I’ve been doing a lot of reading this summer, thanks to my trusty iPad and it’s Kindle application. I love it, and I don’t feel bad about ordering books constantly now because they don’t take up space in my very small closet/bookshelf/Duran Duran shrine! (no comments from the peanut gallery on this one) One of the books I’ve been reading is by Rob Sheffield; Talking To Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest For True Love and a Cooler Hair Cut.
Naturally, I was most interested in the “Talking to Girls about Duran Duran” part, but as it turns out, the entire book is a really good glimpse into what it was like growing up in the 80’s. I love the way he uses the music he loved to help weave the stories from his adolescence and teen years into a cohesive tale. His book could really be the book that any of us who grew up or were influenced by events in the 80’s could have written, and many of us wish we had! One chapter of the book is called “Ask” (1986), and I have quoted a couple of excerpts here:
“We all have our Ally Sheedys, the things we cling to and do not leave behind at the bus station. All men have Ally Sheedys and mine is Stephen Patrick Morrissey. he has devoted his life and mine to making me a lamer, dumber, more miserable person. I can’t leave him behind, because I’ve tried, and yet he follows me everywhere I go. Six years on my trail? I should be so lucky to get off that easy” (page 183 – Kindle edition)
I should explain that the Ally Sheedy reference here is to the scene at the end of St. Elmo’s fire where Rob Lowe’s character leans into Judd Nelson, takes his arm and tells him not to let Ally Sheedy’s character go, even though we’d just seen the part where Ally and Andrew McCarthy’s character are creating their own steamy shower scene.
“I broke up with Morrissey after the second Smiths album, Meat is Murder, came out in the spring of 1985, because he was just….too much of a jerk. I was desperate to get out of the humdrum town Morrissey had helped me build in my brain. My lie had gotten totally grim – I just sat around my dorm room in a depressive stupor, too distracted by gloom to get any work done, too afraid to shave or answer the phone or go outside. Morrissey had turned into a lame self-parody, and so had I.
I have to admit, it was acrimonious. I went from idolizing the Smiths to despising them. Shit got ugly. I blamed them for all my problems – and if that didn’t make me a true Smith’s fan, what could? Hell, Morrissey had taught me everything I knew about blaming my bad personality on people I’d never met. In a way, hating him was my sincerest possible act of fandom.” (page 187 – Kindle edition)
“Then, just when I’d gone to all the trouble of purging the Smiths out of my system, they did something really offensive, which is they got good again. The first night my friend Martha played me The Queen is Dead in her room, I was consumed with rage at the fact that it was so unmistakably, ridiculously great, and the fact that Morrissey was making fun of himself and doing a much better job of it than I could. Morrissey had beaten me to making all the changes I wanted to make – he was now funny, self-deprecating, apologetic about what an asshole he’d been to me, and (unfor-fucking-givable) blatantly trying to make me like him again. Bastard.” (page 189 – Kindle edition)
just so I don’t get into trouble here…please see the end of the blog for the proper Works Cited.
I know what Sheffield writes here. I know it all too well at this point. Fandom is an interesting phenomena, because you can go from loving something with a sincere and pure intensity to thinking that same thing is absolute crap in the time it takes to make one album. One book. One movie. One marriage. You get the idea. I think we’ve all experienced that moment of absolute defeat when we see, hear, witness something from an idol (in the case of this blog: Duran Duran) that just pops the balloon of joy, or takes the wind completely out of our sails. I’m betting that most of you, if not all of you, can name a moment or two where that’s happened. I know for me, I’ve called the band pretty much every name in the book – and I reserve the very best ones for when one of them really pisses me off! I’m not the kind of fan that sees everything as a “good thing”. I don’t turn a blind eye when they make idiotic decisions, and I do call a spade a spade. Then again, I’m not the type of fan that hates more than I love, either. I’m in the middle somewhere, until something sets me off in one direction or another.
A good example is Red Carpet Massacre. I won’t rehash the album, that’s not the point – it’s that for many, it is indicative in a sort of crossroads in their personal fandom. Many loved the album, so for them – it was just a reaffirmation of sorts. For others, within one listen they knew it wasn’t for them. Some disliked it, some flat out hated it. Others felt it as a personal attack. I can’t tell you how many times I myself read the words “The band didn’t make the album as an attack on anyone – you can’t take it personally. Why get so mad about it? If you don’t like it, so what?” At the time, I knew what they meant. It did seem rather silly to get so worked up about one single album. I mean, no one forces us to be fans, right? We make the choice ourselves every time we buy new music, go to a message board or buy concert tickets. My problem at the time was that I did feel let down. I did take the album personally, as much as I knew in my head that I shouldn’t. It’s just music. Isn’t it?
At the time, I felt very much as though the band purposely took a direction on that album many of their long time fans from way back when wouldn’t be able to follow. I think it’s fair to say that the purpose of that particular album was to help find some new blood to fill the fan base – and yes, I really do believe they were trying to write hits as though by having some magic formula of “producer” and guest “artist” (the quotes there are intentional – my blog, my opinion, thankyouverymuch) they would strike the immediate and profound motherlode. In that moment, yes – I felt it really was personal, and I was pissed. Just as Sheffield says he went from “idolizing the Smiths to despising them”, I felt the same about Duran Duran, and it didn’t feel good. Part of me hated them, and the other part of me missed them terribly. Talk about conflicted with a huge side order of narcissism! (because yes, I really did believe it was all about me. Wasn’t it? :D)
Just as I was getting used to pretending that my love for the band would indeed end at Red Carpet Massacre, I went to shows again. As I’ve mentioned previously – I’d ignore the songs from RCM for the most part. I would be thoroughly annoyed that the band would still be good live, but in a large way, the band had lost a lot of that unique “luster” it once had. I came out of most of the shows I went to during the Red Carpet Massacre “era” feeling like I do when I go to see INXS or perhaps even Johnny Vatos and Friends; the shows are good, I really love the songs and I’ll go again and again and again to see them, but somehow…it’s just not quite the same.
Flash ahead to around December of last year when I first heard All You Need is Now. I have to tell you – the emotional toll that one song took on me was almost unfair. I know what Sheffield means when he says the Smiths did something really offensive by getting good again. I had just gotten myself to the point where I felt that after this book was written, I could probably walk away and feel good about doing so. I would always love Duran Duran, but I knew that I would get my closure and be able to end this incredibly long saga in my life. The band of course had other plans. When I first listened to All You Need is Now – I cried. I almost never cry. That stupid band had the audacity to make me like them again. How rude!! Of course, I didn’t post any of those feelings (of anger and injustice!) on the blog. Even I have the good sense to keep some of my thoughts to myself. I listened to the album a lot, and realized what I should have realized all along: I will never be “rid” of Duran Duran. They follow me where ever I go, whether it’s to the grocery store (since when is Duran Duran muzak?), to the hospital (I heard “Hungry Like the Wolf” as I was giving birth to my youngest), or when I’m walking around the mall – convinced I’m hearing “Sunrise” everywhere I go. I can’t be rid of them even if I want, because they are imbedded in my youth, my young adult stage, and now my middle age. They’re kind of like stalkers that way.
Sheffield, Rob, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut, Copyright July 2010 Penguin Books Ltd, London.