Category Archives: Duran Duran

Can they still be icons?

This morning I decided to do something productive that I’d been putting off, and that was going through the RSS feeds that I’d been ignoring since late July. Let me just say – there were thousands, and I have been a very bad girl for not keeping up with my reading. One article in particular caught my eye.  It was written by a fan-blogger, and the blog asked the question “Did Social Media Kill the Rock Star Icon?”

Fair enough. This is a question that Amanda and I struggle answering for various reasons. I remember being ten and falling in love with complete abandon with a rock star or two. Or five. I sent letters, then would trudge up the lawn to my mailbox each day after school to get my reply. As the weeks wore on, I realized sadly, that my confession of love and devotion was no more special than any others that they may have received. (And in adult hindsight I can see that it might have been flat out creepy to them to get a letter from a ten-year-old!)  I never did hear back from any of the “stars” I decided to write as a kid, but that never stopped me from continuing to tape pinups and posters of them to my walls, or from listening to their albums, or going to their movies. In my experience, if anything it made me even more curious about them, made me dream a little bigger, and in some ways – put them up on even taller pedestals.

These days, the scenario is quite a bit different, as Don de Leaumont – the author of the article mentions. “In these days of the internet and various social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter, it seems that the once unattainable rock stars can now be one of your thousands of friends on Facebook as they converse with you via their “wall” or their “tweets.” As a 38 year old fan of music, I find this to be a pretty amazing thing. I mean, it’s absolutely insane for me to think that I can now be in direct contact with the very artists that seemed to be larger than life. Just a couple of years ago, I wrote an editorial called “Twisted Sister Saved My Life.” I posted it on my blog, I went to Twitter and contacted Dee Snider, and within a few hours I had a direct message from Mr. Snider himself telling me just how much he loved my article.” 

I think that most Duran fans can relate in some small way to what Don is saying. In fact, just last night Amanda and I were talking on the phone, and this subject came up.  It wasn’t that long ago – during the days of Astronaut, when the band seemed completely untouchable, unreachable, and not the least bit human to all but the luckiest fans. In present-time, the scenario is different. At least several members of the band are “reachable” on social media. They post on Facebook, they send out Tweets, and many fans out there have met them in social settings away from the stage. Does this really make them any less of an icon to us though?


I suppose to some small degree, when you realize that the band can read tweets and respond at-will, that sure – some of the mystique vanish. Funny though, we’ve been retweeted by John Taylor a couple of times in the past years, and yet Amanda and I still get just as excited. It’s still John Taylor, and we’re still fans. When it happens, you can almost count on the fact that I’m on the phone as quickly as possible to Amanda – sometimes even interrupting her teaching day to share good news. I know Amanda and I still appreciate the music and the whole experience just as much now as we did when we started attending gigs together. Our 20th gig together was every bit as fun (and then some) as our first, although I will say I had less trouble holding the camera steady this time. Mostly. I think both of us still get completely star-struck at times. (Hey, YOU try not getting a little shy and tongue-tied when you’ve got a guitar player right in your face.) I still get giggly, and I still have trouble resisting the urge to look around when I think one of them is looking right at me, because really??? Looking at me? IMPOSSIBLE! Those are moments I refuse to trade, for all of the retweets in the world. I would imagine most fans feel the same, because that feeling is magical. It transports us back to being “tweens” again, if even just for a moment.  It makes us all feel young, beautiful and vibrant….even if you already ARE still young, beautiful and vibrant!  


Don de Leaumont goes on “These days young people don’t even know of a time where talking to your favorite rock star was a truly magical occasion or in some cases just a dream. I can remember standing in the freezing cold outside of the Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA waiting to meet Skid Row after a sold out show. We waited for almost an hour and gave up because we were freezing. These days, Skid Row bassist Rachel Bolan is one of my Facebook friends who have conversed with me a few times. It’s insane for me to think that this is all possible yet there is a whole generation of young people who take this for granted and think that this is how it always was….


I hope that the young people out there reading this realize just how lucky they are to have the accessibility to their favorite bands. Fan letters have now been turned to Facebook posts and tweets which sometimes earn them immediate replies. While this is very exciting a side of me feels bad for them. I feel for them that they don’t know what it’s like to idolize a musician or band so much that they have to use their imagination to think about what they are really like. I feel that they don’t know what it’s like to put a pen to a piece of paper and scrawl out a few pages of words, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and send it off with hopes of getting a reply. Social Media really does seem to have killed the rock god and made them all just normal people with Facebook pages, instant messenger programs, and Twitter accounts. Again, this isn’t a horrible thing. It’s just different and something I never thought I would see.”


I’m not really sure how spot on he really is there. I know John Taylor has a Twitter account and a Facebook page, but that doesn’t make him normal.  Wait, maybe I phrased that wrong.  Sorry, John.  I just mean that he’s still a rock star, because it’s still his CHOICE  as to whether he actually chooses to reply to a fan. For that matter I know Dom Brown has a Facebook and a Twitter and if it even seems like he’s replied in my general direction I’m as giddy as can be, and I know I’m not the only one. No really, I know there’s a few of you out there because I’ve seen you post! Quit hiding!  


My oldest is fifteen, and while she does have a few favorite bands, I’ve spoken to her about this very subject and her feeling is that while Facebook and Twitter can be fun, she’s learned rather quickly that just because the possibility for access to these people exists, it doesn’t mean that everyone gets a reply. She feels that it’s nearly the same as having a piece of fan mail answered back in MY day. I really don’t know. I think it’s far more “immediate” these days, but I see her point. She’s not the type to sit down and write a letter to a rock star, or any kind of star really – and part of that is my fault, I think. She claims it’s “creepy and weird” to exchange tweets or even Facebook posts with someone from one of the bands she likes – she says it’s because she knows she’s only fifteen, and so if they’re willing to talk to someone her age, she has to wonder where their head is at. (Yes, those are really her words and yes…maybe she’s a little smarter than I am…or was at her age….) She watches how I behave now, what I comment on, and she sees what things I tend to cringe over when it comes to fandom, and she’s just learned to behave with a smidgeon more dignity at a very young age. She laughs when I get excited over something I’ve gotten in email or see on Facebook or Twitter. When I told her the story of my love letter to a American gymnastics Olympian back in the 80’s, she openly winced and said “Gross Mom, that is just gross! Aren’t you embarrassed now?” Well, I am now dear daughter. Thanks! (Kids have this fantastic talent of reducing you to nothing, don’t they?) Truth be told, she thinks I’m completely crazy with all of the traveling I’ve done, although she did admit she has great respect for the writing I’ve done and the various things that Amanda and I are currently working on. I guess she can live. For now.


More from Mr. de Leaumont: “Either way, I have to say that it’s a double edged sword for me. One side of me absolutely loves the accessibility that social networking has given me to some of my childhood heroes and other favorite bands. At the same time, a side of me misses that childhood vision that I had of these guys as I looked at their posters on my wall saying, “Someday I’m going to meet you, shake your hand, and thank you for the music you’ve given me. You’ll sign my albums, I’ll get my photo with you, and I will display it proudly.” 


I guess I’m behind, because I still very much have those visions. The posters, too. For me – I still look at the band and feel very much the same. I am a fan and they are still my icons. (but I’m not stealing anyone’s cigarette butts!)  What about the rest of you?  Do you think they’ve lost their “icon” status due to social media?  Let me know – make a comment, drop a line!


-R


PS – I’m not going to steal Amanda’s thunder,  but I hear it’s STILL easier to meet the President of the United States and get a photo than it is to meet any member of Duran Duran…..just saying.  

A journey indeed

Crazy stuff has been happening lately. Things that I just never gave much thought about, and other things that I still can’t quite ascertain – I just know things are happening. I can sense things changing (both inside and around me), but I am just allowing them to happen. That right there is a MUCH different path than I normally take. I’m trying not to question anything, just to take opportunities as they come – honestly and without judgement. Last night as I was putting my four-year-old to bed she asked me the strangest question. She wanted to know if dreams ever come true. Now, in her four-year-old mind I know she was really wondering if there was ever any chance of her becoming a princess and ruling over a kingdom in a beautiful pink gown with a jeweled crown to match, but I took her question seriously and gently. I told her that there were things that I never thought would ever come true in my life that I’ve been able to do, in very recent years no less – and that I didn’t think she should ever stop dreaming. Sometimes even the craziest dreams can become reality! She wanted to know exactly what I was talking about, so I gave her a few very easy examples that seemed to satisfy her enough to get her to go to sleep. (…And I’m not going to lie here – after 9pm, that’s really the goal. We read a book together, and then it’s off to bed for her so that I can finally have a few minutes of peace.)  As I exited her room and went upstairs, I continued to ponder her innocent question.

You know, back when I came up with the insane idea to start this blog, it was merely a way to get the thoughts that were in my head organized somewhere. I’ve said I didn’t think anyone would read it, and mostly – I still stand by that comment. When people come up to Amanda and I at shows and get togethers and say they read the blog, I’m still really surprised. Yes, I can access our stats here, but I think it lies. (and it really does!) I’m also really thankful when someone says they read, only because if it helps someone else or it gives someone the motivation to come to a fan get together, knowing that at least the possibility exists that they will not be eaten alive, but instead welcomed, then I feel like I’ve done something positive. No one should have to go to shows by themselves, or sit at home watching New Moon on Monday alone, darn it.

The point of course is that I had no plan when we started, only that we begin. It is not really an accident that the very day I wrote our first blog was also my dad’s birthday. He’d passed away a couple of years prior at the time, and as anyone who has lost a parent (or anyone) knows – the birthdays can be tough. I’ll be fine for months on end and then suddenly I’ll just sit up and realize, and the pain is easily as bad as it was as I stood up at his memorial, recalling stories of my dad and I together. So on that first day as I started poking at the keys, trying to find a good way to explain who we were and what we were doing, my dad memory was heavy on my heart, and blogging was my way, IS my way, of coping.

I still really don’t think I have a plan, and when someone wants to know what my “end” goal is, I can’t really say. I just don’t know, and I don’t really like being forced into coming up with an answer. Right now I just want to finish the book and get it properly published. I want to keep blogging and I want to let whatever else is going on just happen naturally. I’ve never been good at just letting things happen – and I’ve got to tell you all – the things in my life that I’ve sort of “forced” through haven’t necessarily ended up being the best! Coincidence?? Maybe in some cases, in others? Probably not. I just know that something is out there in the distance and I’m trying not to ruin it by over-thinking or over-planning. If this sounds familiar to you – as in perhaps you read it this morning in a blog by none other than John Taylor, you would not be wrong in making such a connection.

When I logged onto Facebook this morning, I saw he’d written a blog, and like the rest of you – I clicked on the link for it right away. Wanna read it? You can find it right here. John Taylor is an amazing individual. Yeah, yeah – I know all of you already think that and have since the 80’s. The thing is, back in the 80’s I steered clear of John, primarily because I didn’t want to try and claim to be a John-girl and have my fellow Duranie friends after my hide. I paid attention, but I didn’t fawn over him. (Much. I AM human, you know.) The thing is, John’s writing is so pure and so real, how can I not notice? His writing inspires me (and I know he inspires Amanda) to keep writing, keep blogging, and to keep going. Who knew that the bass player from Duran Duran would be the one to motivate me?!? Not this girl. It’s not just about sharing his story, either. Anyone can write a memoir. Some are interesting, and others just feel like words on a page. The quote he used from his motivational book is so, so true. “what does not come from the heart does not reach the heart”. John’s book, his blogs and even his music comes from the heart. That’s why each of those things reach me. 

Just as John is saying that he doesn’t really know where it’s all going and that it’s a process, that’s how I’m seeing all of this blogging and writing with me. I haven’t had that many out of this world experiences – I mean, I didn’t nail a dream job (I don’t even know what a “dream job” would even mean), I haven’t necessarily met my idols or anything quite that obvious, it’s just a case where I know, for the very first time in my life, that I’m on the right path. That has to be worth something, doesn’t it? While it’s true that we (Amanda and I) do not have nearly the audience that someone like John Taylor might have, nor do we have aspirations of  becoming rock stars or professional groupies, the affirmations are indeed the same.

Some personal comments – just in case John Taylor ever comes across this blog. I can’t even believe you’d ever worry that writing a book WASN’T a good idea!!  I worried that you would give away too much of yourself. I too wondered as Gela did, about how you felt now that people know more about you. I guess that must be the line you walk – giving away without giving too much. I can understand and respect that. Sometimes as fans we question whether you’re (not specifically YOU, but any one in the public eye) do things purely because you want to share or because you want whatever you can get out of us. It’s a sick game at times, and I think fans read way too much into some of the most simple things. It’s something I struggle with myself on occasion – no one likes to be taken for a fool, but yet if you don’t leave yourself open, life can be very constrictive. People constantly question if you (yes YOU) are only on Twitter because you have something to sell, and perhaps that really is the case at times – as I’m fond of reminding people – being a rock star is still a JOB when it comes down to it. You can only give so much before you have to return to your reality. Your family, your personal friends. Your life. The fact is, I still believe you’re there and here because you want to be. I’m enjoying the journey, and it seems you are as well, John. Isn’t that really the point?

-R

We’ll all be famous for just fifteen minutes…

Is it just me?

Maybe so.

I have this nifty little calendar that Amanda made for me a few years back that tells me what the day is in Duran Duran history. Every morning, I can see what she’s going to post as the daily tidbit before I get online. This is helpful only because I feel like I’m sort of on top of things, and also because sometimes – I even remember what the date is. (Laugh if you must, but it’s reality for me, dammit.) This is the time of year I enjoy most because there are a lot of things on that calendar that I recall in fairly recent memory, so typically as I’m getting ready I’m thinking about whatever was on the calendar for the day. Today I noticed that on this date in 2003, the band received the Q Lifetime Achievement Award. I remember a bunch of those sorts of awards happening in the days of the reunion, and I also remember feeling less-than-elated at the time, which might be contrary to what many others felt. I’m not really sure.

While I don’t specifically remember the Q award, I do remember a couple others. It seemed as though the band was getting honored quite a bit back in 2003 and 2004. I was seeing them in magazines, the whole thing felt a little surreal and even a bit deja vu. If I’d seen them on the cover of Tiger Beat, I probably would have marched right into a therapist’s office for a little one on one time, to be honest. I kept thinking to myself that while the awards were nice and all, it seemed just a little, oh-I-don’t-know….CONTRIVED, maybe?? As a Duranie, I would have had to have been living under a rock not to know that the original band had gotten back together by that time, and I just kept thinking that while all of the recognition was nice enough for the band, did it really took them getting back together in order for it to happen? Really??

The award I remember most clearly was the MTV Lifetime Achievement Award, probably because of the bizarre way it seemed to unfold. The band had come on stage to present Best Dance video, and yet there was Kelly Osborne and Avril Lavigne standing at the podium.  Simon, bless him, starts in with the presentation and Kelly, not to be outdone – starts in with HER presentation, talking about their videos, and then says “But you know what f—ing sucks? You never won a VMA!” So then Nick, again – bless his heart – tries to somehow fix the situation and move the process ahead by mentioning that the VMA’s weren’t even around then. By this point, it’s clear that the train had left the station with no one at the wheel. (Wheel? Helm? I don’t even know what drives a train….or what you call it!)  And to make matters “even better”, as Kelly is telling everyone to “Check this out” and looks up at the video screen…to no avail…there is no video, and then there IS video but no sound. Because this is the MTV VMA’s….and there is no sound. Fascinatingly poetic, in my opinion. Finally, as the band is standing there looking only mildly bewildered and uncomfortable (as was I, in my seat at home), some guy comes on stage and silently passes them their trophies.  Kelly takes the reigns again to loudly announce that on behalf of MTV, here are their Lifetime Achievement Awards. And the crowd goes wild.

Sort of. In a very confused sort of way, although they did stand up and give an ovation. Kind of like I was at home, trying to decide if this was some sort of lame joke, or reality.

The band laughs hysterically, and I couldn’t really blame them because let’s face it – how ridiculously fucked up can one award presentation really get? Especially one that should have happened years prior, although as Nick was kind enough to remind us – they didn’t exist back then. True, so forgive me for what I said before…and what I’m about to say here. It all felt so “last minute” and thrown together – as if they had an extra five awards, didn’t know who to give them to, and decided to just give them to the band at the last second before they went on stage. I’m sure it all didn’t even come about that way, but the trouble was, it felt that way as a viewer. I found a clip of the video online – it’s not very well synched (read: not at ALL synched) with sound/video because it’s from an Italian feed (I couldn’t find one from the US at all!), but you’ll remember as you watch.

Yes, there were plenty of lifetime achievement awards given to the band during that period of time, and yes – there were moments of complete validation for everyone – band and fans alike. In contrast to the VMA train wreck, there were the British Music Awards, which in many ways I felt far exceeded the VMA experience. Not only did I feel as though the award was given at the right place and time, it felt dignified and proper.

This award was everything it was meant to be, and as a fan I could not have been prouder that night when Simon made his speech, when John said thank you to the producers and directors they’d worked with, when Andy took the time to thank the fans, their friends and their families, or when Nick thanked Warren and Wendy, or even when Roger said “Let’s play some music!”  

It’s funny though, this morning when I read the “This Day in Duran History”…it wasn’t the British Music Awards that came to mind first. For me it was the VMA’s, and how incredibly overdue and out of place the entire thing felt. How, with every single article I read and award the band received during that time, I kept wondering why it’d taken the rest of the freaking world so long to figure out what I had known all along. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they all were able to finally sum it up and come out with 5 the way I had, but really – was it ever that tough to understand?

Naturally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Duran Duran is not the only band in the stratosphere that this has happened with. Hardly. Pick any band/solo artist that was big at one point, settled back into relative obscurity (as far as American radio and media is concerned) and then come back out with the “original band” or God forbid let someone die – and suddenly the world is overcome with an outpouring of emotion and respect that was not to be found previously. It’s not just music that this happens for, either. There is a reason why when an artist dies their work becomes infinitely more collectible with increased value – and no, it isn’t just because there’s a finite amount available. (Although obviously that is certainly part.)

Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to see the band have their moments and I know they still have plenty ahead. I was overjoyed to finally have some validation as a fan from some of these (to be blunt) idiots that wrote them off decades earlier as being a band for little girls.   But, when it was all said and done, those awards did nothing to show me I was right about the band all along. I already knew how unique, special and worthy they were, and how incredible it is that they continue making the music that is still a very rich part of the soundtrack to my life.

-R

Book Discussion – Wild Boy (Chapters 4-6)

We continue with our discussion of Andy Taylor’s book this week, focusing on chapters 4, 5 & 6.  Like last week, Amanda’s comments are in blue.

Chapter Four

R:  The chapter opens with a description of how/when Andy met Tracey.  I’ve always been curious about the relationships between the band and their significant others. Each of the members are so different, and naturally the relationships they have with the people surrounding them have extremely different dynamics as well.  For Andy, Tracey seems to be the person who grounds him, who keeps him whole…and in several places, Andy refers to her as an angel.  He clearly has great respect and pride for her, and it’s clear that their relationship has gone the distance at least in part due to his reverence.

Andy comments that “By the time I was twenty, I’d played hundreds, if not thousands, of gigs in different countries, but for the first time I had something worth sharing in life.” (Page 82) I thought this was such a sad statement, as if only by having fame and some money that only THAT was worth sharing…and then later on the same page Andy comments that many girls flocked to the band because “they needed what we had, but Tracey didn’t need any of it.” Indication that at least to some degree, Andy appreciated that Tracey stood on her own two feet and that her relationship to him wasn’t driven out of “need”, but rather out of mutual admiration and respect. I would imagine that this was, and probably still is, a common problem for the band, or any band for that matter.

As we all know, Andy marries Tracey the following year, and as I’m sure many of us could have guessed, there was some discussion as to whether this would affect the fan base.  Would fans be upset that Andy was getting married – assuming that “Well, that’s the first one, I wonder how long it’ll be before they’re all gone and married!” As most fans would probably recognize, Andy was never really marketed as “the sex symbol” for the band in the way that perhaps John and Simon were.  Each of the band members did have their own role to play though, and I can remember hearing about Andy’s wedding (and seeing pictures) in Tiger Beat magazine.  I remember seeing the top hats and the picture of Andy & Tracey – and I can also remember thinking that he was the first one.  I guess I did wonder how long it would be before the rest of them were taken, but to be fair – I was not even quite twelve when they got married. It was hardly realistic for me to think ANY of them would A) Notice I existed or B) Wait a good ten to fifteen years for me. So, I got over it all pretty fast. Sure, Roger stayed my favorite for many, many years, through marriage(s), children, divorce (his), remarriage (also his) ….we all need fantasies to get us through the rough times, don’t we?  I think for most fans, we recognized the fairy tale for exactly what it was.

A:  I noted that this chapter held the first real mentions of significant others.  Roger’s girlfriend and later wife, Giovanna, was mentioned before but not in any detail.  I found Andy’s courtship with Tracey to be very sweet.  As Rhonda mentioned, there was a great deal of admiration and respect there.  She definitely seemed to bring stability to Andy.  As he stated on page 82, “…she brought stability into my life at a time when I could easily have slipped into a different lifestyle that I would have later regretted.”  That’s a big deal.  It also seems like when they had a chance to spend time together, they made a point of getting away from the insanity of Duran Duran, such as buying a house more out in the country or riding horses. 

R:  The other major event discussed in this chapter was the incident in Germany.  There was a bar fight leading to a night in the hospital for Roger (who was apparently very, very lucky) and John severely hurting his hand.  I have to be honest here.  I still don’t really understand what happened that night.  I’m not at all sure ANYONE does, and I definitely know I never heard any of this story before this book came out.  I just wasn’t aware, even if I should have been by now.  The one thing I do know is that this single incident changed the entire dynamic of the band for Andy going forward.  I really don’t understand why though.  Perhaps it’s that because I am so far removed, I’m not understanding the subtleties, or that because the story feels so disconnected and disjointed that much of the details are being left out.  Andy seems to feel badly on one hand that he wasn’t there to help out, but on the other hand, he seems at least partially relieved that he had made the decision to stay in.  I can’t honestly blame him – it sounded like a nasty beating even though at this point I still don’t understand why John punched his hand into that light fixture.  Perhaps Andy explains it best when he says that John was angry with himself.  I don’t think anyone but John truly knows.  The one VERY telling comment that Andy makes here that is worth discussing “I think you can forgive anything when someone is suffering, but in my view John had either meant to punch the light, or he’d been so out of control that he’d done it by accident – and either way he needed help.” (Page 93)

If that is in fact the case, that John needed help – why is it that no one, not one single person in that “Band of Brothers” didn’t make the attempt?  Lack of maturity?  Hindsight?  Is this a case of the band failing John?  By Andy’s own admittance, nothing was ever done.  He says in the last page of this chapter “Did we ever sit down and talk about it?  Was there ever any consideration of whether John or anyone else needed any help coping with the intense pressure of constantly being pursued? The answer is no.  We were just glad to et off the road. Deep down inside, it was the first time that we realized how fragile we were and how bit the ramifications could be if any of us went off the rails”….”We had to understand that none of us could afford to have a bad day, and from this point on there could be no more days off. Ever.” (Page 98)

Isn’t that the truth? The entire Duraniverse comes to a screeching halt and screaming prevails whenever something goes wrong – and I have to admit, that has got to be daunting.  Just recently I had a discussion with Amanda about something I’d noticed at a show, and in turn she shared that she’d noticed a member who doesn’t make the effort to shake hands with fans as he is exiting the stage. Sure, we could label the person as a slight germ-a-phobe, but more likely, he’s watching out for himself.  He can’t afford to be sick.  None of them can afford to have an off night, as inhumane as that sounds, and this is 2012.  Can any of us really imagine the pressure that was on them back in the mid-80’s?  Probably not.  That alone would have made me want to run screaming for the hills if I were in the band, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

A:  I, obviously, took note of this incident as well.  I would be curious to read John’s account of this event, Roger’s account of it, and everyone else who was there.  It isn’t that I don’t believe Andy or his speculation about why John punched the light fixture but, like Rhonda, I feel like there is a lot more to this story and only with everyone’s perspectives would we begin to understand.  Then again, I know that things happen so quickly in traumatic events that it is hard to figure out what happened and why.  Clearly, though, Andy thought it was a big deal.  He wrote on page 93, “I think that some of what occurred that night got bottled up inside John and Roger, and it may have had a bearing on how things unfolded in the future.”  Would John agree with that?  Would Roger?  Like Andy, I would have a hard time imagining that it wouldn’t.  After all, it sounds like Roger was attacked and, maybe, literally, for no reason.  That can definitely affect you.  John’s reaction seems to be quite extreme.  I would have a hard time thinking that his scars were mental and emotional as well as physical.  Now, the fact that they didn’t talk about what happened I think is probably the most significant.  If that is the case, I bet they weren’t talking about much.  That’s huge as communication is key when working together and, in their case, they were not only working together but living together and going through an intense experience together. 

R:  Andy also discusses Nick’s relationship with Julie Anne. As an outsider, it appears to me from the onset that Julie Anne never quite made headway, especially not with Andy, but perhaps with anyone in the band – that’s not really proven by Andy’s writing – but it’s definitely intimated in what he says.  Why is that?  Andy makes sure to point out that Julie Anne is not British, but in fact American.  How much do you think this played into how they treated her as an outsider?  “But as for Julie Anne, I remembered something that Paul Berrow had told us before we’d left for the States. ‘Ooh, when those bloody American birds get hold of you, you won’t catch your breath,’ he warned. ‘Different set of values.'” 
As an American fan, those are harsh words to overlook.  I’m really not sure what was meant – and given that I was barely a teenager at that point, I really couldn’t even guess.  Any ideas??

A:  Wow.  I, too, took note of Andy’s reaction to Julie Anne.  He described her as “very pushy because of her social standing”.  Was this a case of American vs. Brit?  Was it a case of class differences?  Was it is a case of perception that rules did not imply equally to everyone as Andy was upset that Julie Anne was allowed to travel with the band while he sent Tracey back home?

Chapter Five

R:  This chapter is all about the videos. I know I’m not the only Duran fan that is fairly well-read on the videos at this point, but even so – it’s interesting to get Andy’s point of view. Naturally when we’re thinking of DD videos, not only does Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf come up, but also Girls on Film.  Easily serving as the most “shocking” video in the band’s repertoire, it also did exactly what the band’s management had hoped – it got the band noticed!  One thing that Andy does say, that frankly I take issue with only because I live here in the US – is that the video encountered no problems with the audiences here in the United States.  Curiously, I never saw the video unless it was the very watered down version or I was watching it from the video album that the band put out.  Granted, I was young at the time and not a club-goer, but even so – the US was not really known for open sexual imagery on regular TV, and certainly not in the 80’s.  But, the main point is of course that the video was a brilliant marketing tool…

“And some people will do ANYTHING to sell records.”  🙂

The relationship between Andy and especially Paul Berrows seems to be called into question several times during the course of the reading so far.  One such scene takes place on page 114 of this chapter when they are filming in Sri Lanka.  Andy describes how Paul wants to build something on the island – Andy mentions a temple (hopefully in jest?!?) and how he wouldn’t want to build anything with the guy.  Simon, on the other hand is far more sympathetic to Paul’s desires, saying that he’s just eccentric and creative.  Andy of course feels that being creative and eccentric is the job of the band.  I don’t think it’s any surprise to fans that Simon was closer to the Berrows brothers than Andy, and that it becomes Andy and Nick (by Andy’s account) later in the book that begin to question just how much profit is due the Berrows brothers.

A:  I, too, noticed some negative statements towards the Berrows.  For example, on page 101, he stated, “…even though the Berrows helped, I still believe we would have found everything without them.”  Thus, in Andy’s mind, they didn’t do as much as they think or as much as others might think.  Fascinating.  Obviously, as an outsider, I have no way of knowing.  

R:  Say what one will about Andy’s tone and sense of negativity – he also has moments of proper perspective that I rarely see or hear from other band members thus far.  “Along the way along the roads, children would spill in front of the vehicle and stop us, offering us watermelons….we soon cottoned on to the fact that what they wanted from us most of all were any Biro pens or pencils that we had with us…I remember thinking: How long will that last them and where will they get another one from?”  (Page 115)  Truly.

One comment that Andy makes that I really do identify and believe comes when he surmises the experience the band had with videos in general at the end of the chapter.  “It helped us to connect with our audience a bit like the way the Internet helps new bands to do the same today.” (Page 121)  Back in MY day (as I settle back into my rocking chair, here), videos were all we had. Other than seeing the band in the occasional interview in a magazine or watching a video – we had no other way to know what was going on with them. I can remember being surprised as to whatever color Nick’s hair was next (or Simon’s or even John’s for that matter), or whatever fashion choices they’d made.  I think I expected ALL of their videos to be like the Sri Lankan videos, and I always wondered what exotic locale they’d take us to see next.  Never did I dream that one day I’d trade tweets with them online, or “meet” thousands of other fans on Facebook.  Who knew?!?

A:  I enjoyed reading about the videos that I have seen thousands of times.  I like hearing about things that I never knew before like how Simon got hurt during Rio or that the video director for Union of the Snake focused on this idea of lizards.  I also like reading about the irony of filming these beautiful videos of Save a Prayer and Lonely in Your Nightmare in a poverty-stricken country on the verge of civil unrest or the idea of Girls on Film showing the band putting on hairspray and makeup.  That said, at times, I struggled to place events in proper order as there wasn’t real chronological order given even with the videos.  For example, Is There Something I Should Know was talked about before Save a Prayer. 

Chapter Six

R:  I don’t know how many fans out there had ever heard the tale of the IRA planning to assassinate Prince Charles on the night of July 20, 1983 – but I’d never heard that story prior to this book.  To be honest, it STILL sounds a bit James Bond to me, not that I don’t believe it – just that it seems like such a crazy plan. That’s just how far removed the US really can be sometimes though.  As a citizen here, I’ve always felt very safe – up until 9/11 of course. I think we’re incredibly lucky that we’ve not had more happen here to keep us on our guard, to be honest, and I, like millions of other Americans, grew up taking my safety for granted. That’s why the IRA story sounds so Bond-like to me.

A:  I noted that, according to Andy, the band had technical problems during this important show.  I immediately thought about Live Aid and wondered if Duran struggles during big, important gigs like this or if it is just that they show the cracks, the rifts, the problems with the band.  Something to ponder…

R:  During this same period of time, the band was in the process of recording Seven and the Ragged Tiger – the last of the albums that the band would record as the original five, and most certainly the toughest for them to record, by the band’s own accounts.  So much goes on during this recording, and it’s impossible to ignore the influences that any of it had on the success of the album.  Nick and Andy begin to question just how much the Berrows brothers were taking from the band.  They want to talk to them about it, but Simon is becoming closer with them.  Roger is non-confrontational and according to Andy – John buries his head in the sand.  I’m not sure if that characterization(s) is/are fair, but the point is that this too, creates a rift.  Andy and Nick have their own problems, coming to a head over Julie Anne.  How does this translate into the record?

A:  I am interested in what Andy decides to include and what he doesn’t here in this chapter.  I can definitely understand his inclusion of the fighting with Nick, regarding Julie Anne, whom he really didn’t (doesn’t?) trust.  Obviously, that is important to the story of Duran and important to his story.   He also includes a story about Simon and John competing over this Miss UK who was there.  Why put that in the book?  Did this competition affect Simon and John’s relationship?  Did it affect the band?  Maybe it did and maybe I will see the connection later.  Until then, I have to wonder.  The same question can be asked about the story about Nick getting sick or John crashing his car.  I guess the point there is that they were all harming themselves with the intensity of their lives, but it still makes me slightly uncomfortable. 

Next week, we’ll discuss chapters seven through eleven – read up!

– A & R

Let It Shine–2011 Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-A

So Unreal!

Yesterday was a busy day for me.  I worked, had a doctor’s appointment, went out to dinner with my parents and completed my weekly grocery shopping before I came home to finish our review of To the Shore.  When I arrived home, though, a full 12 1/2 hours after I had left, I found myself opening the mail.  Now, normally, that isn’t anything to blog about at all, but I found myself holding an envelope from the UK addressed to me with Rhonda’s name included.  I had no idea what this little envelope had in it or even who had sent it.  I wracked my brain.  Did I order something at some point?  The return address didn’t give anything away, either.  With me scratching my head, I put my purse down and opened it slowly.  This is what I saw.

Clearly, it was a beautiful, hand-made card!  I found myself getting excited even as I was so confused.  Who would send us a card and why?!  I quickly opened it and was instantly overwhelmed as it was filled with many, many signatures!  In fact, there were so many signatures that the back was used as well.  What were all of these signatures for?  Why it was a birthday card for the Daily Duranie!?! 

Neither, Rhonda nor myself would never expect something like this!  When we wrote about the blog’s birthday, we certainly weren’t hoping for something like this.  We weren’t even expecting birthday messages on twitter or facebook.  No, we wrote about the blog’s birthday for a simple reason.  We wanted and needed to acknowledge it.  Part of us, a BIG part of us, can’t believe that we are still doing this and can’t believe that people actually like it and read it!!  When Rhonda suggested that we do a daily blog, I thought it was a good idea and agreed, but…I never really thought we would go through with it and I NEVER would have thought we would still be doing it two years later.  Then again, she probably had the same reaction when I suggested we write a book.  Thus, we acknowledged the birthday to mark our commitment, insane, though it might be! 

After opening the card, I remember Rhonda saying something about how she had a conversation on twitter that day and that someone said something about how the fans at the JT signing that day were passing around a birthday card.  When she tried to explain it to me, clearly, we were both confused.  A real birthday card?  Why on earth would someone want to celebrate OUR birthday?  After all, we are just two fans who think too much and have too much to say about being Duranies.  Honestly, we are shocked on a daily basis when we don’t get messages or comments asking us to just shut up.  Even if people like what we have to say or think that we are thought-provoking, why would someone take the time to get a card, pass it around to other fans and then send it to us?!  Obviously, you can tell that I’m still floored by this! 

Rhonda and I cannot even begin to explain how much this means to us, though!  It is so nice to have one’s work validated and appreciated and this card did that and more.  This card not only rewards us but it encourages us to keep going, which will be essential during the Duran downtime that we will all experience.  We cannot thank enough not only everyone who signed the card but also the person/people who organized it and our friend, Bryony, who was the one to send it to us!  In fact, while we recognize most signatures, we would like to know exactly who signed the card and who organized it so that we can thank everyone personally!  Until then, we will continue to shake our heads in disbelief as we thank those of you who took the time to sign our card.  Your action means more to us than you will ever know!

-A 

To The Shore – The Daily Duranie Review

Today is a review day here on the blog – and this time we’re taking a good look at To The Shore from the band’s premiere album.

Rhonda’s take:

Instrumentation/Musicality: I’m a sucker for the synths on this one, and I won’t even try to lie.  It’s difficult for me to believe this song was off of the first album – purely because Nick is genius with the layering.  One thing I’d never noticed before until recently (thank goodness for decent earbuds) is that just beneath the “main” layer of sound that starts at about thirty seconds into song there is the faintest “whoosh” (no, not Simon…but a real WHOOSH sound!) that gives the allusion that you’re really near the shore. It just gives an atmosphere and I love it.  I really like that the song starts off with a muted quality, and the farther into the first verse we go, the clearer the music becomes until the entire band comes together in the first chorus.  It reminds me of walking on the beach on a foggy morning where you can’t really see things, but you just keep walking, and as you walk – the things in the closest of proximity become clear while everything in front of you as well as what you’ve left behind grow hazy and vague in the distance. John’s bass line gives the song an almost eery, haunting quality and while I am usually yelling “More guitar!!”, I really can’t on this one.  It would be out of place to have more than it has. Roger’s drums, while not taking on any kind of a featured role here, add just the right touch as necessary. This song is pure atmosphere. Musically, this song does everything that it was meant to accomplish.

Vocals:  I love Simon’s voice on this entire album, and this song is no exception.  He is incredibly gifted, and his voice is perfect on this one.  It has that beautiful timbre that is deep, whole, round and pure and there’s not a single sign of strain. His voice almost has a lazy quality to it here – and I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense at all.  He just sounds like there’s no effort – he makes it sound so easy and relaxing – even *I* can catch my breath calm down like listening to this one.

Lyrics: I love the words Simon sings here.  They are poetry, and while I’m not sure I really want to know what they mean…my favorite line is “Open out your arms and breathe” ….and that’s just because sometimes I’m going so fast, I forget to just breathe.  It’s a good reminder.  The rest of the song? I think this might be one of the (very very few) songs where I actually believe him when Simon says it’s about sex. 😀  I know back when I was a kid I would have had NO idea what the hell he was going on about. I’d listen, trying to understand the words and the next thing I’d know I’d just be lulled into a daydream from the sound of his voice.  We’ll just go with that….and I’ll be on my way!

Production: One of the most curious things about modern-day production to me is how far out of whack we’ve gotten.  Whatever happened to letting the music speak for itself?  I’m all for technology, make no mistake.  I just have to believe that at some point, you’d better know your craft and know it well – and that is evident here, and I don’t just mean the musicians.  Too much really can be too much, although this song is in no way an example of that folly.  I love that every sound is given respect and has integrity along with room to grow on it’s own – as well as grow along side every other sound present in the song.  I can’t say that happens very often in music these days. (I sound like an old person when I say that, but it’s true.)  The music is lush without being thick with noise and effects that have no purpose.  It’s beautifully simple, yet wonderfully complex.

Overall: Here is the real deal: I live in the US, and this song was never on my radar.  I did hear it – my friend had it in her collection, but for me – the first album had Is There Something I Should Know, not To the Shore. I remember when I finally understood the story of how it all evolved and I felt so cheated – as if the labels had tried to pass one over on us (they had) here in the states. In retrospect now, it is so clear that THIS is the song that should have been on the album – Is There Something I Should Know, while still one of my very favorite DD songs of all time – sounds so out of place in comparison. All of that said, To The Shore had so much merit, and it’s really kind of sad that it was ignored and shelved here in the US.  It should not have been done so easily…but then again…I’m a fan.  What could I possibly know?  I think the song is stunning, even if it’s not the “go-to” song for me in every situation.

Cocktail Rating: 4 cocktails  (and after the week I’ve had – I need them!)

Amanda’s thoughts:

Instrumentation/Musicality:  It is all about Nick in the beginning of this song, isn’t it?  In fact, by the time the vocals kick in, the keyboards are all encompassing.  It wasn’t just about being on a shore but on an island with the water, or the keyboards, surrounding you.  Then, of course, the song really kicks into gear after Simon had been singing for almost a full 30 seconds.  The instrumentation then really grabs your attention and keeps you at full alert the rest of the way out.  Then, the other instruments are clear and present with strong guitar, bass and drums.  John’s bass, in particular, really solidifies the strong instrumentation.  If that wasn’t enough, there is clearly a lot of additional sounds included.  This layering definitely gives the song depth and creates a mood that so many songs on the first album were known for.  Then, the end is left really just with some of these additional sounds, which works to keep the song with you.  Personally, I’m a sucker for a song that starts out slowly, builds to a climax and ends quietly and this song is a perfect example of it.  This creates a drama that is hard for me to ignore.

Vocals:  It always amazes me when Simon’s vocals so perfectly match and enhance the musical quality of the instrumentation and it does so well for this one.  Simon’s vocals like in songs like Anyone Out There and this one almost become like another instrument working to create that mood.  On top of it, he does it so naturally.  Besides that, there are some additional, subtle moments when there are echos of Simon’s vocals, which provide the depth that is also found with those extra sounds.  They aren’t included too much and are included in just the right spots.

Lyrics:  This is one of those songs that we are reminded how gifted of a lyricist Simon can be.  It clearly shows his ability to write poetry.  If I were to just read those lyrics, I would never think about adding music to them and, yet, they were able to do that well or he was able to add poetry like this to music they created in such a fitting way.  Amazing.  Rhonda mentioned a good line and I’ll mention one that always jumps out at me:  “And diamond stars shining glitter bright”.  Talk about creating a vivid image.  As someone who works with students on their writing, I am generally happy when they can give one or two basic adjectives to describe a noun.  Simon clearly mastered that lesson and more.  Another line that I really love is, “Words are falling to the floor.”  Perhaps, this line catches my attention as a writer.  Sometimes, I feel like my words, my writing floats upwards and lands somewhere it wasn’t supposed to be and other times, I feel like my words “fall to the floor” in that they don’t explain or can’t explain exactly what I mean, think or feel.  Words are not enough to describe everything. 

Production:  In my opinion, a clear theme with this first album’s production is balance.  The instruments are all featured and there was a good sense about when to focus on which instrument and when to showcase the instruments working together.  This song is a good example of this.  On one hand, those keyboards are definitely in the spotlight.  Yet, later, the other instruments joined in.  Balance.  The other element related to production that this song shows well is the use of layering and other sounds, other vocal qualities.  This layering and other effects were subtle but profound.  Too many songs now want to make those additions really stand out.  Maybe, they think that is the only way that listeners will catch them.  Well, we caught these from 1981 and know what a difference they make in the final product.

Overall:  Like Rhonda, I can’t help but to acknowledge the lack of attention to this song due to having the first album feature, Is There Something I Should Know?.  I also have to admit that if this song would have been featured on the first album here in the States, I doubt that I would have paid much attention to it as a kid.  No, as a kid, I got into Girls on Film, Friends of Mine and Planet Earth.  This song would have been too out there for me, especially lyrically.  I wouldn’t have gotten it.  Then again, I doubt I got most of this album as a kid.  I didn’t realize the depth that was there.  I just recognized that some of the songs were catchy!  Anyway, even when I became more of a serious collector and got this song with high quality, it didn’t make me pay attention.  I ignored it for the most part.  Part of this must have been subconscious thinking in that I assumed that the band didn’t like it much either if it replaced it with a different song.  Ha!  What naive thinking!  What made me go back and really look at it?  Other fans did.  I saw that SO many people thought so highly of this track that I couldn’t ignore it.  What am I missing?  What don’t I get?  Now, sometimes, I give a song another try and I still dislike it or think it isn’t worthy of time but this one, it is worthy.  It is good.  In my opinion, it works to make that first album well-rounded in terms of instrumentation, lyrics, mood and more.

Cocktail Rating:  4 cocktails!  (Rhonda should stop copying me!)

Live from The Bedford! Or not.

I know the blog is late today, and there are a few reasons for that – all of which have to do with the crazy morning I’ve had. Today is the day for Dom’s Blue to Brown gig at The Bedford (Which looks like a fantastic venue. Someday, I will get there. Someday.), and I had the nerve to actually plan my day so that I could actually WATCH the show (via webcast).  Well, that was my first mistake. I should know better than to plan.

This morning I woke up to find that our refrigerator – the lemon of ALL lemons – has once again decided to stop working. Again. Of course it did. In all fairness, I saw this coming, but it meant moving everything from there to ice chests. So I’m already late. Then my youngest had to have a lunch packed for school because I paid extra so that she could stay for an extended day today. Having her occupied means more time that I can watch the webcast uninterrupted. Yay!! Where were the things I needed for her lunch? In five different places, including the bottom of the damn ice chest I had just packed. *sigh* While making lunch, I get a text from the oldest. She’s not feeling well, plans to stay long enough to take her exam in her AP World History class, but then wants to come home. Guess who gets to drive 30 minutes in traffic to go get her? Oh yes, that’s right – ME. I get home and realize that I’ve got an hour to homeschool before getting online to see Dom’s show. An hour for two subjects.  Sure, that’ll work as long as we FLY through English….

So here I am, taking a deep breath and trying to relax. It’s only just after noon now and yet it feels like it should already be evening my time! I’m sitting at the computer, waiting for the show to start. Funny how no matter where I am, the same butterflies happen and I can’t sit still.  I’m in the chatroom on justin.tv for The Bedford Live, so I see a few people in there waiting.  It’s 12:29 by my computer, so we’ll see just how prompt Mr. Brown really is. (Ha! Bet he didn’t know I’d be reviewing the show for Daily Duranie! Surprise, surprise!) It’s now 12:42 and we’re more and more convinced that there will be no webcast of this show, even though by The Bedfords own website it states the show will be seen live on the web. That’s pretty much how this entire day has gone…so…*taps fingers on table*

As enterprising and devious as Duran fans can be, the few of us in the chat room talk, and one of them decides to call the venue. He’s already playing (of course he is because he’s on time!) so it’s naturally the webcast that is being affected. Of course it is. It’s explained to the venue that the feed isn’t coming through, and the bar staff person tells the Duran caller that they’ll have someone in the event room check on it. This is typical, and while I can understand that The Bedford staff have better things to do than make sure the webcast is running correctly for the sorry souls that don’t live in the UK, it’s disappointing to say that least. Not the end of the world by a long shot – but disappointing.

So Dom, if you’re reading (Ha, sure you are…I am REALLY good at delusions of grandeur here!) ….now I have to beg and plead for you to consider coming to my coast for some gigs.   As it turns out, I’m not especially talented at groveling in print, but I wish you’d consider coming over. That said, there’s always that convention weekend in November.  Birmingham? Over 200 Duran fans in one place… how can that not be tempting??

Oh well. That might just be me then.

I’ve decided to sit here, finish the blog and wait just in case the feed starts to work, but we’re being told by the moderator that Dom decided not to show the webcast otherwise we’d be seeing it. That isn’t the kind of thing you want to hear/read when you’re sitting an ocean away and have been a fan of the guy for years. YEARS…like since day one he got on stage with them and practically no other fan knew of him or wanted him there, but whatever. You know, it’s inconsequential, really.

So we’re just chatting as we’re sitting there waiting, because that’s what Duranies do. We chat. We wait. Sometimes we’re even patient! We get disappointed, but we’re still fans. It’s what we do. I don’t know how many of you out there have seen the commercials for the new Samsung phone that is very similar to the iPhone5. The commercial shows scenes of a line outside of the Apple store where the fans (and I do mean FANS) are talking about all the new features the phone might offer and how they’ve had to wait so long for whatever it is they’re looking for as far as features go. Then they see phones being used from another maker and they’re curious, but they’re trying to pretend they really AREN’T that interested and so forth. The best part is when someone walks up with one of the new phones who used to be one of the Apple fans. The Apple fans recognize this person, and then ask why they’ve got a new phone. They glance at the phone then look to the people in line and say they’ve moved on. This, my friends…is what being a fan is really like, and not just if you’re a Duran fan, apparently.

Always optimistic, always waiting for the next thing. A lot of times, we’re disappointed.  Sometimes we even get mad, and sometimes we move on.

The core group though? We’ve been around for a long time, and we’ll continue to stick around….webcasts, gigs, permanent members….or not.

-R

Friends of Mine (I DO think myself lucky, actually!)

Good morning everyone!  5:30am hurts after only a few precious hours of sleep…just in case you didn’t know, I just thought I’d share.  Ugh.  I really don’t have insomnia but a few times over the course of an entire year, but when I get it – I get it and I end up stuck there for a bit.  That’s what’s happening right now.  Too much going on, the brain doesn’t shut off and I end up having to read until I get tired.  I don’t do sleeping pills of any kind simply because they end up making me feel worse, and being the only parent here with three kids right now – I can’t afford to be groggy.  I can’t wait to see how I’m going to feel at 3pm today.  Eek!

On this date in 2004, a convention was underway in New Orleans.  The 78-03 Friends of Mine Duran Duran Fan Convention was held at the Hotel Monaco in New Orleans.  Unfortunately the hotel is no longer there, it experienced a large amount of damage during Hurricane Katrina and was not rebuilt. This convention was very special to me personally for a number of reasons – not the least of which being that it was where I met the other half of Daily Duranie! I met so many wonderful people there “in person” for the first time that weekend in 2004, people who I continue to stay in contact with to this day.

For me, the convention was nearly a rebirth, and most certainly cathartic. I’ve read so many articles, essays and books that claim that fandom is as much spiritual (in an obviously secular way) as it is anything else.  I have to say that when I look back on that weekend, I remember how it all felt for me – and yes, it really was very much like a spiritual awakening.  It was like getting reacquainted with myself, finding “my people”, and realizing that I did in fact belong somewhere.  In college, I took an entire course called The Sense of Place.  (I can feel your jealousy from here. I know, I know..you wish you had been me.  It’s OK.  Really.) In this course, we studied what the word “place” really meant in a very non-literal sense, and what lengths people will go to find where it is they belong.  For some it means going back home, for others it means wandering the planet, and for others it means never leaving the house they were born.  In hindsight I have to wonder why the professor never thought to include fandom in our course of study, but that weekend, I finally understood what the professor meant during our course. (Too bad I had taken the class nearly ten years prior…better late learning than never!)  I had found my place.

Too many people wander aimlessly in this world, wondering where exactly they are supposed to fit in.  I feel for those people, because for me – I spend a lot more time trying to adhere to the rules, towing the line, and doing what is expected than I do feeling like I actually belong somewhere. In this regard, writing the blog and being a fan has been quite the journey of exploration and discovery, and yes – it really has become a source of therapy. Amanda and I have had the opportunity to meet many other fans now, and without fail, nearly everywhere we’ve gone we’ve had a fellow fan come up to us, thank us for the blog (which blows me away every single time) and tell us that they feel like they finally belong somewhere.  I can’t honestly believe that’s because of our writing, but if planning events and making people feel welcome helps someone else to feel included, I am thrilled. That is the whole point.  The ONLY point.  I love seeing fans come together and watching forever friendships being made.

So I need to thank a group of people, because without their persistence, strength and wisdom, that convention would have never occurred, and as the story goes – the rest of my journey probably wouldn’t have began.  These women, and possibly a few men out there – and I’ll just collectively call them DDF’ers (before anyone gets wise-ideas, DDF was our message board – DuranDuranFans.com!) so that I don’t risk leaving any single person out, were responsible for pulling together a convention on a shoestring budget from nearly every corner of the United States.  We had a great time, and when I’m feeling really low – I’ll go back and look at the pictures I’ve got just to remind myself of how much fun I really had, and how far we’ve all come.

I still haven’t forgotten about that video of Rio – karaoke style, girls.  I trust it remains under lock and key. It’s for the greater good.

-R

Book Discussion – Wild Boy (Prologue, Ch 1-3)

As promised, we have started our discussion of Andy Taylor’s autobiography, Wild Boy, My Life in Duran Duran.

With the very first note, Andy makes it very clear what his intention will be with this book.  His life IN Duran Duran. That is very pertinent, particularly because while it is an autobiography, most people are not aware of Andy beyond is work as a musician in Duran Duran as well as his solo work thereafter. (or in between his “tours of duty” in the band.  To make things even more interesting, Rhonda’s notes will be in the standard black font and Amanda’s additions/comments are in blue.

Prologue

R: Andy begins the book discussing what is ultimately Duran Duran’s last appearance together as the “original five” at Live Aid, July 13, 1985.  Not in the UK of course, but in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA…a grace note that has always somewhat ruefully amused me. I don’t think many, if any of us who were fans back in the 80’s really knew the end of an era was taking place that day. I certainly didn’t, even if I remember being slightly deflated by the performance. I suppose the humor, if there really is any, to be recognized in that moment is simply that it could have been in any city, in any state, in any country.  As good of a statement as any that it happened in Pennsylvania than anywhere else, simply reinforcing the notion that you just never know when it will be the last time.

Andy chose to open his book with the what is the ending to the first act of his career in Duran Duran. The encore of course comes much later, but I found it rather telling that he chose to open with an account of performance that was not only the last, but also highlighting on a bum note. This recount is profoundly negative, if not for Andy, then at the very least for the fans who followed them along the way. I don’t personally know of any fan who looks back on that Live Aid performance with feelings of triumph and joy, if the performance itself didn’t bother us (and how could it not? It wasn’t only Simon’s note that fell flat – there was zero charisma and connection going on that stage that day.), hindsight tells us that the performance was DD’s last as the original five, and for many, it still remains a bittersweet memory. In many ways, the description of this performance sets the tone for the book – bittersweet.

One section of the prologue describes the ride they took to the venue, “We drove to the venue through streets packed with excited rock fans, but inside the bus the atmosphere was if were were on our way to a funeral.”  (page 5)  Immediately following the recount of that bus ride describes the scene of Live Aid as a giant party scene.  Not only is are the two “scenes” diametrically opposed, what I found poignant is that the only partying to be done – the festivities, so to speak – were found only when Andy is on his own, away from the band.  Although Andy admits that his heart just wasn’t in the mood to party as he tries to fall into bed that night.

A: When talking about this party lifestyle, Andy wrote, “But the lifestyle we had aspired to, and for which we had worked so hard, became the very cancer that was starting to destroy us.”  Clearly, Andy wanted to really show how problematic he found the life that he had created by describing it as “cancer”.  Word choice can be everything.  It also reminds me that so many people who become famous question if fame is really a good thing.

R: Andy closes the prologue with a question – “Was it all worth it?”  Keep that question in mind for later discussion.

Chapter One
R: Andy begins this chapter with one of the saddest things I’ve ever read – the day his mother leaves he, his brother and his father. It is quite obvious that this single event changed Andy forever, and I think the aftermath of this abandonment proves to be something Andy struggles with to this day.  I think that while perhaps not many of us have experienced something similar, we can all certainly feel empathetic. I think that after reading this section, I felt some sort of connection to Andy.  My mom never exactly left – but there was a time when I was very young (about five years old) that my mom was away for six months.  I know that for me, the worry of having my mom leave again played a huge part in the person I became.  I followed the rules and tried to be a “perfect” child, just to make sure she wouldn’t leave again, no matter the reason. Those feelings follow me to this day, and so I have no doubt the same holds true for Andy. Later in the chapter Andy comments that he has difficulty saying “good-bye” to this day, and I have no doubt this taps into the ways that he and the band have parted…twice. 

A: I also noted the importance this event must have had for him.  I took particular attention to the steps leading up to his mother’s departure.  At one point, he stated that he had no idea that there was trouble with his mother then he starts to discuss the horrible arguments his mother and father had.  Then, part of him was relieved when she left.  I wondered how much, if any of this, influenced his own behavior and his way of dealing with problems.  

R:The austere and rough beginnings from Andy’s childhood seem to be far more blue-collar than what the rest of the band experienced.  Not being from the UK myself, I can’t decide if this is in fact the case, or rather just the way Andy writes.  No matter, Andy still talks about where he is from with pride – and as someone who grew up on the “wrong side of the tracks” myself, I still speak of my neighborhood with pride.  I am well-aware of who I am and where I came from, and I think most of us can appreciate that, especially since we all know that he’s experienced far more luxury in life than most at this point.

When I think of Andy Taylor, I think of someone who just isn’t going to be forced to follow the rules.  He’s going to do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it.  Call it stubbornness, call it whatever you’d like.  I laughed when he described various “rules” in his house – not going into specific rooms, not touching certain things – and of course Andy still did what he liked.  Somehow I think we’re going to find that carrying over into his tenure in Duran Duran.  Call me crazy.

One extended note to carry for later discussion: Andy carries much of his feelings about his mom leaving with him, choosing not to discuss but rather keep it all bottled.  He is fairly silent about much of it until he is in his adult years.  Many fans have mentioned how fairly “silent” both the band as well as Andy have been regarding the events leading up to his departure(s) from Duran Duran. Granted, none of us are on the inside and know just how much talking was or wasn’t done, but it is certainly something that should be thought of for later on in the book.  Is that “silence”, the lack of finality, the lack of “good-bye” something that Andy continues?? 

A: On the topic of keeping his feelings to himself, I noted that Andy seemed to try to focus his energy or feelings towards other things.  In this chapter, he obviously turns to music, but he also mentions that he played sports, aggressively, and got into fights.  In his view, music was the best of these as they kept him out of trouble. 

Chapter Two
R:In this chapter, Andy talks about The Rum Runner.  The scene of the crime, so to speak!  Again, coming to this story as one who didn’t grow up in the UK – I always took what people said about Birmingham for granted.  I’d always heard it was a very industrial sort of town, not very nice, not some place to spend time. In fact, just two years ago when I was coming into the UK to see Duran Duran for the ill-fated shows that ended up being canceled, I was headed to Birmingham straight from Heathrow.  The customs official that stamped my passport wanted to know “Why on earth” I was going to Brum.  He told me it was not a nice city and that I should pass it by in my travels. I smiled (what else am I going to do with a customs official?  Argue??) and went on my way, not really knowing what I was getting myself into – but I figured it would be an adventure.  I have to say – I LOVE BIRMINGHAM.

A:Ditto, says Amanda! 

R: Sure, it has a certain industrial feel to it, not at all unlike where I grew up.  I think that’s why I fell for the city – it feels like home to me. (Sans the canals. The closest thing the “Charter Oak” area of Glendora/Covina had when I was growing up was “The wash”, a place I was strictly forbidden to go and play. I guess it was a “sort” of canal…it was a big concrete gutter lined with chain link fence that collected the runoff water and funneled towards treatment plants or the ocean!)  Anyway, in reading the book what struck me was how, compared to Cullercoats, Birmingham was the utmost in trendy.  I still don’t think anyone would actually say that about where I grew up, unless you want to talk about the downtown area that has been used for various movies over the years…but that’s OK.

A: Ditto again! My childhood was also spent in a place with an industrial feel (south side Chicago), adds Amanda.

R: Another sight that comes into plain view during this chapter is Andy’s feelings for Nick.  Even on a musical level, it’s pretty obvious that there is no love lost here.  Andy talks about how Nick only played the black keys on his keyboard – something that Kate Bush was known for doing at the time – and that it only amounted to playing one key.  “Nick’s interpretation of doing music was very obviously going to be different to mine.  Playing seemed to be the last thing on his mind, but he wanted to make keyboard sounds and textures and layers of sound – and in that sense he wanted to do something different that had never been done before.”  (page 40)  I’m not sure at the time that Andy recognized the significance of what Nick was trying to do – but I think it’s clear in the tone of his writing that he felt Nick was on a completely different musical planet.  Of course, it’s that difference between the two that helped to create the most iconic sounds of the 1980’s…. 

A: I, too, took note of Andy’s comments regarding Nick, especially when Andy said that he didn’t want to understand traditional structure of music.  Besides Nick, I thought it was interesting that he took time to describe first impressions of each band member in some detail.

R: I did as well, Amanda.  What I noticed though was that in nearly every description – Andy poked fun, and of course the now-infamous LeBon Leopard pants, in pink, were mentioned as well.  I suppose a reader could take his gentle ribbing about his first impressions of each band member as a sort of “dig”, but I really think Andy reflects back on that time with fond memories, thinking that when they all first met – they were really all just normal kids – the farthest away from being rock stars than we could imagine.  Things changed very, very fast!

The chapter ends with the band getting signed to EMI. “It felt strange and unreal to be at the headquarters of EMI negotiating a new beginning at the same time that John Lennon’s death brought to a close a huge chapter in the history of rock and roll. We didn’t know if it was fate or a bad omen.” (page 56)  In my opinion, this continues that bittersweet tone of the book. The passage reads so negatively, I can’t honestly believe Andy feels that way about his career in Duran Duran.  This edition of the book was published in 2008, and I have to think that not enough time had passed from his second tour of duty to allow the sharpness of the more angered or painful memories to dull…does the negative tone overshadow all the good??

A: It is fascinating to me that they agreed to split the royalties equally as John and Nick could have easily asked for more as the founders.  To me, that shows something about their characters. 

R: I didn’t even think about that, Amanda.  I think it’s because I’ve heard for so often that they always split things equally that I read right over that without noticing.  I’m not sure it really says that much about Nick or John’s character as much as it shows their naivete and youth at the time. They were probably so excited by the very prospect of being signed that they didn’t give any thought to whom had been around longest.  Ego probably didn’t crop up until a bit later.

Chapter Three
R:The chapter opens with Andy talking about the first time he tried cocaine. We all know by now that the band and cocaine were fairly synonymous back in the day. Apparently Andy felt (and perhaps this was widespread belief at the time) that cocaine was a “rich man’s drug” and that it was harmless. I have to be honest, as a kid – I never thought about their drug use and I’m not even sure I was aware.  I think that for me, it was the beauty of being far removed.  I didn’t *see* all of those things.  I heard the music, saw the (eventual) videos, read the articles and didn’t know about the rest.  I’ll go one step further and say that I’ve never tried cocaine. That’s right. I really am one of those good kids to this day! I just never saw the point.  I think I was fairly judgmental about people who did any kind of drug when I was young – alcohol aside – and so for me, I’m really kind of glad I never paid much attention to the murmurs of drug use by the band. For me it probably would have made a difference (keep in mind that we’re talking about me at the age of twelve or thirteen) because drug use scared me, apparently for really good reason!

One thing that I find fascinating is how Andy describes the recording of Planet Earth and his role that he shared with Nick in being the two that made most of the commercial decisions at the time.  Knowing the tension that seemed to exist between Andy and Nick makes it all the more…humorous, perhaps…that they were the most involved on the business-end.  Of course Andy explains their backgrounds and why this made sense, but I have to wonder if this didn’t just add to the friction. 

A: I noted the same thing and was surprised by that.  Why wouldn’t John have been involved more? 

R: In reading this chapter, I noticed that Andy takes the time to point out the tiny fissures already  forming.  In one part he talks about the lack of confidence in Simon’s vocal quality while recording Planet Earth, at another point he says though that as far as he was concerned, Simon was the vocalist.  Fair enough. Management always has different ideas than the band and record company, it seems.  Andy talks about how the label chose to promote John first (He was the most photogenic.  No, really?) in Japan and that he (Andy) thought this would upset Simon.  He talks about the competitive nature, notably between John and Simon, of meeting the most girls, this of course being the beginnings of the much-publicized hedonistic lifestyle of the band. Andy goes on to point out that this lifestyle goes completely against what was happening in the rest of the country at the time, with rioting in the UK, the height of the cold war, nuclear bomb fears, etc.  Yet the band known for excess everything grew beyond the limits, meeting Warhol, taking a bus filled with crazily dressed fans from The Rum Runner into Paris.  I think Andy continues to make his statement simply by juxtaposing the good times with the rougher moments that fans like me never really saw or experienced.  Bittersweet. 

A: Adding that this focus on fun, partying, and statements about being the band dancing when the bomb dropped did not help Duran get critical acclaim.  Instead, it led many people to look at them with scorn, according to research I have done.  

– A&R