This week, like many of the last few, has been pretty intense on a variety of levels. As I attempted to hold on, emotionally, I found myself wondering what life will look like and be like next year at this time. What about five years from now? Ten? 15? It reminds me of when I was a kid. Every year, my dad would sit us kids down to talk about our goals. This meant that we had to share our ideas for our future. As a kid, I just thought my dad was being weird. How the heck was I supposed to know what my goal in five years should be?! Now, as an adult, I get it more. For example, I am starting to see retirement far on the horizon. Granted, it is just a tiny speck and too far away but it’s there. When I think about that, I often wonder what it will feel like knowing that it was my last year of teaching. Will I get sad with every last whatever? Will I just not give a crap? Will I spend time appreciating every moment? Is it better to know it is the end?
This leads me to think about Duran Duran and my fandom. When I was a kid, I never once thought about when Duran Duran was going to retire or leave the business or even break up. Likewise, I never considered that I might stop being a fan. Even, when the side projects happened in 1985 or when Roger and Andy departed, I never thought about the end. I just assumed it would go back to what it was like. I didn’t realize what it meant when the band recorded, Notorious, as a three person group rather than five. I just put my entire faith that everything would work out. Ah, the innocence and ignorance of being young. What if I did get it? Would it have been better to really get it and know things were changing as it happened?
As an adult, I have often thought about the end of Duran Duran. Just to be clear before people start screaming at me–I’m not wishing that or thinking that is happening. I think as I have gotten older and have started to deal with some health issues, I have realized that not everything lasts forever even if I want it too No one has that much control, especially me. Whenever I begin to think about the end of Duran, or my fandom, I just go back to the question I asked above. Would I want to know? Would I want to know if this next album would be the last? What about the last tour? Would it be good to know? What about my participation? What if I know that a show is going to be my last–not just the last of a tour or until next time but the last last. The final. The end. Would it be better to know or not?
This is obviously not an easy question. If I knew it was the last album/tour/show, would I appreciate it more? Maybe. Perhaps, I would take time just to appreciate, to stop and smell the roses more. I could see myself documenting everything more. There might be more photos, more everything. In some ways, I think that would be great. I would try to capture as much as I could and I wouldn’t haven’t any regrets at the end. On the other hand, would this make it harder, emotionally? Would I be too sad to really enjoy myself? Would I be too worried about capturing it all that I wouldn’t actually experience it? I don’t have a good answer but it does make me wonder.
For some weird reason, this week featured a number of conversations with family members. On Monday, I spoke with my brother to wish him a happy birthday. After catching up on the basics, the discussion turned towards talking about Star Trek: Discovery and Picard as both of us enjoy the Star Trek universe. Later in the week there was a family intervention to stop my youngest niece from leaving the White Sox fandom. She discovered that her favorite player would not be with the Sox next year so she pondered whether or not she could actually cheer for the team anymore. Both of these conversations combined in my brain to get me thinking about fandom and whether or not there are advantages and disadvantages to fandoms involving music (like mine), like TV/movies (like my brother’s) or like sports (like my family’s). Is it easier or better to be a fan of one over the others?
I know a little about sports fandom as I was born and raised in a White Sox family. This means that we watch games together, we cheer for the team together, and we definitely pay attention to the standings to see if our team has a chance to make the playoffs. I think a few memories might highlight the good parts to sports fandom. Baseball has always been shared with our extended family. As a kid, this meant that we went to games at old Comiskey with my aunt, uncle and cousins. Likewise, after my grandpa died, we did what he would have been doing himself, which was to turn on the game and cheer for the Sox. It helped us get through a really tough summer. Over the years, we have shared magical moments together like when they won the World Series in 2005. When the final out was made, my parents and I jumped up and down to celebrate just like the players on the field right before the phone started to ring with my siblings calling to join in. We were together, emotionally, even though we could not be physically together.
What does all of this tell me? Sports fandom brings people together like the White Sox have with my family. This, in turn, creates shared memories and traditions that can be passed down. My nieces, for example, have grown up as White Sox fans even though they live in North Carolina. Sports fandom is such that it is a constant. Every spring, we know that the baseball season will begin along with the potential of a winning team. A constant like sports can definitely provide comfort as well as a distraction from real life worries. On top of that, it is also the most socially acceptable of fandoms. No one thinks it is weird that my family plans trips around seeing the Sox. All that said, the people connected with one’s fandom does change. My niece is feeling that right now as her favorite player has moved on. We also learn little about the players beyond their statistics on the field. It is far less personal. No one (or very, very few) is reading or writing fanfic about baseball or other sports. It does not allow a lot of creativity or fan production. Then, there is the question of what the heck to do in between seasons or if the team sucks. Do you watch highlight reels of winnings years? While I think you could, I’m not sure that it feeds the soul in the same way as other fan activities might.
How does TV or movie fandom compare to sports fandom? Like the sports fandom, I feel like I have some experience with this. As many of you know, I was pretty involved in the Roswell fandom when the original TV show was on the air (early 2000s). That fandom was good to me as I met some good friends through it. In our case, the four of us met on a message board for the show. Through various posts, we discovered that not only did we interpret the show similarly but we also loved fanfic surrounding it. When we all figured out that we were all in the Midwest, we jumped at the chance to meet in person resulting in a weekend in Wisconsin with little sleep, much junk food and more laughs than I could count. Of course, the show did not last forever. In fact, it was only on the air for three seasons. Yet, our friendships adjusted and remained.
It seems to me that there are two big differences between sports fandom and one surrounding a TV show/movie. First, sports have a much longer life span. While the players and uniforms might change, the team lives on. TV shows and movies usually have a much shorter life span. Of course, there are franchises like Star Trek that carries on past the half century mark, but that is the exception rather than the rule. Still, though, there have been many a moment that seemed the end for Star Trek. Therefore, there is always a possible end to TV shows/movies. While there is always the opportunity to watch it again and again, there will be a point in which nothing new is produced. Maybe, this is where fans enter the picture as they create new stories, videos and art about their fandom. It gives fans a chance to produce something themselves. Yet, I would argue that it is much harder to keep a fandom going once there is no more official product released. On top of that, unlike sports, it is often misunderstood by non-fans.
Obviously, we have covered music fandom pretty intensely on this blog since it began nine years ago (!). In some ways, music fandom definitely does parallel TV/movie fandom. Both offer chances to rewatch/re-listen. I think about how TV/movie fandom have conventions that are super popular. Yet, they also have premieres. I think music fandom is pretty cool in that it has concerts, which, to me, is like a premiere and a convention combined. You get the opportunity to see a show for the first time (even if it is not the first concert of a tour as every show is different) and you get the chance to hang out with other fans. Maybe you even get to see the subject of your fandom in person–just like a convention! At the same time, music feels different. While both have the chance for fan productions of fanfic and fan art, one tends to focus on fictional characters and the other is about real people. For me, music fandom allows a really significant escape from reality when you are on tour but has less chance of small moments of escape that can be found with a TV show.
Obviously, I have not thought about every aspect of fandom or how they compare when looking at these three big categories. Instead, I just let my mind wander about how they compare. Clearly, there are similarities with all of them. For instance, they all bring people together or can. They provides chances for escape or big fun moments or times. Yet, there are differences. Some are about real people and the other is fiction. Some have a better chance at continuing through the years than others. Society likes some fandoms more than others. There are advantages and disadvantages for all of them and fandom in general.
What about the rest of you? What sticks out in your mind about the different categories of fandom?
Before I dive into today’s blog, I want to apologize again for yesterday’s lack of a blog. I had hopes that I might be able to do a quick blog of sorts in the morning before I left for work but the brain and computer weren’t working. It might have something to do with me being overwhelmed with finals (many of them still await my grading). Anyway, I apologize.
The last couple of weeks have meant finishing up the first semester and getting ready for the next one. Part of me hates this time of the year as the grading is way too much but another part of me likes that we get to restart. It also means a number of meetings to reset there, too. In the middle of one of these meetings, I had a realization. Bear with me as I try to explain this. It seems to me that there are some fundamentals in which people build their lives. For many people, this foundation of sorts includes family, friends, a career, a community, etc. If all of those are working as they should, life feels good. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is perfect, just that it feels normal, safe, relatively predictable.
In thinking about all of this, I realized that my foundation has been shook over the last decade or so. In some cases, there have just been little cracks like my parents have both had health concerns and I recognize that they aren’t getting any younger. Other areas have been more dramatically affected. In teaching U.S. history, we discuss how the United States have ideals that include liberty, democracy, equality, etc. Through actions both at the state level and nationally, those ideals seem like nothing more than pipe dreams, at times. Even with my career, aspects that I expected no longer seem possible, forget about probable. All this has left me feeling shaken, disturbed, anxious, unsafe.
Where does that leave fandom? Good question. When I first started touring, it was all about fun. Life was relatively good and going on tour, posting on message boards just made life a little better. Then, as more and more has happened to shake my foundation, fandom has taken on a different role. For awhile, when the rest of life began to be so uncertain, I looked to fandom to provide the one “normal” part of life. I could count on it to be an escape, a fun time with friends. I desperately clung to it. If you even look back to blogs I had written in 2011, 2012, 2013 you could sense this. I needed the band to finish an album, go on tour, etc. It was the only thing that felt right. Now, I’m not even sure that fandom feels that solid as well and I don’t even know why. Maybe it is simply because the rest of my foundation is so badly shaken that the cracks have hit even fandom. I don’t know. I know that if I were to go on tour, it would still be an amazingly fun time but the going on tour part seems uncertain for the first time.
I don’t know where this goes from here. I have no clue. Really, the only thing I know is that I would like some part of my life to feel safe, that I could trust it. I would the ground to stop shifting beneath my feet. I would welcome it if that part would be fandom. One hundred percent. But like everything else, I have more questions than answers about whether or not that is possible and what if anything can be done about it.
So what about the rest of you? Has fandom changed in terms of where it fit into your life or why you participated? How do you feel about your fandom moving forward?
Amanda’s post earlier this week on the new Depeche Mode film struck a chord with me. Not only am I excited to see the film, I have a feeling it will affirm my belief that serious fandom for a band (or three) fills a void in our soul that would otherwise remain empty. I knew early on in life that I was that sort of person and my Duran-fanaticism blossomed when I was only ten. By the time I was in high school, my tastes were expanding and my fandom was stretching into new sounds.
By the end of the 1980s, I was becoming a, for a lack of a better term, “serious” music fan. I was exploring the birth of the delta blues as I followed Eric Clapton’s influences back in time. I was absorbing the country music that my parents were listening to as well as the garage rock they grew up on. I was intrigued by the T. Rex cover from The Power Station which led me towards Bowie and glam rock. Eventually, all these threads reached a crossroads with one band: Cowboy Junkies.
On paper, Cowboy Junkies are an extreme departure from Duran Duran but my fandom for both has co-existed peacefully. How extreme is too extreme when you’re a fan of a band? Can you see too many shows? I am about to reach 150 Cowboy Junkies shows since I first saw them in March of 1994. I quit my job in 2010 and literally followed their tour around America. And I still look forward to more shows. Their music fills a need that I cannot explain.
One of the things that gets lost in translation when talking to people who do not share the obsession for music that we have (you’re reading a Duran Duran blog so clearly you are one of us) is the community that grows around fandom. With a band as massive as Duran Duran, there are still individual friendships born from attending shows and seeing familiar faces. This is even more pronounced when your favorite band has been consistently playing small theaters year after year.
Through an old-fashioned message board on the band’s website, friendships were born around Cowboy Junkies. Once, I arrived in San Francisco for a show and walked into an apartment of someone I had never met in person. Five minutes later, he left me in his apartment and went to work before we met up at the Cowboy Junkies show later that night, trusting me not to steal his furniture. I’ve crashed on more couches than I can remember over the 147 shows I’ve attended. Everyone helped each other out with the single goal in mind: see the show. If crashing on a floor or even sleeping in a car means one more show, serious fans go for it!
I’ll leave you with one story from my travels with Cowboy Junkies. After a show in California, a handful of us following a week’s worth of shows were chatting with Margo Timmins, the singer. One of the guys mentioned that he was bringing his wife and daughter the next night and that a specific song had helped them as a family during the difficult “teenage” years. He asked if the band might play it and Margo looked concerned. This was an obscure song from them. It was a bit like if Rhonda asked Simon to play “Late Bar” the next night at a Duran Duran show!
The next night, the band invited us in for soundcheck as is the norm with the core fans and my friend had his wife and daughter with him. As they worked through a few songs, Mike the guitarist called out “A Few Simple Words”, the song that had been requested. The drummer’s initial response was something along the lines of, whaaaaatttt???? But Margo whispered to him and the band pulled off a totally unrehearsed version of the song for the fan and his family. There was only about 12 of us there but there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. I don’t remember what the band played during the show but I’ll always remember that soundcheck.
Like Depeche Mode, almost every band has a flock of fans who will fly anywhere and do anything to see them. Last week, I met a guest at my restaurant who feels like that about Sister Hazel. Remember them? He takes cruises with them and showed me tons of pictures of his adventures to see shows. While I might not love Sister Hazel, his narrative felt like my own. Being a Duran Duran fan comes with the added bonus of being the underdog, of being slightly dismissed by the “serious” music fans. To me, that makes it all the better. So fly your Medazzaland flags high and proud! As a man I worked for once said, if we weren’t crazy, we’d all go insane.
This past weekend, my husband and I went out with a couple from our neighborhood. Like us, they moved in last winter, and have been acclimating themselves to the area. Unlike us, they don’t have children, and they still commute to the Bay Area (San Jose, which is about 2 and a half hours from here) during the week for work. Their home in Atascadero serves as their weekend home, and eventually they’ll live here full time. We went to a local wine bar in our tiny little downtown area, which was nice. While we were there, we talked about nearly everything under the sun, including this website, blog, and the writing project Amanda and I are working on.
For me, these little outings tend to make me feel just the smallest bit like a fish out of water. Most of the time, I’m the only one who doesn’t work, and so I don’t have a lot to add to conversation about high tech jobs, marketing, or engineering. On this night though, I had the opportunity to explain what I do with my days. Tentatively, I tried to give a basic overview of Daily Duranie, without raising the “oh my gosh, you’re a crazy fan” alarm bells.
I’ve got a right to say
I have decided it is nearly impossible to explain a fan blog. I mean, once I start in with “Well, I write a daily blog about being a Duran Duran fan…” and before I’ve finished, they’re already looking at me with an amused expression. I find that from there, the more I try to explain, the more stuck they are on the fact that I’m still a fan “at this age”.
Personally, I think it’s sad that more people our age aren’t big fans of something. On this night though, I dive in headfirst, no thinking it through before the words flow. I explain that I write this blog, and have done so for nine years. Then I say we’ve written several manuscripts that remain unpublished, but that we’re working on something new that really excites me.
To my shock, both want to know what I’m writing, and how it is working with a co-author long distance. Normally it’s at this point that my voice trails off, because is obvious that I’ve either lost their attention, or they’re going to quiz me about how big of a Duran Duran fan I really am. Invariably, it is also at this point when my husband speaks up, talking about his huge record collection. In some ways, I think he does it to try and cover for me, and in other ways, I know he believes the blog to be a waste of time. He might be right, but it has kept me sane for nine years, so I’m not sure I’d call it a total waste. Regardless, I’m pleasantly surprised. I almost never get this far! I realize that I have to explain what we’re studying in fuller detail.
If you know what it’s all about
I think it may have helped that this couple, or at least the male, grew up in Germany. He has an appreciation for Duran Duran and other bands of that era that is wildly unlike anything I’ve dealt with from men here. (unless of course you are a male Duranie – the “unicorn” of our species!) It was refreshing to be able to show excitement for what I’m working on without worrying about how the information was being received – it was obvious he had no preconceived notions about female fans.
I came away from the evening feeling very good about our project, and even about being a fan of Duran Duran, which was nice for a change. Normally – unless I’m surrounded by Duranies, like I was in Vegas, it isn’t even worth discussing my writing. Either my work is totally discounted because I haven’t been published (therefore it is obviously a waste of time) or I’m having to argue my points with someone who doesn’t quite get it.
It isn’t often when I feel satisfied, or validated in the same way I do when I’m with my friends, like a couple of weeks ago in Vegas. I fully appreciate when I’m explaining something I’m working on to people who genuinely understand, and even find value within what we’re doing. The word is probably “encouraging”. There’s joy in that for me, too. The idea that I can be myself – not having to hide part of who I am, or what I do, is so freeing. At home, my time is split between being “mom” and being “wife”. There isn’t a lot left over for me. Not many people understand that. For me, I have to find the time to fit in a blog, or to take notes on a paper, or even write. It’s not just about Duran Duran, either.
Always trying to control me
I’ve been trying to find a week so that I can start going to practice for the community band, something that has proven to be an exercise in futility at best. Either one of the cars is down for the count, thereby relegating me to the role of “chauffeur”, making my driving schedule impossible; or, like this past week – my trusty clarinet needs at least two pads replaced before I can really play. Naturally, these issues are temporary. I keep telling myself that if I really want to put myself out there and join this group, I have to just push through and do it. It reminds me of when I was young and my parents were trying to go back to school. In both cases they gave up because the hurdles were just too numerous, and too high to conquer. I refuse to be beaten, though. Not this time. This is one thing I desperately need, and I’m doing it.
If there is one thing about being a fan as an adult has taught me, is that it’s not easy. When you’re young – there always seems to be time. It isn’t hard to sit down and listen to an album or thumb through a magazine. As we get older though, free time is difficult to come by. The ability to go to concerts might be easier, but the logistics make it tougher. I find that I have to really want it in order to make it happen. The same holds true for writing, and even for things like the community band, too. I have to want it at least twice as much as I did when I was young.
I’ll put it this way, as alarming as it might seem: I need this. There are times when I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of quicksand. The only way to get unstuck, is to follow my heart, even if it takes forever to get there. For me, that includes (but is not limited to) writing this project, and playing in the band. Those two things are on the life raft at the moment, and I’m not going to give in and let go.
I spend a lot of time thinking, listening and reading about the current state of politics. Last week, among many other stories, I took note of the giant rally Senator Warren held in New York City. While the size of the crowd was worth noting, the part that caught my attention was that she stayed after (as she always does) to take selfies. This resulted in four hours of selfies until late in the night/early in the morning. As pundits discussed this, one point that was made over and over again was that this is a great strategy for social media as people post their pictures and get people interested in Senator Warren as a presidential candidate.
While I’m fascinated by that as a political organizer, I could not help but think about how this might relate to fandom. I think it is save to say that when people share pictures or videos with Duran Duran, it helps the band’s cause as well. When people who are already fans see this kind of thing, it might excite us more. I know hearing Bridey’s story this week gave me all sorts of warm fuzzies. Of course, I definitely would want to be a fan of a band who treats their fans in the way they did with her in Tahoe by meeting her backstage before bringing her on stage during the show. It makes me proud to be a Duranie! Then, what does this do for people who like Duran Duran but might not consider themselves to be big fans? I would think that it might make them think about Duran, which could increase the amount of time listening to their music or watching their videos. As for people who aren’t fans, could it cause them to give Duran a try? I think so!
Okay, so if seeing pictures with a band could translate to more or more intense fans, what about people who just share thing or talk about the band? Could that make a difference in terms of the number of fans or the intensity of one’s fandom? I think about the people who share pictures or videos or start conversations about the band on various facebook groups. Why do they do that? Yes, I think a lot of it has to do the fact that people love the band and want to express it. I’m sure that they begin discussions from real curiosity about what other fans think. Fans want to talk to other fans about the subject of their fandom. We all know this. This is what causes facebook groups and/or message boards to form in the first place. Is it simply about meeting an urge to talk about any and all things Duran or can it be about more at the same time? Could people posting also help out Duran Duran, indirectly? Speaking from my own personal experience, when I see something posted about Duran in my social media timelines, it keeps Duran in my thoughts. Often, it reminds me of what I love about a song, video, tour, era, etc. Does this help keep my fandom alive? Absolutely.
Over the course of the nine years of this blog, people have stated or implied that what we do here doesn’t really matter but in thinking about this, I completely disagree. Just like those people who post on message boards or social media, I believe that what we do here helps keep Duran Duran in people’s thoughts. Maybe, at times, it has encouraged people to check out an album, song or video that they don’t know anything about. Lately, for example, our questions of the day have been about who owns what album and in what format. I wonder if asking about each album has caused people to go out an buy an album that they don’t have. I have seen that with people in my personal life, too. For example, I know that my fandom has led friends and family to check out Duran Duran more. I have a lot of friends who follow this blog simply because they want to support me but many of them have listened to the band more from seeing a blog post or two.
Then, I think about our meetups. There have been times when people have come to a meetup, met fellow fans and found friendships that way. Does that matter? While that might not directly put money in Duran’s bank account, could it help to sell more tickets to their shows? I think so. I know that if I didn’t have my Duranie friends, all of whom I met at various meetups, I wouldn’t go to many shows. I would drag someone to a show nearby and that’s it. Having lots of Duranie friends means that I want to go to as many shows as possible to see my friends, to get together with my friends. This results in more concert tickets for me and for the band.
We definitely didn’t start this blog to help the band but now that I have thought about it, I’m glad that it is a side affect. I think it is pretty cool that this blog along with other blogs, podcasts, message boards, facebook groups, etc. are part of a larger effort to campaign for Duran, in some small way, intentionally or not.
I find that the best idols are the ones who have actually been, or rather still are, fans themselves. There are a number of reasons for this, but the first and most obvious, is that they know what it is like. They understand how it feels to be a fan. They haven’t forgotten.
That would indicate, of course, that many people HAVE forgotten. They have been celebrities, stars, or what-have-you for so long, or they believe their own BS to the point that they’re convinced of their godliness.
Now, I know that sounds harsh, and perhaps it is in some respects. All I can tell you is that there are people out there that you and I may idolize who just cannot quite believe they’re actually still human. Then there are others, like John Taylor, just to name one for example, that seems to still be a fan. He is someone who gets it. I need point no further than his induction speech [into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame] for Roxy Music, or even his own autobiography, as proof.
He writes about going to see Roxy Music at the Birmingham Odeon with Nick. They initially stood in the lobby of the theater, and were told that the band was in the building (words that I myself have heard many times). “…if we hurried down the alleyway that led down the side of the Odeon, we could hear them playing. This is where I learned about the secret world of the sound check….We couldn’t see Roxy, but we could hear them, vaguely, playing songs from their new album, Country Life.”(47)
It gets even better…and strikingly familiar
As they’re standing there, clearly excited by the music (I can imagine this – I mean, I may have heard a sound check or two in my lifetime as a Duran Duran fan. Just once or twice….you know, in passing….), the sound comes to a halt and they see a black limo pull up. Just as quickly, Roxy comes rushing from a side door and straight into the car, which pulls away at lightning speed. A girl yells that she knows where they’re staying – at the Holiday Inn – and that she knows a shorter way. “off we went, Birmingham’s twelve biggest Roxy Music fans sprinting across the city at full pelt. This was a club I wanted to belong to!” They arrive at the hotel before the band, of course. (any self-respecting fan willing to follow the band would, you know.)
The part that makes me smile and chuckle most though, is this: “I asked one of the drivers to give me the champagne cork I spotted on the back shelf of the limo. I was proud of that. Was this strange behavior for a fourteen-year-old suburban boy? I didn’t think so.” (48)
Even reading the words again today, nearly seven years after I read them the first time – I still grin. I can’t help it, because in some bizarre twist of fate, I feel like I’ve found something in common with John. He knows what it is like to be me. I mean, sort of like me, anyway. I highly doubt he still goes around asking for champagne corks, but then again, neither do I, now that I think about it. For me personally, my love and respect for John grew a hundred-fold after reading his autobiography, and much of that has to do with the fact that yes, he really does know what it means to be a fan.
Sign of the Times
By that same token, I see Harry Styles in a bit of the same light. Now, I’ve never been a One Directioner (I can’t name one song beyond “That’s What Makes You Beautiful”), but I’ve been doing some research for a project. It turns out that Harry gets it too.
Some of this is not that hard to imagine. Harry and 1D came to be during the heyday of social media. In some aspects, they embraced the connectivity to their fans. They also became famous as teenagers, and I don’t think it is so awfully difficult for them to remember what it means to idolize. Harry displayed his admiration for Stevie Nicks during her induction ceremony [RRHOF], but he’s also talked about his teenage fans in a positive way.
“He’s always had a fervent female fandom, and, admirably, he’s never felt a need to pretend he doesn’t love it that way. “They’re the most honest — especially if you’re talking about teenage girls, but older as well,” he says. “They have that bullshit detector. You want honest people as your audience. We’re so past that dumb outdated narrative of ‘Oh, these people are girls, so they don’t know what they’re talking about.’ They’re the ones who know what they’re talking about. They’re the people who listen obsessively. They fucking own this shit. They’re running it.” (Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone, “The Eternal Sunshine of Harry Styles” August 26, 2019. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/harry-styles-cover-interview-album-871568/ Accessed August 26, 2019)
Have the time of your life
I too, was one of those teenage girl fans once. It is a breath of fresh air to see an artist actually embrace the people who critics tend to write off as “know-nothings”. I appreciate that Harry continues to defend those people, and that he doesn’t talk about how there’s more men in his audiences these days, as if that is suddenly going to convince anybody that he’s suddenly relevant. He doesn’t need to do that, because guess what? He already matters to the music world. I know this because his first album was the fourth best selling album in the UK in 2017, and was the ninth best globally.
In some ways, I am defiant when I research fandom, or when I write about being a fan. There is plenty of judgment out there about fan girls like me. The assumptions about who I am, or the productivity of my life simply because I am a female Duran Duran blogger, writer and fan are pretty outrageous.
Even so, I’m not one of those super-enlightened “I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me” people. I wish I were. I’m still in the struggle between not caring, and worrying endlessly if I’m doing enough as a person. I say I don’t mind being called a “crazy fan”, in some attempt to tell myself that it really doesn’t matter. I’m not doing anything weird or wrong, even if I’m the only person in my family who writes a blog about a band, or travels to see concerts. Sometimes though, I wonder if I should have stopped doing all of this years ago. Then I’ll read something, and be reminded of why I still do.
When I was in middle school, my experience as a fan pretty much consisted of buying teen mags, searching for pinups I didn’t already have, gabbing with friends about Nick’s seemingly new (to us) hair color, John’s fedoras, or maybe even Simon’s tiger baby pendant. I would listen endlessly to the Duran Duran albums I had, and whenever my friend Marsha’s mom agreed to take us to Tower Records, I’d search the record bins and inevitably I’d find new Duran Duran singles in there that I’d never heard of prior. As MTV arrived in my town and Friday Night Videos or Video One became a thing, I spent a fair amount of time waiting for the next video to arrive, or calling in to local radio stations, begging the DJ’s to play a request. Concerts weren’t really a thing for me, although I would sit and listen intently to friends who had either already seen the band at the Greek theatre (not many of us were that lucky), or were planning to go to the Forum in 1984.
I didn’t really have stories of my own to tell. No descriptions of late nights, running into a band member as he walked out of a club. There were no tales of sitting in lobbies, or trying to tail them from Milwaukee back to their hotels in Chicago. There were just the pinups, the music, the videos, my friends, and me.
Going on to somewhere
In many ways, those times were easy. The only way we could truly “compete” for Duran Duran real estate, so to speak, was through knowing everything there was to know about the band, and whatever we owned – pinups, music, t-shirts, and other merchandise. We’d each lay claim to our favorite band member, and hope no other friend decided to make a contest out of it…although I suspect that even then, we knew there was almost zero chance of any of us ever meeting the band, much less marrying one of them!
Decades later – and in a lot of ways it pains me to type those words (how can I really be nearing 50 anyway??) – fandom, or at least the practice thereof, has changed a bit for many of us. Hannah Ewens wrote in Fangirls, “Fandoms are a sphere where contribution increases with age, the more stories the better, the more access, the more information, the more gossip, the longer loving.” I’ve been thinking about quote that a lot this morning.
Back in 2003 as I attended my first Duran Duran fan convention, I can distinctly remember being fascinated by the stories. So many people I met had their own Duran Duran tales to tell. Stories of traveling, of meeting them in the 90’s, running into them in bars, hotels, restaurants. I wasn’t jealous, I was shocked. The world I never thought would collide with my own was right there, almost within reach.
A crush panic
I can’t really argue that as I’ve aged, I’ve done things that would have seemed completely out of this world in 1984. The very idea of ever being in front row, for example. In late 1983, as tickets for the Sing Blue Silver tour went on sale – my parents were dead set against the idea of even trying to get a ticket. My dad felt that I was far too young, and without having any older siblings (he absolutely wasn’t going to be taking me), I was pretty much sunk. My friend Marsha’s father stood in line the day they went on sale and came up completely empty. The tickets sold out very quickly, and she was sad when she came to school the following day. We stood around at break, listening to some of our other friends squeal in delight that they had not only gotten tickets, but their mothers – clearly wiser and far more hip than our own – had called a local ticket agency and gotten even better seats. Some of our friends were as close as third row, and their moms had no issue with forking over $100 or more to be up there.
This was 1984, I’ll remind you. One of my friends went to the Forum show, and I believe her seat was $11.00. Comparatively, $100 seemed like a fortune. It absolutely did to my dad when I told him later that night! After watching my dad’s face go from his regular ruddy complexion, to tomato red as he gasped in horror at the ticket price, declaring that he would never be “the kind of fool to pay those kinds of prices just so his kid could sit near the front of a damn rock concert!”, I figured front row wasn’t going to be an option. Hell, even just going to a concert was a long way off as it was. Little did I ever realize that someday, I would do exactly that…more than once!
My stories aren’t that amazing in the sense that no, I don’t have tawdry backstage tales, or memories of hanging with the band. I do, however, have some wonderful friends I’ve made. We’ve traveled to far off places that, back in 1984, wouldn’t have ever been in my biggest daydreams. My fandom is so much bigger at 48 than it was at 12 or even 13 – I wouldn’t have ever thought it possible.
Midnight traffic in her eyes
My tears during Seventh Stranger in Las Vegas were as much about my youth and experiences along the way as they were the band’s. Seeing the images I remember of Duran Duran from the 80s, bigger-than-life onscreen, combined with the Duran Duran I know from today felt like a lightning strike on my heart. We’ve walked a lot of miles together. Duran Duran created a safe place for me during my most awkward years. They gave me a place to grow, to feel connected to others, and to be understood. They still do.
When I’m in the audience at a Duran show – I can see thousands of different versions of myself in the audience. The shy introvert, the confident mom, the girl who saved up extra change from lunch to buy her first Duran Duran t-shirt, the new mother who survived post partum depression, the middle-aged woman that isn’t completely satisfied with her life or marriage. The seventh grader who just wants to be accepted. We’re all out there, living the music, enjoying the moment, together.
“Being a fan means you don’t have to be the person you are in this moment, restricted by time, space and circumstance, rather you can be strengthened by and exist through all the others you’ve been.” (Ewens)
This blog post finds me in Philadelphia on a family vacation. My sister and her family drove from North Carolina to meet my parents and I there after we took a short flight from my home town airport. We are basically taking a long weekend to spend some time together, to see some of the local sites and to go to a baseball game. A few years ago, we discovered that we enjoy going on vacation together and planned this one as a result.
So why Philadelphia on the first weekend in August? Did I mention that we are going to a baseball game? Yep. That’s right. We are going to see the White Sox play the Phillies. Fandom is part of the family DNA. My mother likes to tell the story about how my grandpa used to travel through the Chicago sewers to sneak into old Comiskey Park to watch games for free with his brothers. My dad, on the other hand, talks about dumping an old girlfriend when she was not interested on the day the team won the Pennant. I literally do not remember a time when we weren’t White Sox fans. Games were always on and summers often revolved around listening, watching and reading about Sox games. Family discussions are filled with criticism and ideas about what the team should or should not do. I remember when my grandpa died in 1983. When grief got too much, we went out to play catch or turned on the game, which helped. It is definitely part of my family culture.
I often hear or read about the first time someone went to a baseball game and how memorable it was. I don’t have that. It isn’t that I haven’t been to a game but the exact opposite. My first game was when I was very young and I don’t remember it. The same is true for my siblings and parents. I couldn’t even tell you how many games that I have been to. Lately, we have started traveling to different cities to see our team of choice play. I have seen games in Milwaukee, both parks in Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Detroit, Boston, DC and Philly as of tonight. My parents could list even more like Denver, Cleveland, and Kansas City. My aunt and uncle do the same thing as well.
The point here is a simple one. I learned how to be a fan as a kid. My parents taught me that there is nothing weird or abnormal about traveling to participate in one’s fandom. They never sat down and said, “You are going to be a White Sox fan. Here’s why and how you will express your fandom.” No, they taught me and my siblings by example. I saw them be fans like I saw my grandparents be fans. As I was growing up in this White Sox household, I also realized that this brought us together as a family. We cheered the World Series win in 2005 as well as no-hitters and other big games. It provides us with something that we will always have in common. Even when we are frustrated with each other, we ALL still root for the White Sox.
Interestingly enough, this made me think of those Duranies who have taken or will take their kiddos to go see Duran. Rhonda and I took both her daughters to shows, for example. I never really thought much about the fans who bring their kids to Duran functions. Up until now, part of me probably didn’t really get it. I mean I can understand why fans would want their kids to also love Duran Duran. I get that. I would love for that to be the case with my nieces. But to take them to shows? I have taken my oldest niece to see the Killers with me but Duran is different. Would they be as into as me? What if I want to party that night? Could they go where I go? Now, though, in thinking about my White Sox fandom, I think I get it more. I totally understand wanting to really share the love of something with your family and having it unite the family. The question that I have is does age matter? In order for this to happen, do the kids have been exposed from day one?
I think you might have noticed that there was not a question of the day today. I’m taking a break with them while with my family. They will return on Tuesday!
Sorry the blog is late today. I’m trying to steal away the last few days with family for a summer “staycation” before we are back to school.
As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been doing some reading as of late – and yesterday I found myself watching a British television documentary on One Direction fans. The program was titled “Crazy for One Direction”, and chances are – everyone on the planet has already heard of this but me.
I sat down to watch knowing that One Direction fans were furious when it was originally aired. They felt betrayed and a bit cheated because the director tended to weigh filming more heavily on what the fans felt was the most extreme portrayals of fandom, rather than focusing on how the overwhelming majority tend to express themselves. I watched purely because I wanted to see how those fans were really portrayed. The title alone, complete with the word “Crazy” – made me cringe.
As I watched, I saw behaviors that were not really that far off from what I’ve witnessed even as a Duran Duran fan. Sure, if you took specific incidents to heart – I suppose some situations felt a bit out-of-hand. Context matters, but I suspect the full intention of the director was to show the extremes. This is something I’ve grown very accustomed to even as an adult – as I’ll come back to a bit later.
What I will say though, is that despite fandom itself being a gender-neutral sort of activity, this documentary focused SOLELY on females. No males aside from the band and perhaps a wayward adult male or two were seen in the documentary, and certainly not interviewed. I highly doubt there are zero male One Direction fans in the same way that I know for certain there were male Duran Duran fans back in the day (and many more now!). This very obvious slant enrages me as someone who not only studies, but participates in fandom because of the obvious implications that continue to be made about female-specific fandoms.
Context is everything
The director speaks with two teens (the interviews were done in the girls’ bedrooms – and in every case, their walls were wallpapered with One Direction pictures and pinups) about what they might do in order to meet the band.
The girls giggle, as one answers, “I wouldn’t kill a puppy, but I might kill a cat!” She is chided by her friend – and she quickly backpedals. I suppose that to some adults, that answer might seem a little too far into crazy-town, but they’re KIDS. Exaggerations go with that territory. Maybe it is comes with being a mom, but I wouldn’t have been worried if it had been my kid. We would have, however, had a little chat about wording and context while in the public eye.
We know the exact time of their birth, and the hotel they’re staying at!
They speak about Twitter, explaining, “We can find out everything about them.” Even the tiniest personal details about the band, such as their exact birth times, can and have been mined and shared via Twitter. Directioners rely on Twitter as though it were a life line, particularly when they wish to track the band’s every movement. It surprised me to see how easily the teens were able to find the band while they were touring, and of course this subject sparked discussion of actually meeting the band – which for this community (as well as our own in many aspects) is of paramount importance.
The girls seem to take pride in giving exact numbers for the amount of times they’d met One Direction, explaining (just as fans who have met Duran Duran multiple times) that finding the band “takes time and a lot of patience. We’re not lucky, we work hard.” They suggest that other fans just don’t bother, or don’t try and that because they go the extra mile – they are rewarded for their efforts. “They say I’m a stalker and that people [presumably she means the band themselves or management] don’t like it, but I don’t care.”
One of the teens interviewed comes across an online post suggesting that one of the boys (the band, of course) should die. There is an immense line of cursing and violent suggestions of what should happen to the person who created the post. It is border-policing (what fans do to keep one another in line) at it’s most extreme.
I don’t think anyone would disagree when I write that fandom can be intense. It certainly was portrayed as such in the documentary. That intensity runs like a river throughout every possible nuance of the One Direction fandom, good and bad. These are young women who recognize that much of their fandom has to do with being a part of a larger group. It is a community. More than one of the girls interviewed commented on the friendships she’d made as a result. That can’t be bad….although one of those interviewed mentioned that she is part of a fan community that “can kill you if they decide”. That’s the double-edged sword of fandom. What builds you up can also slice and dice like a Ginsu, I suppose.
Is it Larry….or JoSi???
Then there are the shippers. One Directioners have a fantasy/fanfic going about Liam and Harry – they call it “Larry-shipping”. There are stories, memes, and even fan drawings and paintings about “Larry”.
Before scoffing, I’d just like to remind everyone of “JoSi”. It is indeed, a thing.
Ultimately, the longer I watched, the more I realized that these teenagers are no different than I was at their age – although most of them enjoy far more freedom than I did. However, as the documentary concluded, I recognized something more.
I can’t really say that these girls are much different at 15, than many of us are at 40, 45, or even 50. I still see people my age chase after the band after a show. I’ve watched people follow Simon right into a restaurant, or wait just outside. Many of us have shed tears at concerts, or become tongue-tied when we meet the band. Information of all-sorts is spread via social media, and we border-police ourselves as good as it gets. The label “stalker” is thrown around rather liberally – and truthfully, we are the kings and queens of double standards when it comes to this band. Anything we do to meet them is fine until we see somebody else doing it, then it is judge, judge, judge all the way.
I don’t know how I feel about that connection. On one hand, I can see the obvious – perhaps we never quite grew up. I became a Duran Duran fan at the age of 11 or 12, maybe I still feel that way when I hear them play to some extent. Feeling young again isn’t a bad thing. On the other hand, I’m nearly 49. I’m still trying to sort that out, I guess. My advice? Watch the documentary for yourself and decide. I’d love to read what you think!
Watching these girls tell their story was very much like watching us tell ours – and then having the media decide to play it up as though we’re far too crazy to be roaming free on the streets. For me personally though, this documentary wasn’t nearly as cringe-worthy as watching “Something You Should Know” – which is our own fan documentary. The fact is, extremism sells.
This is something that Amanda and I know firsthand. We’ve written more than one manuscript that has been submitted and rejected by publishers at this point. While with each one we’ve sharpened our pencils and improved our research, writing, and voice(s) – we’ve also learned that virtually no one cares about the positive things that fandom has done. Publishers aren’t interested in reading about friendships that have been created, or the sense of community. They want to know the dirty. Editors want to read the torrid tales. Slept with the band? Snuck onto a bus? Verbally threatened another fan who dared get in our way? They want to read about crazy. The widespread belief, of course, is that female fans are crazy.
It is unfair when you think about it. Men could follow Bruce Springsteen around the country on tour, and not only would they be held up as heroes amongst fellow fans – they’d get press, and the slant would be incredibly positive – “it’s about the music and the brotherhood, man”. Let women follow Bruce around, and it suddenly becomes a whole lot less about the music…because what could women possibly know, right?
Let me know what you think after you watch the documentary!
An outspoken examination and celebration of fandom!