This is the chapter we’ve all been waiting for – hearing how the band got back together after so many years. It begins with Andy finally speaking with Simon again, which seemed to open the door for more communication between the other members. It’s funny to me that while they really couldn’t speak as they broke up, they were able to speak about getting back together as a group. What’s more, it seems clear, at least through Andy’s writing, that very little was actually said regarding their breakup in the 80’s. Have these boys learned nothing?!? (Obviously and sadly, no.) Andy writes of their first real meeting, and how much of a transformation there was in John. On one hand, Andy’s description seems parental – seeing how much a child or loved one had changed; on the other, Andy mentions that John couldn’t remember many of the things that happened during the time he was in the band. I got the feeling that in writing this, Andy was surmising that for John – this was a chance at a complete “do-over”.
I have to say that I had always believed (erroneously…and prior to reading the book the first time) that Andy had wanted the reunion purely to tour and make money. That was just always my own impression of matters, but Andy explains that he and Nick wanted more out of the reunion than just a flash-from-the-past tour, and of course anyone who has been paying attention throughout the book realizes that there are precious few things that Andy feels he and Nick truly agree upon, and this is indeed one. I was shocked, and truthfully disappointed, to read that John hadn’t really wanted to even enter the studio. He just wanted the tour, according to Andy. It was Andy in fact who convinced John that recording was necessary if for no other reason than to familiarize themselves with one another again, and I have to admit, that surprised me. It still surprises me, in fact.
Not at all shocking to anyone who has been a fan, the head-butting over who has ultimate control started immediately, but Andy describes it as being between John and Nick. Again, that’s not something I would have imagined on my own – but then we’ve never really known a sober John in Duran Duran, up until this point. As most know, the band did have monetary problems during the recording of Astronaut, and as unfair and completely selfish as this sounds – I’m glad they did. Who really KNOWS how long we would have gone without seeing these five guys on stage together again? So yes, while I pity that Simon wasn’t able to get money out of the ATM on that fateful day with Andy, secretly (well, that ship has now sailed, hasn’t it??) I am kind of thankful. They were able to see just how “with them” the fans really stayed, and I think that gave them the confidence they needed to keep pushing onward, as well.
So the band begins/continues the sold-out US tour that many of us attended. As I continued on in this book, I realized that at some point, we would come to the time when my own history would intersect with that of the band. Yes, I was a fan well-before this time, but the lions share of the shows I’ve attended and things I’ve done with regard to the band have taken place since 2003. Andy mentions several of the shows that I attended during the 78-03 tour, and I have to say that reading about those shows in print gives me the strangest sensation of deja-vu, it’s really kind of bizarre and energizing all at the same time. I know the story of the band from here, but I don’t know Andy’s story. It’s reading a completely different point of view of the same events, and I have to say that I love it. It’s not just Duran’s story at this point – it’s mine (and likely yours) as well.
Andy talks about the decision to sign with Sony over Universal (UK). I’m not really very-well versed on the business-end of the music industry. I know very little – enough to get myself into a great deal of trouble and not much else, I suppose. It never occurred to me that the band might prefer to sign with a UK label – but of course now in hindsight I can ascertain the cultural differences that would make working with a US-based company and all of the US expectations for musical direction very difficult for a UK band, even a UK band that had been around for nearly 30 years that should have had their own branding by now – but naturally, a large corporation like Sony felt they could do even better. Do you hear sarcasm there???
Strife between various band members continued. Andy still thinks Nick is head of the Lyric Police – and according to Andy, Nick narrowly avoided actually saying he’d write the lyrics himself. This, my fellow readers, is not the least bit surprising to me, and in some ways, I feel as though Andy might be a little too harsh on Nick here. We know that Nick wrote lyrics on the Medazzaland album, and I am aware from other reading I’ve done that Simon had trouble writing for Pop Trash – his depression about where the band was headed made it difficult for him to write. I’ve heard Nick comment about lyrics on a few of the Astronaut songs that never made the album as well (Salt in the Rainbow and Beautiful Colours comes to mind) – and he’s said that he believes Simon will eventually get those lyrics right. So, it’s not surprising that Nick felt that he could step into that role (and has done so since). I guess I would like to believe that this wasn’t so much about control as it was about working as a team. Of course, I believe in sunshine, rainbows and unicorns, too. Once again, everyone’s truth is different.
Andy talks a little about the Duran partnership as well. I remember seeing “Duran Duran New Partnership” on the bottom of albums and things during this time, and the words always made me smile. The trouble was, I never gave much thought to how the money was divided. I just wanted the band together again. In this new partnership, Andy and Roger were given less of a percentage than the rest of the band, and while I would LOVE to comment on this, to be fair – it’s really none of my business. The only thing I feel comfortable in saying is that, in my opinion as a fan, it took ALL FIVE of them to make the Duran Duran that I went to see at shows in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
With all of the excitement the fans had during this period, Andy seemed to get more depressed. His father was fighting cancer, and at one point, Andy admits to feeling as though he was nearing a nervous breakdown. He speaks of feeling “twinges of agoraphobia” (page 288), and missing part of the US tour as a result of a type of panic attack – this was during the time of his “flu”, but there were other signs that all was not well. The sales of Astronaut were not what Andy was hoping (it sold around a million copies worldwide); he talks about the lack of “good advice” from their recently appointed New York management, his discomfort with the overexposure of the band, and he even comments that “some band members thought we were U2 and attempted to emulate them.” (Page 288) To be perfectly fair, being a fan is very much like being on the outside looking in. I have no idea what went on behind closed doors, but what strikes me is that all this time – while fans were overjoyed at the idea of the band being back together, already cracks were formed in the foundation that kept the house of Duran stable. I suppose the reality is that the cracks were never repaired from the first go-round. Naturally Andy talks about the fact that his father’s cancer as well as the deaths of Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson didn’t help – I’m sure at the time he may not have even realized the toll all of this took, we humans are funny that way – but in hindsight it typically becomes clear. He ends the chapter on such an incredibly down note, I just have difficulty in seeing how the band could not have possibly seen what was going on with him. “I went back onstage with Duran Duran in Detroit. I wore my dark sunglasses on stage as normal, and after the show I received an e-mail from a fan who had seen the tears rolling down my cheeks under the shades. Duran Duran later played a gig at Boston University while I was back in England for the funeral, and Simon dedicated his rendition of “Ordinary World” on stage to “absent friends!” (Page 291) It’s not that Simon dedicated the song, I believe Andy is even commenting on something a little different here. He’s not incredulous (given the exclamation point) that Simon thought to dedicate the song to “absent friends” – it’s that Simon didn’t even mention Andy or his father. Sure, it’s very possible that Simon didn’t want to spread Andy’s grief or speak of personal news – I am certain – but I also believe that Andy felt that the band were close enough to share one another’s pain. I think the depression that Andy was fighting helps paint this in the worst possible light in Andy’s mind and heart, and the pain resonates.
So we all know what happens in this chapter. The end result repeats itself. When this book first came out, I was greedily absorbing this chapter, trying to ascertain what one single event made the choice for Andy, or whether it was the band or Andy who truly was at fault. One thing the years have done for me though, is made me see that the details truly do not matter. All someone needs to do is read this book and understand that Andy simply was not happy. It wouldn’t have made a single bit of difference if Andy had been granted that VISA, because I think the end was already completely inevitable. That doesn’t mean I necessarily put blame on Andy OR the band – I just think the time had come. “We played a lot of gigs and we made some good money that summer, but at times I felt as if we were just treading water after almost twenty-five years together. the old creative frictions within the band were still there, and it struck me that we’d never actually sat down together to lay to rest the problems and arguments that we’d had with each other for various reasons the first time around.” (Page 295) I know I cannot be the only fan out there that wonders how it was that the band could do all of the interviews and promo that they did surrounding the reunion, and say over and over how they spent time while recording Astronaut literally hashing out everything – and yet have a band member say that they never sorted anything out. I suppose it’s just a little sexist of me to say “How typically male of them!” Honestly!!!
Sure, there’s Reportage – and every fan wants to hear the songs and know that body of work. They are not alone – I’d love to hear it myself. I’ve been told it’s “out there”, but to me that is some sort of mysterious statement that is somewhat akin to “I’ve heard the album, I’m in the know, and I’m friends with the right people.” Well my friends – I am not. I have never heard a single song, I am most CLEARLY not in the know, and I definitely am not friends with the right people. Wait. That sounded wrong somewhere… Anyway, this was to be the second album with Sony, and it was supposed to be an edgy-alternative record where they went back to their roots. How many times did we hear that talking point while they were recording Reportage?? So much that I have it permanently memorized and I’m not even in the damn band. But as we all know, things happen, and somehow, we end up with Red Carpet Massacre instead. I know Amanda will want to talk about Andy’s assertions that John somehow wanted to act as producer on the record, and that Nick had lost patience with Simon who was having trouble writing and so forth. My take is just that I think from a creative standpoint, they needed a referee of sorts during this period, and they are not the first band to benefit from such a thing. (they are called PRODUCERS, as it turns out!) While I truly believe that John has the skill to produce, I would imagine it is a far different thing to produce a band like Duran Duran, if in fact that is what he was trying to do. I don’t know, I wasn’t there. John himself talks about the guys as four (five) hard-headed stubborn people, and so I can imagine that trying to herd them in the same creative direction can be difficult. I wouldn’t want the job, that is for sure.
I don’t know what to say about Timbaland that I haven’t already said, except that for me personally – he was truly the final nail in what was the original five member Duran Duran’s coffin. What wasn’t already dead, he killed off – and yes I mean that – even though I highly doubt he would even know that the band originally had five members or what instruments needed to appear on the album. That wasn’t his worry or his plan, and I get that. Harsh? Absolutely, and I stand by my comments 150%. However, I also believe you’ve got to go through a whole lot of bad to get to the good sometimes.
One of my favorite quotes in this entire book is what ends this chapter, and it holds completely true even four years after it’s original printing, “I guess that what she was trying to say was Simon and Nick were always very good at delivering roses and chocolate, but that I was the steak and the beer in Duran Duran.” (Page 312) If I could hug the person who said that to Andy – I would, because it is the perfect description of why I love(d) this band.
Thankfully, Andy finally answers the question he posed at the beginning of the book. “Was it all worth it?”
“The answer is a resounding yes….Maybe if there had been fewer lows there wouldn’t have been so many highs, so you learn to take the rough with the smooth. I can honestly say that even if I had to do it all over again I don’t think I would change a thing.” (Page 314)
I have to say that throughout the reading of this book, I have questioned whether or not Andy really WOULD do it all again. I think that while he says he is completely back to normal – and I have no reason to question that – sometimes I wonder whether or not his depression at the time he went through some of the things he went through may have colored his perception a bit. There are truly moments in the book that are well prior to his diagnosis in 2007 that I can see the depression already taking hold, even if the moments are fleeting. I believe that his mother leaving him had a profound effect on the way Andy has continued to conduct his life – he never seems to ever say a proper good-bye. Andy questions why the band never sat down to sort things out properly, and yet I wonder as an outsider why HE didn’t start the conversation himself. Hindsight, right?
Overall, I agree with many of you who have taken to reminding me that there are many funny parts of this book. I smiled right along with you, rest assured. I have always appreciated the way that Andy chooses not to sugar-coat things. I myself have been accused of the same – it’s a difficult road to walk at times. I also appreciate that this book is about Andy’s life in Duran Duran. It’s not Andy coming to terms with himself nearly as much as it was probably cathartic for him to sort out how he felt about Duran Duran. I know many, many fans out there felt that the book was far too negative and that Andy was far too harsh on the rest of the band. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know for certain. I can only offer a statement that my son is learning in his 8th grade literature class, and that is “The Truth is not the same for Everyone.”
I hope you enjoyed going back through the book with me, and that none of you minded that I chose not to make obvious parallels between this book and John’s book, which is due to be released tomorrow here in the states. I hope that we can continue to discuss the books on their own merit and not try to contradict one over the other. To do so cheapens the work product that both John and Andy rightfully earned, and that is simply not our goal. That said, Amanda will begin directing the discussion for that book next Monday!