We continue our book club with Chapters 7-11 of John’s book. This section of the book continues to focus on his childhood. Like last week, I will not be summarizing the book but will be posing some discussion questions and responding to them. I then welcome all of you to respond to the questions and/or post new questions to be discussed. This book club is all of ours! So, pour your favorite beverage and join in the discussion.
Chapter 7: Junior Choice
Were you surprised that while John’s household was musical, no one played an instrument?
A – I wasn’t surprised by that since I knew that John didn’t pick up an instrument until he was older, but I was surprised by how much music was a central factor in their day-to-day lives. Clearly, the fact that they played the radio all the time struck a chord (ha!) in John. I would imagine that if I were to have children, they might experience something similar since I don’t play an instrument myself but would have their worlds filled with music! I did like that music seemed to bring John’s family together. I could relate to that. It isn’t music in my family but White Sox baseball. 🙂
R – I think that to some degree, I was a little surprised. I don’t know why, I guess I just would have thought that somewhere along the line someone would have played an instrument. It’s obvious though that his interest in music comes from his family though, and that’s really the more important thing – just having that interest cultivated.
Chapter 8: My Moon Landing
What was your reaction to John’s lack of interest in school and John’s parents’ being unaware of John’s performance in school?
A – As a teacher, I couldn’t help but to think of how John would be one of those kids in school who often gets lost. He clearly wasn’t a behavior problem, other than his skipping class. He also wasn’t a shining star, academically. It saddens me that they “gave up” on him since he is obviously so intelligent. As for John’s parents, I would have thought that they would have been really involved in his schooling since he is the only child.
R – Oh I so *got* this. As many know, my son Gavin is homeschooled, and it’s because his school just gave up on him. He’s not a bad kid, he’s actually extremely intelligent, but he doesn’t fit into the “box” that the teachers need him to be in (and with classes that are about 40-45 kids in junior high school – they really can’t take the time with him). What I was surprised by most though is that his parents just didn’t notice. I think that this is a sign of that time though. My dad was horrible in school and his parents never really worried about it or cared much. (he more than made up for that with my sister and I though….) I just think that generation wasn’t quite as involved.
How important was Eddie’s influence on John, do you think?
A – In my opinion, he was pretty important as Eddie acted to not only expand the focus on music, but he introduced John to albums and artists, which led John to start thinking about the interplay that is found in bands. This, of course, brings John to seeing himself within the band structure.
R – I think Eddie’s influence cannot be denied, and it’s clear that John looked up to Eddie as well. As much as John says that he is comfortable being alone – and I have no doubt about that – I also think he likes feeling as though he’s part of a group. His friendship with Eddie is evidence of that, because he had someone that he could learn from, share music with, in a way no teenager really can with their parents.
Could you relate to John’s story of seeing Roxy Music on Top of the Pops?
A – I have heard John talk about this performance of Roxy Music before. Every time I hear it, I instantly think of my own “moon landing”. For me, it was the Reflex video. I don’t remember the very first time I saw it but it changed everything for me, too. While I didn’t grow up to join a band that focuses on both the sound and the look, I did become a fan for life and now causes me to write.
R – I think everyone, at least every Duran Duran fan, has that moment. It could be a video. For me, I really believe it was two things: hearing Planet Earth on KROQ for the first time, and seeing the video for (I cannot believe I have to say this but I must…) Hungry Like the Wolf. They were so different. The music incorporated guitar WITH the synths in a way that knocked me off of my feet, and the video was unlike anything anybody else was doing at the time. Oh sure, the band was sort of good-looking too. For me, Duran Duran was just “it”. I keep telling my husband I’ve loved the band longer than I’ve loved anyone. (yeah he really loves it when I say that…and then he reminds me that none of them even know I exist, and then I remember what “pathetic” feels like. :D) And now, I write a blog. For the fans…and I blame it all on Hungry Like the Wolf. Damn that song!!
Chapter 9: Side Men
How do you interpret John’s description of Nick when he said that Nick is “settled at centre of his own universe”?
A – I found John’s description of Nick terribly interesting. I took that quote to mean that Nick has always been comfortable with himself and his place in the world. He didn’t struggle to get there, just always was. His luck seemed to continue!
R – I really am not sure what John meant by this. I have to admit, I kind of think John does mean that Nick believes the world does revolve by his own insistence – and you know, that isn’t a completely BAD thing. I also believe as you do, Amanda – that he’s completely comfortable with that. It’s not something Nick strives for, it just IS. Attitude is everything, I suppose.
What was your reaction to the description of the Mick Ronson concert?
A – First, I couldn’t believe that they received the folder of photos, badges, etc. for just the cost of a ticket! Then, I loved how John described how this concert going business would not be passive. That is one thing I truly love about a Duran show–being an active participant.
R – When is Duran Duran going to start handing these folders out at their shows?? Different time…different time…I know. I agree though, going to shows should never be passive. When it starts getting that way, that’s when I know it’s time for me to hang it up, and that’s not going to happen!
Do you think John described being a fan well?
A – This is one of my most favorite parts!!! First of all, I knew that he really got being a fan when he talked about how Nick and he were fans of Mick Ronson and that “served to bind” their friendship. Exactly. Fandom does work to bind people. Then, he talks about visiting the venue for soundcheck or following another fan’s info about the hotel where the band or artist stayed. Who couldn’t relate to that?!
R – I think any Duran Duran fan could have written something similar with regard to their own experiences. (Well, at least up until the part of knowing where the band was staying and a quick way to get there. If you gave me the choice of two hotels that the band would be staying at and I had to choose – I would almost ALWAYS choose the incorrect one. This is why no one should ever expect that I *know* anything about the band. I don’t…and it’s almost laughable at this point.) I know that whole feeling though, it reminds me of being in the ocean and just going along with the tide. I get caught up in the rush of it all like anyone else!
Chapter 10: The Birmingham Flaneur
Did John’s description of Birmingham surprise you?
A – As I read this chapter, I kept thinking about all of the negative things I have heard and read about Birmingham. Obviously, I have been there so I know how great of a place it is. Yet, before I read this, I always thought that John and the rest of Duran didn’t like it. I guess I figured that since they moved away. Nonetheless, I was glad to hear that John liked his home city as much as I do.
R – I loved this part of the book, and I agree with you Amanda – I had always had a negative impression of Birmingham from the things that John and the rest of the band had said, up until I went there. I know plenty of fans that still think it’s not a very nice place, and to these people I have to say that they have clearly not been to many places here in the US. I don’t know – I loved Birmingham. Sure, it’s industrial in parts. Yes, it has crime. No, it isn’t the absolute cleanest place I’ve ever been. It’s a lot like the US and the places I’ve lived, grown up in, and know. I was comfortable there and I look forward to going back some day.
Chapter 11: Neurotic Boy Outsiders
Any reaction to the line about “clautrophobia of Dad’s wartime drama and Mum’s religious fanaticism”?
A – I had two thoughts run through my head when I read this. First, clearly, this was/is a pretty negative way to view the parents. Second, I thought this is probably exactly what John, the TEENAGER, thought. It seems that most/all of us view our parents SO negatively at that age.
R – Written like a true teenager. I have to wonder what my kids have said about me. The thing is, there’s always that kernel of truth in the exaggerated and negative opinions kids have of their parents. It’s not that what John felt wasn’t true, it was just without the knowledge that comes with maturity – and I can’t blame him for that. There are things I still don’t understand about either of my parents, so I can see his point.
Did John describe the forming of that first band well? Did the line “lighting the blue torch paper” describe it well enough?
A – I think the line fits well. I think that, for John, hearing the Sex Pistols forced him to pick up that guitar again. Then, once he had others to play with, it was done. It was destiny. It was his future.
R – I wish I could write like John. It’s such an appropriate line.
A – I loved how smoothly John showed the transition here from early childhood to adolescence. We could see how he moved away from his parents towards music and friends. Music filled the hole left from not being great at school or at sports. It definitely gave him a sense of belonging.
R – I really think you can see where the seeds were planted. John likes being part of a group. You can see this from the very beginning of the book, and you can see that he prefers the success that comes along with working towards something as a group. Music was what worked best for John, and you can really see just how much he treasures his memories of Birmingham. I really think that his beginnings give me a good sense of who he really is – not just as the bass player in Duran Duran, but of who he is as a person.
I wish I were going to the Chicago signing – have a great time tomorrow Amanda!!!
We will discuss Chapter 12-Chapter 16 next week.
A & R