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.