Today’s book discussion focuses on the year 1984, which John covers in his autobiography in chapters 46-51. I was curious about how this year was going to be talked about because this is the year I became a Duranie and when it seemed to me that Duran Duran was EVERYWHERE! I wanted to know what it was like to be them. More specifically, I wanted to know what it was like to be John who was often the focus as the “best-looking” or whatever he was labeled as back then. So, let’s go back to 1984 as we discuss these chapters.
Chapter 46: Exploitation Time
Were you surprised that John talked about how much they wanted to perform well on the Sing Blue Silver tour of 1984?
A – While I know that Duran is a fabulous live band today, I didn’t really know if they were in 1984. I, obviously, had heard the album, Arena, but that didn’t show me. The documentary, Sing Blue Silver, didn’t show it either as both were able to be done in such a way to only show positive performances. Part of me wouldn’t have blamed them if they didn’t care about their performances since there was so much pressure on them. Yet, when I read John’s point about how this was their way of pushing back on the teeny-pop fanbase criticism, I completely understood. After all, you would think that the critics could see and hear that they were a great live band, but they didn’t. How frustrating.
R – I think most of their shows during this period were overshadowed…or accompanied…or even ruined (depending upon your opinion) by the screams of teenage girls. To be honest, I was surprised that the band even cared what they sounded like, because I really don’t know that many of their audience would have noticed. On the other hand, I guess in some way I’m a little surprised because at this point John was using, and sadly I would have thought he wouldn’t have thought much about it. That was an underestimation on my part, most definitely.
John described the US part of that 1984 tour as both “awesome and awful”. Does that fit?
A – I think this is probably a good way to describe both that leg of the tour and probably everything in 1984. On one hand, I’m sure it was beyond awesome to be part of the biggest band in the world. On the other, I know that I couldn’t deal with the constant demands from managers, agents, corporation consultants and more that John mentioned. Heck, I couldn’t handle the demands from the fans. He commented that it was awful and scary because the fans kept pushing forward at the shows and they were worried that someone was going to be crushed and die. Here is what I never understood: Why in the world did they play general admission shows? Wouldn’t that just set up this situation?!
R – I remember 1984 well. I couldn’t turn on the TV or go to the grocery store or bookstore without seeing Duran Duran. In my teenage head, I thought this was outstanding. Of course now, I look at things a little differently – it is no small wonder that all five band members are still with us today (if not in the band). The pressure crushing them from all sides – I think it’s one of those things where you’ve got to be careful what you wish for!! As to your question regarding the types of shows they did Amanda, I have to think that this is something the promoter should be asked. I think that especially back during this period, the band probably didn’t have anything to do with those types of decisions – they were too busy just trying to ride the wave and stay afloat. You’re right to ask though. I really know nothing about concert promotion (other than it’s a tricky, sneaky business at times), but I get the distinct feeling from various things I’ve read over the years that promoters don’t always have the best intentions of the band(s) at heart. Go figure.
Chapter 47: The Remix
What did you learn from this chapter?
A – I felt like I knew much of this chapter including the battle they had with their record label over the Reflex remix, the Reflex video, the frustration of not being at the Grammy Awards, and the story behind doing both the song and video for Wild Boys. This led me to wonder why this was the case. Was this because this part of Duran history has been told so much that I didn’t learn much new? I wonder.
R – I’m still annoyed at those Grammy awards. *sigh* It’s funny though because by this point in John’s book, I have to agree that I knew most of what was being written. I mean, maybe not the tiny details (obviously), but the general storyline – yes. I am sure we’re not alone in that regard. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think that in my case it’s because I’ve done a lot of research about the band now, and it’s gotten to the point where I’ve read the same stories over and over. I do admit wondering how much wasn’t being written – then I realized it doesn’t matter. It’s really none of my business, I slapped myself for being so nosy, and went back to listening. 😀
Reaction to the idea that the best producers understood that all the band members needed to be heard?
A – I have to admit that I noticed this statement. I have to agree with this statement. After all, I think the best Duran songs and the best Duran albums fit this criteria. They are not a band in which there is just one main member and a bunch of back up members. Duran is a band of equals. Of course, I also noted that John mentioned the following producers: Colin Thurston (1st album and Rio), Alex Sadkin (Seven and the Ragged Tiger), Nile Rodgers (Notorious) and Mark Ronson (All You Need Is Now). Hmm…no mention of Timbaland or Nate Hills from Red Carpet Massacre?!
R – I am going to completely ignore that last sentence of yours, Amanda. Anyone who has read this blog over the years knows exactly how I feel about that album as a whole, but you hit the nail on the head there. I completely agree with John’s comment about the producers though. Anyone who has had true success with producing this band understands that everyone needs to be heard. This is one reason why I adore the first album so much – Colin Thurston simply understood and worked to see that equal sums made up the whole. I think he succeeded and then some. The same cannot be said of other producers, but to be fair to those producers – they wouldn’t know what to do with a real instrument if it smacked them over the head.
Chapter 48: Megalomania at the Wheel:
Thoughts about the fans constantly outside of John’s house?
A – I have to admit that I was/am absolutely horrified by this! Horrified! I can’t imagine trying to live like this! To have people going through your trash?! Horrified again. I’m not even sure what to say or what to think about the idea that when a new fan would show up, the others would bring her to him and ask him to be kind to her. On one hand, I get it. I’m clearly a fan, too. I definitely understand the desire to wanting to meet him. Sure. Yet, there is a big gap between that desire and camping out or going through his trash. Now, I’m sure that 95% or more of these fans meant well and didn’t get think about it from his perspective but…stories like this bother me. Maybe, what bothers me about it is that this was John’s private residence and the fact that it was ALL the time. Tell me I’m not the only one bothered by this.
R – I live a sheltered life. I have to admit that there’s a certain amount of curiosity about where the band lives. Of course there is. I’m a little embarrassed by that, but for me – that’s kind of where the story ends. I don’t know how I was a kid – but I never had the chance to even decide to do that sort of thing. I think that on an individual level, each of these kids probably didn’t think they were doing anything creepy or weird. I know some of those kids, who are now adults, and none of them meant harm. They probably didn’t even realize that by going there so often they would be bothering him, and I’ll bet they didn’t even think about the fact that collectively, there were people outside of his house 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week. They were just kids. I really don’t know if I would have done the same because I didn’t even have the chance. So I guess I stop short of being appalled. I think we have to remember that once again – these were kids doing this. We’re not really talking about adults here. I hope.
Chapter 49: Shelter and Control on West Fifty-Third Street
What struck you in this chapter: Nick’s wedding? Working on the Arena album mix?
A – As someone who has been focused on the stigma surrounding Duran Duran, Nick’s wedding jumped at me. John described it as a decadent moment of the 80s. While I’m sure that is true, I also noted how he said that the press had a “field day” with it. I, personally, remember reading comments about how Nick wore more makeup than Julie Anne. My point here is just that I’m sure this kind of event did not help them get creditability. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am glad that Nick had the kind of wedding he wanted. Everyone should. My point, only, is that everything they did was judged, which is so unfortunate. Obviously, in this case, it was judged harshly and fed negative beliefs about the band.
R – Funny how the eyes of a teenager see things so much differently. When I read about Nick’s wedding (I think it was in People…and probably other teen mags.) I thought it sounded so cool, and I was once again jealous over how great his makeup looked! Ha ha! I never really thought much about how they were judged at the time. It’s only been in hindsight that I ever really noticed how their image might have hurt them. I don’t know why that was (that I didn’t notice).
Chaper 50: Nouveau Nous
Any comments about the making of the song, A View to a Kill?
A – I knew that John Barry and Nick didn’t get along so well, but I never thought about John’s place in the middle. I am sure that he was grateful and we can all be grateful for Bernard Edwards and his ability to keep everyone together enough to finish it.
R – I don’t think I realized the strife involved with the song. I’m sort of surprised by it too, because the result turned out so well. I guess it’s as you say Amanda – thank goodness for Bernard.
Chapter 51: Guilt Edge
This chapter has quite a scene with John going home for Christmas and getting very upset when his parents gave him his fan mail. Reaction to this scene?
A – When I first read this scene, I was terribly upset by it. I could only imagine that his parents were equally upset and, probably confused, by what they saw. It seems clear that John was conflicted about being famous. On one hand, he hated having fans outside his door all day and all night but then wouldn’t take a break when the rest of the band did. Then, he struggled with this idea that all of these people wanted him, or what they thought of him, while he could barely tolerate himself. He seemed to be a lost soul. Then, of course, when he decided to go home despite his misgivings, his parents seemed to fall in the same trap. They, too, had become fans. Fame had touched everything. Everything. When I think of it that way and that John seemed to have no sanctuary, I totally get it. I probably would have responded in the exact same way.
R – On one hand, when I read that scene the first I reacted as a parent. I thought John was a spoiled brat to treat his parents and their excitement that way. On the other hand, I think it must have been very hard for John to be Nigel. Do you understand what I mean by that? I mean, I know his name is John Taylor. But he was born Nigel, and I suspect it must have been very difficult if not impossible to somehow rectify the two of those identities into one person. There are times when I am very happy to be Mom. Then there are a lot of other times when I really just want to be Rhonda. (or vice-versa!) I mean here he is coming home to the two people who know him (presumably best, but sometimes I would imagine they knew him least…) and once again he still is John Taylor to them. I just believe this goes back to the fact that John didn’t know how to be John. Or Nigel. You’re right though, Amanda – he had no sanctuary. If you read about how he set up flats or apartments and then spent barely any time in them, it’s very clear that he really didn’t know what to do with himself. An identity crisis on top of the drugs? Disaster. He is lucky to be alive.
A – I was completely struck by how overwhelming the fans were in 1984. I knew it, on some level. While I was a fan in 1984, I was too young to do much with my fandom besides buy some of that merchandise that John talked about (Duran pajamas, anyone?). I was no where near where the band was ever. I knew that the fans were overwhelming by watching Sing Blue Silver. Yet, I don’t think that documentary questioned it or questioned the behavior. Now, as an adult, I put myself in John’s shoes back in 1984 and feel for him. My belief is that everyone needs and deserves some space, some privacy and John didn’t have it.
R – I don’t think any of them had privacy in 1985, and I’m not sure that any of them dealt with it very well. To be fair I’ve never really heard much from Nick or even Simon on the subject. I do believe that some people are just better able to cope with such things better than others. The writing was on the wall for John since he was very young (not wanting to really be noticed much), and yet here he is – wanting to be that overnight success. Funny how sometimes we ask for the very thing we need least. I am as guilty of that as the next person, but I’m glad my life wasn’t lived out in the public eye like John’s. I don’t know that I could have lasted. I love writing and being online and being able to interact with people. I don’t love doing it that much in person though. I’m happy to sit on the sidelines. I’m shy and crowds completely freak me out. I would have medicated myself if I were John Taylor, that is for sure…so I guess that when John says that if I had been in his shoes I’d have done a lot of what he did too, I’d probably agree. With SOME of it. 😉
Next week, we will move on to 1985 by discussing Chapters 52-55. I look forward to reading what the rest of you think!