Category Archives: Uncategorized

City of Night Tour 2020

Anybody need more shows to look forward to for spring??

How about going to Birmingham??

No, no…I don’t have Duran Duran shows to announce…but Andy is going out on tour! The other day, Andy announced several dates on a solo tour during the month of May to promote his upcoming album. I don’t know how long it has been since Andy has done a solo tour, but I’d venture to guess it’s been a decade or few! Catch him while you can! Dubbed the City of Night tour 2020, here are the details:

May 1 Crescent Club, Cullercoats

May 6 Gorilla, Manchester

May 7 O2 Institute2, Birmingham

May 15 King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow

Tickets sold through Livenation UK.

In more Andy news, he took to Twitter yesterday to announce that “Love or Liberation”, was nominated for Best British Single in the Planet Rocks 2020 Awards. Put your fingers to work and vote for Andy here.

It’s great to see good things happening for Andy and we’re happy to help get the word out for him however we can.

The blog is short today, I’m sorry about that – but I’ll be back on Thursday with more!

-R

Got to Admit it’s Getting Better

Fixing a Hole

On a day where I could beat the (already) dead horse of the Super Bowl halftime show yesterday….I’m happy to say I’m not going to bother.

Instead, let’s talk about the anniversary of the date when The Beatles began working on the album that changed everything: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

It was fifty-three years ago today that The Beatles began working on this landmark project. I’m sure at the time, they didn’t realize what significance the album would hold in history. Sgt. Pepper changed everything, and not just for The Beatles, but for rock and roll.

Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. “Rhonda, there have been a LOT of albums that have changed music. To say that this one should be held above all else…you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Maybe not…but I’m going to give it my best shot to prove it’s significance!

Meet the Beatles

Let’s talk about the Beatles, to begin with. Prior to Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles weren’t taken terribly seriously by critics here in the States.
They certainly weren’t fab!

The LA Times, for instance, started with their hair, calling it “bizarre shrubbery”, following up by saying they had a “kittenish charm that drives the immature, shall we say, ape.”

William F. Buckley, a critic for the Boston Globe, said that The Beatles were “god awful, appallingly unmusical, dogmatically insensitive to the magic of art.”

Newsweek predicted their swift end, saying that because they had no talent – they would be so forgettable that they’d just “fade away”.

Some of the most damning comments were directly connected to the fact that they had a teenage following. While the words “boy band” were never printed in black and white – the insinuation was certainly there.

The Science Newsletter wrote in February of 1964 that “The Beatles follow a line of glamorous figures who aroused passionate cries and deep swoons. Most prominent in the 1940’s was Frank Sinatra, and in the 1950s Elvis Presley. Their glory passed when they got too old to be teenager’s idols, or when teenagers got too old to need them. The same, it is predicted, will happen to the Beatles.”

The Nation wrote on March 2nd of the same year that “The reaction at Carnegie Hall was not a real response to a real stimulus… The full house was made up largely of upper-middle class young ladies, stylishly dressed, carefully made up, brought into town by private cars or suburban buses for their night to howl, to let go, scream, bump, twist, and clutch themselves ecstatically out there in the floodlights for everyone to see and with the full blessings of all authority; indulgent parents, profiteering businessmen, gleeful national media, even the police. Later they can all go home and grow up like their mommies, but this was their chance to attempt a very safe and private kind of rapture.”

With a little help

As you can see, in 1964, the Beatles were not the darling of critics. Their fans certainly weren’t taken seriously, and the band’s music was barely mentioned. It was just as though since the band’s most vocal and ardent fans were female – they couldn’t possibly be any good. (sound familiar???) However, in 1967, as Sgt. Pepper shot straight to number one on the Billboard Top LP chart for fifteen weeks, critics began to change their minds. Rock and roll wasn’t something for teenagers, it wasn’t about teen idols and bubble gum. No, rock and roll began being taken seriously.

Let me try and condense about twenty five years’ worth of the history of rock music into a few paragraphs. First of all, let’s review where we were on a cultural level. Eisenhower became President during the 1950’s, and the “clean-cut American” image was paramount. Short hair for boys, long hair for girls, belts and slacks for boys, skirts for girls. Leisure time became plentiful for American teenagers. That meant plenty of listening time for music, after school hangouts at the soda shop, football games, and socializing. The music played at the soda shop, on American AM Radio, was considered “pop”.

Pop music was a sort of music that didn’t require good speakers. It was meant for mass-market consumption, which, when combined with the rise of the youth culture (due to an increase in leisure time), created a real youth market for popular music for the first time in history. The popular music of choice? Rock & Roll.

Waiting to take you away

The earliest Rock & Roll stars, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis for example, were rooted deeply in rhythm & blues, a sound developed by African-American musicians. That music found a new audience in white teenagers, much to the chagrin of American adults. It was seen as dangerous, a bad influence on kids who, for the first time in history – had measurable leisure time on their hands. We can say that the adult imagination ran amok with ideas of juvenile delinquency, premarital sex, socializing between races, and so on. It frightened the powers-that-be to have such music touted and fed to America’s youth. What to do?

As 1960 loomed ever closer, those early rock & roll stars began to disappear from the charts and media. Elvis joined the Army, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry both dealt with scandal. During that time, teen idols began to marketed to teens by those same well-meaning adults who feared for the children. (yes, there is sarcasm intended!) These idols were a replacement for the more lurid content disappearing from the charts, ever so timely.

Teen idols (typically white, almost always male) also performed rock & roll, but it was a whitewashed, bubble gum version that was far more synchronous with the Eisenhower “All American”, clean-cut culture of the day. Idols such as Frankie Avalon, Fabian, and Bobby Rydell became household names. Considered pop (meaning popular) music, it was played on AM radio, mass-marketed, and became accepted by the mainstream. Essentially during this period, rock & roll and pop were considered to be the same thing – although clearly, you and I can probably hear a significant difference between the music of Elvis or Chuck Berry, and that of Pat Boone or Dion.

When I’m Sixty-Four

Along came 1964, the year that Meet the Beatles arrived. If you were to listen to that music, it would sound similar to the pop music of the period. Teenage fans, primarily female, embraced the band as their new idols, and critics unleashed their own distaste, as I shared earlier.

What was it about Sgt. Pepper that turned the tides? It is regarded by musicologists as one of the earliest (if not the first) concept albums. There was a definite difference in the sound between songs like Getting Better, Fixing a Hole, or She’s Leaving Home and earlier pieces like All My Loving, off of Meet the Beatles. The music more mature, less formulaic, much deeper and textured. Stylistically, Sgt. Pepper borrowed from everything: vaudeville to classical music, and everything in between. Make no mistake, I value the album for it’s genius. It is one of my very favorite, and it definitely lent itself to every album that followed. However….

Music historians, when asked about the difference between Rock & Roll and Pop, point to the release of this album. After Sgt. Pepper, Rock music was elevated to a pseudo-art form, while pop was relegated to the masses. Rock was considered scholarly, pop was held as the “fast food” of music. The idea of pop changed. It became as much about image as talent. More importantly, rock was for (mostly) male listeners, who cared about sound quality, understood the art, and took it seriously. Females, on the other hand, cared more about the look and the branding…or so they say. They would eventually “grow out” of listening to music when they became wives and mothers.

And it all started, largely so anyway, with Sgt. Pepper. It is an album that both changed music and culture, forever.

-R

Hothead – The Daily Duranie Review

Here we are. We have indeed arrived at the time to review Hothead. Produced by Chris Kimsey, featuring spoken word by none other than Simon Le Bon, there isn’t much written about Hothead. The song does not seem to be a fan favorite, so let’s get to the bottom of it!

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation

The first thing I notice is the guitar, which quite frankly for a Duran Duran song, isn’t always the norm. Not buried too deeply in the mix, not an esoteric enigma, vaguely floating up in the stratosphere – for this track, the guitar helps ground the track like a root in the soil. The synthesizer takes on it’s old role, creating atmosphere and answering the guitar in the chorus.

The thing is, the music is kind of catchy. I like the slight grit to the guitar posed against the silky texture of keyboards. The semi-haunted house feeling of the descending synthesizer chords during each verse help to create interest, and it lends a bit more meaning to the point of the song. I picture wandering down into the proverbial rabbit hole, or falling into a pit while in a forest! This is the first DD album, to my knowledge, where the band samples from newscasts and television, incorporating those bytes into the background of the sound. I like that they did that, because those samplings give the song context. It isn’t difficult as a listener to understand the time frame in question, or why the song was written. Given that triumph, I don’t hear much bass though, which is strange – I think it’s in there, but during this period of time I think bass was more “felt” than heard. The band seemed to have backed off from the more complicated bass lines of Rio days and before. The drums are solid, no with no-nonsense, which probably is appropriate given the texture and point of the song.

Vocals

So, this is where things start to go sideways. The very first voice I recognize is that of Former President George Bush (the first one). That can’t be a good omen, can it? You hear news report snippets, which are sampled and as I said before – give context to time and setting of the song, and then Simon begins. Not quite spoken word, not quite singing…but then he does sing the chorus, doesn’t he? That’s followed by a stop gap, more than a little cringy, yet oddly appropriate, “hothead” sung in high-soprano by backing vocalists. I can’t decide if the cringe is meant due to the meaning of the song, or if that’s just *my* take on it. Before I can decide for sure while writing, I hear Simon’s rap section.

This may not be a popular opinion, but the words “Simon” and “rap” really don’t belong in the same sentence. It is very difficult to get past the sing-song aspect and take it seriously. Some artists rap well, and some just don’t. It’s my (possibly unpopular) opinion that Simon does not.

Lyrics

I’ll admit something right here and now: I’ve never read the lyrics to this song before. Lyrically, the song is strong, and arguably, more “political” than Paper Gods. The words were timely then, timely now, well-written, and (still) have a great message. They’re not dated, and they’re definitely not vague. He wasn’t wrong that governments use media and propaganda to change the mind of the public, and that whatever they say today might totally change tomorrow depending upon whatever view they wish to spread at the time. There is absolutely a message warning us to wary of those with the loudest microphones. I can’t argue with any of that. It isn’t the words that are the biggest problem.

Overall

While I can’t say it is a favorite song, there are a couple of things I liked. The guitar line is great, and I love the call and answer with synthesizer. I do give credit for innovation. The sampling of the news bytes was something that we may take for granted in 2020, but in 1990 was still fairly new. Overall, the music is pretty good. The lyrics themselves are solid, although I know they’re not the poetic ramblings that fans enjoyed in earlier albums. The real problem, at least for me, are the vocals and their delivery. I’m not opposed to rap or spoken word – but the sing-song delivery that seems to accompany the way Simon raps does the song an enormous amount of injustice. It cheapens the message and makes it out to be far more of a game or joke than I think was intended. I feel like the song started off to be a great idea, but during recording, it went ass-over-teakettle.

Cocktail Rating

two cocktails!

Amanda

Musicality/Instrumentation

This song definitely starts out in a non-typical Duran way with extremely obvious guitars. While I cannot say that I’m the biggest guitar fan, I think the jarring nature of the intro guitars is fitting with the theme of the song. You cannot talk about politics like this with a pretty synthesize sound, for example. Speaking of synthesizer, I really like the keyboards that pop up more when the guitars are pausing. The drums are solid with nothing too crazy going on. I don’t hear a lot of bass, though, which is a bummer. One thing that I notice about the musicality of this song is how the instrumentation is strong until the vocals and soundbytes begin then it almost feels as if the music takes a backseat.

Vocals

I’m not even sure where to start about the vocals. I guess I will start with the soundbytes of news headlines. I don’t mind them. In fact, part of me finds it fascinating what they chose and makes me wonder why those. To me, they fit with the theme of the song. Then, there is Simon’s vocals. At first, they aren’t terrible. I don’t mind them. Then, the first chorus happens. What the heck is that all about? Why the shouting like of “hothead”?! Why have a female vocal singing “hothead” for far too long? What is the point?! I don’t get it. Then, Simon’s vocals take a noticeable change for the final verse. It is more spoken word but not really. I don’t get that either. The vocals just make the song feel disjointed, lacking cohesion. It feels like they couldn’t decide exactly what they were going for so they did a bunch of stuff. It doesn’t work.

Lyrics

I have to admit that I find these lyrics pretty interesting but then again I spend a lot of my life involved in the political sphere. One thing that I find most interesting is how the overall message about media, politics, propaganda, etc and so forth is not dated at all. These issues are still relevant. In fact, they might be more relevant now in 2020 than in 1990 especially with the rise of social media, fake accounts, interference from other countries, etc. I look at other lyrics that might fit in the same category and feel like some of them feel more dated than this. The biggest example is Too Much Information. It definitely feels like the focus is on the Gulf War of the 1990s. Again, I give a little shoutout to the soundbytes as I found them to be interesting, too.

Overall

This song is definitely not a fan favorite and I totally get why. While there are elements that are interesting like the lyrics and much of the instrumentation, the vocals really detract from the rest especially since they are so front and center during the majority of the song. I do appreciate the fact that the band decided to do something political in nature but because of the vocals, specifically, I think it turned a lot of listeners off. They did not get the message or did not or could not think about what the lyrics might mean. That said, I do give credit for even mixing things up, musically, by having the guitar start it out and in such a dramatic way. I have to just wonder that if they had tweaked things a bit if the final result would have been significantly better.

Cocktail Rating

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two cocktails!

Fight it, or Invite It

Honesty

Yesterday morning, I received a text from Jason, letting me know that he’d posted the blog. (check it out here if you haven’t yet!) Somewhat cryptically, he mentioned that he hoped it wasn’t too rough. The guest blogger he’d worked with was open and candid with regard to her feelings about the videos they’d reviewed. He wanted an honest reaction, and judging by what I read, I believe he received just that.

I replied saying although I hadn’t yet read the piece, I wasn’t concerned. Following up, I told him that I valued honesty, and looked forward to reading it in a few minutes.

After making the drive to school, I pulled into a parking spot and grabbed my phone. He’d sparked my curiosity, and I found that I didn’t want to wait until I got home. As I read both his parts and those of his guest, I chuckled in more than one spot. I found Aurora Montgomery’s comments to be refreshingly genuine. She delivered them with a humorous approach that I aspire to incorporate into my own writing.

One particular sentence about “Electric Barbarella” made me cackle. “This robot woman exists and dresses solely for them, and from the beginning it was my sincere hope that she would end up murdering the band before the video’s close.” Brutal honesty. I like it.

Cuteness and condescension

Over the years, my writing and open opinion have taken a bit of a roller coaster effect. From love letter to brutally cynical, gushingly cute to overly critical, I don’t know if I’ve ever stumbled upon the magic formula for writing. It is difficult to compose a fan blog each day knowing in the back of your mind that many will never take you seriously. I’ve gone from being embraced to shunned in just a few keystrokes. Consistently though, I’ve remained honest.

When we invite guests to share their opinions, we accept that not everyone is on the same page. In the case of Aurora Montgomery, she’s not even a Duran Duran fan. Instead, she is a respected professional. I don’t think it has to be a given that a critic dislikes everything Duran Duran has done. However, I respect that her point of view will be vastly different (and unbiased) from my own.

Remaining unbiased is difficult. There is no denying that someone like me, a (nearly) lifelong fan of Duran Duran, is going to have a certain amount of emotion leading my opinions. The idea that somehow, on a blog named Daily Duranie, we would be unbiased is laughable. Fellow fans have commented saying that our blog is cute, following up by saying we’re so biased and fan-girly. All of the above delivered with just a bit too much all-knowing condescension to be kind.

Emotion is a complication

I tend to react by grimacing, knowing that there’s little I can do to change the perception. It’s irritating. On one hand, if I didn’t have any emotion for Duran Duran, why on earth would I write every day about them? On the other, I stopped being “cute” in about 1982. I realize blogging about Duran Duran isn’t changing the world. It isn’t going to solve the climate crisis, or find the cure for cancer. It is about music. Each of us who dedicate the time and energy to write here are fans.

Emotion is a complication. For me, it’s a constant struggle to find the sweet spot between having fun, acknowledging my fandom, while still exercising some critical thinking in the process. I love Duran Duran, but I don’t love everything they’ve done. That’s not likely to change, and that’s okay!

You want real?

I don’t live every second of my life worshipping the sand that Rio danced on. I still believe that Red Carpet Massacre was a half-hearted attempt to stay in the good graces of a label and remain relevant. That doesn’t mean I don’t love Rio. I’ve found several songs on Red Carpet Massacre to enjoy.

Paper Gods wasn’t an “instant like” for me. It took me months to come to terms with it. I did eventually bond with several songs, and there are more than a few lines of lyric on there that feel very much like they were written for me. Personally though, I think their best has yet to come, they’ve just got to find it. I hope they don’t give up before it gets written.

I was never a Warren fan, and and would like to slap the fans who grovel at his feet while he puts down Duran Duran whenever and however possible. It’s gross, and by the way—geniuses don’t typically need to go around reminding people that they are, in fact, genius. I still don’t like the fact that they don’t have a dedicated guitarist – even if that guitarist isn’t Dom. Do what you gotta do, but find someone who you’ll agree to having as a band member that has an actual relationship with you and your music. If pressed, I’d tell you that the one element they’ve been missing from their recorded music is a good, emotive, rock guitar that is the polar opposite of the synthesizer line. That goes across the board, from Seven and the Ragged Tiger through to Paper Gods. Bam. Those are my opinions, even if you don’t like ‘em. Real, and unapologetic. Yet, I’ll still be among the first to shout from the rooftops whenever Duran Duran needs. Go figure.

Emotion doesn’t make it unworthy

All of those opinions come with forty years of emotion, and ten years of blogging experience behind them. Does that make them any less worthy? Not to me, but please— you decide on your own. Even a music critic writes with emotion. Critics love music, even if they don’t love the album or even the band they’re reviewing at the time.

For the record, I think the video would have gone better with your suggested ending, Aurora. There’s some emotion for ya!

-R

Five For Fighting

So, what happens when a music writer with no emotional attachment to Duran Duran and a self-confessed Duranie get in the ring to fight over five of the band’s videos? Let’s find out! Fighting out of the blue corner is Aurora Montgomery, a music writer and musician who has been published by Vice, Bust, and Performer magazines in addition to attending graduate school in music theory. In the pink corner is me. I watched a lot of MTV growing up and spent most of college at Taco Bell.

Up for review: Night Boat, Electric Barbarella, Last Night In the City, The Chauffeur, and Violence of Summer. Why these five? Well, everyone knows the enormous hits from the 80s so Ms. Montgomery is legitimately experiencing these songs and videos for the first time with an open, critical mind whereas I’ve been absorbing them since they came out. How much does fandom influence a fair and balanced critique? Hopefully, today’s battle sheds some light on that.

Ranked from Best to Worst as an entire package so video, music, and lyrics are given equal weight….first up, the resident Duranie: 

The Chauffeur

When a song and video are perfectly in sync, the sum is greater than the parts. Such is the case with “The Chauffeur”. The tension of the video builds slowly, much like the track itself. The director’s sly homage to the Night Porter film adds an aesthetic that is miles away from the naked models wrestling in “Girls On Film”. Whereas that video was designed to shock and garner attention, “The Chauffeur” represents a band clicking on every level. 

Night Boat

Filmed in 1982, “Night Boat” shows how far ahead of the curve the band was with the use of video. MTV was still in diapers and here is Duran Duran filming a pretty spooky zombie video that captures the sinister atmosphere of the song. Knowing the Duran story, I find myself viewing the tattered sail boat in this video as a metaphor for the darkness that would engulf the band after conquering the world in “Rio” on what I assume is the same boat. 

Electric Barbarella

We have debated this video at length on Daily Duranie but I’m still a believer in it. The band successfully create a retro-modern sound and look that playfully recalls films like Barbarella and Logan’s Run. A guitarist releasing a sex toy of his own “instrument”? Creepy. A video about middle-aged men buying a sexy robot that they cannot control? Camp and fun; much like the early videos where the jokes were on them. The power implied by purchasing an electric barbarella never materializes and they lose control of it. Slightly more sexy than sexist, there are worse videos….

Last Night In the City

Readers of this blog know that I do NOT love this song. I think it’s pop trash of the worst kind. However, credit to Nick Egan for creating a stylish video that enhances the song. In fact, I think I enjoy the song a little bit more now (while still hating it). Seeing Kiesza singing with Simon LeBon puts the chorus in context in a way that I never felt on the album. However, this is a career low point for the band as they try to be contemporary instead of iconic. 

Violence Of Summer

When I dreamed up this project, I was pretty sure I would rank this higher. I’ve come to appreciate a lot of Liberty (excluding “Hothead”) over the years. It’s a catchy song but the video hampers it greatly. This is nothing more than a glossy advertisement with no artistic ambition – unless you consider Warren’s abs a work of art. The entire video feels sterile and the song lacks punch. The drums and bass are so far down in the mix that the song has no foundation. Overall, the worst of this bunch and one of their worst videos overall. 

And now for the counterpunch….

Duran Duran videos ranked from pretty decent to can that last one get any worse?

Night Boat

Despite a somewhat comical and dramatic two-minute build up, Night Boat was an easy favorite of the five. Musically, it’s the most interesting, and it is surprisingly dark for what I expect from Duran Duran. There are surprising chord progressions, and the instrumentation pairs well with the impending danger of zombies. My only criticism is that the end of the video leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Where did the zombies suddenly disappear to and why? Is the night boat saving the band or leading them further into danger? I wish the night boat had saved me from the videos ranked in fourth and fifth place. 

The Chauffeur

This video is gorgeous, and the music is equally good. Aside from the glance of the chauffeur in the rearview mirror, and his split second apparition in the parking lot, the women seem to exist, dance and dress for themselves, (or for each other in the strange patty cake / parking lot scene). That seems pretty radical for a music video in general, let alone a video from the early 1980s. 

Electric Barbarella

This video negates any previous observations about the lack of male gaze in a Duran Duran video. This robot woman exists and dresses solely for them, and from the beginning it was my sincere hope that she would end up murdering the band before the video’s close. The music is cheesy, yet catchy. I can see why it got airplay, but am not sure why a double neck, headless guitar is needed in any musical setting, especially when the music has devolved from the earlier videos. 

Violence of Summer

Violence of Summer is an unremarkable and forgettable music video, just like the song itself. It seems to consist of a laundry list of images that are popular in music videos, but lacks any cohesive theme to tie them all together. Whatever imagery was intended to be evoked with the motorcycles, cars, dancing women, and band performance scenes fell short, and was not enough to save this video. 

Last Night in the City

I have no idea how or why this video even made the list, Jason. It reminds of a bad movie montage that flashes music and performance shots to show a fictional band’s rise to success. Except hearing this song makes me wonder how this fictional band could ever become successful. Was the band trying to rebrand as an EDM act?  It is interesting to note that the music and videos all match each other in the sense that the quality of each get worse in tandem.  

So there you have our first edition of Five For Fighting! How would you rank these videos?

Following the News

Fifty-million streaming apps

Yesterday, I sat down to watch Strangeways Radio’s Week in Music video, hosted by our very own Jason Lent (VelvetRebel). If you missed it – you can catch it on our homepage, or right here. I love that it’s a quick wrap-up of what happened in the world of music for the week. I’m lucky to have five uninterrupted minutes to myself, so this short program fits the bill!

As I watched, Jason pointed out a couple of new albums that are out by The Chromatics and The Pixies, and even played a little snippet from each. While I’ve heard of both bands (more so Pixies that Chromatics), I never paid close attention to either of them, but I liked the new songs played, each for very different reasons. I made mental note to search for the new music on Spotify or the other 50 million music streaming apps that seem to be out these days. For me, it’s all a little overwhelming.

I’m lazy and admit it!

I don’t know what it is with me, but over the past five years or so, I don’t bother seeking out new music nearly as often. Complacency is comfortable, I suppose, but it’s also limiting. I listen to what Walt has collected over the years on vinyl, channels I enjoy on SiriusXM or traditional radio, and that’s about it. Finding new bands requires dedicated time and effort that I just don’t have to offer.

Cognitively, I understand that listening to First Wave, or even my local radio station – I’m not likely to hear “new” music, even if it comes directly from one of the artists played on First Wave (in case you’re not familiar, the station focus on New Wave music from the 80s). The problem is, I’m lazy. Plain and simple. I don’t have hours to sit around clicking endlessly to find new music and/or new artists I like, much less time to actually listen. While Walt and I still see bands fairly often – most of them are cover bands, not playing original material.

When I think about it, I don’t know that I was ever one of those people to work hard to seek out new music. I’d watch MTV, read the occasional magazine or hear things on the radio and go from there. Today, it’s similar, except MTV is no longer the same, and since I listen to First Wave when I’m in the car (which truly isn’t all that often now – my comments are less than 10 minutes these days!), I’m not exposed to much. I’m guessing that I’m not the only one in that camp.

How do bands manage the tsunami?

On the other hand, I have friends who seem to know all the new albums, new bands, new music. This is why I appreciate Jason’s work, both here and on Strangeways Radio – he does my a lot of my homework for me. Now all I have to do is go to a streaming service, or purchase the music and listen. I value their time and tenacity, because honestly – I don’t have the patience to do it myself!

As I was considering all of the above, I realized that my own quandary is exactly the same sort of tsunami that bands like Duran Duran are fighting to survive each day. Can you imagine trying to get a new album played on the radio these days? I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but there’s not even a station in my area that I could for sure say would play (new) Duran Duran. Again, I’m betting I’m not alone.

When I post statements about radio, there’s always someone who pipes up, saying that radio doesn’t matter anyway. Maybe not, but then what? Internet radio? Streaming? Great, except that it’s not enough to just throw a new album up on a streaming service and cross fingers for luck. How do you attract listeners and grow your audience at this point? Unless you’re already following Duran Duran, or they get extremely lucky with just the right song placed in just the right place…how does it work?

How do you do it?

All of this did get me wondering though, how do other music fans my age do it? Do they still try to keep up with what is new, or are many beginning to settle back with music they already know and love? Where does the good music news come from? Drop me a line and let me know!

-R

Transcendence

Where were you?

I can’t ignore the elephant in the room this morning. While I don’t know how many people outside of the USA follow basketball, I know that most people who live here knew of Kobe Bryant. Yesterday, he was in a serious helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. None of the nine people on board survived.

At some point during the afternoon, one of the television news anchors commented that this would be one of those moments where we would all be able to recall where we were when we first heard the news. I was sitting on the retaining wall overlooking our side yard. I’d lazily picked up my phone, quickly scrolling through Facebook when I saw something my sister had posted about the accident. At first, I thought it had to be a hoax. Within seconds though, I was able to see it was real.

There are some people who just transcend. For example, I am about as far away from a basketball fan as possible. The last time I sat through a full game, Michael Jordan was still playing for the Chicago Bulls! Yet, I knew who Kobe Bryant was. I was neither fan, nor foe. As time wore on past his retirement from the sport, he successfully redefined himself from basketball player, to philanthropist and business leader. He earned the respect of the public not through words, but action.

Elevated beyond fandom

I think what surprises me most in this particular situation is that nearly everyone I know took at least a second to send their good wishes, whether on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere. It doesn’t seem to matter if you were a fan of Kobe, a basketball fan, or just a regular person – he transcended all of it. He was someone that people globally looked up to, admired, and/or hero worshipped. There are some people who are elevated beyond fandom. Kobe Bryant was one of those individuals.

This morning, I can’t help but think about how forty-one years wasn’t long, yet he did so much with that time. Now, I realize for his wife, family, and surviving children – it wasn’t nearly enough time. That, I understand completely. Even so, to most people who aren’t personally affected by the loss (beyond that of being a fan, I mean) – Kobe did an amazing amount of “good” with the time he had on this planet. That alone seems to be something to admire.

I’m sure some may point out that he had less-than-perfect moments. In 2003, Bryant was accused of rape. I watched as his wife Vanessa stayed by his side, even as Kobe admitted to adultery. At the time, I wondered if the seemingly perfect Bryant was really a rapist in disguise. I’m sure many people still wonder. It would seem to me, though, that the body of work left behind is worth a lot as evidence of the true person.

Legacies live on

Ultimately though, Kobe Bryant’s legacy will live on, at least as long as his fans are alive. When things like this happen, I wonder how I’ll feel when the day comes that one of my biggest heroes passes on.

I’ll be blunt (as always) – for me, Duran Duran changed the direction of my life as an adult. I became a blogger. I traveled a little, made friends, and learned a lot about myself, music, and people. The idea that people who created something so pivotal for me will eventually pass on isn’t a good one. I don’t know what that day will be like, only that I would eagerly opt out if at all possible. I’m sure that is how many of Kobe’s most ardent fans felt as they read the news yesterday.

Rest In Peace

My thoughts are with Vanessa Bryant, her surviving children – who lost not only a husband and father, but also a daughter and sister yesterday, along with the families of all those on board that helicopter yesterday.

Yes, it is likely that I’ll always remember where I was on this fateful day. Similarly to how I recall coming out of my sixth grade science & math classroom to see my friend Marsha sobbing over the loss of John Lennon in 1980. There are some things, and some people, that just transcend everything else.

-R

It’s Just Music

It’s rigged

If you’ve escaped the news regarding the US Senate Impeachment Trial, it is entirely possible you have heard about another scandal. Deborah Dugan, the recently ousted CEO of the Recording Academy, claims that the Grammy award system, among a myriad of other very serious allegations, is rigged.

Dugan filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission this week. She is alleging sexual harassment and discrimination against the Recording Academy. This was following her own untimely exit on January 16. She was placed on administrative leave following another female staffer complaints of misconduct (by Dugan). Complaints of sexual harassment in Hollywood are not new. Given the complexities and drama enveloping the situation, I suspect there will be more news to come. However, I did find the allegations about the awards system worthy of comment.

Clown-car acts of try-hards

With each passing year, I pay less and less attention to the music award shows. Call it aging, call it a lack of care or concern. The fact is, the awards, and certainly the visual spectacles they create for television, are boring to me. They resemble circuses of excess, complete with clown-car acts of try-hards, attempting to outdo whomever stepped onstage before.

I used to force myself to watch. Desperately trying to stay informed, as well as exercise and maintain a decent ear for new music. I never could quite understand why I had zero trouble listening to music from my parents day and prior. I appreciated the history and where music has traveled since. Yet listening to modern music (at least the most “popular” being heralded on these awards shows) makes me crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found plenty of new music to enjoy – just not the stuff pedaled on these shows for mainstream audiences.

As I’ve watched shows like the Grammy Awards, I’ve sat back in wonderment over some of the nominees, and most definitely the winners. I can’t count how many times I wondered how fill-in-the-blank-here actually got nominated, much less won. That isn’t about my own personal taste, either.

Finger on the pulse of mainstream

I can’t ignore the fact that people of color dominate many of the categories. Yet far too often it ends up being white people getting the award. Yeah, I’m playing the race card because it’s been way too damn obvious to ignore. Certainly, I could never prove a thing; but if me, “little-white-woman-from-California” was wondering about it, rest assured, I wasn’t alone.

Granted, I don’t have my finger on the pulse of mainstream music these days – but some of the choices felt (and sounded) completely out of left field. Sadly, it didn’t surprise me when news reports about this alleged “rigging” began surfacing this week. In fact, I believe my sarcastic comment was, “No. You don’t say!!” I mean, come on. Who DOESN’T think these shows are a joke??

Did you know that the membership in the Recording Academy (according to Slate) is only 21% female, and only 28% people of color? Interesting, given those groups of people often dominate entire categories. Yet, their role in the voting and governing body is minimal. The process is that the full membership casts choices in all categories. Then, for each of those categories, committees cull through the top 20 choices, down to a final 5-8 nominees.

All of this sounds familiar

What I found interesting here, this committee meets and the members push forward their own choices. So for example, if you’re someone who works with say, Ed Sheeran – you’re going to push forward his nomination in whatever category you’re working on, regardless of whether or not he’s truly the best example of this years artists in that category. Doesn’t matter because, well – this is a popularity contest. It also doesn’t matter if Ed (again, just an example!!) was even in the top 20 voted by the entire membership body for that category. Dugan’s complaint claims that for the 2020 Grammys, 30 of this year’s nominees were added to the final list of nominees, despite not making the initial cut to the top 20.

I wish that were all, but she also claims that this year, one of the nominees for Song of the Year came in at #18 in the top 20 (meaning that the entire membership made their choices for this category, and this nominee was the 18th most popular choice). Yet they made it through to the top nominees. Maybe when faced with the choices that were in the top 20, this particular committee of people decided that #18 was really one of the top 5-8 choices for the category. Sure. I suppose in this day and age, anything is possible. But really??

Hearts and ears of the white men

While I’m the first to say that I think the award shows are a joke – it is a little numbing and disconcerting to read that they’re REALLY this messed up. I’m a lot less surprised that Duran Duran didn’t win more of them during the course of their career, I’ll say that much.

No, I’ll even go one further. We already know that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is political. Getting on that nomination ballot is an exercise in futility. At the very least, you’ve got to have the hearts and ears of all the white men in the room. Then there’s the Grammy Awards, which has also now proven it’s own irrelevance, assuming that even some of the allegations are true. I can’t imagine they’re untrue at this point. With so many patterns of behavior emerging, it is difficult to imagine otherwise.

Does it matter?

I guess that at least for me, I have to wonder when it stops. Will it stop? When does the public finally say no more? Or, perhaps it doesn’t matter enough to anyone to bother? “It’s just music.”

Yes, it is music. This week, it is the Recording Academy in the crosshairs…it’s also The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Oscars, the entertainment industry, business, and beyond. It is about equal opportunity, People of Color, LGBTQ, white people, women, men….about humans. Our behavior, our history, our collective culture, and our future.

Sure, it’s just music and this is just an awards show. All of it superficial and irrelevant…except it’s not.

-R

Rhythm of Youth

While back in England visiting friends and my wife’s family, we took a cold, evening drive to have dinner at her dad’s house in Stokenchurch. This perfect little village was not only home to my future wife as a teen, it is also where synth-pop hero Howard Jones grew-up. So, when her dad opened his record cabinet, I hoped that in those rows and rows of wax that a treasure might await, like an early demo from HoJo or, perhaps, a Duran Duran artifact. Well, I sort of struck gold.

Between the Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley singles, a few 80s gems began to appear from Human League to the first Adam Ant 7″ in a black and white sleeve! As I looted my father-in-law’s record cabinet of any records that belonged to my wife or her sister, I slowly lost hope of finding a Duran treasure until I came across a handful of flexi-discs, the flimsy plastic records that came inside magazines.

One of them promised a Merry Christmas wish from all the Smash Hits stars. Knowing the magazine’s fixation with the Fab Five, I looked closer and saw them listed on the label. A little unsure if the flexi-discs would still play, I packed them in the bag and now you can hear what I heard last night when I put it on.

Smash Hits Christmas Flexi-disc

Not exactly a well-scripted moment…..and that is perfect! It sounds fun. And that is what the band and the world started to lose by the end of the 80s. MTV started to become a well-oiled machine and everyone had expensive, boring videos that aspired to be “Rio” or “Hungry Like the Wolf”. The era was winding down.

It took a little stumble but when Duran Duran returned on a mission with the Wedding Album, the videos had style and looked modern. The band were ahead of the pop-culture curve again. In “Come Undone”, John and Simon are wearing the infamous Seinfeld pirate shirt before the episode had aired! Kidding (sort of).

Everyone gives U2 credit for making the creative leap from the masterpiece of Joshua Tree to the equally brilliant Achtung Baby but it was harder for Duran Duran to get to the Wedding Album. The band had to convince an audience, and themselves, that there was a place for them in music a decade after ruling the world. As the bad-ass commercial proves, they were ready for the new decade.

A slick commercial for the Wedding Album.

Strangeways Radio Music News

I miss music news

One of the things I miss most about MTV is their Music News. Sure, I loved the videos. Yes, I miss the exposure to new music. However, I really miss hearing the news. Most notably, I miss Kurt Loder. I remember John Norris, and even Tabitha Soren, but for me – music news came from Kurt Loder. I learned from him, and appreciated the snapshots of what was going on in the world that I cared about most. These days, I struggle to keep up. I don’t have time to scour the internet in search of who/when/how, and I don’t have the patience to sit through much.

I don’t think I’m alone. Whether it is because there is a lack of concern or interest for new bands, or a lack of attention given to bands of ,*ahem*, MY generation, there’s not a lot available…until now.

Music news with VelvetRebel

If you have checked out our home page within the last several days, it is possible that you will already know that our very own Jason (VelvetRadio) has signed on with Strangeways Radio/TV to do music news each week! This is huge, as Strangeways Radio is an outlet of Slicing Up Eyeballs, and Matt Sebastian – the owner and founder of Slicing Up Eyeballs – hosts DarkWave on SiriusXM’s First Wave channel. I’m a huge fan of Slicing Up Eyeballs as it is, and couldn’t be more thrilled for Jason.

Jason knows music. He is incredibly knowledgable. While I arguably may know a little bit about Duran Duran – he knows Duran Duran, along with everything else. It is the reason why he was the first and only person I thought of trusting (outside of Amanda, of course!!) to take over one of my blogging days. I continue to learn from him, and appreciate that he still takes the time to write a little something for us to read and ponder each week.

From the outset, before a single click, I knew his music news would be worth watching. I wasn’t wrong! Immediately after watching, I subscribed to Strangeways Radio onYouTube. Jason has a delivery similar to Kurt Loder, and I think that his show and audience will continue to grow from here. Jason knows his stuff, and the best part of it is that the news he curates is directed towards new wave/alternative fans. You’ll hear about the bands and music you love most. I really couldn’t be more excited for him, and proud to say he blogs here, too!

Check out Strangeways Radio on YouTube

As we all know – the internet is a massive, fat pipe. Information cascades our way at a breakneck pace. It isn’t easy to stand out as one music news outlet amongst hundreds or thousands. This is why I’m asking you to click on his videos, take a look, and subscribe.

Here’s Jason’s latest!

Best of luck to you, Jason. I can’t wait to see where this all goes from here!

-R