Category Archives: Duran Duran

Book Discussion – Wild Boy (Chapters 15 through Epilogue)

We are concluding our discussion of Andy’s book today, so if you have anything to say about Andy, his history in Duran Duran and this book – let your comments fly!

Chapter Fifteen

This is the chapter we’ve all been waiting for – hearing how the band got back together after so many years.  It begins with Andy finally speaking with Simon again, which seemed to open the door for more communication between the other members.  It’s funny to me that while they really couldn’t speak as they broke up, they were able to speak about getting back together as a group.  What’s more, it seems clear, at least through Andy’s writing, that very little was actually said regarding their breakup in the 80’s.  Have these boys learned nothing?!?  (Obviously and sadly, no.)  Andy writes of their first real meeting, and how much of a transformation there was in John.  On one hand, Andy’s description seems parental – seeing how much a child or loved one had changed; on the other, Andy mentions that John couldn’t remember many of the things that happened during the time he was in the band.  I got the feeling that in writing this, Andy was surmising that for John – this was a chance at a complete “do-over”.

I have to say that I had always believed (erroneously…and prior to reading the book the first time) that Andy had wanted the reunion purely to tour and make money.  That was just always my own impression of matters, but Andy explains that he and Nick wanted more out of the reunion than just a flash-from-the-past tour, and of course anyone who has been paying attention throughout the book realizes that there are precious few things that Andy feels he and Nick truly agree upon, and this is indeed one. I was shocked, and truthfully disappointed, to read that John hadn’t really wanted to even enter the studio.  He just wanted the tour, according to Andy.  It was Andy in fact who convinced John that recording was necessary if for no other reason than to familiarize themselves with one another again, and I have to admit, that surprised me. It still surprises me, in fact.

Not at all shocking to anyone who has been a fan, the head-butting over who has ultimate control started immediately, but Andy describes it as being between John and Nick.  Again, that’s not something I would have imagined on my own – but then we’ve never really known a sober John in Duran Duran, up until this point.  As most know, the band did have monetary problems during the recording of Astronaut, and as unfair and completely selfish as this sounds – I’m glad they did.  Who really KNOWS how long we would have gone without seeing these five guys on stage together again?  So yes, while I pity that Simon wasn’t able to get money out of the ATM on that fateful day with Andy, secretly (well, that ship has now sailed, hasn’t it??) I am kind of thankful.  They were able to see just how “with them” the fans really stayed, and I think that gave them the confidence they needed to keep pushing onward, as well.

Chapter Sixteen

So the band begins/continues the sold-out US tour that many of us attended. As I continued on in this book, I realized that at some point, we would come to the time when my own history would intersect with that of the band.  Yes, I was a fan well-before this time, but the lions share of the shows I’ve attended and things I’ve done with regard to the band have taken place since 2003. Andy mentions several of the shows that I attended during the 78-03 tour, and I have to say that reading about those shows in print gives me the strangest sensation of deja-vu, it’s really kind of bizarre and energizing all at the same time.  I know the story of the band from here, but I don’t know Andy’s story.  It’s reading a completely different point of view of the same events, and I have to say that I love it.  It’s not just Duran’s story at this point – it’s mine (and likely yours) as well.

Andy talks about the decision to sign with Sony over Universal (UK).  I’m not really very-well versed on the business-end of the music industry.  I know very little – enough to get myself into a great deal of trouble and not much else, I suppose.  It never occurred to me that the band might prefer to sign with a UK label – but of course now in hindsight  I can ascertain the cultural differences that would make working with a US-based company and all of the US expectations for musical direction very difficult for a UK band, even a UK band that had been around for nearly 30 years that should have had their own branding by now – but naturally, a large corporation like Sony felt they could do even better.  Do you hear sarcasm there???

Strife between various band members continued.  Andy still thinks Nick is head of the Lyric Police – and according to Andy, Nick narrowly avoided actually saying he’d write the lyrics himself.  This, my fellow readers, is not the least bit surprising to me, and in some ways, I feel as though Andy might be a little too harsh on Nick here.  We know that Nick wrote lyrics on the Medazzaland album, and I am aware from other reading I’ve done that Simon had trouble writing for Pop Trash – his depression about where the band was headed made it difficult for him to write.  I’ve heard Nick comment about lyrics on a few of the Astronaut songs that never made the album as well (Salt in the Rainbow and Beautiful Colours comes to mind) – and he’s said that he believes Simon will eventually get those lyrics right. So, it’s not surprising that Nick felt that he could step into that role (and has done so since).  I guess I would like to believe that this wasn’t so much about control as it was about working as a team.  Of course, I believe in sunshine, rainbows and unicorns, too.  Once again, everyone’s truth is different.

Andy talks a little about the Duran partnership as well.  I remember seeing “Duran Duran New Partnership” on the bottom of albums and things during this time, and the words always made me smile.  The trouble was, I never gave much thought to how the money was divided.   I just wanted the band together again.  In this new partnership, Andy and Roger were given less of a percentage than the rest of the band, and while I would LOVE to comment on this, to be fair – it’s really none of my business. The only thing I feel comfortable in saying is that, in my opinion as a fan, it took ALL FIVE of them to make the Duran Duran that I went to see at shows in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

With all of the excitement the fans had during this period, Andy seemed to get more depressed.  His father was fighting cancer, and at one point, Andy admits to feeling as though he was nearing a nervous breakdown.  He speaks of feeling “twinges of agoraphobia” (page 288), and missing part of the US tour as a result of a type of panic attack – this was during the time of his “flu”, but there were other signs that all was not well.  The sales of Astronaut were not what Andy was hoping (it sold around a million copies worldwide); he talks about the lack of “good advice” from their recently appointed New York management, his discomfort with the overexposure of the band, and he even comments that “some band members thought we were U2 and attempted to emulate them.” (Page 288)  To be perfectly fair, being a fan is very much like being on the outside looking in.  I have no idea what went on behind closed doors, but what strikes me is that all this time – while fans were overjoyed at the idea of the band being back together, already cracks were formed in the foundation that kept the house of Duran stable.  I suppose the reality is that the cracks were never repaired from the first go-round.  Naturally Andy talks about the fact that his father’s cancer as well as the deaths of Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson didn’t help – I’m sure at the time he may not have even realized the toll all of this took, we humans are funny that way – but in hindsight it typically becomes clear.  He ends the chapter on such an incredibly down note, I just have difficulty in seeing how the band could not have possibly seen what was going on with him.  “I went back onstage with Duran Duran in Detroit.  I wore my dark sunglasses on stage as normal, and after the show I received an e-mail from a fan who had seen the tears rolling down my cheeks under the shades.  Duran Duran later played a gig at Boston University while I was back in England for the funeral, and Simon dedicated his rendition of “Ordinary World” on stage to “absent friends!” (Page 291)  It’s not that Simon dedicated the song, I believe Andy is even commenting on something a little different here.  He’s not incredulous (given the exclamation point) that Simon thought to dedicate the song to “absent friends” – it’s that Simon didn’t even mention Andy or his father. Sure, it’s very possible that Simon didn’t want to spread Andy’s grief or speak of personal news – I am certain – but I also believe that Andy felt that the band were close enough to share one another’s pain.  I think the depression that Andy was fighting helps paint this in the worst possible light in Andy’s mind and heart, and the pain resonates.

Chapter Seventeen

So we all know what happens in this chapter.  The end result repeats itself.  When this book first came out, I was greedily absorbing this chapter, trying to ascertain what one single event made the choice for Andy, or whether it was the band or Andy who truly was at fault.  One thing the years have done for me though, is made me see that the details truly do not matter.  All someone needs to do is read this book and understand that Andy simply was not happy.  It wouldn’t have made a single bit of difference if Andy had been granted that VISA, because I think the end was already completely inevitable.  That doesn’t mean I necessarily put blame on Andy OR the band – I just think the time had come.  “We played a lot of gigs and we made some good money that summer, but at times I felt as if we were just treading water after almost twenty-five years together. the old creative frictions within the band were still there, and it struck me that we’d never actually sat down together to lay to rest the problems and arguments that we’d had with each other for various reasons the first time around.” (Page 295)  I know I cannot be the only fan out there that wonders how it was that the band could do all of the interviews and promo that they did surrounding the reunion, and say over and over how they spent time while recording Astronaut literally hashing out everything – and yet have a band member say that they never sorted anything out.  I suppose it’s just a little sexist of me to say “How typically male of them!”  Honestly!!!

Sure, there’s Reportage – and every fan wants to hear the songs and know that body of work.  They are not alone – I’d love to hear it myself.  I’ve been told it’s “out there”, but to me that is some sort of mysterious statement that is somewhat akin to “I’ve heard the album, I’m in the know, and I’m friends with the right people.”  Well my friends – I am not.  I have never heard a single song, I am most CLEARLY not in the know, and I definitely am not friends with the right people.  Wait.  That sounded wrong somewhere… Anyway, this was to be the second album with Sony, and it was supposed to be an edgy-alternative record where they went back to their roots.  How many times did we hear that talking point while they were recording Reportage??  So much that I have it permanently memorized and I’m not even in the damn band.  But as we all know, things happen, and somehow, we end up with Red Carpet Massacre instead.  I know Amanda will want to talk about Andy’s assertions that John somehow wanted to act as producer on the record, and that Nick had lost patience with Simon who was having trouble writing and so forth.  My take is just that I think from a creative standpoint, they needed a referee of sorts during this period, and they are not the first band to benefit from such a thing. (they are called PRODUCERS, as it turns out!)  While I truly believe that John has the skill to produce, I would imagine it is a far different thing to produce a band like Duran Duran, if in fact that is what he was trying to do.  I don’t know, I wasn’t there.  John himself talks about the guys as four (five) hard-headed stubborn people, and so I can imagine that trying to herd them in the same creative direction can be difficult.  I wouldn’t want the job, that is for sure.

I don’t know what to say about Timbaland that I haven’t already said, except that for me personally – he was truly the final nail in what was the original five member Duran Duran’s coffin.  What wasn’t already dead, he killed off – and yes I mean that – even though I highly doubt he would even know that the band originally had five members or what instruments needed to appear on the album.  That wasn’t his worry or his plan, and I get that.  Harsh?  Absolutely, and I stand by my comments 150%.  However, I also believe you’ve got to go through a whole lot of bad to get to the good sometimes.

One of my favorite quotes in this entire book is what ends this chapter, and it holds completely true even four years after it’s original printing, “I guess that what she was trying to say was Simon and Nick were always very good at delivering roses and chocolate, but that I was the steak and the beer in Duran Duran.” (Page 312) If I could hug the person who said that to Andy – I would, because it is the perfect description of why I love(d) this band.

Epilogue

Thankfully, Andy finally answers the question he posed at the beginning of the book.  “Was it all worth it?”

“The answer is a resounding yes….Maybe if there had been fewer lows there wouldn’t have been so many highs, so you learn to take the rough with the smooth.  I can honestly say that even if I had to do it all over again I don’t think I would change a thing.” (Page 314)

I have to say that throughout the reading of this book, I have questioned whether or not Andy really WOULD do it all again.  I think that while he says he is completely back to normal – and I have no reason to question that – sometimes I wonder whether or not his depression at the time he went through some of the things he went through may have colored his perception a bit.  There are truly moments in the book that are well prior to his diagnosis in 2007 that I can see the depression already taking hold, even if the moments are fleeting.  I believe that his mother leaving him had a profound effect on the way Andy has continued to conduct his life – he never seems to ever say a proper good-bye.  Andy questions why the band never sat down to sort things out properly, and yet I wonder as an outsider why HE didn’t start the conversation himself.  Hindsight, right?

Overall, I agree with many of you who have taken to reminding me that there are many funny parts of this book. I smiled right along with you, rest assured.  I have always appreciated the way that Andy chooses not to sugar-coat things.  I myself have been accused of the same – it’s a difficult road to walk at times.  I also appreciate that this book is about Andy’s life in Duran Duran.  It’s not Andy coming to terms with himself nearly as much as it was probably cathartic for him to sort out how he felt about Duran Duran.  I know many, many fans out there felt that the book was far too negative and that Andy was far too harsh on the rest of the band.  I don’t suppose we’ll ever know for certain.  I can only offer a statement that my son is learning in his 8th grade literature class, and that is “The Truth is not the same for Everyone.”

I hope you enjoyed going back through the book with me, and that none of you minded that I chose not to make obvious parallels between this book and John’s book, which is due to be released tomorrow here in the states.  I hope that we can continue to discuss the books on their own merit and not try to contradict one over the other.  To do so cheapens the work product that both John and Andy rightfully earned, and that is simply not our goal. That said, Amanda will begin directing the discussion for that book next Monday!

-R

Readings, Signings and John Taylor…Oh My!

Just when I think I couldn’t add anything else to my extremely busy plate of activities, schedules and thoughts, something else falls into my lap, which is what happened yesterday afternoon.  Now, Friday afternoons have become a big deal in my life.  They didn’t used to be that important as I typically would spend Friday going out for a drink with colleagues or friends or just come home to sleep and relax.  Now, Friday afternoons and evenings mean getting ready for the weekend and, in my case, a weekend of all day campaigning.  Therefore, after work yesterday, I ran some errands and began straightening my house and making a list of everything I needed to bring to the campaign office that I’m in charge of through election day.  Before I got into a groove, I received both an email and a text message regarding the fact that many John Taylor book signings and readings were announced on dd.com.  If you want to read the details, you can go here.  Here is the basic gist of locations, dates, and events:

October 16th-New York City book signing at 12:30 pm

October 16th-New York City book reading and signing at 7:30 pm

October 18th-Ridgewood, New Jersey signing at 6:00 pm

October 24th-Hollywood reading and signing at 7:00 pm

October 25th-San Francisco reading and signing at 6:30 pm

October 26th-Austin reading and signing at 6:30 pm

October 29th-Toronto reading and signing at 7:00 pm

October 30th-Chicago reading and signing at 5:30 pm

To say that I am surprised by all of these events is an understatement.  I honestly didn’t think there was any chance that more book events would take place for three simple reasons.  First, the first New York City event was announced a long time.  When there is a long break between event announcements, I just assume that is all that would be happening.  I suppose that I should know better after seeing the long break between the first announcement of  some summer shows last year like Durham and Chicago and the rest of the tour, but habits are hard to break.  Second, the only locations mentioned when John appeared in Second Life was New York City and LA.  Yes, perhaps, he mentioned that he hoped for other locations, but hopes are very different from reality.  Lastly, I assumed that I wouldn’t have any luck and that he wouldn’t come anywhere near me.  In general, though, I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised that he is going to as many places as he is.  I’m also glad that he isn’t just going to the coasts.  Now, of course, there are COUNTLESS more places that could be picked for a spot.  I know this.  Everyone knows this.  I’m sure that John Taylor and the publisher knows this. 

So, what does this mean for me, the insanely over-scheduled and lucky to get 5 hours of sleep person?  I’m not sure.  Obviously, I would LOVE to get to the one nearest me.  Who wouldn’t?  It does mean missing other things, other commitments.  Here’s where the real test of fandom comes in, right?  Do I skip other things and possible risk consequences?  If so, does that make me a bigger, better fan?  If I don’t keep my real life commitments, does that make me too obsessed of a fan?  Will I totally regret not going or will I feel guilty if I go?  I am totally over thinking.  I know this.  Another thing I know and have been living for awhile is how much I HATE being pulled into 3 or 4 different directions.  I would love to just be able to commit to one thing and one thing only, but I can’t give up any.  For example, I can’t give up my paying job (as much I would really like to, at times) because it is what pays the bills.  I won’t give up fandom because it brings me the most joy.  As far as campaigning goes, I only have 24 days to go.  I just wish that I could worry about one at a time.  I wouldn’t feel so very torn and guilty all the time.  So, readers, I ask you.  What do you think I should do?  Do I allow myself a day of John Taylor and screw the consequences?  Ignore my other responsibilities?

-A

Book Discussion – Wild Boy (Chapters 12-14)

Continuing with our discussion, we will focus on chapters twelve through fourteen of Wild Boy today.

Chapter Twelve

R: Live Aid.  I don’t know how many fans had any kind of a notion that this performance would the the last for the original five band members until 2003, but that tidbit of knowledge in hindsight changes everything for me personally.  Live Aid was a epic event, certainly.  It is a memory that for those of us who were in or nearing our teens, really kind of sums up the 80’s.  I’ll bet for many, it very nearly carries on the same sort of ideals as other life-altering events.  It is a subject that is spoken of with regularity on message boards, Twitter and Facebook – and nearly every time it comes up, people remember where they were, what they were doing, and if they watched. Live Aid is synonymous with the band, and while sure – we remember how Simon sounded, when I think back – I just try to remember what the band looked like that day (I have very little memory of it without watching YouTube).  Did they engage with one another on stage?  Were there really signs of fracture?  This is indeed the event that Andy chooses to open the book with, and now we’ve come full circle.

There is a general theme with this section of the book, and that is Andy is trying to find a way out.  It would seem that Andy desperately wanted to leave Duran Duran, but in order to walk away properly – he needed to feel as though there were something waiting for him on the other side.  He speaks of Power Station in this regard.  “The Power Station was still going to be my bridge out of the madness, with or without Robert. One thing I was determined to do was to make a clean break from the Berrows, who I remained unhappy with over the large slice of our earnings that they were entitled to under the terms of our contract with them.” (Page 210) What is curious to me is that by his own writing, it seems that Andy doesn’t think the madness would follow him. I am not a rock star and I don’t know what it is like to be in a successful rock band, but I would imagine that many of the problems Andy continues to see would exist no matter where he was or whom he was playing with, and I think that becomes increasingly apparent as we head towards the end of this book.

A:  I, too, took notice about Andy’s desire to get out.  I thought his reasoning to want to get out from underneath the Berrows was interesting.  He mentioned how the managers had too big of a cut and, more than that, they were pushing too many shows, appearances, interviews, and videos.  I can’t, obviously, comment on whether or not this is true since I wasn’t there but I did want to point out how much managers matter when it comes to the day-to-day decisions regarding the band and their activities.  Also, interesting to me, was that John supposedly supported this idea but didn’t seek legal assistance to break the contract when Andy did.  We know that the rest of the band did eventually separate from the Berrows.  I’m curious as to what led to that.  

R:  One point on Live Aid that I find incredibly poignant and telling is that Andy talks about going to the show that day in the limo as though they were headed to a funeral – it was that quiet between the five of them, yet there was a party atmosphere taking place around them.  Andy brings up Simon’s voice again, which I suppose that yes – you can’t think about Live Aid without really thinking about Simon – it was one hell of a note to go out on, I guess, but it just adds to the negative mood at the end of the book.

Andy does speak about Drum.  I must admit, I have little memory of hearing about the incident on the news, although I remember reading the article in People magazine.  I can’t imagine what it must have been like to hear about such a thing as a band member.  Andy recalls being convinced it was just another sign that they couldn’t continue.  “In a funny sort of way the Drum incident was just another example of how the lifestyle threatened to destroy all of us.” (Page 217)  As much as I understand where Andy is coming from, I think it’s fair to say that it could have happened to anyone – you don’t need to be in a rock band to capsize a sail boat, and having money has nothing to do with it.  People die from risks or even from just trying to drive to work every day whether they are rich, poor, into excess or otherwise. I really believe this was a sign of Andy’s own well-being (lack thereof) as anything else.

I know that there were many, many legal issues revolving Andy leaving the band.  We’ve all heard about them over the years, and so I really don’t want to waste time and space going over them here.  However, I want to call attention to the final sentences in this chapter.  “Our dissolution wasn’t caused by people. It was caused by the circumstances that we found ourselves in.” (Page 220)  Without getting preachy here, I daresay that it was also caused by a complete lack of communication from day one…and THAT is what is so incredibly sad.  People who made their lives every bit of what it is today by communicating and connecting with perfect strangers through their music couldn’t find a way to communicate with one another.  It’s heartbreaking.

A:  This lack of communication is clear when Andy met with Simon, John and Nick in London before the recording of Notorious.  At that time, he admitted that he gave them the impression that he would be returning in order to avoid confrontation.  I certainly can understand wanting to avoid that but a band that was able to communicate wouldn’t have had this happen and I can’t imagine that it helped.

Chapter Thirteen

R: As this chapter opens, Andy is in Malibu with Tracey and little Andrew.  He has bought a home and settles into life as a solo artist.  He makes a statement that I fear is telling for not only the time in which he is referring, but for later on as well. “I’ve always believed that if you are good enough it comes to you, and you don’t need to run around like a headless chicken chasing hits, doing dodgy promo tours or any of that ‘where they are now’ stuff.” (Page 229) I guess my comment would simply be that while his album did fine – selling 300,000 copies, I’m not sure where his statement is coming from.  Did he feel that Duran was in fact “chasing hits” and if so – why?

A:  Besides, the discussion surrounding Andy’s new life in Malibu, including his friends like Steve Jones and Don Johnson, he also discussed a public fight with Simon.  According to this, Simon did an interview that criticized Andy for getting lawyers involved.  He also said that Simon stated that Andy was bored with being in Duran and wanted to be more of the center of attention.  Andy took responsibility here by admitting that he responded and shouldn’t.  I have vague memories of seeing articles like this in those frequently-purchased teen magazines.  What I realized by reading this is just how human all the members are.  They do say and do things that they might not be proud of.  They also have horrible moments like this, which we all do.  We have all had falling outs with other people and do and say things that are ugly.  I appreciated Andy’s admitting this.

Chapter Fourteen

R: Out of the entire book, this chapter is by far the saddest for me to read and absorb.  It’s quite daunting when you sit back and take stock in just how many people that Duran Duran worked with that are no longer with us.  Overwhelming, really…and yes, like everyone else I feel very, very lucky that each one of the original members are still here.  It’s very, very clear that Andy was very frightened that unless they changed their ways, one or more of the band members would die.  He mentions this several times throughout the book, enough to make me wary.  It’s funny how as fans we simply choose to ignore the obvious, to ignore the signs of aging, of poor health, or even of poor life choices.  We see what we want to see, and I am as guilty of that as the next fan.  I simply refuse to believe that any of them could possibly die.  I am aware that is a dangerous pattern of thought, but the alternative is something I just cannot reconcile at present.

The list is lengthy, and to his credit – Andy spends time talking about each person and what they may have meant to him personally.  He spends a great deal of time discussing Robert Palmer, and I suspect that for Andy, this may have been the greatest blow to date, and likely the one he was least expecting.  As I, and I’m sure many others amongst us have learned – this is typically the case.  You just never know.

On the back end of the chapter, Andy discusses his own idols.  He writes of those who paved the way for him, as well as those that connected the band together.  As he says, “we connected through our idols and influences.” (Page 251) He talks a bit about his own evolution as a guitar player, and I found it striking just how similar his own interests are to say…the band’s current guitar player.  They are very different as players if you can catch the subtleties, but there’s a reason why THIS fan loves both of them best.  I loved the sentence “We wrote with guitar and keyboards – and that was a fundamental part of our success.” (Page 253)  It was a fundamental reason why so many of us learned to love Duran Duran, and we must thank Andy Taylor for his contribution to that.  It was, and still IS…essential.

A:  One of the people that Andy discusses is the late Colin Thurston who produced Duran’s first 2 albums.  Clearly, one thing that he really did for the band was ensure that they write all their own chords, lyrics and melodies.  As a fan, this is one thing that I truly admire!  It is something that they should be proud of!

On Monday, we will conclude the discussion from Andy’s book by taking a close look at chapters fifteen through the epilogue.  Study hard!

-A & R

Winter Marches On (Ok, so it’s barely Autumn….)

Is it just me or does summer feel like it was a long time ago…and next summer seems like a mirage out in the distance?

Stay with me here, I’m not talking about the weather, of course. Today in SoCal is pretty much the very first “rainy” day we’ve had in, well…many months.  I’m actually in long sleeves AND enclosed shoes!!! (I am an admitted flip-flop wearer. Style be damned. I’m casual and I like it!) Thank goodness for my grey Chuck Taylors.  I’m talking about the band, of course.

Today I read a great little interview on John Taylor in Guitar World magazine. Haven’t read it yet?  Let me do you the favor of passing it on right here. (Guitar World)  John explains why he wrote the book, why he chose to do it now, and what’s coming up next for the band…which has the rest of the Duraniverse, myself included, on the edge of our seats.  We know they’re headed back into the studio to work with Mark Ronson again in March of 2013, and that is great news. Mark seems to know how to give the band the confidence they need in order to own their own place, and that in turn is the recipe for the band creating their best work.  Synergy can be powerful once placed in the right hands.

March.

I’m not going to lie.  I’m a fan just like the rest of you.  I want to hear news from working on the album tomorrow because that’s what keeps me going.  I want our book done tomorrow, too. That just isn’t possible…on all counts…and we know that.  They finished the tour just what – six weeks ago or so? I suppose it does seem a bit like a slave driver to start cracking the whip just yet, so I will refrain. No really, I promise!

It’s really no better where I sit. My schedule is crazy, Amanda’s schedule is even worse. We’re talking about meeting somewhere and shutting ourselves in a hotel room until our book is done. (Ok, really just for a weekend – but I like the idea of not coming out until it’s done.  My husband though?  Not so much!)  So on that note, I can understand how this works.  I also completely understand the excitement of being a fan, missing the band, wanting new music, and continuing the journey – because that’s what this is really all about, isn’t it?

However, there was another sentence in that interview that continues to give me a small ray of hope.  A little something about touring in the summer…

I tweeted a little note to Duran Duran HQ this morning.  Let’s begin the chant, shall we?  Repeat after me: Summer. Shows.  I love those words, do the rest of you?  Let’s make them work for us.  Let’s keep that little ray of sunshine going through what might very well be a long winter.

-R

 

A Matter of Feeling

I was reading an article the other day about music fanatics and whether or not they still existed with all the technology and “ease” in being a fan today.  You can read the article here, on Hypebot.

It would seem that many in the music industry – or at least those with a blog, would agree.  Of course, they are making this judgment based on how accessible everything is today.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the statement that begins “Back in MY day, we waited all night for tickets to ____________, and sometimes STILL didn’t get them.  We just waited for the next tour and tried again or went through a broker.”  This of course, is true.  There really was a time when Ticketmaster was done pretty manually and yes, you had to either dial a phone (risky) or go to an outlet and camp outside, often times all night, in order to secure a place in line for ticket sales that began the next day. Then they got smart to that and started doing the wristbands, so it didn’t matter when you got there, the wristbands were handed out randomly, and whatever number you ended up with determined either your place in line OR you just stood around waiting for your number to come up – similar to a lottery.  Did that really make someone a hardcore fan?

Then of course the argument comes around that today, one single song can decide whether someone remains a fan or otherwise. Often times, songs are put online as teasers – that way a band can get a feel for what the public thinks before an entire album is released.  Muse did that just recently, and as one could have guessed – they have kind of gone in a different direction with this next album, using what many have characterized as dubstep guitar effects.  While many seem to like the new direction, many others who are self-described “hardcore” fans have denounced the album, and are have said this one song is ruining their admiration for the band.  Sound familiar, anyone???  I seem to recall the same thing happening to some band around here somewhere over the years.  While sure, some people do end up walking away – and that’s probably bound to happen no matter the circumstance – is it really ever that simple?  The blogger (Alex May of sidewinder.fm) drives his point home by saying, “While listeners have always had strong opinions about the music they like and dislike, the advent of social media and the platform it provides has revealed just how volatile fans can be. Oftentimes, they dispute and defend such opinions in a vile way, and grow divided based on what kinds of music they love and hate. This mindset, when paired with the instantaneous nature of the Internet, seems to have created a lot more fleeting fans that are less engaged and less willing to give new music a second chance. Fair enough, but didn’t people ever discuss music before the internet came along?  I can remember getting into full-on arguments with friends over the merits of many a rock band, including but certainly not limited to Duran Duran.  Maybe at the heart of the matter is the idea of actually having a discussion, where one is as willing to listen and learn as is ready to defile and disengage.  Again I have to wonder, is this truly what makes a fan hardcore?  

It is true, we don’t have to camp outside for tickets, there may no longer be those midnight releases where fans wait outside for hours, we can now buy music without ever leaving our homes, and comment with friends or adversaries online at will. I am not at all sure those characteristics determine what makes someone a music fanatic. That is a trait that comes from within the person, not from simple actions.  But then, I would also assert that a hardcore fan could easily be someone who has never attended a single concert or a signing – it’s about what is created in the heart when they listen to music that they truly connect with.  It’s not about how many shows one has gone to, how many pictures they have with the band, or even whether or not someone is crazy enough to write a blog on a daily basis. 

I wouldn’t argue with the author that an incredible mistake is being made when we assume that just because someone takes the nanosecond to click “like” on a Facebook page or hit “follow” on Twitter that they are a fan.  That is merely the initial step, and most bands out there completely miss the boat from that point.  They are completely unaware of what it takes to turn a “like” into a real “fan”. There is a tangible difference between a casual fan who attends shows and buys albums and “likes” a band on social media and the person who has been a fan through thick and thin – whether they’ve loved every record or not, whether or not they’ve even attended a single show.  

The task of explaining what really makes someone a music fanatic comes down to one thing in my mind: Passion.  I don’t think it matters much whether that passion drives someone to go to a hundred shows, buy thousands of copies of albums, or coerces one to travel overseas to shows, or to simply enjoy being an active “online” participant at home.  There’s a certain feeling I get when I listen to music I dearly love – I become profoundly and permanently connected. I don’t just listen, I live. 

I think that’s why I have difficulty in completely buying into the idea that the musical fanatic is a dying breed. While yes, I agree finding music is easier these days and the process of becoming or being a fan might be different than what took place in my generation, it is no less momentous when that lifeblood artery of bonding is created between the fan and artist.  I would argue that people spend their entire lives searching for such things, and when it is found, the passion is what keeps fans, all of us music fanatics – going.  

-R







Book Discussion – Wild Boy (Chapters 7-11)

We’re continuing with our discussion of Wild Boy this week – focusing on chapters seven through eleven.

Chapter Seven

This chapter takes place during what we know to be the Sing Blue Silver tour of America.  For many of us, this is the point when Duran Duran took over our world. One couldn’t go into a grocery store and down the magazine aisle without seeing the band on a half-dozen covers. Andy opens the chapter by discussing The Reflex and how they had to practically force Capitol Records in America to release the version that Nile Rodgers had remixed. According to Andy (and every other piece of information I’ve ever found on the topic), the label felt it was “too black”. Andy is right that in 1984, black musicians had a very difficult time getting airplay. Not even MTV would play videos by black musicians, and this was an open standard in the industry. Of course in the coming years this will change dramatically – but during that time, the music industry was extremely resistant and slow to react to change.  (Still is, in my opinion!!)
As we all know, the band went to bat for The Reflex, and it’s a good thing they did – it reached number one in both the UK and in the US.  “Some things are worth fighting for.”  (Page 147)  Absolutely.
Andy spends time discussing the enormity of the US tour. I have to say that just the idea of needing to coordinate how each semi-truck gets on and offloaded would make my head spin.  This is why I never went into stage management, apparently. I know the difficulties of just getting five teenaged kids, along with their instruments and gear on and off of a stage and back into a small van without incident, so I can’t even begin to think of what dealing with 9 semi-trucks, 150 people and a zillion fans must have been like. No thank you.  
One thing Andy does mention though, is this idea of an “Inner circle”. He makes mention of it throughout the book here and there, and basically – no one gets in. If you’re a member of the band or perhaps a family member, fine – but by Andy’s account, he was a firm believer in “No New People”. He goes to the length to even say that “contrary to popular perception, unlike the free and easy days of the Rum Runner, no member of the band slept with fans while we were on the road. It was just something that we never did because we simply didn’t allow outsiders into our inner circle, plus we all had partners by now.” (Page 150)  I never went to a show on the Sing Blue Silver tour, mostly because at the time I was barely thirteen and my parents were extremely strict at that point. I have no way of knowing for sure what went on, but I will say this much – and this is not a spoiler because it’s been written about in nearly every single promo article that has been done for John’s book. If band members didn’t sleep with fans – I have to wonder what point there really was in publishing a number in the corner of the day sheet the band members received each morning under their hotel room doors.  That number, as we all know by now, was the legal age of consent in whatever city/state/country they were visiting. Sure, it could very well have ONLY been for the benefit of the road crew. True. But then if that were the case, I wonder why John brought it up in his book? I guess my point is simply that once again, this proves that the truth may not be the same for everyone.  
At the end of this chapter, it becomes clear that Andy has some definite questions about his place in the band, and the unity within. He brings up the recording of Seven and a Ragged Tiger, and how the experience really broke up the unity. When John and Roger finished their parts, they no longer hung out in the studio. Andy talks about how Nick wanted to change things, and so Andy felt as though he needed to stand his ground to protect their input. Alex Sadkin had asked John to rerecord some of his parts, and according to Andy – John became enraged. Then there was the relationship of Andy with the Berrows. I barely remember the year that the band was nominated for and won two Grammy awards (Best Short Video for Girls on Film/Hungry Like the Wolf video 45 & Best Video Album for the Duran Duran video album that I’m sure most of us have somewhere in our VCR or Beta tape collection….) The reason I probably don’t have a good memory of it is because the band wasn’t present to accept their awards. I didn’t realize that the band didn’t even know that they’d been nominated until I read this book! It’s funny because as a fan, there are times when I wonder “Does the band even KNOW this is going on? Do they even realize that it’s important to us as fans that they know??” and invariably there will be someone else to say “Oh Rhonda, I’m sure they know. Of course they do, it’s their band!” Well, here is one case where apparently they didn’t. I thought it was horrible that the Berrows brothers didn’t tell them until it was too late, and I agree with Andy that of course it had everything to do with the fact that they didn’t want to reschedule a show to accommodate the band appearing at the award show in person. It’s just a shame that they never were able to experience that moment the way it had been intended. There are some things in life that you get one shot at – and when it’s gone, it’s gone. I’ve heard a similar story with regard to another band member (not Andy) and their child being born (It doesn’t matter who this was…only that it happened.) The news was kept from them until just before the show, when in fact another member of the band was planning to announce AT the show that a baby had been born. I have got to say that as a parent, a partner and a spouse to someone who always travels – that I would have had that person’s HEAD, no matter the reasoning. Being in a band shouldn’t give someone else the power to decide how and when information like that is delivered. It’s wrong, it’s irresponsible, and it’s flat out dehumanizing. I still get angry when I think about it!  I can’t blame Andy for wanting to be rid of them, it’s difficult to be forgiving in situations like that.  
Chapter Eight

Andy begins this chapter with another tale of John hurting himself. This time, it is his foot – and I’ve got to say – I don’t ever remember hearing this story “way back when”. Andy says it was downplayed in the press and I’m sure he’s right. The story he tells, about how horrible the scene was, how John need stitches, morphine AND pharmaceutical strength cocaine to be able to shoot the video for Arena – is harrowing to say the least. I’m such a lightweight MOM at times. It’s obvious I couldn’t have come from a place farther away from the rock-and-roll-world, because I just can’t even imagine it all. Even more alarming to me as a person though, was how nothing was ever discussed. It’s as though real problems like that couldn’t be discussed in such a “fake” world full of smoke and mirrors. As a fan, it really makes me angry, because to me – these guys have been nothing BUT real. Why couldn’t they have helped one another? Andy explains it as though they all came from different directions when it came to communicating. I can see what he means, but I think the real issue is that if they made notice of John, they’d have to actually look in the mirror to admit what was happening to themselves – and at that point in time – they weren’t quite ready.  
There just seems to be more cracks in the foundation as we read deeper into the chapter. Andy talks about how physically demanding the tour is (and I have no doubt he is right about that!), and then he delves into the friction between himself and Nick. According to Andy, Nick was “increasingly dismissive of the contributions from John, Roger and me.” (Page 163)  This is of course a subject that is near and dear to my heart – simply because I’ve always had trouble with the direction(s) the band seemed to take after Rio. It seemed to me that with every subsequent album, guitar took less and less of a leading role – while the synthesizer became more and more of the broad stroke holding the artwork together. I know I’m not the only fan that missed the hard edge that Andy’s guitar would provide, and I felt that their music needed that edge just to make it different from everything else that was out there. Andy comments that he used to jokingly refer to Nick as the Lyric Police – in turn I know many of us that lovingly refer to Nick as The Controller, whether that is a fair statement or not, I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure – I only know what I see and hear. All of that said, Andy seems fairly rough on Nick when he tells the story of hiring a stripper to close the tour in San Diego – and I can imagine just how angry Julie Anne must have been at the time.  
Andy closes this chapter with more of his fragmenting thought process when it came to the band and if he really wanted to continue. He speaks of how demeaning it was to go through customs to get back into the UK, that they had to submit to a strip search (So, so wrong, in my opinion) and while that was happening, the car that Tracey was waiting for him in outside of Heathrow was completely mobbed by fans. Now, as a fan of the band – I’m mortified when I read this. I feel horrible for Tracey, and I feel horrible for Andy. It’s fine to love the band. It’s fine to even want to greet them when they come home. It is NOT fine, however, to create mass hysteria. I know what kind of a frenzy can happen though – and when the energy of the crowd seems to feed on itself, there’s literally no stopping it.  Andy aptly describes it as a mob mentality. Scary. He ends the chapter by saying “Fuck it.  I am leaving it all behind. Thank God.”  I think that in that moment, Andy knew what he wanted to do, whether or not he was consciously leaving the band right then or not.
Chapter Nine

This entire chapter is about the band’s drug use, purely because someone in their entourage from back in their days at the Rum Runner turned out to be a complete asshole and sold his soul to a paper. It’s the most disgusting thing I’ve read yet about this band, and when I think about it, it still pisses me off, to be honest – it’s not about whether or not the band did drugs.  (I think we all know now that yes, they did.) It’s not about their image (although at the time, it most certainly was), it’s about the fact that from that incident – that band learned that they couldn’t trust anyone, and that’s a shame. I have to say that for myself – I never really knew much about their drug use until probably the mid to late 90’s. That isn’t to say I didn’t wonder about it, but it wasn’t something I really considered or thought about. I was just too far removed, and quite honestly – *I* was as squeaky clean as you could get. At least until college.  
“Drug use is very common in the music industry, so the people immediately around us were not actually that shocked. It’s true that we had a young teenage audience, which sat very uneasily with the drug revelations. But we were all teenagers ourselves when we started out – and we certainly didn’t ask to be role models.” Oddly, when I read this – I think about the hundreds of other celebrities and musicians out there that have said nearly this exact statement. The thing is, when you become a celebrity or a rock star, you’re basically asking to become an idol to people, whether or not you take the time to recognize that fact. From adoration becomes idolization. One doesn’t typically happen without the other to some extent. However, that shouldn’t/doesn’t mean that you stop being human – although to this very day I think there are a good many fans out there that bring themselves to admit that the band is human. The problem is far more complex than I think any of us care to think about. (Well, anyone except perhaps Amanda and I!) 
Chapter Ten

This chapter talks about Wild Boys, which is fascinating in it’s own right, but not what I want to highlight. Andy talks about a subject that encompasses a lot of my own childhood, and I have to say, when I first read this chapter, a lot of memories that I had buried in my head came to surface. He writes about the beautiful birth of his oldest child, Andrew and how he settled in to being a father. What didn’t become immediately apparent, though, was how Tracey was adjusting. He writes about how he “came home one night and there was a different person in the house…She seemed to be confused about how she was.” (Page 188) He explains how he found her standing next to an open window with Andrew in her arms and that he was afraid she’d jump, and how she was diagnosed with a nervous breakdown brought on by a full-blown postnatal psychosis.  What’s more, Tracey is put into a medical coma in order for her brain to rest. This hits incredibly close to home for me, as my own mom was diagnosed with this same exact issue after my sister was born. I was only four-and-a-half when this happened, and while the exact order of events are extremely fuzzy for me, I can remember with vivid clarity the day that my mom took a nap on our couch because she had a horrible headache, only to wake up and ask me who I was, and then when I told her – she started crying for her mom, as though she were a child. For what seemed like hours, she ran back and forth between the couch and her bedroom while my dad spoke to her calmly, trying to make her see reason. It wasn’t long after that I was sent to the neighbors and my mom was admitted into a psychiatric hospital, where she remained for the better part of the next six months. I only saw her on limited occasions, and from what I understand – it wasn’t until about nine months later that my mom finally came home permanently. It’s not a subject we ever spoke about much and my mom still doesn’t seem to remember much of it herself, but it made it’s mark on me – I never got into trouble much, out of pure fear that I’d send her back to the hospital if I made her angry. (My younger sister though? She more than made up for me!!) So while sure, I recognize that Andy has made many of you angry over the years, the very fact that I understand SOME of what he went through here, but in a very different way has made me feel somewhat akin. I can’t really imagine what Andy felt like as a spouse, but I would bet he had/has the same sorts of fears as I did – that never really goes away.  
Chapter Eleven

This chapter opens with a story about meeting David Bowie. What I found the most interesting about this story is what Andy said about meeting ones idols. “I’d learned pretty early on in life that meeting your heroes doesn’t always live up to expectations. But we went downstairs and were introduced to Bowie.” He doesn’t say a lot about the meeting, other than he was “very opinionated and quite odd to talk to”. That is one excerpt from this book that I’ve never forgotten, mainly because it’s almost an omen to fans. I’ve kicked the thought around a lot, trying to decide how I really feel.The main thought that comes to mind is the word “Expectations”. I can’t really tell any of you just how many times a fan has come to me and told me how so-and-so was just awful. They either rebuffed their advances, refused a hug, refused a photo, or was simply rude. I never really know what to say or how to react.  I feel bad for the fan, I wonder how the situation might have been handled differently, and then I have to wonder if the fan just didn’t have expectations well-beyond reality. I never really know, but I try to put myself in their shoes. It’s just not easy, or normal. For me? I merely hope that should I ever run into the band – it’ll be under a normal, every day setting. I still think about the day I ran into Dom Brown on a plane to New Orleans. I hadn’t been feeling well that day, so as I saw him coming down the aisle towards me, I was ready to melt right into the floor and hide.  Unfortunately for me, I also had my Duran Duran VIP bag out – and he didn’t miss it. I am sure I turned about 5,000 shades of red to purple before quietly telling him how great of a job he’d done the night before. It was completely bizarre, and yet so natural – I wouldn’t have wanted it to happen any other way, and no, I didn’t ask him for a photo. I didn’t need one, as the memory serves me pretty well as is. I haven’t had a lot of opportunities since then, but the fact remains – expectations are key. The band is human, and we fans need to remember and respect that.
We are trying to wrap our discussion of Wild Boy up this week – so we will continue on THURSDAY this week, with chapters 12-14, and then the final wrap up on Sunday, with chapters 15 through the Epilogue.  Happy Reading!!  

Return to Now

Once in a while, I’ll check in with Facebook and see that a lot of my friends had somehow read my mind and posted various old clips, interviews and the like. Plenty of times, I have to ignore those posts because I don’t have time to sit and watch, but today I’m nursing some sort of weird back thing (I slept last night. Obviously that must be the problem.) so I’m not about to get up and go running (Ha – I’m not being chased, so that definitely isn’t going to happen) or clean much today. So I took some time this morning, and I’ve got to say, sometimes looking back really IS good for the soul moving forward.  

One clip that I am going to find again and attach here is a three-minute clip from the Forum Show in London back in 2003.  If you don’t recognize the significance of the date, it’s a show with the original five back on stage together.  I think it’s fair to say that many of us have seen more than a few clips from gigs over the years.  Most of them make me at least crack a small grin, some make me smile, and then….there is this one.  I don’t want to give it away, so I’ll just post the clip here so the rest of you can experience pure joy.
I must be getting really soft with age, or this band is just killing me slowly, because tears sprang to my eyes when I watched the video.  The reaction from the audience is the closest thing to pure joy that I’ve really witnessed without being an actual part.  
I know much has happened since this moment.  It’s been nine years since this gig, and in many ways, it feels like a lifetime. That still doesn’t stop me from looking back with fondness and feeling some of that same joy I felt back in 2003 when I experienced my own first gig with the original five.  Never mind what came later, just being in that one moment again feels good. 
Many in the community haven’t been able to reconcile their feelings regarding the band or regarding Andy since these moments in 2003.  I can understand all of that, and whether you became a fan in the 80’s, the 90’s or even just recently, sometimes looking back helps you to feel better about going forward.  
Take a look back and just absorb some of that pure electricity and joy.  As for me, I’m going to attempt to sit back, take some Advil, contemplate calling the chiropractor and watch some DVD’s that some friends have made for me of shows from the past couple of years.  Can’t wait to hear some Hungry Like the Wolf again.  HA!!!
-R

What All You Need is Now Really Means

Today’s blog features a continuation of the documentary included on A Diamond in the Mind.  Last week, I discussed the band’s chosen highlights for 2011.  This post will focus on the second topic in the documentary, when Simon lost his voice/top part of his vocal range. 

When I watched the documentary, I was particularly keen to see this part as I knew that the loss of vocal range for Simon was a big problem in 2011.  As someone who was personally affected by this loss and the show cancellations that followed, I knew that it might create quite an emotional reaction for me.  Although, I thought it might be possible that enough time had passed that any emotional scar had been healed.  Plus, I had seen shows after this problem, which probably helped as well.  In case you weren’t reading the blog in May of 2011, I should probably tell you that Rhonda and I along with a couple of others traveled to the UK then to see four shows (Birmingham, Nottingham, Liverpool and London).  Unfortunately, on the way to the airport, we learned that the first 3 shows were canceled due to Simon’s problem with his voice.  We, obviously, opted to continue with the trip as we had plane tickets and other reservations already made.  Plus, we believed that we had a shot to see a show in London but that was not meant to be as Duran was forced to cancel the entire UK tour and the summer shows in Europe.  It was definitely a dark, scary time for all of us as no one knew, for sure, if Simon would heal or if it was the end of the band. 

In the documentary, Simon describes what happened when he lost the high range of his voice.  Then, each member took time to discuss the significance of this event on both the band and the current project, AYNIN.  A number of comments from the band members stood out to me.  First, Nick mentioned how they were initially in denial and hoped that they would only have to cancel a few shows.  I wasn’t surprised by that statement.  While in the UK, Rhonda and I managed to find ourselves outside their rehearsal studios.  That day, which is featured on the documentary, was the day that they came to the studios to see if Simon would be able to perform.  Clearly, he was not and they were forced to cancel the whole UK tour.  While outside, we did see the band enter and exit the studios.  Some band members seemed to be in fairly good moods when entering, including Nick.  He had a slight smile to his face as he walked by and waved to the fans.  When he left, though, he had a completely different facial expression.  He looked devastated as did John.  Simon, on the other hand, came to talk to the group of us outside before he went in.  He knew that it didn’t look good and he told us so.  He was already devastated. 

Other comments from the documentary that caught my attention were the ones in which various band members discussed how they didn’t know if it was the end of the band or not.  Roger referenced that time as “looking into a blackhole”.  John pointed out that they couldn’t help but to wonder if it was the end.  This, of course, brought me right back to that time.  What did I think?  What did the rest of the fan community think?  Did we think like the band did?  Personally, I have to admit that I did think it was the end, especially since no one really seemed to know what really went wrong and how to fix it.  I was definitely concerned that the damage was permanent.  I even had the nerve to question what the end of the band would be like in this blog even though I never came out to say that I thought it was the end.  I suppose that part of me was trying to cushion the blow that I thought would certainly come.  I wanted to be as prepared as possible.  How did people react to my questioning?  Not good.  Not good at all.  I was criticized for being dramatic or for being negative.  It felt to me like a lot of fans were just like the band with that hard to overwhelm denial.  I didn’t blame anyone for feeling that way.  After all, Nick had the same thing.  I did, too, until I saw Simon that day.  I saw his fear, his worry.  Then, I knew it was bad.  Yet, the band wasn’t expressing this fear in public.  Instead, they were expressing confidence that Simon would be back and that shows would be rescheduled soon.  I get that attitude now.  Maybe I should have gotten it more then.  Oh well. 

Thankfully, Simon did recover.  In the documentary, the band expressed almost gratitude for this experience.  John, for example, discussed how they handled it gave them strength and brought them closer.  Roger talked about how it made the tour have more meaning.  Dom mentioned how Simon is actually better and stronger now.  I definitely can relate to all of those things.  First of all, I think Rhonda and I became closer from having experienced this together and I think that when we went back for the rescheduled shows, they did mean more to us.  We probably had a WAY better experience because of it, too.  As for Simon, I agree that he is sounding better than ever and a song like Before the Rain really showcases it and allows him to start the shows in a helpful way.  Thus, I think Simon’s loss of his voice was positive, in the long run.  The band appreciated things more when they were able to return.  Perhaps, as John stated, they really did learn was “all you need is now” means.  I know that I learned a very valuable lesson then, which is to live in the moment and do not put off what you can do now.  The documentary was a good reminder of this lesson and one that I needed in order to keep focused on the now.

-A

Meet El Presidente

Yesterday, I met the President of the United States.  I not only met him but I hugged him…actually, he hugged me and I returned the hug.  Now, before non-Obama supporters or before people who aren’t into American politics stop reading, I ask that you stay with me.  This post won’t be focused on President Obama or his opponent or the presidential race.  It is more about having that real moment with an idol and how that moment can be made SO special.

I received word Wednesday evening that I would be one of about 15 Obama volunteer team leaders and organizers who would be meeting the President on Thursday when he came to my city of Madison for a campaign rally.  I was glad that I had some time to think about what to wear but not too much time that I would obsess over it.  You see I have been organizing politically since the summer of 2008 for then Senator Obama and haven’t stopped since.  This is a complete volunteer position that has taken up 10-30 hours per week of my time.  Thus, when I got word that I would get a chance to meet him, I felt appreciated.  I felt my work was validated.  The campaign clearly felt like my contribution MATTERED.  Of course, even as I type this, I can’t help but to think about how this isn’t that much different than what we all feel about Duran Duran.  While we might not be organizing or working for them, we have been fans for a long time.  For many of us, we have been fans for decades.  Duranies, too, like to know that they are appreciated and that their loyalty matters.

I was told by the campaign to arrive at a certain spot at the rally at 1 pm.  Once the entire group of team leaders assembled, we were escorted into a closed building where the President would come.  At this time, I was already feeling pretty special.  Why?  It was the little things that really made me feel like I was going VIP.  First of all, the line to get into the rally was HUGE (there were 30,000 people there).  I did not have to stand in line.  Second, while we had to go through security like everyone else, we were allowed to go in before everyone else.  Tell me that this doesn’t sound like early entry?!  Then, when we were shown into this lovely room to wait with comfortable chairs and a beautiful view, I immediately saw that we were in the same room as the rest of the rally speakers.  This included the woman running for US Senate, the man running to take her spot in the US House of Representative and more.  I was in awe.  Again, I continued to feel special.

After awhile, we were given instructions that included the order in which we were going to greet the President and that we could not bring any personal items with us.  With that, we were escorted into a room that had been divided in half by large blue curtains, which would also act as the backdrop for the official photos.  Then, we waited.  As we waited, one of our current US Senators joined us and introduced himself.  Wow.  Soon enough, we heard a flurry of activity in the hallway and knew that he had arrived.  When he stepped into the room and greeted us generally, we clapped and cheered.  Then, there was more waiting until, finally, it was our turn.  I was nervous and had no idea how to properly greet him since I wanted to be respectful.  Since I was toward the end of the line, I saw that he was greeting people with hugs!  He initiated them!  Thus, I thought it was only right that I return the hug!  Then, we got into position for the group picture.  I managed to be right in front of him because he is tall and I’m short.  This position was perfect for him to put his hand on my shoulder!  Before we left the room, he thank us a few times and pointed out that we are the “core of the campaign”.  I blurted something about how I was tired.  (Wow!  What a genius move that was!  I’m tired?!  Like he isn’t WAY more tired?!).  He nodded and stated that we could do it for 33 more days.  I nodded back and said that I would keep working.  I will do work and get it done.  He said something about how he needed us.

There are no words to state what I felt like at that moment.  I felt unbelievably giddy.  I felt proud.  I mattered.  I am needed.  This once in a lifetime moment will stay with me forever.  I got my moment.  I got my moment with someone I look up to.  When I looked at the faces of my fellow leaders, they all had the same expression on their faces.  They, too, felt this way.  It was like we had all become fans.  While still shaking with excitement, we were led out the same doors that President Obama would walk to get to the stage.  In our case, we walked to the VIP section, which was in front, on the side.  Within a few minutes, President Obama came out and spoke.  During that time, I stood next to the woman running for Senate.  I was able to speak to her and get a picture.  I looked back at the rest of the people and realized that unlike them, I didn’t have to get there early.  I didn’t have to stand all day.  This truly was real VIP treatment.  I never felt so special.

As soon as I came back down to planet earth (pun intended), I began to think about my typical focus of fandom, Duran Duran, or fan meet and greets, in general.  Here’s what I know.  Fans, like me, all want to feel special, to feel like we matter.  We want to feel like serious VIPs.  After all, we have been fans for a long time and give much support with everything from our money for albums, concert tickets, merchandise and more to emotional support as we are constantly sending messages or comments in one way shape or form telling the band or band members about how much the band matters to us.  We want to get at least that 1/100th of the love back that we feel like we send to them.  I had that with the President yesterday.  I feel both lucky and appreciated.  It was a real gift.  So, why did it go so well, from my point of view?

First, my expectations were realistic.  In fact, I expected that it would be an assembly line of photographs with our very large group being pushed through quickly.  I didn’t expect words to be exchanged.  I certainly didn’t expect to touch him and I would have never even dreamed that I might be able to get a hug!  (What would I have to do to get a hug from say…a certain bass player?!)  Second, the meet and greet was set up well.  There was space and time so that no side felt pressured or cornered.  We weren’t made to feel like we were part of an assembly line and the President had a lot of space and didn’t have to deal with everyone at once.  Each person was directed when to approach.  This provided comfort to me as someone who isn’t good at just going up to people and introducing myself and I’m willing to bet that it helped the President not feel overwhelmed.  Yes, I know that the man probably is used to large crowds and a lot of people begging for his attention at the same time.  Likewise, I’m sure that Duran is, too.  Even if they are used to it, should they have to deal with it?  Why can’t they be allowed time and space that we all get?  Plus, I wonder if that rush affects not only their immediate meetings with fans but future meetings with fans.  Third, as part of the set up, instructions were given.  We all knew what we could do and what we couldn’t.  We knew not to ask for other pictures.  Thus, the President wasn’t put in a position to have to answer that question.  Lastly, I think that the rest of the crowd helped.  We were all very aware that we needed to be respectful.  No one approached President Obama for a hug before HE initiated it.  I like this.  This way, I knew that President Obama was truly okay with hugs once he started giving them himself.

What is my point here?  It is simple really.  We, fans, all wants our moment with our idols.  We all do.  I think this is normal.  After all, we are only human and we give a lot of ourselves by being fans.  We may not give work like I do with President Obama but we do give of ourselves when we become fans.  We give a piece of our heart.  We give our emotions.  Thus, we want a little bit of the love back at us.  We want our moment.  This meet and greet was done correctly.  It was done in such a way that I felt special and loved the whole time from minute one to the very end.  On top of that, it was done in such a way that everyone involved from regular people to the leader of our country felt comfortable as rules were clear or everyone followed the same principles of being respectful.  If I ever get the chance of having a meet and greet with Duran, I would hope to have something similar.  Until then, I gotta wonder why it was easier for me to meet the President than it is to really meet John Taylor (yes, I “met” him at a cd signing but that isn’t the same!)…Someday, I hope I could frame both the picture with President Obama and a picture with John.  *sigh*  If only! 

-A

Edited to add the picture!  I cropped the rest of the people out.  I didn’t do it because I’m self-centered.  I just didn’t think they would want to be on this blog about Duran Duran fans!

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.