Yesterday I blogged about Duran’s Big Thing album as it has recently had an anniversary. I wanted to take note of when it was made, what singles and videos it had and more. Today, though, I want to take it personal. What was my relationship with this album and where is it today?
Before I dive into Big Thing, I wanted to provide a little context, a little backstory. I had moved with my family in late 1985 from the Chicago suburbs to a small town in Illinois. A lot of aspects of my life felt wrong then, including my Duran Duran fandom. I missed my best friend and a fellow Duran fan. In my new town, no one knew who Duran Duran was and they certainly didn’t care. I tried desperately to hang onto my fandom but it was tough. Heck, I even attempted to persuade new acquaintances that they should love Duran like I did. Thus, I loyally purchased Notorious as soon as it came out, but a lot changed in the two years that followed.
In between the Notorious and Big Thing releases, MTV arrived in my new home town. My new friends and I were glued to the channel. We couldn’t get enough, despite our growing annoyance with Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody that played on continuous loop. One day, I happened to catch a world premiere video. Of course, the big event was the brand new video for I Don’t Want Your Love. My reaction? It felt instantly like Duran. While the video wasn’t as cool or as exciting as some of their previous ones in exotic locations with story lines, I still liked it. I even recorded the premiere on my VCR. Yet, it didn’t catch my attention for long.
By 1988, I was on an island surrounded by people who were not into Duran Duran in any way, shape or form. My classmates played a lot of hair metal bands. While I never got into that, my love for Duran had waned. I couldn’t share it with anyone. My video watching became a lonely, solitary activity, which was no fun. I soon realized that it almost made me sad to watch this new Duran video as it reminded me of better, more fun times. I hoped that MTV would feature Duran like they once did, in order to convince my peers that Duran was the band to love. Unfortunately, while the video was played a lot, it wasn’t enough. My new friends weren’t open to the band.
My fandom began to sink as I didn’t even buy the album for a long time. By the time All She Wants Is was released, the band was out of sight, out of mind, for the most part. When I heard about the band touring, I didn’t even look at the dates or try to go. After all, we now lived about an hour and a half from the closest concert venue and I knew that I would have no one to go with. Emotionally, it became easier to dismiss the tour as something I wasn’t interested in rather than really think about how cool it would be.
Of course, at some point, I did buy the album. In fact, I bought it used as one of those used cd/book/dvd stores. Now, of course, I know each and every song, but I wouldn’t say that I ever really bonded with it, not like I have with other albums. This has nothing to do with the music. It has more to do with the context of when the album came out and where I was in my life at the time.
That said, there are clearly some quality music on it. For example, The Edge of America is one of my favorite Duran tracks of all time. The song captures a lot of what I see and feel from some of my students, a helplessness and anger directed at a country who has done harm too often in its history. Speaking of history, I’m not sure that this album was a highlight in Duran’s catalog, not because of the music, but because like in my own life, this time period represented more of Duran’s slide away from being the biggest band in the world (commercially and fame wise). The tour, for example, was a massive one but had some moments that many fans look at now and question like the decision to feature dancing during All She Wants Is.
In many ways, Big Thing represents a period of real change and adjustment, I think, for both the band’s career and for me personally. It may not represent the biggest commercial or critical success for the band, but it represents many qualities that I love about Duran. They were not afraid to try a new direction or be influenced by the musical world at the time. Their persistence remained despite all who wanted to shut the door on them. The album was necessary for them to make the albums of the future. Similarly, I continued to battle and had to push through to find a new me in my new town.
Perhaps, by placing Big Thing in Duran’s history as well as mine own, my appreciation for it will only grow.