Chapter 28: The Whole Package
Did John make the right move to ask for media coverage in the teen press?
A – Of course, this is a typical ‘what if’ question. It obviously changed things for Duran. On one hand, it gave them a ton of press because the teen focused media did love them and covered them a ton. I found it interesting that their first Smash Hits cover showed Nick and Roger. Could that have helped them, too, since it showed that there wasn’t just one star but 5 stars? Perhaps. Did it lead to this concept that John brought up in the chapter in that groups of friends made sure that there was only one fan per band member? Back to the original question, yes, it gave them a ton of press which couldn’t hurt their sales and didn’t. Yet, it did seem to affect the adult media’s impression of them. As John mentioned, NME declared them the “enemy” then. It did take away their creditability, to some extent. On a personal level, though,would I have become a big fan without it? Probably not. After all, like many of you, I looked for those teen magazines every time I went to the store and plastered the posters inside on my bedroom walls.
R – It’s the age-old question, isn’t it? All I know is that in my case, I LIKED the band before I ever saw them. I loved their music, and for me, it really honestly WAS about the music. It always is – but, and this is a big but, their media coverage and their looks certainly did not hurt my fandom one single bit. Did I mention that I still have their posters up in my closet???
What did you think of John’s idea that the fans at that show in Brighton were just as shocked as the band was that there were so many fans?
A – My initial reaction to reading this is that times have changed. I don’t think that any fan would be surprised now in the age of social media. Everyone knows instantly what is popular and what isn’t. Back in the 1980s, though, how would you find out that there were a lot of fans out there? I learned through conversations, initially. Then, of course, I could tell eventually when the band was shown so much on TV and featured on so many magazine covers. In the summer of 1981, I bet they were surprised.
R – I’m going to be honest here, I am STILL surprised when I go to see them, particularly when we went to see them in the UK last year, and they still fill up arenas. Social media or not, it’s still such a great surprise to see how much love there really is still out there for these guys, and I’m a part of that. It’s fantastic. I can’t imagine what it must have been like in Brighton back in the day though – so much more went unknown at that time. Now, everything is so instant, almost too much so.
One other idea that John mentioned was that he began getting more attention than the other guys and that competition between band members grew. Reactions to this?
A – I guess I would have been surprised to read otherwise. After all, they are human and this would be a normal reaction to that situation. That said, how unfortunate must that have been. I’m sure that was a situation that they wouldn’t be super comfortable with because who wants to admit that they are uncomfortable with the amount of attention you or someone else is getting or not getting. I’m relieved that they were able to push through this, for the most part. Otherwise, I suspect we would have seen a lot of solo careers by the end of 1984, if not sooner.
R – It is amusing to me to read about this primarily because even fans have well-known debates about each of the band members. I’m not surprised this translated over to the band, although I agree that it’s unfortunate. I still say that it took all 5 of them to make Duran Duran, and in a lot of ways I’m glad that there are five of them with very distinct personalities, because that way we (female fans) didn’t fight to the death over just one of them. We fight to the death over five of them.
Chapter 29: All Aboard the Promised Land
Thoughts about the band’s first trip to the States?
A – First of all, I remember reading about that interaction John had with that customs agent. I remember reading from their unofficial biography, I believe, that John wasn’t described as a “funny looking guy” with purple hair but as a “fag” with purple hair. I wonder why that other book needed to make the story more dramatic. Then, I think John described the awe I could imagine that they had, especially at being in downtown Manhattan and in that limo. It seemed so glamorous and I bet that is how they felt.
R – I really can’t imagine what coming to the states for the first time might have been like, although I know that whenever I am in NYC, I feel incredibly small compared to the size of the buildings. I agree though Amanda, the story I’d read about John with the customs agent was what you had quoted…and if that’s not really how it went down, then it makes us (Americans) look like complete jerks for no reason. Of course, you and I both know that back in the 80’s (and even now to a certain extent) – it’s not too difficult to believe that some customs agent called John that particular term.
Chapter 30: Memory Games
Could you relate their memory games?
A – I sure could! Heck, Rhonda and I do it by the end of a tour and that is only with a few shows. “Which show was it when John did…?” “Which show did Simon spew the water straight upwards?” Anyway, I can’t imagine having 30 plus years of shows to refer back to! I hope to, someday, though!!!
R – Absolutely, and I have a tough enough time remembering between the 30-odd shows I’ve done. It’s a problem I don’t mind having, actually – and a challenge I will learn to meet!
Chapter 31: Legal Age
Were you surprised by how John described those sexual encounters with strangers?
A – I really wasn’t. I wasn’t surprised that they happened, but I do wonder if some fans were. After all, they did seem to have such a clean image in the 1980s. At least, that’s how I remember seeing them. That said, I wasn’t surprised, either, for John to say that he felt awkward and that the drugs and alcohol took away his “doubts, inhibitions and insecurities”. I wonder if that is how the women felt, too.
R – I thought it was incredibly refreshing and very telling as to how he described the awkwardness of being that intimate with someone he didn’t know. Refreshing because he admits he actually had thoughts of the awkwardness (and here I thought only women, including myself, might feel that way)…and telling because he admits the alcohol and drugs had much to do with how he was able to deal with those doubts. I appreciate his honesty. I didn’t need to read sordid details to understand where he was coming from. Hell, I’ve been to enough shows to see some crazy things go down – I still wonder how people look at themselves in the morning. To me that sort of thing matters, and I couldn’t give away a part of myself night after night without really wondering what was really left.
One of the most commonly stated quotes from the book is, “Fear of loneliness is turning me into a cokehead.” Why do you think that one is talked about so much?
A – Clearly, this one is talked about because John is open about him being a “cokehead”. It seems to me that most people in the media like those kind of juicy details. On the other hand, I think the first part of the quote is so much more interesting. After all, I think a lot of people have a hard time believing that people who are famous with people all around them and cheering them on could be lonely. Yet, I bet it happens all the time. After all, can the famous person really get close to any of these people? Probably not as how can the famous person know that these people can be trusted and that they aren’t just using him. Those people must think that they know the famous person but that is far from the truth as people knowing who you are doesn’t mean that they actually KNOW you. I can totally understand why this situation would him feel lonely. The one thing I do wonder is why John didn’t feel like he could turn to his bandmates. After all, they were going through the same situation.
R – Like you, I was more interested in his fear of loneliness than I was the part about being a cokehead. No offense to John, but I already knew about the cocaine. What interests me is the fear I guess. What a dichotomy – you’re among the most famous people in the world, you have thousands (if not millions) of fans, and yet you’re incredibly lonely. For some crazy reason, I completely get what he’s saying. I can’t really imagine what it must be like (or have been like) to BE John (or any one of them) at the time. I mean, there you are – admired by so many and yet you can’t really get close to anyone. You’re constantly moving, constantly working, everyone wants a piece of you, but no one really knows you, and you can’t really take the time to share. We talk about the band almost being like pieces of meat that are pounced upon by a pride of lions (the fans). It’s so objectifying and demeaning. I truly dislike that about being a fan, because not all of us are that way. Yet just by the mere fact we ARE fans, the inclination is to assume we all just want our piece. What is really funny though is that what you wonder Amanda – why didn’t John feel like he could turn to his bandmates – is probably a cultural thing more than anything else. John says several times in the book that the “feely” stuff just wasn’t the English way. I can attest to that in my own extended family.
Chapter 32: Dancing on the Platinum:
Do you think John’s statement about Duran being the hardest working band in 1981 is true?
A – It seems clear to me that his statement was accurate. The band was touring all the time that year, including 3 tours of UK, a tour of the US and more. Truly, John doesn’t mention really anything else in 1981 besides what was happening with the band. Besides, the band’s talents, good looks and support behind them could only go so far without the work that they did back then.
R – I believe that by the mere fact that they were absolutely EVERYWHERE, and it was only the beginning.
As 1981 ended, do you think that John was doing well?
A – John was happy about the platinum discs as they all were. He seems proud of the work that they did, but he acknowledged that he was a nervous wreck before shows as people would be chanting for him. Plus, he seemed like he was well-aware that the band had a very successful year but that it could all be taken away. That’s a lot to deal with.
R – I think the pressure was immense, and they were all so young at the time. I think the climb to the top of the charts was work, but staying there was even more so. I’m not sure that I would say John was doing well though. I mean, the signs for the coming troubles were all present and not being dealt with properly, you know?
A – 1981 seemed like quite a year for the band and for John, personally. I enjoyed getting some insight into what life was like for them back then. That said, John seems unsettled, which cannot bode well as the band’s fame and fortune increases.
R – Unsettled is a good way to describe it. Unease. Disquiet. All of those things wrapped up in one guy who was desperate to find the thing that completed him. Dangerous when combined with idle time and loads of money.
On that note, next week we will discuss Chapters 33-40, which basically covers 1982. Until then, please respond to these discussion question and/or list some of your own! Happy reading and discussing!