Category Archives: book discussion

Book Club: Mad World (ABC, Devo and Echo and the Bunnymen)

Welcome to week 3 of our latest book club!  This time around we are tackling the book, Mad World, chapter-by-chapter.  The chapters we will be discussing feature the bands ABC, Devo and Echo and the Bunnymen.  Read and join in on the discussion!

ABC:

Amanda’s reaction:

I absolutely had to laugh at the story about how Martin Fry got involved in a band.  I loved that he was writing for a fanzine and went to interview a band before joining it.  So, if his story and author, Lori Majewski’s, story didn’t prove it already, there definitely can be a future after writing a fanzine.  Maybe, the same could be true for bloggers…

Martin starts his story by saying that he realized that he could never be as punk as the Sex Pistols or the Clash.  Instead, he loved disco and decided to focus on the opposite of punk.  I think a lot people can relate to this, whether it is about music of this era, music of another era or even another type of art form.  I think whenever anyone in the arts wants to be creative, there is a push to find a niche, a spot in which one could really make a mark instead of just following a trend.  It is interesting that a lot of bands of this era all seemed to have the same push and all focused on dance related music.  Martin goes on to describe a mania of sorts that seemed to exist in the UK at the time with these bands as they were all trying to make it and make it first.  Truly, this reminds me of periods I have studied in Art History class where artists are all hanging out with each other or near each other, developing similar styles and pushing creativity to a new level.  I always had a sense of this as a fan about the level of musical creativity at this time but reading this confirms it.

He goes on to discuss the meaning behind the song, “Poison Arrow” and how many people could relate to the idea of having someone walk away from you.  Yet, despite his attempt to write songs from the heart, he felt that he was “hiding” rather than “showing” in his writing.  I can relate to that.  While I might try to be open in my writing, I never quite feel like I get there.  What is interesting to me is that he thinks that songs are more open now.  I’m not sure I agree with that, especially with the number of songs written by one person and sung by another.

Rhonda:

Admittedly, I was surprised to read that Martin Fry was a fanzine writer. Lori Majewski wasn’t kidding when she said (to me) not to sell that (stuff) short!! Who knew??  

I think that much of the 80s for bands was finding a way to insert themselves into the narrative that was already being written.  No one wanted to sound like everyone else, and plenty of bands were willing to take chances in order to find a way for their voices (or music as the case may be) to be heard. I don’t think there’s any denying the disco influence in ABC’s music – particularly what can be heard in “Poison Arrow”, but others as well.  I also should probably come clean and say that this particular song was never a favorite during this time period for me, but again – that’s really the one thing about the 80s that I adore: no two songs really sounded the same. Yes, it was all a type of dance music (and even I spent a fair amount of time dancing to “Poison Arrow” over the years at various clubs), but that’s pretty much where the similarity ends.  Look at Spandau Ballet or Haircut 100…both are bands that Martin Fry mentions as being of the same musical vein, yet they’re incredibly different, and within those bands themselves, every album they released was different from the last.  You can’t help but applaud that.  

Devo:

Amanda:

Quite a quote to start the chapter on Devo about how society was “devolving into a state of passive, drooling idiocy” and how anything was okay as long as “it was wrapped in a bright package”.  To me, this summarizes the exact criticism surrounding New Wave, that it was just a bright package.  Yet, Devo was created to express the outrage about this.  I had no idea.  I had also heard/read somewhere about how “Whip It” was really a criticism about society and culture, but didn’t make all the connections until reading this chapter with the connections to propaganda.

As someone who is fascinated by social activism and social movements, I find it incredibly fascinating that the disillusionment of the late 60/early 70s protest movement in the US helped the members of Devo think about how to really create change.  Instead of doing what most activists do, they decided to use the system itself to try to change things.  More specifically, they wanted to use advertising and marketing to affect change.  To me, this is a very radical notion.  Their radicalism clearly continued in not only how they performed but also the relationship with their audience.  They didn’t like the people coming to see them and vice versa.  It is like they wanted to create anti-fans.

Rhonda:

Mark Mothersbaugh said that their goal wasn’t to piss people off…and I have to take a little issue with that. When you’re making statements like what Devo did, taking stances and trying to create some awareness and force some change; your goal is 100% to create emotion, cause a reaction.  That’s what art is all about, isn’t it?   That IS the goal, so for him to say that…well…I’ll admit I’m not completely buying it.  Gerard Casale goes even further, saying “If these people hate us, we’re on the right track because we don’t respect them either.”  Not that I think they were wrong for feeling that way, but it’s been my own personal experience that having no respect for people (particularly the audience you’re performing in front of) does very little to diffuse anger. 

What I find most interesting about Devo, through reading this chapter and other things I’ve seen over the years, is that listeners must keep in mind that this is a band that sees what they do as performance art – and rightfully so.  While they are definitely making their own statements about the world, they follow that up with the movies they created, and their own special brand of propaganda.  You can’t forget that this is a band who was highly influenced by the Communist propaganda of (then) Soviet Union and China, and they saw what they were doing here in the US as the American version of all that.  Say whatever you will about “Whip It” or any of their music for that matter, they were an intelligent band who knew how to broadcast their message back in that day, cleverly disguising it as something quite different (S&M, etc.) from what it really was mocking. And now, every time I see a Swiffer commercial that uses the song…never mind Disney being the “geniuses” they are known for being in the industry and using child stars to create Devo 2.0. I have to smile just a little.  If people only knew…

Echo and the Bunnymen:

Amanda’s thoughts-

I admit it.  I simply adore this song so I was very excited to read more about it.  The introduction to the band is dead on the money, I think.  Echo and the Bunnymen was all about despair, for the most part.  Then, my mind gets blown when I find out the truth behind the “him” in the song.  It isn’t about Ian McCulloch, the lead singer, but about a higher power.  As he talks about the lyrics, I could see that, but I would have NEVER guessed that in a million years.  Perhaps, this is partly because this song entered my life when I was dealing with a difficult relationship and I associated the song with the relationship.

The other thing that this chapter made me realize is how each city in the UK, during this time period, seemed to have its own culture.  I love how Liverpool’s scene is described as filled with a mixture of lost souls whereas previous chapters talked about places like New Order’s Manchester.  It fascinates me, in a broad, social science way about how this musically creative time period had all these artists who had a broad consensus about things like influences, the desire to be unique, etc., while having smaller geographic areas had what seems more like their own subcultures.  Fascinating.

Then, I absolutely adore the story of their first show.  I wonder if all bands/artists had shows in which something like failing equipment happens or something similar.  Yet, they managed to turn the show around and fell into a “flow”.  Lesson there, clearly, is that one moment of failure isn’t failure.

Rhonda:

So, Echo and the Bunnymen.  I must have been the one person out of my group of friends who was not completely bowled over by this song. I don’t know what it was, I don’t know why…I just know that while everyone else was writing “Echo and the Bunnymen” on their Pee-Chee folders, I was still writing interlocking DD’s all over mine, along with a few Spandau Ballet’s, TFF’s and of course a bunch of DM’s. I suspect I just didn’t want to fall in line with my friends. And truthfully, The Killing Moon didn’t really speak to me (back then) in the same way as Blasphemous Rumors or The Hurting, and no – I really don’t know why. So when Ian McCulloch says it was the greatest song ever written…I’m sure my friends from high school would all agree, but I’d still be waving around The Hurting or Mad World and calling it genius.  I love the song now and I wish I had taken the time back then to really listen to the lyrics, but I was honestly more keen on Lips Like Sugar and Dancing Horses then, and more of a Killing Moon fan now. Funny how that works.

One thing that makes me a forever fan of this band?  One simple fact: Ian McCullough is easily as irritated by Bono as I.

Til next week – happy reading!!!

-A & R

Book Club: Mad World (Gary Numan, DD and New Order)

Welcome to week 2 of our little book club on the book, Mad World!  Last week, we discussed the foreword, introduction and the first artist, Adam and the Ants.  This week, we move on to the next three, which are Gary Numan, Duran Duran and New Order.  Like last week, both of us will give our thoughts and would love to hear yours!

Gary Numan:

Amanda’s response: This is definitely one of those chapters that really shed light on how this song was made, the story behind the song.  I knew that Gary Numan had a history in punk until he discovered the synthesizer in the studio.  Yet, even his decision to try it and redo his work to be more electronic seems very punk to me.  After all, one of the messages of punk was that you didn’t need to be a musician in order to form/join a band.  Anyone could do it!  Gary, obviously, took that idea to heart with using synthesizers.  I had to laugh that he would make up answers when asked about synthesizers by the press since he really didn’t know much about them!  I also appreciated learning that the song was written so quickly and on a bass, no less!  How funny is that considering that it is such an electronic song?!  In many ways, as was pointed out, he was lucky to have success with this song since it really didn’t fit the typical radio format, especially by being almost an instrumental and being about a road rage episode, of all things. The other part to the Gary Numan story caught my attention was the interaction with the record label when he shifted his songs from punk to more electronic punk.  I wasn’t surprised that the label wasn’t happy.  I had to laugh that they couldn’t afford to send him back to the studio so they had to go with that.  I suspect that things might be very different now with record labels.

Rhonda:  I read that Lori Majewski didn’t know much about Bowie in 1980…Ziggy Stardust could have been just about anything back then and it wouldn’t have made a difference to her.  I completely agree. I’m actually surprised I stumbled onto Duran Duran, given my own sphere of influence. (My parents were Elvis and The Beach Boys fans. It’s a miracle I heard anything else while growing up) So when I heard “Cars” on the radio – like Lori, it seemed really far-out there, and totally original. However, I can honestly say Gary Numan was never one of my favorites, although I do love this particular song. For me, “Cars” is synonymous with 1980.  

Like Amanda, I chuckle at the idea that his label wasn’t necessarily in favor of the new musical direction he chose (like at all!), but because the label had no money – they had to go with what he’d completed. I don’t know for sure what a label would do now, but I suspect the album would end up shelved…and a new producer would be “suggested” for them to work with. *coughs*  

One thing Gary says that I find both telling and interesting is that he comments …”suddenly you’re doing TV shows with people you’ve loved and admired for years, and now you’re one oft hem, but you don’t feel like you’re one of them – you feel like an intruder that snuck in the back door.”   I really liked that sentence, because I can imagine how weird that must feel to go from being a fan –like any of us — to suddenly being included with those people as a group.  I wonder how many other bands and artists out there recognize that feeling? 

According to Gary Numan, “Cars” took him 10 minutes to write the instrumentals, and another 20 to write the lyrics.  That’s working mighty fast. I know that sometimes, the very best writing I do is what just flows out. It’s not always that way of course, but when it is – it goes really fast.

The other point of interest is that “Cars” was written completely on a bass.  I would have never, ever guessed that. Here we are, reading about one of the most recognizable pieces of electronic music out there – and it wasn’t even written that way.  I must applaud that.

Lastly, his description of what the song means to him really spoke to me.  “I used to think that the car was a tank for the civilian. You could sit inside your car, lock your doors, and it would keep you safe. It puts you in a little protective bubble. You can maneuver through the world, but you don’t really have to engage.”  I think he was really visionary with the way he saw such a simple thing. Many might say that the vehicle just takes you from place to place, and perhaps that’s true…but it is very much how he describes it here. I live in Southern California, not terribly far from LA. We LOVE our cars here – many of us spend hours upon hours a day in them. I always found the idea of taking trains and buses to be strange (as I was growing up), because you’d be forced in such a small area with so many people you really didn’t know.  I’ve probably evolved a little bit since that early thinking – but my car is still my haven. It’s where I blast my music (when I can), and it’s where I do much of my thinking. I don’t have to engage there, which for me is like a vacation at times! 

Duran Duran:

Amanda’s reaction: Right away, during the introduction to this chapter, I find something that pops out at me.   The quote on page 35 that catches my attention, “They saw it as their duty to live out the lifestyle they depicted in their wildly overproduced videos.”  Duran is described on the same page as “bathed in decadence and debauchery”.  Hmm…  Were Duran’s videos overproduced?  Sure.  Did Duran seem to have a jet set lifestyle filled with “decadence and debauchery”?  Absolutely.  Did they see it as their “duty” to live like the videos showed them to live?  Duty is the word that sticks with me.  Duty represents to me an obligation, a requirement.  I’m not sure I agree that they thought this was their duty.  I’m not saying that they didn’t present a lifestyle, a fantasy.  I just don’t know that they thought it was their “duty” to do so.  I could see a means of promotion.  Of course, as I type this, I start laughing.  Here I am…criticizing one word just like people often do with this blog overlooking the entire point.  Moving on…

I thoroughly enjoyed Lori’s comments about how Duran chose her.  I could completely relate, especially when she said, “I have lived for them, lied for them and questioned my own sanity over them.”  Yes.  Yes, I most definitely relate.

I knew the history of the song, Girls on Film, and have even heard the demo featuring Andy Wickett, assuming the demo heard here is legitimate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76qS-tEJvZQ

I also knew that Simon wrote the song with exploitation of women and models in mind.  I like that he said how he wanted the song to be fun, but filled with substance.  Of course, there is some sexuality in there, too.  I think that is the thing that drew me to Duran—fun with substance.  It isn’t mindless.

I found it really interesting that John Taylor found himself self-conscious about his bass playing as time went on, resulting in what John described as his “playing practically disappearing”.  I love that Mark Ronson was the one  who could convince John to play like he used to.  I am thankful, for sure.  On a similar note, I found it interesting that Roger wanted to sound like Chad Smith, the drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers when he came back, but that John pointed out that he couldn’t play with Chad Smith.  This is fascinating in light of the news that Duran will be playing with the former guitarist of RHCP.

Rhonda: I love reading what the band thinks of their own music. I mean let’s face it: I have a blog and I will openly tell anyone what *I* think of their music on any given day: both good and bad; but the band doesn’t always have that same luxury. That said, I did laugh when I read John’s opening statement (in the book) about the band. While I would agree that the critics didn’t always know what to do with them – I can’t truly say it’s because the band was perfect. I think it was because the band was too damn pretty for critics to actually listen to the music and take the words seriously.  Perfect?  Probably not.

Simon says that he wanted the band to be edgy, not too soft – and fans know that whenever Simon is asked about lyrics, particularly lyrics from earlier in their career such as those from GOF, they are about sex.  Well, Simon doesn’t disappoint here, does he?  I’d never given some of the lines from this song much thought. I knew the song was about the modeling industry and much of it being the clichés that Nick describes, but it’s not a song I really mull over much – given the video and all, it seems pretty well cut and dried in that respect.  It wasn’t too terribly long ago that someone responded to one of our posts here – the subject of the post was the image of the band and how at times, that has put them in a very odd juxtaposition for their fans (and themselves).  The person who responded reminded me that the their branding, at least initially was basically sex. The band were branded as sex objects. (probably another reason why critics have had such an issue)  The teen magazines, the videos, even the songs and the explanation of lyrics at times have made them to be  unattainable, untouchable, sex objects. I suppose that worked, and probably backfired at times for them as well.  My “problem” as a fan is that I see so much more than that in the band. It was and is great hook I suppose, but just as Simon’s lyrics ALWAYS cry out to be understood beneath what you see on the surface, I feel the band themselves are very much the same. 

I’d also like to comment that just as Nick sees that the band is in their fourth decade as “absurd”…so do we. Where did that time go…and how is it that only now in my forties am I seriously writing a fan blog?!?  We can all be absurd together, Nick. 

New Order:

Amanda’s thoughts: I adore how Jonathan Bernstein described the song, Blue Monday.  The idea of it being a “black cloud hanging over the dance floor” is so very fitting to me.  In my younger days, I used to spend quite a bit of time dancing the night away in “goth” like clubs and this song would always come on.  It didn’t matter if it was retro night or not, it would get played.  As soon as the first note would start, I always wondered why the DJ would play something so upbeat sounding.  Yet, as soon as those lyrics started, I remembered.  It isn’t happy.  Not at all.  It is like misery decided to dance.

Again, this seems very fitting to me for a band that used to be Joy Division and sang songs like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” with a lead singer who died from suicide.  Then, the last piece of the puzzle to understanding this song is added when I read that this song was the band’s response to the negative criticism that they were receiving after Ian Curtis’s death.  Truly, it all makes sense now. I thought it was interesting when Peter Hook mentioned how people were either Joy Division fans OR New Order fans.  They were not both.  I haven’t found that, in my experience.  I would say that I’m a fan of both.  Granted, I choose to listen to one over the other, depending on my mood.  I wouldn’t choose to listen to them both at the same time or mix them up like I could with Duran Duran and Arcadia.

I found the relationship between Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook fascinating.  Clearly, these two did not see eye-to-eye and had both a personality conflict and a musical one as well.  Peter claimed that Bernard wanted to turn down the bass.  Yet, the claim that is made is that this conflict is what helped to produce quality music.  Hmm…this sounds a little familiar.  After all, Duranies know that there was always tension between guitar and keyboards in Duran.  Many of us might say that tension is what made those first few albums so great for Duran.  This leads me to wonder how many other bands have the same sort of tension.

Rhonda: As Peter Hook mentions – there are Joy Division fans and New Order fans.  I am truly a New Order fan.  I knew almost nothing about Joy Division except that Ian Curtis was originally in the group and committed suicide, a fact that seems to define the band(s), unfortunately. In my case, I knew about New Order and fell in love with “Bizarre Love Triangle” before I ever even knew who Ian Curtis was.  Sure, I was probably just very uninformed, but I also think it allowed me to just enjoy the music. No judgment. No pretenses. Freedom.  I never knew of the internal struggles. The grief, or lack thereof.  I didn’t know Bernard Sumner OR Peter Hook, and I think that in a lot of ways – the saying “Ignorance is bliss” probably applies, and I embrace that, because I just enjoy the music. Period.

I can’t even THINK about New Wave in the 80s without Blue Monday or Bizarre Love Triangle coming to mind. For me, these songs are part of the framework of ME, so I’m thankful they were included in this book.  

As I read through this chapter, admittedly I had difficulty keeping it all straight. Peter Hook calls New Order “New Odor” (which feels so incredibly sophomoric), and yet I get his frustration, so I don’t want to say he’s being immature. I think he describes where it all resides in his head and heart brilliantly.  “Because of the group that I loved and put 32 years into, I’m fighting them tooth and nail. This is a divorce.”  I think that as a fan, the only real thing I can focus on IS the music here.  Hook says it best when he talks about “the largeness of this thing we’ve created” and how it’s being ruined with the petty squabbles. On the outside, I can see that. If I were in the middle of it all though, I’d imagine I’d see it quite differently.  The only thing I can really do is love what they created, and think about the fact that nearly every band I’ve ever loved has had this crazy internal struggle—there’s got to be something to that, hasn’t there?

While we have absolutely no problem chatting amongst ourselves, we really hope that some of you will join in – many opinions are way better than just two! -A & R

Daily Duranie Book Club – Mad World (Foreword, Introduction, and Adam and the Ants)

Welcome to the first post of the book club on the book, Mad World!  As Rhonda mentioned last week, we will, generally, be discussing about 3 chapters a week.  I will give my thoughts and Rhonda will give hers.  Then, we hope that others will chime in with their thoughts!  Ideally, it would be great to get a good discussion going that lasts beyond the day of a book club post.  I love discussions like that as I learn more and see things differently from hearing points from other people.  This week, we will take it slow with the foreword, introduction and the first band, Adam and the Ants.

Foreward:

Amanda’s Take:

I suspect that the foreword might catch Duranies attention since it was written by some guy named Nick Rhodes.   As soon as I begin reading this, I’m reminded of how Duran Duran opened my world up to so many other bands, artists, genres, etc.  I was a little kid when I heard Duran for the first time and became a fan.  I knew VERY, VERY little about music.  My family wasn’t big into music.  I could tell you a lot more about visual artists or politicians than I could music.  Yet, my personality is such that when I get into something, I want to know everything.  I devour everything and anything I can find.  I was that way as a kid and I am that way as an adult.  Thus, I remember reading about Duran’s influences and wanting to check out each and every one.  I borrowed Chic’s album from the library, for example, as soon as I had heard of them.  I am so thankful for Duran for opening my eyes and EARS to so many artists, especially at a young age.  Perhaps, that very fact is why music came to be such a big deal for me.  Likewise, it seemed like music was a big deal for many of my peers, too.

Back in the early 1980s, it felt to me that everyone was listening to the same music.  We all were on the same page even if we had different favorites.  Every song was known by everyone or so it felt.  Nick mentioned about how music was important for his generation, too.  He captured what I have always felt by saying the following about music, “It was an important voice in our culture, a way for our generation to express its singularity.”  Exactly.  Music represented a generation.  For those of us who grew up in the 1980s, it was New Wave.  We all know the artists and songs.  Of course, we know some better than others or like some better than others, but it is something that unites people of my generation.  I love that Nick had the same experience, too.  I have to wonder if kids these days experience the same thing with SO many choices available at all times.

Nick dives a lot deeper in explaining how New Wave really came to be from the consequences of punk rock, the development of affordable technology, and more.  He described how New Wave developed differently in the UK and in the US.  I especially appreciated how he explained the influence of the times and current events on the formation of New Wave.  The UK of the 1970s, according to Nick, contained “political turbulence and social unrest.” As a student of social sciences, I have always believed that political happenings and current events have incredible influence on the cultural products of a place and time, especially with music.  I loved how Nick then described that bands either expressed darkness or light as a response to the state of the UK at that time.  Duran had a balance.  Ah, yes.  That idea really spoke to me.  People always claim Duran to be nothing but a feel good, optimistic, colorful band and I believe, at times, they are.  Yet, there have been moments and songs that are the exact opposite.  I love that they express the full range.

Nick goes on to describe the New Wave culture as being focused on standing out rather than fitting in.  I never really thought much about that, but I can definitely see that and like that.  Every artist or band seemed to have a slightly different sound and/or look, which isn’t the case with other genres or musical time periods, in my opinion.  I like that they did all strive to be unique.  It certainly made it more interesting and enjoyable.

Rhonda:

I highlighted a few sections of Nick’s foreword that seemed to jump out at me. 

Nick states that each of the bands in the book were “different reflections of similar views. Some chose to express the darkness, others looked towards the light”. This was exactly how I found New Wave to be — there was something for my every pubescent mood. Sometimes I needed Rio, and in others, I needed Blasphemous Rumours. I tend not to notice such wide differences in today’s music, and I’m not ignorant of the fact that much of this probably has to do with my age rather than the quality of music. As Curt Smith states much much later in this book  (I’m paraphrasing) – there was a lot of crap music to be found in the 80s. I certainly didn’t listen to top 40 radio with the same sort of enthusiasm that I might have had while listening to KROQ, that is for certain. I think that nowadays I have a much harder time finding “the good stuff”….and not nearly as much time as I need.  Anyone else?!? 

Nick talks a bit about reality TV and commercial radio — for me personally, these are dirty words. I can’t stand any of it (with the crazy exception for The Bachelor, because I am a melodramatic female at times, admittedly.) He comments about how these mediums have created opportunities for some and taken away from others, and that what is broadcast to the audience is more formulaic. I have to agree. I find that the “hits” of today seem to follow a fairly generic formula. Some may say that New Wave of the 80s has it’s own formula – and I’d agree. It’s called “Creativity”. Ultimately, Nick describes the public attention span as being incredibly short, and again – I have to agree. We have a thing for instantaneous gratification, and when you combine that with the near-endless array of choices available – no one sticks around for long. It really is a miracle that bands such as Duran Duran, Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears are still around and care to participate. We thank them.

Introduction:

Amanda’s Thoughts:

The introduction is straight forward.  The authors not only define the term “New Wave” but describe why they chose it and the format of the book, which is helpful as we dive into each band/artist and song.

I found it useful that they took the time to explain the connection between punk and New Wave.  While I’m pretty familiar with the history between the two, it was good to be reminded.  The explanation of why artists went towards New Wave as opposed to punk was made clear by the list they provided, including the development of  MTV (as Duranies know!), the power of the British music press, Top of the Pops and more.

While the authors admit that the 1980s was a bit ridiculous, they also point out what was good about it.  The bands/artists were not manufactured and had tons of imagination and personality.  From my stand point, this is what made the era fun.  The ridiculousness wasn’t so evident to me as a kid.  Now, I see where the criticism comes from, but it doesn’t matter that much to me.  Perhaps, those fun memories of my childhood over shadow any negative.

Rhonda: I liked the introduction, but I tend to shy away from the characterization of the artists being ridiculous. Call the bands excessive at times. Ridiculous though?  I think this lends itself to some discussion if others care to chime in.  In hindsight do you agree that some of the music, videos, images, etc. from this time were ridiculous?

I guess I just don’t see their creativity in that same way. I see the desire to be individual during a period of time when the world still tried to set and keep firm boundaries. People were beginning to push the limits, escape the stranglehold of societal labels and explore the far-reaches of originality. I feel that the artists of this period – particularly those that were discussed in this book, were indeed following that trend. I see New Wave as a response to an angry Punk. Rather than just be screaming angry, artists use the music, the visual, the imagery to explore the emotion (Thank goodness for those London Art Schools), and art begins to entangle with emerging technology. To be fair, I don’t think the point of the authors was to necessarily say that yes, the music of this era was really beyond the seriousness of critics. Instead, I think they were saying to those critics, “Listen, you might not have liked this…but you really do need to give the music it’s just due. It is still around, and it is still continuing to inspire.”  

Adam and the Ants:

Amanda’s Points:

Adam and the Ants isn’t an artist I’m super familiar with.  I blame my age for that.  I was pretty young when they had their big hit here in the States (Goody Two Shoes in 1982).  That said, a number of things really grabbed my attention while reading this chapter.  First, the music press was a significant force in the UK.  I had always heard/read/known that from Duran history, but this confirms it.  I am completely intrigued that an artist like Siouxsie and the Banshees (similar style) was accepted by the UK music press but Adam and the Ants weren’t.  I wonder why that is.  I know that Siouxsie and the Banshees became well-known during the height of punk.  Could that be it?  Could the greater association to punk equal more respect?  No matter the reason that Adam and the Ants weren’t accepted, it certainly was significant as it influenced lyrics and even their image.  I suspect that this power of the British music press will be a theme throughout the book.

Second, I always knew that punk was a really, really big deal for all artists of this era.  Yet, I really got that after reading that Adam quit his first band, Bazooka Joe, after seeing the Sex Pistols in 1975.  By 1979, punk was still influencing.  This time, they wanted the opposite of punk, which led Adam to change the band.  I loved that he then combined influences from history (Napoleon), Native American culture and art history (Futurists).  Of course, this also mixed with Adam’s frustration of the record industry.  I knew that the look of the stripe was a combination of pirate and Native American.  What I didn’t know was that it was a “declaration of war” on the record industry.  Similarly, the song, “Kings of the Wild Frontier,” was about being held back by society whether due to race or class or whatever.

The last thing that really caught my attention was how they felt that punk eventually became conformist and boring.  I wonder if this criticism was a factor when Adam decided to take off the makeup.  Is this concern about becoming boring and conformist one for all artists of this era?  Could this be part of the reason that Duran is always so concerned with updating their sound and look?

On that note, next Monday, we will move along to discuss the next 3 chapters, which include Gary Numan, some band named Duran Duran and New Order.  Happy reading!

Rhonda:

One thing that I found throughout this entire book was that the chapter read much better as I listened to the song/artist in question.  As often as I might listen to music from this period, reading the book and contemplating the places from which many of the songs were written and how they’ve survived over the years allowed me to hear the music with nearly brand new ears. I’d encourage our readers to do the same – it creates a much more multi-dimensional experience!

I liked Adam and the Ants, and I loved Adam Ant. I have to admit that much of Adam’s music was among my first real foray into KROQ in the 80s. I can remember sitting at my friend Christy’s house back in about 1981(ish), just before I really got into Duran Duran.  We would whisper about his lyrics in her bedroom – because we dared not talk loudly about the things that Adam Ant made us think about – her parents would have flipped, because in all honesty, for us Adam WAS sex in 1981.  He seemed blatantly sexual, almost daring pretty young adolescents like us to think about what his songs were about (and I’ve come to decide that in most cases, we were wrong, but boy did we ever enjoy laughing and giggling as we listened). 

I found it fascinating that Adam used the Apache war stripe as his own personal declaration of war against the record industry. I found that to be an ongoing theme throughout this book, and I blame my surprise on my age at the time. Oh to be ten and not have a care in the world again….

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen Adam Ant live. He’s one artist from the 80s that I’ve kicked myself repeatedly for missing. That’s the trouble I find with many of these artists in the book – I haven’t seen them live. However, I’ve promised myself that I’m going to take the opportunity to see as many that are still touring as I can. No more waiting if I can help it. I’m happy to hear that Adam is still recording and touring, even if I missed my chance to see him here – and yes Adam, 16 years is still worth the wait, although I’m really hesitant to say that here on this blog….Duran Duran, I am looking at you.  

Looking forward to next week – please feel free to chime in with your own comments and discussion!!  

-A & R

Going crazy, wanna come along? Daily Duranie Book Club – Mad World

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Well, we’re not really going crazy…but we’re definitely taking a trip down the MAD side of things because for the next several weeks, Amanda and I are going to talk about Mad World each Monday here on the blog, and we’d love for you to come along for the ride!

Just as we’ve done in the past, we’re going to do this as a sort of book club where we take a chapter or three each week (which amounts to discussing a few bands) and talk about them.  We want to open this up to discussion – so if you want to follow along and participate, feel free to comment with your thoughts as we go along. We encourage that here!

This will begin next week on the blog – and we’ll do the first 3 chapters in the book.  This gives you some time if you haven’t gotten your copy of the book yet!!

-R

It’s a very very MAD WORLD.

As promised, today I’m going to give a brief review (with no spoilers!!) of Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein’s new book, Mad World which is out today!

First of all (and most important), I want to disclose that Lori approached Amanda and I several months back about helping them out with promo for Mad World.  While the typical “Are you sure she meant to contact us? I mean…we’re just a couple of fans!!” were made between Amanda and I, we were (and are) extremely honored. I suppose we could act cool, calm, collected and professional and put off an air of “Well of course they’d want our help”…that’s not exactly our style. Amanda and I are simply fans. Like you. We began this blog from that very simple two word fact, and that’s how we’re going to continue, forevermore.  I should also disclose that I received a copy of the book early for review – and that has never happened before, so for us, this is a first, and we are completely honored by the opportunity.  Maybe that’s overreaching on our part, maybe we’ll be slammed for saying so; but for Amanda and I, the way we see it is that someone out there sees the good we’re doing, and we’re very, very proud of that.

However, that won’t stop me from bringing forth an objective review….just so we’re clear about how much I adore this book.

I don’t want to give a lot away about Mad World because I really want everyone to go get their own copy.  But, if you could see mine – you’d see it completely red-lined and highlighted. Yes, I still read as though I’m reading for a college course.  If you take away just one thing from my review – I want our readers to know that reading this book makes the songs sound new again.  Let me try to explain.  Let’s face it: these songs are around thirty years old now.  At one point or another, the songs started fading into the background. I might still listen to the music. I might (I do) still have nearly all of them included on my trusty mp3 player, but I don’t really hear them the way I once did.  I don’t pay attention to every last drum beat, or every single crescendo or synth loop.  I still love the music, but I don’t feel the music as much. It doesn’t completely consume me.  Or at least it didn’t before Mad World.  

Once I started reading though, that all changed. The book is basically divided into chapters that correspond with songs.  So for example there is a chapter called Girls on Film. I’m pretty sure you can guess what and who that’s all about.  Jonathan and Lori give their initial thoughts on the song (and band in a broad sense), then they include the interviews done with the band about that particular song – since this is an oral history. What I really like is the song is discussed in the original historical context – “How was it back in the 80s”, and then they have a section called “That was then, this is now”; and in that section the song is talked about from the present point of view.  So, I found myself listening to the song before reading the chapter, then reading the chapter, and going back to listen to the song again.  I couldn’t help but hear the song differently. It was as though my ears were reinvigorated!

This is not a book that I would critique based on writing style, or how much “dirt” was drummed up about the subject…although I feel that the bands involved seemed to be incredibly forthcoming and honest about their work, which is refreshing.   Of course the writing is good. and I love that Lori and Jonathan are true to themselves. When they are fans, they say so and own it rather than try to play the “We are completely professional and above it all” card.  Their commentaries are rooted in reality, and it is obvious that they enjoyed the work that went into the writing.  However, the real star(s) of the book are the interviews. I learned so much in reading, and it wasn’t the big picture stuff that resonated – it was the little things.  I could really get a sense of the emotionality that some of the artists interviewed continue to carry with them about songs that were written so long ago. I felt some of the heartbreak that others had when they looked back.  I could even hear the anger, despair, distain and even apathy of others for their fellow band members.  Those points in the book make the songs whole.  It’s as though now I’ve got the full story – the 360 degree view.

This isn’t a book that could have been written as successfully even ten years ago.  So many of these people needed to get past their own egos, whether they were overly trumped up, or completely deflated in the years gone by.  It has taken this long for many of them to simply come to terms with what took place, which is why I really believe the interviews worked so well.  In all honesty, I think that I needed to become an adult in order to fully treasure their stories.

Lori and Jonathan say that they wanted Mad World to be a fan friendly book. They have taken the route of going directly TO the fans to answer our questions, and get us involved. I have to give them kudos for doing so, because I believe the evidence is clear: it worked.

I am an 80s kid. I was born in November of 1970 and so when the year 1980 rolled around, I was 9 years old. My formative years were spent in the 80s, and when I think about the music I love, New Wave from 80s is the first to come to mind. It is a vital portion of my personal soundtrack, my playlist.  Mad World fills in the gaps, the things I pondered while laying on my not-quite-orange but also not-quite-brown shag bedroom carpet listening to my stereo and staring at my green walls peppered with pinups of Duran Duran when I was a kid.  Definitely worth the read.

Amanda and I plan to do more with Mad World in the coming weeks – so watch this space!

-R

To order your copy: Mad World 

Q & A with Karen Booth

My name is Rhonda and I do not write fiction.  (Sorry Heather, I just couldn’t resist that opening line!) Unlike Heather, and my other good friend that I’m about to introduce, I really cannot spin a good fantasy tale. I can’t put words together to tell a story, and I really cannot use words to fully explain what is going on in my head. (that might be a sign that the world just doesn’t need to know what’s going on in there!) I stand in complete awe of people who can create entire new worlds, characters, plot lines and novels that are so real in their imaginations that they become real for readers.  It’s fascinating to me that within this fan community I have run into more published authors than I did the entire time I was in college.  The creative “gene” runs very, very thick in this extended family of ours, and I’m proud to be able to support the brilliant creative geniuses amongst us.

If you’re a Duranie that enjoys a good book and you haven’t checked out Bring Me Back by Karen Booth yet; first of all I have to wonder why you’re taking the time to read this blog when you could be diving into THAT – but secondly I need to ask if you’ve been living under a rock?  Do yourself a favor: grab the book.  Sit down and read it in one sitting.  It is the fantasy of all fantasies, whether you’re a Duran fan or a fan of any other musician out there.  But after you’re finished with that book – and I know you won’t be completely sated, because no Duranie worth her salt is EVER completely sated – you should pick up THE SEQUEL.  (and if that’s not enough, there’s even a prequel named Claire’s Diary that you should absolutely read – you might even recognize yourself in there, I know I did!)

Yes, you read that right. One book about a rock star is never enough, so why not read two?  My good friend Karen Booth brings Christopher Penman and Claire Abby together again for Back Forever, and readers are in for a great treat as they tuck into this novel. Bring Me Back answers the question of what might happen if a once-upon-a-time teen fan met the rock star of her dreams  twenty years later; Back Forever answers the question of what might happen next.

So it is with great pleasure that I welcome Karen Booth back to  the blog today, where I plan to pummel her with questions about writing, life, and even being a fan.  If that weren’t enough, I even had the nerve to ask if I could interview Christopher Penman (cue squeeing from the Penman fans out there) and Claire Abby in a blog I will be posting tomorrow because let’s face it: it’s the closest I’m going to get to interviewing an international rock star.  (No offense Dom…but this IS Christopher Penman I’m writing about here.)

There are really few people on the planet that I value the opinion of more than Karen. She’s smart, she gets the whole fan-thing (likely because she’s been on both sides: in a previous life – aka before she became a fiction writer, she worked in the music industry!), and she doesn’t judge me for writing a blog about being a fan of a rock band…and I still blush when I read her romantica novellas.  So we’re a good pair. I like to think of Karen as the person I could be if I were at all brave, and to me, writing a sequel to Bring Me Back is pretty darn brave.  Knowing myself, I’d be thrilled to finish ONE book, much less dare to write another – and yet there Karen goes, writing a sequel.

“More than anything, I wanted to find out what would happen to Christopher and Claire. Believe it or not, an author doesn’t always automatically know these things. Once Bring Me Back started to reach readers and they responded with questions of what happens next, I knew I had to write one. ”

 I think this must be what is meant when it is said that the best writers allow the story the room to breathe on it’s own.    The characters have a life of their own, and they become real.  So how do you end that relationship then? Is it tough to say goodbye and know you’ve finished that story?  

“This is a tough one! It’s really tempting to give in, especially when people want more, but the truth is that I don’t have a clear vision of what’s next for them. That doesn’t mean I never will, only that I don’t see it right now. As far as missing them goes, I miss them terribly. Some aspects of finishing this book felt like a goodbye, which was heartbreaking. The connection I have with Chris and Claire is very real. They are not characters to me, they’re real people, which might sound crazy, but it’s true.”  

Having never written fiction, I don’t have any idea what it is like to know when a story is really and truly finished.  I’ve read Harry Potter and I still find myself wondering what could possibly come next.  I suppose the real test is knowing whether or not there really is actually a story to tell.  It would seem to me, even as a reader, there has to be a sense of closure or else it will never feel finished…which leads me to ask, is there anything that you would change now that it’s all said and done and published, or do you feel that you have to just put it down, walk away and move on?

“A lot of writers would say that no book is ever truly finished and I definitely put myself in that category. I could revise until I’m blue in the face, but you have to find a way to let go. For me, it comes when I can read it beginning to end and experience a full range of emotions and most importantly, have a smile on my face when I read “The End”. There might be individual words or sentences I would change, but nothing about the meat of the story.”

As a devoted reader of Bring Me Back, when I first heard that you were writing a sequel, I nearly frothed at the mouth in wonder as to what direction the story would take.  I think that many fans, regardless of whether it is a musician like John Taylor or an actor like Benedict Cumberbatch, want that complete fairy tale. We all want that “Happily Ever After”, riding off into the sunset with a guitar (or a bass) playing…and never a cross-moment following.  The trouble of course is that real life doesn’t work that way.  “Happily Ever After” is mixed in with a whole lot of well, less-than-fun times…and let’s be honest, if it was all roses and champagne without a little friction, the tale would get boring very, very fast, no matter how much I’d love to say otherwise.  So I wondered how you would continue Chris and Claire’s story.  What gave you the most challenge?

“Writing a sequel was so much harder than I thought it would be. The biggest challenge was deciding how to include Christopher’s point-of-view. You don’t get that in the first book and I knew that I wanted to spend some time digging around in that mind of his. I tried writing ‘Back Forever’ in third-person, which is the universally accepted way to handle two points-of-view, but it felt off because it was so out of step with the first book. I ultimately went with a two-character first-person point-of-view, which is a little unusual. So far, everyone’s embraced it quite well. “

I know that when I read the book, I was delightfully surprised by just how normal their story really did read. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t an element of fairy-tale fantasy, because in my opinion that’s what makes a good love story, but there was plenty of “real life” going on.

 “I still feel like the new book explores the same concept as the first—how do you take a fairytale and make it real? Despite the very real-life, non-glamorous situations facing Christopher and Claire in this book, they’re still living a fairytale. They’ve both waited a lifetime to find each other, their work lives are far more exciting than for most people. The reader is still immersed in a fantasy at times—it’s just wedged into reality. “

Blogging is definitely not the same as writing a book.  Over time, I’ve gotten away from feeling as though the blog is my shared private journal (which is both good and bad), but I continue to learn and take lessons from both the process of my writing as well as the comments we’ve received over the years.  On a personal note, that has been the singularly most unexpected and rewarding side-path on this journey for me. I’m wondering if you’ve found the same – a lesson learned – from writing the sequel?

“It’s funny—I feel like I’m just now seeing the gift that the sequel is. It was really difficult to write. It didn’t spill out of me like the first book did, but the reaction to it has been so rewarding. I questioned myself so much with this story, which I can now see was a good thing. Sometimes you have to tear yourself apart to get to the essence of what you hope to achieve. I suppose that’s the lesson I took from this book. ” 

That is a perfect lesson to take away, and one that I won’t forget.  I feel very much the same with this blog as of late, so thank you for putting it into words.  I don’t think it is too much of a secret that I’ve gone through a continual catharsis as I’ve blogged, and lately I’ve taken a huge step back away from this blog altogether. I needed to gain perspective, and I’m not ashamed of that.  Every day I put a little bit of myself on display here for the world at large to pick apart, and it’s no secret that I have trouble with the constant criticism.  I have a tough time letting it roll off my back. I wonder how you handle bad reviews as an author…does it ever get easier?

“Every author gets poor reviews! One person on Amazon gave Bring Me Back two stars and titled the review, “No depth”. Just stab me in the heart, why don’t you? I wanted to write this person and explain that I spent months at my desk crying my eyes out when I wrote the book, that she wasn’t looking very hard if she couldn’t see the emotion. Then I took a deep breath and remembered one great piece of advice a friend gave me—it’s just someone’s opinion. There is no way to satisfy everyone. So, I handle poor reviews by reading them and promptly doing everything I can to forget them. “

 I probably should bookmark, print, and cross stitch that last sentence and hang it on my wall for future reference.  Duranies are a tough crowd. They are hard to please, slow to forgive unless you’re a band member, and extremely critical of one another…but they’re the most creative bunch I’ve ever crossed paths with.  Nearly every single published author I know personally is a self-pronounced Duranie at heart and they follow the band as closely as I do.  I know fans who have gone from doing fanzines and/or trading posters with friends back in the 80’s to huge careers in the magazine, publishing and PR world.  It is stunning to see so many creative fans amongst us.  How did we all gather in the same place?!?

“There’s no question that Duran attracts a wide variety of talented, creative, vibrant people as fans. No dullards like Duran Duran! (Yes, I know, the 1950s called and they want their insult back.) I think it’s the whole art school approach the band began with—a sense of collective creativity, something I think is still at the core of what they do. It attracts people who approach life with an open mind. Those people are always the most creative because they see beauty and possibilities all around them. ” 

So that brings me to my last question for you, Karen.  Do you have any advice for the non-published out there?

“It would go the same no matter where your creative interests lie—keep creating, explore crazy ideas, don’t be afraid to do things that make you really nervous. The art is well outside your comfort zone, not in it, and focusing on what you create is the most important part. You can stumble through the rest of it with sheer perseverance.”   

I just want to thank Karen for being such a great supporter of this blog and of our vision for Durandemonium.  As much as she thinks we’re helping her out, she continually returns the favor.  Thank you.

And to the rest of you, grab your copy of Back Forever and get reading!!

-R

Want links to buy Karen’s books? See below!

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Other books by Karen Booth as well as a free downloadable copy of Claire’s Diary can be found at Karen’s website: www.karenbooth.net

Book Discussion–In the Pleasure Groove (Overall)

It is hard to believe that this series of discussions surrounding John Taylor’s autobiography is coming to an end.  When we started discussing the book back in October, I had no idea about how long it would take, what parts we would discuss and more.  I just knew that I couldn’t wait to hear what people had to say and to really focus on Mr. Taylor and his life.  Let me just say that I haven’t been disappointed by what came out of the book or our discussions.  I wished that more people would have jumped in to discuss but I’m thrilled by those comments and the people who made them.  I figured it might be good to do one more post to wrap up the book completely with some big discussion questions and to give our overall rating.

Many fans wanted to compare John’s book to Andy’s.  Thoughts about that?
A – I think it is inevitable for fans to compare the two books.  After all, they are both autobiographies from members of Duran Duran.  Yet, to me, they are two very different books.  First of all, the timing of them couldn’t be more different.  Andy wrote his pretty soon after he left the band whereas John wrote his in the middle of a Duran project.  This fact of timing, I’m sure, played a role in what was written and how it was written.  For example, John seemed very careful to be respectful of all people in his book and only shared what was pertinent to his story.  Andy, on the other hand, seemed, at times, to take some jabs at people when it wasn’t necessary or added information that didn’t fit.  Second, the book titles show the differences in perspectives.  Andy’s book is Wild Boy:  My Life in Duran Duran.  John’s is In the Pleasure Groove:  Love, Death and Duran Duran.  Andy’s book is mostly about his time in Duran, his experiences in the band.  On the other hand, Duran is just a PART of John’s story.  Duran isn’t the focus.  I’m sure that this may disappoint some readers.  I, on the other hand, appreciated it.  John is more than just the bass player for Duran Duran.  Likewise, I would have been happy if Andy’s had a broader scope as well.  After all, he, too, is more than the former guitarist. 
R – I don’t really know that I could have fairly compared the books other than what you’ve done right here, Amanda. I’ve seen people call Andy’s book anything and everything from “complete negativity and lies” to “the honest truth no current member of Duran Duran would ever admit”…so there you have it.  I’m not going to be a party to picking out the truths, half-truths or subtle innuendos that may or may not exist in either book, because each is THEIR story. Who am I to decide what is right or fair?  I’m glad both were written and I’m sure that for each of them – it is their truth.  One thing I will say: you can definitely hear the voices and personalities of each man in their books, which I think is something for which they should be commended.  So many autobiographies sound robot generated and unemotional at times, and that’s not something I would dare say about either book. I enjoyed both for completely different reasons, and I would expect that to be the case in any book by any band member. 

What themes could you pick out from John’s book?
A – It seems to me that there are a few themes in this book.  First, and I think John makes this very clear, if you were in his shoes, you might have made the same decisions that he did.  John faced some pretty unique life circumstances and made some good choices and some not good decisions.  The same can be said for ALL of us.  Yet, most of us did not experience the fame that he did.  Under those circumstances, our decisions might have been exactly like his.  Thus, we cannot and shouldn’t judge him.  Period.  A second theme is connected to the first one.  John clearly learned to accept himself and others.  Life is short.  No one is perfect and that really is okay.  Lastly, there is theme connected to the “pleasure groove”.  For some time, the pleasure groove might have meant sex and drugs.  Now, as it was back in the early years of his life, John’s pleasure groove definitely has to do with music.  He truly does love music and his entire life has been surrounded with it.
R –  Themes that I see played out throughout the book is that of love for his parents, learning to be Nigel, learning to deal with John, and learning to love – whether that is learning to love his band, himself, or his family.  While I did take note of the theme you mentioned, Amanda – the notion that had we been in his shoes we might have done the same – I don’t know that it was all that powerful for me personally. I think it’s part of the literary experience to read and feel emotion, and those emotions go into judgment making. I just think it feels far too preachy to say one shouldn’t judge him for the very actions he writes about. John makes a clear point of presenting many situations that might be viewed as negative and he lays them out for all to see – I think he expects a certain amount of judgment at times, which is why his book reads so honestly.  

How did John do in terms of pacing and what he included/did not include?
A – It seemed to me that John took a long time with his childhood and early Duran Duran.  The more recent years were not as well-covered.  Personally, I think that is how it should be.  Maybe this is the historian coming out in me but there is not as much perspective with recent events and can’t be, for anyone.  The full meaning of them and what is important and wasn’t isn’t is not well-known.  Yet, there is much more understanding about events and times decades ago.  Plus, those were the years and experiences that formed him as a person and as a rock star.  In order to understand his life, those years were the ones we needed to know.  Plus, from my stand point, the part that I loved the most was all of those chapters about John’s early life.  I had no real idea about so much of what he wrote about there.  Yet, a lot of the Duran stuff I felt like I knew and the recent stuff included a lot of what I have been a witness to, at least as a far removed fan.  I know that there are some people who are frustrated that John didn’t include much about his solo days or about his acting career.  Yet, I think it is fair for John to choose which events are important and which aren’t.  I’m sure that there were some choices that he had to make.  After all, the book was pretty long as is!
R – I learned the most about John’s childhood and about himself after rehab.  The mid-section of the book was interesting from a fan perspective but I really learned about who John Taylor really IS from the beginning and the end of the book.  I know most fans liked reading about his life in Duran and I’m not surprised.

What do you think of the book overall?
A – I knew that I needed to ask this question but I dreaded it, too.  How can I summarize my thoughts about the book in just a paragraph or a few sentences?  After all, there is so much that has been said and could be said.  I think I’ll keep it short and simple.  I loved the book.  LOVED it.  I loved gaining insight into John and his life.  I particularly loved the first part that covered life before Duran.  My respect for John increased from reading it.  After all, he is a great writer and, obviously, took such care in writing it.  Also, I think we can all respect what John has dealt with to become the person he is today.  He was open and honest, even when it clearly wasn’t easy for him.  I learned a lot about him but I felt like I learned some general life lessons about acceptance, about empathy, about being open.  I thank him for that gift.  My rating would definitely be a 5!
R – I enjoyed the book very much. I l learned a lot about John as a person – he’s so much more than the guy I’ve seen on page or in pictures.  I also learned a lot about the band in general – there is a lot more going on behind the scenes, so many more gears in the machine that make it run, than I ever really considered as a fan.  I have to thank John for being so incredibly open – I can’t imagine it was an easy book to write in that aspect, and he was brave to do so.  I have great respect for John, even when I call the band (or him) out on the carpet here on the blog from time to time.  I do feel that there are many more unspoken stories and tales he could have chosen to include, but I don’t believe the book is lacking for having not done so, if that makes sense.  I know he’s mentioned writing again – I really hope that when the time is write, he’ll consider the opportunity, and not because I think we need to know about Duran Duran, but because I think that John has more to tell of his own journey – but only if/when the time is right and the opportunity is presented. 


On that note, we close the book on John Taylor’s autobiography.  

-A 

Book Discussion—In the Pleasure Groove (Chapters 73-74)

Today marks the end of our discussion of the specific chapters in John Taylor’s autobiography, In the Pleasure Groove.  I, for one, am a little sad to be getting to the end of this book discussion as it has good to really read John’s book, think about it and discuss it.  Before the discussion really ends, we finish the book this week and discuss the book, overall, next week.  These chapters focus on the years 2003-2011.  During this time, Duran released three albums, including Astronaut, Red Carpet Massacre and All You Need Is Now.  John, personally, experienced the declining health and death of his father.  On that somber note, please, grab a beverage, read up and join in on the discussion.

Chapter 73:  Learning to Survive
What was your reaction to John’s brief discussion of Andy and Dom?
A – Like everyone else, I wondered if John would discuss Andy and Dom.  Obviously, he acknowledged that things did not work out with Andy due to “differences” but he did not go further.  I am glad that he didn’t say more.  He did not use this book as an opportunity to bash Andy or criticize him.  He wasn’t harsh by acknowledging that there were differences.  Yet, at the same time, this makes it pretty clear that Andy isn’t coming back to the band, in my opinion.  As for Dom, he certainly was very positive, wasn’t he?  He said that Dom was a “player of great depth and versatility”.  John also mentioned how he appreciates their friendship.
R – I was curious what he would say, if anything.  I was pleased to see that he didn’t use the opportunity to say his peace.  To be honest, I’d have lost respect for him, and not because I am loyal to Andy, but because it’s none of our business.  His not saying anything only proves that he is still loyal to his relationships with his band members and friends, which I completely respect and admire given their long history. 


Did you have any connection to the story of John’s dad’s disappearance in 2007?
A – This event, in which John’s dad took a very, very long drive and ended up needing help, took place on November 2, 2007, the first Friday night of Duran’s run on Broadway.  John got the news that his dad was missing before the show.  I was actually at that show and I have to say that I couldn’t tell that anything was wrong.  As I’m sure you all are aware, I tend to focus on John during a show and I tend to be sensitive to heightened emotions.  Yet, I had no idea.  I give all the credit to John as he was such a professional that night even when I’m sure he was out of his mind with worry.
R – Nope. I was at home incubating (and very sick, I might add!).  Horrible story though. I can only imagine what that must have been like…and it’s a story that we all fear as our parents begin to really age.  
  

Were you surprised that John’s dad’s memory seemed stuck on his war experience?
A I wasn’t surprised by that.  In fact, I would expect that his memory would focus on those events as he got older and struggled more and more with memory.  It is so typical of long term memory to get stuck on those most traumatic moments.  I was glad to see that he talked enough for John to be able to get a glimpse of what he went through.  Obviously, he went through so much and saw so much horror during this death march that somehow he survived.  Based on the fact that this is the chapter is titled, “Learning to Survive”, clearly, that is the message John learned both from his parents and from his life.  He learned to survive.
R – I’m not at all surprised by this because it’s what the human mind does. It was a very sad chapter overall. 


Chapter 74:  Coachella, Indio, California, 17 April 2011
Do you agree with John that things were different with AYNIN versus RCM?
A – I absolutely agree that things were different.  He seems to focus on social networking and while I absolutely agree that social networking made a HUGE difference, I think there were other factors that made things different and seemed to keep the band separated from the fans.  For example, to many of us, the band didn’t follow their usual path by bringing in Timbaland.  That created a wall.  Then, Andy’s departure didn’t help.  Again, the distance between the band and the fans grew.  Lastly, the band didn’t know how or didn’t seem to reach out to the fans at all.  For a lot of us, we began to wonder if they even cared.  All of these things seem to feed that theory.
R – I can really only answer this as a fan and in my own experience – and yes, I think the two albums (and how they were made) were completely different. I’ve written more than a few articles on how removed I felt the band had always been from their fans.  One should remember that I grew up in the US. There were no fan letters from band members sent here – I think by the time they were on a majority of our minds in the 80’s they had “people” sending out responses for them, and we all know how crazy things were for the band back then.  For their own safety I really don’t think they could have reached out to fans. Then during the reunion, I recognized while they were standing there in front of us, it still felt very much as though they wanted to keep that mystique going, and by that time – I have to admit, I rolled my eyes at the idea a lot.  I think that for a while, there was a concerted attempt to create more of a demand by making them seem completely unavailable, untouchable, unreachable…even to fans.  That was a serious error in marketing, in my opinion. I think it took the band entirely too long to warm up to the idea that they should actually interact with fans once again, and in some ways I think they’re still paying the price for that.  A lot of fans simply walked away in favor of either supporting bands that actually seemed like they were not only thankful to their fans for being there (and not just saying the words at the end of every show) and wanting to get to know them and interact…or they just got busy with their everyday lives and kind of put concerts into that box labeled “childhood” or “adolescence”.  It happens. Then of course RCM came out, and in my opinion – if they weren’t already acting as if they didn’t want us around (longtime fans), that album certainly nailed that point home.  The album seemed to be created with the idea that they needed to take a huge departure and reach out to a younger fan base. I give them credit for taking that risk, even though I still feel that was a mistake.  I still stand by my assessments, that the album did absolutely nothing to help the band and did everything possible to turn long time fans away.  When they announced All You Need is Now, I was shocked they were really going to complete another album, and when it came out I cried silent tears of joy because they were finally beginning to accept who they are…and then at the same time they started embracing social media, and I give them credit for sticking with it.  I have enjoyed being a fan more in the last three or four years than ever, and I really doubt I’m alone. 

What is your reaction to the following quote?:  “At day’s end, my job is to be the catalyst for connectivity, to help bring people closer together.”
A – He’s absolutely right.  That is what anyone who has fans SHOULD do.  The focus should be about bringing people together.  The music may bring us to Duranland but it is the other fans and the friendships that develop that keep us here.  He knows this.  He gets this.  Clearly. 
R – Gosh, I’d swear I’ve read that somewhere before.

What did you think of the ending?  
I loved how he described in detail what he feels as the show starts and how there is “a million tiny seductions all at once.”  Again, John has a way with words that truly shows exactly what happens.  Likewise, the very last line, “And the music never sounded better,” was perfect.  Perfect.  As a decades old Duranie, he is right.  The music has never been better.
I just have to add that I really hope that they continue in this spirit.  I hope they keep embracing the band they really are and that Mark is able to allow them to expand upon the journey they began with AYNIN rather than having them completely reinvent themselves for the next album.  There is something to be said for not needing to reinvent the wheel, but they can certainly be proud of who and what they are – as they should. The last line is the best line – the music has never been better.  He is right.


Final Thoughts:
John ended the book with probably the saddest moment with his father’s passing and with an incredibly high moment at Coachella.  I think that is very telling.  John made it a point in saying that he learned an important lesson from his dad and that is how to survive.  It seems to me that John learned to survive through it all–good and bad, up and down, sad and happy.

-A

Book Discussion–In the Pleasure Groove (Chapters 70-72)

It’s book discussion Monday!  We are getting to the end of our discussion on John Taylor’s autobiography.  This week, we discuss chapters 70-72.  These chapters cover the years 1998-2003.  During this time, John dealt with the death of his mother and his new marriage to Gela.  Professionally, the band reunited and despite challenges faced, the reunion was successful and John maintained sobriety.  For many of us, this reunion reawakened our inner Duranie and many of us found ourselves participating in Duranland in amounts and intensity not seen since the 1980s.  With that context, let’s dive in!  As always, feel free to respond to the discussion questions posed and/or add your own!

Chapter 70:  A Different Kind of Profound
What were your thoughts while you read of the passing of John’s mother?
A – This is one of those chapters that I definitely found myself in tears.  I am fortunate to have both of my parents still with me and absolutely dread when one of them goes, partly because of what John talked about with his dad.  As John pointed out, after his mother died, his dad was never the same and found himself in isolation.  I’m sure my father would be the exact same way.  Despite my utter sadness reading this, I found myself relieved for John and his parents that he was sober for this event.
R – I swear that this book, or at least parts of it, were almost therapy (for me). I found myself relating to much of it, and probably in completely different ways, or at least on different levels, than John probably ever considered. My point is simply that many people, fans, friends and probably family alike – can probably find something in this book that is relatable and speaks to them.  Like many of you, I have lost a parent.  My dad was sick for the last three years of his life, and he spent the last three weeks of his life on a ventilator in the hospital.  It’s so strange how you can think you’re over the sharpest pains of grieving and then just one sentence can send you right back, feeling the knife dig in just a little farther to remind you that it is something that will be carried forever.  That’s how reading this chapter was for me.  

Chapter 71:  The Reunion of the Snake
Were you surprised by Gela’s role in encouraging the reunion?
A – I admit that I was.  It isn’t that I don’t think she is supportive.  I know that she is as I remember the big billboard Juicy posted in Times Square when Astronaut came out.  I also knew about that Juicy promo show in which Simon did a guest appearance.  In fact, I’ll include that here.  I think it is important for Duranies to watch it and see if the vibe towards the reunion was there.

Anyway, I just didn’t realize that it was Gela who proposed that Simon participate in this show. I’m grateful that she did.
R – I was very surprised, to be honest. I didn’t know Gela on any level prior to John’s return to the band. I wasn’t there at the time and I have no idea what really happened – but sometimes all it really takes to build a bridge is someone innocently providing the pathway to begin, and I think that was Gela’s role.  

Based on what John mentioned with the reunion, what do you think was the most challenging aspect of it?
A – The possible choices here are obvious, including having Warren leave, repairing relationships, managing the band and financial decisions, musical differences or lack of interest from the fans and the general public.  It seems to me that having Warren leave wasn’t tough, at least that was the impression I have from reading this.  I was surprised that John didn’t focus more on the manager and financial debates as Andy seemed pretty fixated on these elements.  Is that because Andy was given such a different percentage of their earnings?  Maybe.  Is it because, for John, other issues were more difficult?  Possibly.  Whatever the reason, it seems like the toughest element of the reunion, even though John didn’t mention much in detail, was repairing those relationships.  I knew that Nick was upset that John left but I didn’t realize that their relationship suffered more than brief disappointment.  Yet, of course, it makes that sense that it would.  It seems clear to me that we are all lucky that they were able to overcome enough to see the reunion through as it seems like it was fragile.  Very fragile.
R – I never felt completely confident in the reunion.  I don’t know that I recognized that at the time, but looking back – I think that’s why I was so set on seeing them as often as I did that first summer out (2003).  I have mentioned before that when it was announced that Andy wasn’t returning that I was shocked at how much I was not shocked. I think I saw it coming.  I’ve said many times that the reunion of the original five was so perfect, it just wasn’t meant to last – it was meant to be a precise moment in time, and that it was. I don’t believe there was ONE aspect more challenging than any other, it was simply “A Challenge”.  Did they meet the challenge?  Yes, I think they did.  I think they did what they set out to do – and while it might not be the most popular opinion, I believe that their time as that particular five person band was simply finished.  (I’ve also learned never to say “never”.)  

Chapter 72:  Osaka Time
This chapter is a tough one to discuss since so much of it deals with religion, God and spirituality.  Do you think that John addressed this the best way he could?
A – First, let me say that I think most people, most John fans, most Duran fans reading this chapter are interpreting this description of John’s spirituality through their own personal lenses of religion and spirituality.  What I mean by this is that we have all very strong feelings when it comes to this topic.  Thus, we are all reading this chapter and interpreting how we want to interpret it.  This isn’t a criticism of any reader as I’m sure I’m guilty of it, too.  My point here really is to say that John was very careful to not alienate anyone.  He admitted that he has a new version of God but did not specify much to that, other than the idea of a higher power.  It seems to me that John wanted to be open and truthful about what he thinks and feels but understands and respects others enough to not say too much.
R – I think John relayed what he felt was important to relay. I don’t personally have issues with what ever his relationship with spirituality might be, only that I’m glad he found whatever he needed to find to get through that particular moment in time for him; and that would have included being absolutely supportive had he said he had NO spirituality in that “power above” sense.  I guess I just feel that we all find our way through life, and there’s so much to have opinions about – in this one particular area I have no answers, and my beliefs are no better or worse than anyone else’s.  

What role did fans have in Osaka, do you think?
A – John ends this chapter by saying that the band still had it and the fans still wanted it.  It made me feel that it was the fans that pushed the reunion to keep going.  The band could see and feel that the fans were still here and still loved them.  That was enough of a reason to keep going even when tensions were high.
R – Do you know what strikes me most about the reunion?  The fact that the band seemed surprised by our reaction to them. I must really be living in a bubble, because there seemed to be no other possible reaction to the original five members reuniting.  There is very precious little of which I am absolutely sure of in life – but when the band announced this reunion, I had no doubt whatsoever that fans would embrace them as before. I knew I couldn’t possibly be alone – it was a dream come true that (at the time) I was convinced would never happen.  I remember proclaiming all over the boards at DDF (duranduranfans.com) that we – the fans – never really left them; but the band left us. I felt that way again after Andy left during the time of Red Carpet Massacre. They’re back now though, and this time, I’m hopeful they stick around.  


Final Thoughts:
In a recent book club, the section of chapters we read and discussed seemed to all fit into the idea of lessons learned.  These chapters seem to be the application of the lessons.  John worked hard to learn how to cope with difficult situations without the use of drugs and alcohol.  These chapters saw tests of his effort.  First, he had to deal with his mother’s death then he had to struggle through the difficulty of the reunion.  The band’s trip to Japan could have been a disaster for John and the band.  Instead, John found a way through and he and the band got stronger because of it.

On that note, we will finish the book next week by discussing the last remaining chapters of 73 and 74.  After that, Rhonda and I will present our thoughts of the book overall in the following week.

-A

 

Book Discussion–In The Pleasure Groove (Chapters 65-69)

Is it Monday already?  Where did the week go?  While I’m way less than thrilled that my weekend is over, I’m always happy to have a book discussion, especially when it is on John Taylor’s autobiography!  This week, we move on to Chapters 65-69.  These chapters cover right after the Wedding Album to John’s solo days (1994-1998/9).  Both Duran Duran and John Taylor faced a ton of changes during the time period.  Duran recorded an album of covers, Thank You, which was released in 1995.  John formed another side project, Neurotic Outsiders.  While this project was not long lasting, John’s time with Duran ended until the reunion in 1997.  The band moved on without him and he worked on a solo career.  Personally, he had a successful experience at rehab.  He also divorced his wife, Amanda, and met and married Gela, which resulted in a blended family.  Much to discuss!!!

Chapter 65:  A Million Tiny Seductions
Why do you think the chapter was called “A Million Tiny Seductions” when it really describing John hitting rock bottom?
A – I don’t have a good answer to my question, but one that I’m left wondering about.  Is it a reference to the drugs?  They seduced him a million times.  Could that be it?  Could it be that all of the seductions John had been involved with were not enough?  He still ended up unhappy and addicted until he sought out the help that he needed.
R – I really don’t think it’s was JUST the drugs. I think it was the fact that there were seductions around every single corner and yet none of them were ever enough.  I mean really – wasn’t that truly it?  The man had everything most of us every really even think of – and yet none of it was ever enough, and some of it was just way too much.  

Did you find any thing surprising about John’s decision to enter rehab?
A – In some ways, his story seemed common.  His last night of partying that he described in this chapter was bad, but not life altering.  Yet, it seems to me that it isn’t always some dramatic moment that leads to the decision to admitting that one needs help.  It also didn’t surprise me that John heard about the rehab facility and thought it wasn’t for him, at first.  I think that is common.  What did surprise me is that those around him didn’t seem to really get that John was suffering as much as he was.  Now, I’m not saying that to be critical.  It could have been that John was such a functional addict that people didn’t see it as a problem or that John doesn’t remember them being concerned.  It is just unusual.
R – I’ve been thinking a lot about that whole “English-way” thing.  I know from my own family they just don’t talk to one another! It seems to me, as the hopeless American, that they hide quite a bit and just keep going (but they don’t call it hiding).  My point being that I don’t think he would have gotten any of his bandmates to ever tell him that it was too much until it was too late.  Maybe John hid it well, maybe the band members had their own worries, and maybe it was just expected behavior.  I don’t know.  I did like the little tale about his assistant at the time who just kept driving and dared to say “You never know John, you might make some friends.”  Good on her for not giving in to his fear – because that’s exactly what all that was – fear. You know, if John Taylor ever said “F you” to me – well, he’d think twice before doing it again. Just saying. I’d have calmly stopped the car and told him to get out and walk the rest of the way to rehab, and those of you who really know me understand that I’m not kidding. Good times.  No, I wouldn’t have made a good assistant.  

Chapter 66:  Tucson
John mentioned that he blamed his parents for some of his problems while at rehab.  Does that fit with the rest of the book?
A – I think John did a marvelous job presenting himself and others as the complex people that they are.  While his love for his parents is obvious, he never said that they were perfect.  It seems to me that John had to walk through the process of acknowledging and forgiving his parents for being human in order to heal.
R – I’m not surprised he blamed his parents for some of his problems.  I am rather fond of the saying “No one gets through childhood unscathed.”…and that’s true.  I think it’s normal because our parents very much mold us into who we become to some extent…and parents are still human.  We make mistakes every single day (as I am told).  I think it is all part of the healing process, and I still believe this book is very much a love letter to his mom and dad as a way to honor their memory.  It’s not really about Duran Duran, although I think many out there see it that way. 

Chapter 67:  Day 31
Why do you think that John believed that it would be difficult to continue his career sober before he saw the interview with Michael Douglas?
A – John didn’t explain this very thoroughly but he did comment that magazines like NME taught him that he needed to be wasted.  Why would he need to be wasted?  As we know, NME was not kind to Duran ever.  They did not think that Duran deserved the success that they had.  So did he feel like he needed to be wasted to be able to blow off the negative feedback?  Was only able to be a rock star when he was wasted or so he thought?
R – You know, some part of me thinks that John Taylor, along with many many other young celebrities out there, really just didn’t get it – it being his life, his career, etc.  I came away from the entire book thinking that it must have been very difficult to reconcile your sense of self as an individual entity away from the celebrity self.  They seem to be two very different things, and I think it takes a certain amount of self-awareness and even maturity to be able to really handle celebrity.  It’s only natural to attach yourself to whomever that “onstage” persona might be, and navigating the span between the two must be incredibly difficult.  I really don’t think being a drug addict had anything to do with dealing with the negativity as much as it did for him to deal with real life – the time when he wasn’t onstage working and was trying to function as John Taylor.  Or Nigel for that matter.  Who was he supposed to be?  I think that was just as much of the issue as anything else.

Chapter 68:  A Fine Bromance
Why do you think John included Neurotic Outsiders versus something like his acting?
A – Clearly, he learned an important lesson from playing with this band, which was that he could have fun playing music again.  It didn’t always have to be career focused.  I also think it was important for him to be around other rock stars who were in a similar situation in celebrating their sober lives.  They probably acted as a support group of sorts for each other.  On a completely different and unrelated note, I love the song, Better Way, and was happy that John included something about it.
R – I think the lesson was important for him.  He needed to see if it was still fun.  I really don’t know what acting really was for John other than maybe an aside – could he do something else entertainment related?  I’m not really sure.  It’s all self-exploration when it comes down to it, but I can understand why he left acting out of the book.  

Chapter 69:  Gela
Did you feel like you understood why John left the band?
A – John didn’t go into too much depth for why he left Duran.  He mentioned how he had to travel less in order to really focus on his family and blending it successfullyWhat I find interesting is that I had forgotten he was still in the band in the last couple of chapters.  It seemed like Duran was the last thing on his mind.  While I’m sure that part of that happens after being in a career for awhile, but he didn’t talk about making Thank You or starting to work on Medazzaland.  It seems to me that John explains it more as he talks about his solo days.  He needed to see who he was or if he even existed outside of Duran Duran.
R – Admittedly, I am so fuzzy on details when it comes to this point in the history of Duran Duran. I don’t have the timeline straight in my head until I re-read what he says.  I was busy trying to define who *I* was during this period for very different reasons, so Duran Duran wasn’t really on my mind much either, I guess.  In my opinion, his quitting the band was as much of a statement as to the fact that John had finally figured out how to BE John as it was anything else. He was able to distinguish his own self from the band.  I have to applaud him for being able to walk away from that and just exist.  

What lessons do you think that John got from being solo?
A – Clearly, he learned two very important lessons.  First, he learned that he really could connect with people through music.  The machine of Duran had/has gotten so big that it must be hard for the band to think of making connections with individuals.  I’m sure it is far easier to think of us as “The Fans”, collectively, rather than a group of individual people who have something in common.  Second, he learned to really love playing live and that each gig should be approached with the idea that this gig must be the best one.
R – I think you pointed out all of the same points I was thinking!  In some ways, it is a shame that the Duran Duran “machine”, as you put it – got so out of control in the 80’s.  I don’t think it was just John that didn’t have any idea how to deal with us, “The Fans” on any sort of individual level.  I mean, let’s face it – it’s been many many years and I think it’s only just recently that they are even SORT of beginning to feel comfortable with us as people.  Sort of.  I can’t really blame them in some respects.  We’re very overwhelming as a whole.  As individuals – which might be easier to see with Twitter and Facebook, we might not be so bad, but it takes a long time to reprogram yourself to think that way after the days of the 80’s where we were a huge mob just after anything and everything we could get.  Anyway, it’s clear that he needed to see what it was like to connect with fans again.  Like he said, standing up in front of thousands was easy, but 8?  Maybe not quite as simple in a completely different way. 

Final Thoughts:
This section could be called the lessons learned part of the book.  It seems to me that John learned about himself, about the disease of addiction, about how to forgive and stop blaming, about how to stand on one’s own two feet, about how to really be in a family, about how fun music can be especially when making connections with others.  It seems to me that we could all benefit from remembering some of the more universal lessons ourselves.

Next week, we will be discussing Chapters 70-72.  This is a short section that covers his mother’s death and the reunion.  It should be interesting.  Until then, grab a beverage and chime in!

-A