rarely reaches extremes.  Then, there are those who have extremes.  These people are either extremely busy or not busy at all.  I think the band is in that category.  They have times when they have tons of things to do, when they can’t find more than a few minutes to sleep and catch their breath.  I’m sure that doing a lot of promotional work and/or touring would be like this.  Then, of course, now-a-days they also have the chance to relax some.  These stretches are or seem to be longer than what a usual vacation entails.  I think my life is in between the constant stream and the extremes.  During the school year, I’m consistently busy and then when I have added campaign work, that consistently busy extends to being insanely active.  Of course, then, I do have summers, which aren’t completely off with classes, professional development, curriculum planning, etc.  Nonetheless, summers are very different than the rest of the year.  As I’m facing an extreme shift in activity level like the guys do after a tour or something equivalent, I wonder how they adjust.  What advice would they give the rest of us?  How do they find their new normal?  What if their last project was horribly unsuccessful?  How do they use their time off to regroup?

Let’s face it.  Duran Duran, overall, has been a successful band but they have had projects, times that have not been as successful as they would have liked.  In some cases, when they have regrouped, the results have been more than they hoped for.  For example, the Liberty album wasn’t exactly what they had hoped for, both musically (not saying all the songs were bad but…) and commercially.  Goodness, they didn’t even tour that album!  How did they pick themselves up off the ground and give themselves the energy, the courage to try again?  Why didn’t they decide to call it quits?  Obviously, they were not only able to keep going but they were able to make an album (Wedding Album) that resulted in commercial success and converted a whole new generation of Duranies!  Likewise, Red Carpet Massacre wasn’t the success that they thought it would be but they kept going and made the fabulous All You Need Is Now.

I don’t have the answer to this question about how they continue forward after facing a roadblock.  Do any of you?  I would honestly love to know their secret as I could use a little of that now myself.  Maybe then, I would be able to comment on Duran news or move forward to find my new ordinary world.

-A

The difference between a wildfire and coals

Does innovation really count for much these days?  After watching what seems to be countless hours of mindless reality “entertainment” on TV these days, one might start to believe there’s just nothing new to be seen. It’s all about the flash, smoke, mirrors and creating good gossip.  This morning I happened to run across a video that is likely to go viral purely due to it’s innovation. (nearly 50,000 views since posted on May 18th, 2012)

This video, done by a group named j.viewz entitled rivers and homes, is a stop-motion video.  The original video was shot just as an ordinary video, and then the post-production team cut that video up into 2000 individual pictures that were then held up by fans during a recent tour of Israel.  Then those photos were put back together to create a stop-motion video.  The song itself isn’t particularly mind-blowing (although its actually very peaceful which in my house is a definite plus these days), but the video is fabulous.  Funny, I seem to recall a few other bands using innovation in video a few years back….and they became the greatest thing (in MY world anyway) since sliced bread.  Huh.  Take a gander for yourself!

So many times I catch well-intentioned fans discussing Duran Duran and wondering what they can do to re-create the 80’s. Granted, those aren’t the words that the fans use, but the intention is all but spoken. They want to spread the word, they want the band to succeed, to sell as well as they did before, to live a life that was a remarkable accomplishment the first time, much less have that same lightning strike again. Words such as “viral videos”, social networking, promotional fan-based organizations are thrown around in such circles, assuming that any one of those things will once again ignite the band into the stratosphere.

Truth be told, none of us have the magical answer(s).  All we know is that for the most part, we saw it all unfold once and we’d love to see the band reach that point again.  It’s my belief that those times weren’t all that they were cracked up to be, but I do understand the sentiment. (The idea of having to fight tooth and nail just to get a ticket to a show, much less attempt to try for the floor sections under the same circumstances of the 80’s doesn’t give me much of a thrill.)  It took a certain sequence of events to unfold in just the right way to account for the happenings of the 1980’s, and while I still have all of the faith in the world in the band, I also believe that it happened at the time it did and the way it did for a reason.  If we had the answers though, we’d be making the big bucks, wouldn’t we??

I suppose the moral here is that we really can’t ever go back.  I can’t count how many times the band has mentioned that they try not look back very often.  I’ve heard and seen the murmurs amongst some that this last album was a sad attempt to capitalize on Rio for a second time. I can’t and won’t agree.  Sure, the intention may have been to go back and use some of the techniques used to create that album – but make no mistake – All You Need is Now is all about the NOW.  For me, this album was a great lesson given at the precise time.  Call me crazy, but I needed this album, and I suspect that a good many of you out there did as well.  Is that not success?  Innovation??

As many of you know I live in Southern California, a place that is well-known for it’s wildfires. (and earthquakes, but that’s another blog for another day) The smallest of sparks can ignite a raging wildfire in the dry brush that resides on nearly every hill or mountain in our area.  The fires tend to move incredibly fast, and swallow everything in their paths.  Wildfires tend to burn everything around them until there is nothing left, and then simply die on their own.  Coals are entirely different.  Coals stay white hot, long after the flames themselves have died down.  They lay in wait until the time and circumstances are right, and once those needs have been met – flames can ignite nearly instantly.  While the wildfire gets instant notoriety and attention (and nearly non-stop news coverage….), coals can go mostly ignored, and then surprise everyone when the time is right.

Innovation is a little like kindling.  It might not necessarily be required in order to start a good fire, but it is much more difficult to create more than smoke on a thick, dead and dry tree trunk than it is to spark a flame with kindling and then use that kindling to light the tree trunk aflame. Then eventually that tree trunk becomes the coal to keep that fire burning forever.

-R

Countdowns

I hope this blog post will be fairly coherent.  Normally, I’m pretty confident that I will make sense but today finds me beyond tired, beyond fatigued, beyond exhausted.  If someone with more brain cells than what I have can find a stronger word, please let me know.  I will need to be using it frequently, VERY frequently in the next few weeks.  I worked a full week at my paid job and have worked an additional 35 hours at my not-paying campaign leader job.  While there is a part of me that kind of enjoys the level of intensity as we move towards an election day, there is another part of me that just wants to curl up and sleep until 2016.  So, how can I sustain, basically, 2 full time jobs and this for the next few weeks?  Obviously, part of the answer is dedication, focus, perseverance mixed with insanity.  The other thing I find myself doing at times like these, or when I have something to look forward to, is to make a countdown.  For example, I can tell you have I have 16 days left of the school year or18 days until the election for governor.  I should also be making a countdown for our tour in August. 

Interestingly enough, yesterday’s question had to do with which was Duran’s best era.  The most frequently given response was now.  I did not hesitate to post the video for All You Need Is Now.  It seemed fitting, right?  Then, I started to think.  A big part of the message of song is to appreciate the now.  Am I doing that with my focus on when things are getting done or what is happening?  Am I forgetting to live in the moment by doing that?  Does Duran do that?  I wonder.  They often say in interviews that they are just focused on the “now”.  They don’t spend a lot of time looking back on the past and they don’t really think about what they are going to do next.  Now, obviously, it is possible that they say that in interviews and don’t really do that in reality.  After all, typically, they are doing interviews to sell a current product.  Thus, they don’t want to talk about old projects or what they might be doing in the future.  It doesn’t help their current bottom line.  Nonetheless, I don’t get a sense that they really do spend a lot of time looking back.  What about the future?  Could they have their own countdowns?

Just recently Duran finished up a quick tour of South America.  It sounds like it was an absolutely fabulous tour!  As much as I’m sure Duran loved that tour, and all the other tours, were they counting down until the end?  Were they anxious to finish up, spend time at home with their families?  Were they excited to sleep in their own homes, in their own beds?  Would they or could they make a countdown for an album release?  I think of an album, like AYNIN, that they must have been so proud of.  Were they checking off dates in the calendar for the rest of the world to hear the album? 

Is my habit of counting down until the end of some horribly busy, stressful time something Duran would do or are they truly more focused on the now?  If they are focused on the present, do you think they could teach me to like getting very little sleep and being worried about how things are going to go?  It is definitely one lesson I need to learn.

-A

Quite a Year for Duran and Duranies!

It is the time of the year when many people take some time to look back at the year, analyze it and decide how best to move forward. The band did this, to some extent, with their year end lists. (Note to everyone: Rhonda and I will do our own year end lists tomorrow.) While I could take time to look over their lists and comment on what they wrote or didn’t write, I thought I would summarize the year that both Duran and their fans experienced!

It really was quite a year!!! Obviously, it wasn’t exactly what any of us expected. Yet, looking back, I have to conclude that it was a positive year and one in which we all learned a lesson. This lesson was a very important one and one that the band was trying to teach us but couldn’t do it until the late spring and summer.

The year started out on a such a high for all of us!!! Duran had released the short, digital form of All You Need is Now in December of 2010. Many (most?) fans celebrated this release as a return to the Duran that we know and love. We had the chance to be excited about the 9 songs that we had and look forward to the full release in March. TV appearances, radio interviews and shows were also on the horizon. Everything was going super well! By the end of January, the first tour dates were released, which included 11 dates in the UK. For the two of us, this meant presales and initial plans to travel to the UK to see the band. It was an exciting time!!

February and March continued in this same path as we witnessed first interviews and TV appearances like the one for the Superbowl Fan Jam as well as the full album release! Tour dates were also released for small venues for the US. For many fans, tickets, travel plans and more were arranged to attend a show or two. Duran celebrated a significant event with the Unstaged Performance at the Mayan Theatre in LA. This performance was streamed online and directed by David Lynch. On a personal level, Rhonda enjoyed this show in person as well as another show in her area. I had the good fortune of planning a couple shows in the Midwest. It seemed like everything was going well on the Duran front. Of course, on a personal level, I was fighting for approval to take some time off of work to go to the UK. I was determined that it would all work out. Oh boy…

Spring continued to be kind to Duran as more dates were played and more dates were announced in Europe and elsewhere. It seemed like 2011 would be a solid Duran year, much like other years like 2005 or 1993. My work approval, finally, came through and we began to prepare for our trip in a serious fashion. Duran continued to play some smaller, private type gigs in Europe, including a show in Rome and a show in Cannes. We now all know what happened there. Simon sang and proceeded to lose the higher range of his singing voice. This led to initial shows being canceled for the UK, then more shows in the UK to all shows in the UK. We expressed this utter disappointment while actually being in the UK. Soon enough, all the shows in the summer were canceled and Duran’s future seemed more than uncertain. For all of us, fans, this was a very difficult time. Many of us tried to remain positive while preparing for the worst.

Then, as fall moved closer, hope began to develop. Then, Duran played some rehearsal gigs in the UK! These shows not only gave us hope about Duran’s future, they gave us hope that Duran would be willing to expand their touring setlist. Soon enough, more shows were announced in the US. Fans planned and hoped. Then, those shows happened and Simon was able to sustain his voice through full shows. We were lucky to enjoy a show or two, ourselves, as we prepared to go back to the UK for the shows we missed. By the end of the year, the band enjoyed a successful UK tour and a new video that managed to get quite a buzz in Girl Panic! More shows are planned for 2012 and the promise of even more to be announced! It is like the year had gone full circle for the band and the fans as we had experienced serious highs and serious lows.

I think that this year was a positive one for the band and the fans. The title and message of the band’s current album is to remind us all to live in the moment and to enjoy that moment. In the early part of the year, we all claimed to be doing that and maybe some of us were. By the summer, though, we learned that our fandom could suffer the greatest of losses by the end of the band as Simon’s future as a singer was in question. Luckily for all of us, Simon healed and the band came back, better than ever! Speaking for myself, this lesson of living in the moment and appreciating what I have truly was learned by this experience with Simon’s voice. Maybe all or most of the fans experienced this same lesson. While I think that this lesson was impossible to ignore for Rhonda and I due to traveling to the UK, I suspect that it was very obvious to all fans.

Now, we can look forward to 2012. While I hope that this is an exciting and wonderful year for Duran, I hope that we don’t lose the meaning we found in 2011. We need to appreciate each and every moment. We need to appreciate everything positive and wonderful that happens with the band. I’m not saying that we can’t criticize them, if needed, but we need to remember that this band won’t continue forever and that everything can change in an instant. We need to remember that all we need is now.