Faster Than Light

Quarantine life is moving faster than light these days. Somehow, I’m already on day 10 of being furloughed from my job. Feels like it just happened a few days ago but each day sort of blends into the next. Lots of cocktails, sunshine, music, and cats. Repeat. Then, repeat again. Take away the fear of getting sick and possible financial ruin and it’s not a bad life.

Over the weekend, we had an 80s dance party on Twitch. Between Zoom and Twitch, I feel like our Big Bang Generation has become technologically hip during this pandemic. While nothing will replace a fun night out on the town, as Lori Majewski noted on her show Monday, at a certain age you don’t want to go out after 9pm! Being able to listen to a DJ playing classic songs from the comfort of your couch while making your own cocktails for free is pretty neat. I’ve watched quite a few online DJ sets and I’ve tried to bring something unique to mine.

Having said that, we are going to do it again on May 9th! And this time, I’ll be doing TWO sets to accommodate the various time zones of the world! Expect a lot of classic 80s dance hits BUT…..this time, I’ll be mixing in music from those iconic artists released more recently as well. I’ve made my peace with Paper Gods by now so let’s dance to it!

Also this week, I released a project called God (America ’20) which is a re-imagined cover of Simon LeBon’s brilliant spoken word piece from the Big Thing era. Is it political? Yes. So was the original and so is Duran Duran whether we want to acknowledge that or not. All art is political by nature. That doesn’t mean it takes sides between two political parties which is how many often interpret “political”. Rather, art can challenge pre-conceived notions of the statue-quo and Duran Duran, and the entire New Romantic movement, cleverly undermined the conservative views of Thatcherism as her ally Norman Tebbit laid out as follows.

Bad art was as good as good art. Grammar and spelling were no longer important. To be clean was no better than to be filthy. Good manners were no better than bad. Family life was derided as an outdated bourgeois concept. Criminals deserved as much sympathy as their victims. Many homes and classrooms became disorderly; if there was neither right nor wrong there could be no basis for punishment or reward. Violence and soft pornography became accepted in the media. Thus was sown the wind; and we are now reaping the whirlwind.

Norman Tebbit, “Back to the old traditional values”, The Guardian Weekly, 24 November 1985

Sympathy for the criminals? Like Georgie Davis (“Friends of Mine”)? Soft pornography? Like “Girls On Film”? When it comes to violence, nothing was more destructive or feared in the 1980s than the nuclear bomb. That is why LeBon famously quipped that he hoped Duran Duran would be the ones playing when it dropped. Duran Duran represented a way of thinking and living that unsettled conservative norms. When their videos reached us in small towns across America, it was a colorful brand of punk that felt fun and rebellious.

In October of 1981, Duran Duran played the I-Beam in San Francisco, a legendary gay disco that welcomed a wide-range of performers during the 1980s. By playing there, the band made a political statement. In the UK, the age of consent for same-sex couples was still 21 despite many other countries having already changed it to the age for heterosexual couples. Duran Duran were embraced by the gay community and did not shy away from being an inclusive band.

Embracing more open attitudes towards love and gender started with the glam rock of David Bowie but Duran Duran and others were taking it further into mainstream culture and opening doors for others to follow. Bronski Beat’s Age of Consent would arrive in 1984 and openly challenge the outdated laws. Did I understand any of this as an eleven year-old? Of course not. But, it influenced how many of us learned gender. MTV proved to be a wonderful teacher. It taught us that we can be whomever we wanted to be to the dismay of my parents who had to listen to my pleas for highlighted hair “like John Taylor” when I was a pouty 7th grader.

So yes, Duran Duran has always been political but in the best sort of way. They present a way of living that offers hope and compassion. The wonderful project in 2018 which situated “Edge Of America” within an environmental context was beautifully shot and hard to be angry with no matter how left or right you are. Saving the planet is an issue we all agree on, I hope. I think LeBon was presenting the same ideas when he recorded God (London). It wasn’t a criticism of Reagan as much as it was a criticism of how politicians lose sight of the people they represent. It seems we have reached that point again and that is why I wanted to record God (America ’20). I hope you enjoy it.

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