Category Archives: Documentaries

New Wave: Dare to be Different Review

Have I mentioned how I love summer?  I’m not a fan of being outside or of the bugs and sunburn that follows but I do appreciate having time to do things I want to do but cannot during the school year.  One of the things on my list was to watch New Wave:  Dare to be Different, the documentary about New York’s WLIR radio station that played the heck out of new bands, including a lot of band’s that fell under the New Wave/alternative category.

I didn’t grow up anywhere near New York so I didn’t get to enjoy the radio station for myself.  No, I grew up near Chicago with a strange relationship to radio.  When I was little, I tuned into B96, the local Top 40 station.  By that point in the 1980s, Duran was already huge so they played a lot of them along with the other popular early/mid 80s artists.  More alternative artists were not played, however.  Then, in 1985, I moved further away from the city.  This new town lacked any real radio stations to speak of.  Years later, when I was in high school, I discovered that I could get some Chicago stations very late at night and some of them did, indeed, play more alternative.  Once I had that lifeline, I swear my life turned around.  Anyway, so I can definitely appreciate how a radio station could mean so much to people.

This well-organized documentary definitely gave a history of the radio station and the context with which it was created.  WLIR was born in 1959 in Long Island and changed formats a few times until in 1982, it embraced new wave/alternative.  While the station chose this new direction to stand out, to avoid being lost in the shuffle, it ended up creating something more than a radio station.  The documentary showed how it began a culture of sorts that affected both bands and fans until they lost their FCC license.

I learned a lot by watching this documentary.  One aspect of the station that earned my respect is how the station was able to introduce the New York area to a lot of amazing bands, including Duran Duran.  They did this in a variety of ways, according to the documentary.  First, they embraced imports from the UK.  I loved that radio stations employees would go to the airport to meet the planes that carried records from London.  Clearly, they recognized that the UK was the center of a lot of great, new music then.  Second, they didn’t follow the usual directions from record labels, which wanted to dictate when a single should be released.  Instead, WLIR played songs when they felt like it.  Lastly, they also spent a lot of time just combing through cassettes listening for songs that were gems.  I totally appreciate forward thinking, dedicated people willing to put the time and work into something like new music.

Of course, the fact that this station was willing to play these new bands definitely helped the bands find success.  On top of selling more albums, bands also began playing to bigger and better venues.  One thing that the station did was have what was called, “Screamer of the Week.”  The idea was that fans could vote on which song ranked as best song of the week, which led to heavy rotation.  Apparently, Duran had 13!  When I heard this, I had to smile.  I remember that MTV used to do something similar where people could call in and vote for the favorite video.  One time, I ended up calling like 25 times to ensure that Save a Prayer would win.  Needless to say, my parents were less than thrilled once they received their phone bill.  Oops.

If I didn’t think that this station was cool enough, I loved when I found out that the fans of the station developed a culture.  People’s hairstyle and clothes began to shift to more of the New Wave look.  They began regularly attending clubs that played the music they were hearing on the radio.  Soon enough, other radio stations followed.  Clearly, the “anyone can do it”, punk attitude appealed to more than just listeners in the New York area.

Beyond the great history represented in this documentary and the fabulous music that was played, I have to acknowledge that I enjoyed seeing our friend, Lori Majewski, featured as well as one Mr. Nick Rhodes.  The best part of Nick’s appearance?  I adored the story he told about the first time that the band landed in New York in 1981.  According to Nick, they were super excited until the limo turned away from Manhattan, towards to Long Island.  That said, they spent a lot of money using the vending machines in the Holiday Inn there.  That is a pretty hilarious image!  I wonder what those vending machines sold!

The documentary created a longing for me for other entities that are willing to buck the system.  This station didn’t need to follow format or expectations.  The DJs played what they wanted and weren’t afraid to show what they thought and felt.  For example, one DJ played I Want to be Sedated by the Ramones over and over again after Reagan won a second term as President.  As the documentary ended, I felt a wave of sadness that this type of radio station seems long gone, but I also felt pure joy in just being a part of the generation that appreciated New Wave.  I feel fortunate in that I was a kid in the 80s.

If you have a chance to see this documentary, watch it.  You don’t have to be a native to the New York/Long Island area to enjoy it.  Plus, did I mention that it has great music and Nick Rhodes?  Those are two great reasons, if you ask me!

-A

I’ve Seen You on TV: Duran Duran on BBC Four

Watch anything good lately?  Do anything fun?  I did!  Yesterday, I was able to catch the two new specials on Duran Duran that aired on BBC Four.  Thanks to friends who pointed me to tvcatchup.com I was able to watch!  I had to watch while the shows aired, which was fine.  Luckily, I had time to do so.  As I watched, Rhonda did as well, which allowed us to exchange our reactions via Twitter and text messages.  If you haven’t had to chance to watch, I recommend heading over to Duran Duran Argentina’s Facebook page here as both videos can be found there!

When thinking about this blog, I pondered which direction should I go.  Should I review the shows themselves?  I could even though I didn’t watch for that purpose.  No, I wanted to just enjoy.  That doesn’t mean that I didn’t take notice to various things like neither Warren nor Dom weren’t mentioned or that whole albums were left out.  Yet, I didn’t want to let those things bother me.  Therefore, I don’t think I want to review the shows in that way.  I could at a later time but…not right now.  I would want to rewatch them first before, anyways.

Clearly, the focus of the blog has to be something else.  After I got done watching yesterday, I tried to get back to my to do list but I found myself thinking about how much has changed and what hasn’t.  When we started this blog, we had this idea that we would celebrate fandom, work to understand it as well as do the same with Duran Duran and our fan community.  This meant that we were critical at times, held up mirrors to ourselves and fellow fans, etc.  Looking back, fandom felt super important to me.  It was at the top of my list. Now, I cannot say the same.  It has nothing to do with Duran Duran or even fandom.  No, it has more to do with my life and circumstances out of my control.  My priorities have changed, which has caused my relationship with fandom to shift.

When fandom was essential, I felt like I had the freedom, the time, the ability to be a critical thinker, to be someone who loves to analyze what I saw, heard and read.  Now, fandom needs to do something different for me.  It must be the source of joy, fun, and love.  As Rhonda and I watched the shows yesterday, both of us were reminded of why we love this band so much.  When I watch shows that capture the band’s history, not only do I get to hear so much great music but I’m also reminded of their history, which in many ways feels like mine.  As the band talked about Ordinary World, for example, I instantly thought back to when that song captured my attention and meant the world to me as I adjusted to a significant change.  When the reunion came up, Rhonda right away pointed that this is when our story started.  All of this fills my heart with a joy that I struggle to describe.

Then, of course, the history of the band was followed with the band members sharing their influences.  Before that show started, I didn’t know if I was going to like it.  I worried it would be them introducing something and then watching that something for awhile.  I figured that the band would be talking only for a couple of minutes.  Instead, it was like watching a conversation between them, reminding me of the clear friendship between them.  Likewise, it showed their personal sides rather than the famous, rock star sides.  I loved it.

What did all of this tell me?  Some things have not changed.  I love Duran Duran as much as I ever have.  The best time is sharing that love with friends even if it is just through social media or text messaging.  That said, because of where I am at, fandom, Duran Duran needs to stay in that “joy only” box.  I cannot see myself getting upset about any little detail that might have annoyed me or made me question this, that or the next before.  No, Duran is just going to be my fun, happy place.

-A

Rock Legends: Duran Duran

This past Wednesday, I saw a little show entitled “Rock Legends” on AXS TV.  This isn’t a channel I normally turn to but did this night after I did a search for Duran Duran on my TV Guide app.  What is the connection?  Apparently, this series focuses on different legends of music and this week was Duran Duran’s turn.  I had no choice but to turn in and watch it, right?  I am always curious about what they include with these shows, how accurate they are, etc.

Originally, I was going to blog while I watched but I found myself just sitting on the couch in slight shock.  The show followed the usual format of providing their history, including how John and Nick formed the band, the connection to the Rum Runner, the New Romantic period, etc.  Yet, even with the history, the show provides…interesting interpretations.  For example, the reason that the band stopped wearing New Romantic clothing was because they knew that they wouldn’t “go anywhere” with that look, according to the show.  That’s new to me.  I knew that they moved away from the look but I had not heard/read that it was solely to hit commercial success.  Did they not have some success with Planet Earth?  That seemed to be pretty New Romantic in style to me, especially the video.  Another interesting statement was how having Princess Diana claim them as her favorite band increased their stardom and success, internationally.  Apparently, their music or live performances had nothing to do with their increase in success.

Then, there were the facts presented that I found questionable.  For example, at one point, they start talking about the band’s remixes and how they were very creative with them.  This, of course, is true.  Yet, the statement that followed had to do with the fact that the b-side of the singles were remixes.  Sometimes, that is true.  Sometimes, however, the b-sides were new original songs, but, of course, they didn’t dwell on that too much as they moved back to discussing videos with a focus on the Rio video.  The description was like a “Hollywood fantasy” with “conspicuous consumption”.  Of course, what is missed is that the consumption did not win the girl for any of them.  Why?  They were losers in the video.  It is funny, but, somehow, people miss that for the focus on wealth and fantasy.  The miss the humor.  Then again, the yacht for the video was described as Simon’s yacht.  sigh

Speaking of misses, there were some errors in the show that caught my attention.  The first one I noticed was that John and Nick had supposedly met at Birmingham Polytechnic, which most Duranies could tell isn’t true.  They lived around the corner from each other and were childhood friends.  Second, they made it seem like Andy was the third member to join as opposed to Roger.  A few minutes later into the show, the “experts” discussed the Girls on Film video.  One “expert” stated that Girls on Film was “consciously” made for the Playboy channel.  Hmm….I always heard that it was for nightclubs that were showing videos.  Perhaps, the error that really shocked me was when they called Seven and the Ragged Tiger the band’s second studio album.  Huh?!?!  Even as the show moves into 1984 and their description of Sing Blue Silver, I pondered where in that documentary does it show Duran Duran on tour buses as described in the show?!  I remember planes and limos.  Heck, I remember boats, even, but tour buses?!  Finally, I didn’t realize John left Duran Duran because he was more interested in Power Station.  While I’m aware that Power Station recorded a second album in the late 1990s, John didn’t actually appear on that album or go on that tour.

Beyond the errors, there were other choices in the show that made me almost recoil.  The biggest example of this is how they chose to cover the band’s career.  Like many of these shows, the majority of the time is allotted to the early days and the massive commercial success.  What this means, of course, is that the rest, which covers about 30 years has to be squeezed in an half hour.  This small amount of time means that some albums barely get talked about or…not at all, including All You Need Is Now.  While I appreciated the inclusion of Paper Gods, I was not okay with them skipping All You Need Is Now.  Frankly, I want all the albums discussed, to some extent.  Perhaps, they would have had space to discuss that album if they had not talked Arena, the film.  I think that is one that most Duranies overlook and with good reason.  Another choice made by the show that didn’t surprise me but bothered me is how they talked about the band and the fans.  For example, the very first line of the show is from some “expert” who says, “Duran Duran was so superficial, they’re deep.”  insert an eye roll here  Superficial?  On the contrary, I would argue that there is much more to Duran Duran than what is seen on the surface and I’m very sorry that this man cannot see that.  A few minutes later, they are described as a band that “reveled in being pop stars”.  Again, I would argue that this person only saw the surface.  As for the fans, the only time Duranies were mentioned were as “screaming” fans, fans who were upset by Nick, Roger, or Simon getting married or in relation to the band being “pin-ups” and “teen idols”.

Yet, of course, with all of my criticism, I always enjoy seeing shows on Duran Duran.  There is always a part of me that watches with a little bit of pride especially when a show wants to acknowledge their legendary status.  That said, there are many documentaries out there that do a better job providing the band’s history while describing their success, including ones like Behind the Music.  Perhaps, I also appreciate that these other shows feature the band members themselves telling the story versus music “experts”.  Plus, whenever I hear significant errors or stereotypes about the band and their fans, it is hard for me to love the show.

-A