Category Archives: Medazzaland

My Medazzaland Story

Last weekend, I shared some facts and statistics regarding Medazzaland, an album released in 1997, which you can read here.  Then, I asked people to share their stories about the album and many people did.  I enjoyed reading each and every one.  Thinking about these albums as I have and reading others’ stories have got me thinking about what makes an album special to fans.  Before I dive too much of that large topic, let me share my own Medazzaland story.

1997 was a year of significant transition for me.  The year began with me having just finished student teaching, which didn’t go especially well.  Part of me thought about switching my chosen career while the other part dug in, determined one day to be a successful teacher.  With that in mind, I graduated from college and spent a great deal of time sending applications to school districts across many Midwestern states with no luck.  Apparently, school districts aren’t terribly desperate for Social Studies teachers, at least they weren’t then.  With that, I moved back in with my parents who had moved to Bowling Green, Ohio, a town where I knew no one.  I did what many recent college graduates did and found whatever job I could in a local gift shop doing retail.  I hated every minute of it and my pathetic income didn’t help.

By the end of summer, I desperately tried to find a solution to my misery as I mourned the loss of college and dreaded never finding a teaching job.  Finally, my brother suggested moving to a education friendly town and getting my foot in the door through substitute teaching.  I visited Madison and fell in love.  The city fit me perfectly, in terms of size, personality, politically, etc.  So, I did the most insane thing I have ever done.  I moved from Ohio to Madison, Wisconsin without a job, a friend or family member anywhere near by.  I took a massive risk.  Despite Madison being a good match, life posed many challenges beyond that year.  To say that I was lonely would be an understatement.

How does Duran Duran fit into this?  They didn’t much.  Did I know what they were up to?  To be honest, I didn’t know much.  I paid attention during the Wedding Album and tried to through Thank You, but found it challenging with college.  In 1997, I did find out that  the band had released new music.  I distinctly remember seeing them on the Rosie O’Donnell show, which, if I recall correctly, was when I discovered that John left the band.  In thinking back to that interview and performance, I remember thinking that the song Electric Barbarella felt like Duran, sounded like Duran, which was good.  See for yourself here:

Yet, the loss of John hit home in a way that surprised me.  I didn’t mourn the loss like I would have in 1985 or 1987.  No, if he had left then, I would have been crushed.  Devastated.  In 1997, though, it stopped me from embracing the new material the way that I could have or should have.  I thought to myself, “Yeah, new Duran.  I should look for it.”  Then, the next thought that popped up was a reminder that John wasn’t a part of it anymore.  I could dismiss it then as not worth my time.  Did I buy the album then?  Absolutely not.  I bought it when I cheered on the reunion in the 2000s.

Looking back, I’m surprised, on one hand, that I didn’t embrace the band then.  I really could have used the comforts of an old friend.  On the other hand, I always knew that I was a big John fan and finding out that he wasn’t in the band stopped Duran from being the comfort that they once were and would be again.  Perhaps, part of the problem was the lack of contact with other Duranies.  I knew very few people in my new town and did not have a computer then.  Before that, I was too focused on passing comprehensive exams and looking for a teaching job to even look into anything related to fandom.

How do I feel about the album now?  I have to admit that I have never embraced it like many others have.  There are songs that I really like on the album.  Yet, as a whole, it feels unlike the Duran I know and love.  Is it the John factor?  Maybe.  Is it because it came out in a pretty challenging period of my life?  Possibly.  That said, despite how I might feel about it now, I recognize and hope that one day I love it as much as I do other albums.  You never know.

-A

Medazzaland Facts and Stats

I have to apologize for the lateness of today’s blog.  I have been completely swamped with trying to complete a lot of grading while writing new curriculum.  I hoped to get to this earlier today but…well, you can see how well my plans are going.  Anyway, last weekend, I took time to evaluate the first of the three albums that Duran Duran has released in the month of October.  That album, of course, was Big Thing and that blog you can read here.  Today, I’ll give some facts and statistics about Medazzaland released in 1997.  In later blogs, I’ll look at Astronaut and the albums released in November.

Medazzaland Facts:
Released October 14, 1997 in North America, Japan, Brazil and Argentina but never released physically in Europe.
Produced by TVMania and Syn Pro Tokyo.  (It appears to me then as it was mostly produced by the band.)
There were 12 tracks on the album.

Singles:

  1. Out of My Mind
    Released: 27 March 1997
  2. Electric Barbarella
    Released: 16 September 1997

Peak Chart Position:

  1.  Out of My Mind peaked at #21 in the UK
  2. Electric Barbarella peaked at #52 in the US

Personnel:

As I’m sure you all know, the band at this time was just Simon, Nick and Warren.  A fact that you might not know, though, is that Warren played bass on the tracks that John did not.  Anyway, others filled in to complete the album including:

  • John Taylor – bass (tracks 1, 2, 7, and 11)
  • Steve Alexander – live drums (tracks 1, 2, 5, 7)
  • Anthony J. Resta – live drums (tracks 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12), additional production, mixing and programming
  • Dave DiCenso – live drums (track 4)
  • Tim Garland – treated soprano sax solo (track 9)
  • Talvin Singh – tabla and santoor (track 4)
  • Jake Shapiro – cello (track 10)
  • Sally Stapleton – background vocals (track 2)
  • Madeleine Farley – background vocals (track 6)
  • Mayko Cuccurullo – ultra high vocal fx (track 1)

Videos:

They did complete two videos from this album, for both singles:

Out of My Mind:

Electric Barbarella:

EPK (Electronic Press Kit:

Touring:

The Ultra Chrome, Latex and Steel Tour began in November of 1997 in the Northeast United States.  They traveled throughout the US and Canada.  At the end of that tour, they did a tribute show and a special show to launch SKY Digital TV in the UK.  In December 1998, they did the Latest and Greatest Tour in the UK before returning to the US in the fall of 1999.  The end of 1999 saw a mini-tour, Overnight Sensation, in Ireland, the UK, the US, and Chile.  Here are a couple of clips to show off those tours:

Beyond all of these facts, many Duranies have strong feelings about this album.  For many, it represents when John Taylor left the band or when some really stopped paying attention.  For others, it equaled heavy involvement as the band seemed more accessible.  Many loved the experimental music while others have yet to buy a copy or listen to it all the way through.  Next weekend, I’ll share my thoughts on the album.  Until then, I would love to hear your thoughts or experiences about the Medazzaland album and era.

-A

This Life is Stranger than Fiction

There are certain “hallmark” dates to my year, and it’s probably not a big surprise that while none of them are birthdates of band members – the birthdates of my children tend to remind me of where I was, where I’m going, and how in the heck I ever got to this point.

Seventeen years ago today, I woke up knowing that yes, the time had arrived, and my oldest was about to be born.  I went through the entire day thinking her birthday would be the 22nd of January.  Of course, little did I know she had her own ideas, and she wasn’t coming out unless forced, which happened just after midnight on the 23rd of January.  Funny, she’s still notoriously late (and stubborn) to this very day…

I had no idea just how much my life would change that day.  I don’t think you really can know until you’ve become a parent. There just isn’t any way to explain that for the next “several” years (I’m still waiting), your needs no longer matter,  and you willingly put aside the things you want, need or desire in order to make sure that your children are cared for. I suppose that even if someone had really sat me down and explained the details to me, I don’t know if I’d ever believed them anyway.

I cannot remember a single piece of music from this time period. I highly doubt I even really listened to the radio, much less paid attention to what was charting and what wasn’t. Even before I was picking out baby cribs and layette pieces, I think I’d stopped thinking about what Simon and Nick were doing.  I didn’t know when/how John quit the band. I didn’t really take much notice.  That blows my mind now when I think about it.  I mean, here I am, writing a daily blog about the band, and yet there was a period of time – a pretty lengthy one if I’m being completely honest – where I really didn’t keep up much at all.  I didn’t own Thank You until recently (sometime after the year 2000 – time runs together now, you see!), and I can still remember the exact day that I bought Medazzaland back in late 1997.  I put it in the car stereo, listened to the beginnings of each song, and then calmly removed it, putting it back into its packaging and thinking that for me, the period of being a Duran Duran fan had ended.

Famous last words.

-R

My Moment with Medazzaland

I had an epiphany today.  (Ok, so “today” for me is really last Wednesday for all of you…I wrote a few blogs to post while I’m gone!)

I needed to get some writing done, and as a way to block out the general background noise of my house (Ok, I was really blocking out my kids…but nobody needs to know that, right?) I decided to do something I haven’t done in several years.  I played the entire Medazzaland album.

Medazzaland was released in October of 1997, and it’s the only Duran Duran album that I did not buy immediately upon it’s release. In my defense, I’d had my first baby earlier that year and suffered greatly with Post Partum Depression.  A little something I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned:  I didn’t even know that John Taylor had left Duran Duran until AFTER I’d bought Medazzaland.  That’s just how out of touch with reality I was at the time.  It was all I could do to get through each day, and during the time I had PPD I didn’t listen to a single Duran Duran song.  Not one. That isn’t a period of time I like to talk about much, nor do I really remember much from the time, but it’s a part of how I’ve become the person I am now I suppose. I know it was several months into 1998 before I bought the album, and as I popped it into my car stereo, I couldn’t wait to get reacquainted with the band.  I felt like I was getting back in touch with an old friend.

As soon as the opening “chords” of Medazzaland had begun, I knew something had gone curiously awry.  This was definitely not the Duran Duran I’d last listened.  I skipped ahead, touching on each of the songs.  Aside from Big Bang Generation and possibly Electric Barbarella, there was nothing on that album that sounded remotely close to what I’d known.  I  remember looking at my husband through the veil of depression that was still clouding my vision and told him very ruefully that part of my life was apparently over just like the rest of who I once was, and ejected the CD.  I put it back in the case and didn’t open it again for nearly 8 years.

It was only after the Astronaut tour ended and we started getting murmurs about Red Carpet Massacre that I dared to open the jewel case for the CD again.  I’m far enough removed from the days of my depression to realize that my dislike for the CD came not only from the music itself, but from my own predicament at the time.  Even so, the CD is very different from anything else Duran has done, and I don’t know that I ever really wrapped my head around all that was taking place for them at the time.  When I sat down to write today, I was formatting a guest blog and there was mention of a few songs on Medazzaland, so I decided to give it a listen.  Amazingly, I actually appreciated much of what I heard. Sure, the album is very different.  Yes, it was written during a time when I think there was much personal tension for Nick and Simon, but there’s some genius there.  I’m still not a Warren fan – but his influence is absolutely present on the album and I didn’t hate what I heard.  There is something very organic (of all things) about the experimentation that took place, and the sense of peace I felt while listening to Michael You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For was remarkable. What felt really far removed from Duran Duran in 1998 when I first bought the album feels very much like a piece of their history in 2012.

Of course, all of this introspect with regard to Medazzaland leads me to wonder how I’ll feel about Red Carpet Massacre in another ten years or so. (It’s going to take me that long to work up the nerve to listen to that CD again, I’m sure.)  I haven’t forgotten Nick’s statement that while the album wasn’t well-loved by their fan base, it has some staying power.  Damn you Nick, we’ll see.  We will see.

-R

What Makes Duran?!

This past week as part of the Would You Rather daily game I asked people which era they would like to return to and why.  I avoided giving too many parameters in order to allow people to pick one era over the other for whatever reason(s).  In fact, I would be curious to see those reasons when given.  Some obviously picked an era for what was taking place in their own personal lives.  Others chose era that meant something to them as fans.  Still others picked due to the music.  I was expecting these types of reasons.  Yesterday’s question had to do with Medazzaland and Pop Trash.  This was a similar question to one posed earlier about which album people preferred and they had the same choices.  In both situations, I ran across a similar answer that went something like this:  “I don’t know.  I don’t have those albums or I haven’t heard those albums.”  So, what’s the deal with the Medazzaland and Pop Trash eras that warrant this response? 

On one hand, these responses make sense.  Neither Medazzaland nor Pop Trash were very popular eras for the band.  In fact, these albums weren’t released in as many countries and the number of copies were quite small.  Duranland was not a very popular place then.  On top of the lack of sales, small production numbers, and loss of general popularity, many of us were at busy points in our lives.  Most of the original Duranies are now mid-30s to mid-40s.  The late 90s were a time that many of us were busy starting careers, starting families or both.  Personally, I was graduating college, starting my career and beginning graduate school.  I didn’t have the time or the money to follow any fandom.  Thus, there are many reasons why people weren’t paying attention to Duran from 1997-2001.  We were busy and they weren’t very popular.  Yet, like many people, I went back and got those albums after the fact.  Many people obviously have not.  Why not?  Even if they couldn’t buy them in stores, in this day and age, most songs are readily available to purchase through online providers like iTunes or are readily available to listen to on sites like youtube.  So, if the music is available, why is there still a percentage of fans who don’t seek out the music from that era?

From 1997-2001, Duran Duran was at a strange point in their careers.  1997 saw the last of the three Taylors leave when John left the band early that year.  This left Simon, Nick and Warren.  In terms of writing, from everything I have heard and read, Simon wasn’t doing super well with writing lyrics and many songs were written by only Nick and Warren.  I have also heard and seen interviews in which Simon talks about how badly he missed John and how he felt like the life of the band was fading away.  Is this what the fans saw?  Is this what the fans felt?  Could they feel this shift in writing?  Could they feel Simon’s unhappiness?  Or was it something personal?  Did the band no longer look and feel like Duran Duran? 

It seems to me that there have been many discussions within Duranland about whether or not Duran Duran could continue without one of the band members.  In this past year, many fans have come to the conclusion that Duran wouldn’t be Duran without Simon since he is the voice of the band.  This, of course, was reinforced by the band’s forced cancellation of shows when Simon injured his vocal cords.  The shows could not and did not continue without Simon.  Then, of course, the band was forced to cancel dates in 2008 when Nick was stuck somewhere in Latin America trying to recover from an ear infection.  Even 2005 saw the cancellation of some dates when Roger broke his foot.  Does that indicate that those members are essential?  I don’t know.  The band managed to continue for quite some time with Roger and, even, John.  On the other side of the coin, they did put Dom in whenever Andy was unavailable.  It seems to me that the fanbase never questions if the Notorious era was Duran Duran.  There is also little question about whether or not the Wedding Album was Duran Duran.  While people might say that Medazzaland and Pop Trash were Duran, actions say otherwise.  Was the loss of John Taylor too much?  Did that tip the balance over to it no longer being and feeling like Duran?  Was John then more essential than Roger or Andy?  Is Roger now essential?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  It just seems to me that many people did not feel like it was real Duran Duran during 1997-2001.  The reason could be that the band wasn’t the band without John Taylor.  He could be the big factor.  The other factor could be that writing piece.

Do Medazzaland and Pop Trash sound and feel like Duran Duran?  Obviously, every fan is going to have a different answer to that.  Some might say that they do.  Others might say that they don’t, at all.  Some might say that some songs do and some don’t.  No matter the answer, I think most of us can acknowledge that things were different now that the writing was frequently done with just Nick and Warren.  I know that I really liked the tug of war that seemed to take place between Nick, on one side, and Andy, on the other.  This musical tension often resulted in really amazing music.  This musical tension wasn’t the same after the Fab 5 split in the 1980s yet there were many great songs that came out from 1986-1997.    Yet, to many fans, Medazzaland is still very different from the Wedding Album.  Did John help to create some of that musical tension?  I don’t know.  It just seems to many fans that something was lost, musically, when John left. 

So, let’s take an informal survey.  Did you get Medazzaland and Pop Trash when they came out?  Why or why not?  Did you get them or hear them years later?  Why or why not?  Did these albums sound and feel like Duran to you?  Maybe after getting feedback from all of you I would know what the deal is with those two albums and I would know what really is needed to make Duran Duran…Duran Duran.

-A