Classic Pop: The Wedding Album and Pop Art

I am loving this Classic Pop magazine special edition on Duran Duran’s 40th Anniversary.  Over the past few weeks, I have read a number of articles and commented on my reactions in a series of blog posts.  Not only do I have more articles to read and write about today, I will only be about half way through the magazine.  There is so much here!  Today, I will cover the articles about the Wedding Album and album art.

The Wedding Album:

This review is similar to the one for Seven and the Ragged Tiger and Notorious as opposed to the lengthy one on Rio.  The extra features for this article include a blurb on the players and the tracklisting.  I’m not sure how many people are interested in who added vocal samples but it is nice to have the information in one place that is easy to find and read.

I’m always intrigued by the subheadings of these.  In this case, the author describes the album in this way, “going back to their roots and injecting a heavy dose of introspection.”  Interesting.  When I think of the album as a whole I am not sure I hear introspection in all of the songs.  In fact, I tend to think more about awareness to the world in a way that hadn’t been included much in the past along with some songs of introspection.

Again, the author begins by providing context, including what the music world was like in 1993 and how a lot of people had written off Duran.  Some, claimed the article, called Duran “Done Done.”  I never heard that and am horrified by it.  It never ceases to amaze me how cruel critics have been to Duran throughout the band’s career.

As you can imagine a great deal of the review focused on the creation of the songs and Ordinary World.  The articles talked a lot about how they wrote and recorded in a home studio which provided the setting for a focus on no frills, back to basics songwriting.  As far as Ordinary World goes, it told the usual story about how it was written about the death of Simon’s friend and got the band back into the spotlight.  Despite knowing all that, I didn’t realize that promo cassettes of the album were sent out in 1992 to various media outlets that contained a different track listing including the songs, Stop Dead and Time for Temptation.  If you don’t know there, here they are:

Pop Art:

This article chose to narrow its focus to the band’s album art.  The art for singles is also included.  I, for one, appreciate the fact that there was an entire feature dedicated to this.  Typically, when people cover Duran Duran, they usually discuss the band’s history, music and videos.  If there are any extras, then fashion is brought in.  Rarely have I ever seen anything that covers the fabulous album covers.

I love the fact that the article moves through the chronology of the band’s design from their early posters created by John Warwicker to Malcolm Garrett’s designs on the first albums all the way to the Paper Gods album cover.  Many of the various album and singles’s art were covered in detail.  For examples, I adored reading about the Planet Earth single cover.  I think it is my appreciation of art that makes me really love that it goes into such depth on both the images but also the design, including what the entire package might mean or represent.  If you are someone who loves analyzing Duran’s covers, this article is definitely the one for you!  If that wasn’t enough, it mentions Nick’s book of photography, Interference.  Lots of good stuff.

Next week, I’ll cover Top 40 Greatest Duran Tracks and Elder Statesmen.

-A

The Power of Performances

Last night, I went out with some neighbors to see a classic rock covers band.  One of the band members is another neighbor and people wanted to cheer him on.  Classic Rock isn’t exactly my favorite genre but I can appreciate a good performance and knew most of the songs.  On top of that, I appreciated a chance to blow off some steam as the honeymoon with the school year is over.

The observer in me enjoyed people watching last night as I sipped my beverage.  While a lot of the audience was into the show, there was one woman that really caught my attention.  She danced right in front of the lead singer for the majority of the show.  When she stepped away, it was only to buy shots for the band or to try to get on the stage, which she did.  Now, I don’t know this woman.  She might have actually known the band.  Even if she did or did not, I’m not judging her behavior other than saying this.  She clearly was moved by the performance, which made me smile.  Every time I see a band play live, I’m reminded that there is something special with live music that cannot be replicated in any other way.

As I watched this woman along with the rest of the crowd, I found myself missing seeing Duran play live.  I know that I just saw them in December, which really wasn’t that long ago.  Yet, I miss that magic and hearing their music live and in person.  I have no idea when the next time I will see them live but I know that I’ll be way more than ready.

Speaking of Duran Duran and performance, my handy dandy day in Duran history chart tells me that the band played Pressure Off on the Tonight Show on this date in 2015.  I miss those performances, too.  Perhaps, this is part of the reason why fans get so into new album releases.  A new album means new music, of course, but it also includes live shows and TV appearances.

Here’s the Tonight Show performance from 3 years ago:

I don’t know about the rest of you but I enjoyed watching it as much this morning as I did when I watched it three years ago.  Good times.

-A

Lessons Learned: 8 Years of (In)Sanity

Yesterday, this blog turned eight!  While some might not think that is a big deal but it is huge to Rhonda and myself.  When I think back to when we started this, I figured that we might write for a year, maybe two, if we were really committed.  Honestly, I believed that it would help us in our writing projects.  It might shed light on Duranies or even Duran Duran, I assumed.  While it has done that at times, to me, the lessons I have learned have been so much more and different than that.  So on this anniversary or birthday or whatever you want to call it, I want to share a few of those lessons.  They are in no particular order.

The Power of Commitment:

Sometimes, when Rhonda and I go on tour, we have uttered the phrase, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”  When we say that, it to remind ourselves that we shouldn’t necessarily party so hard in a few hour causing us to crash before the night has really even gotten started.  We don’t need to do everything in one night, if we have multiple shows.  I feel like I have learned that lesson in the rest of my life, too.

I have always known that there is power in commitment.  Experience matters.  When I first became a teacher, I watched veteran teachers to see how they dealt with every issue that teachers confront.  Looking back, I cannot believe how much I learned from that.  Now, I’m that veteran teacher.  My practice has improved over time, not just from watching those experienced staff members but also from doing it myself.  You know what else matters?  It is important to know that I’m in it for the long haul.  Teaching isn’t just a temporary gig.  I knew that I had to get better because it was going to be who and what I was for decades.

I could repeat a similar story for political organizing.  Initially, it was one campaign.  Soon enough, it became two then three.  Now, I get it.  It is part of my life and who I am.  I got better at it, too.  I had no choice.  I feel like the same is true for this blog.  In the beginning I didn’t think too much about how my blogs were.  Even once I realized that some people read them, I didn’t consciously think about how to improve my blogs.  Yet, I think it has happened through both doing it but also through commitment.  Because I know that this is part of my life, I want to be able to be proud of it.  Guess what?  I am proud.  Not only am I proud of the blogs themselves, I’m extremely proud of our commitment.  Both of us could have thrown in the towel a ton of times but we didn’t.  We stuck to it.  We stayed for the long haul.

Keeps Me Connected:

As I have said before, this hasn’t been the easiest year for me.  I won’t lie that there have been times that I thought maybe it was time for me to walk away from this.  It was never because I didn’t like it or my love for Duran has faded.  I just wondered if my attention shouldn’t be elsewhere.  Yet, I know how it would go.  At first, it might be fine.  I would focus on other things.  Over time, though, I would miss it.  Whenever I have suppressed one big aspect of my life, it always comes back to bite me.  I don’t like it.  I don’t want to have to choose between the different hats I wear.  I can be a fan and an activist.  I can be a blogger and educator.

What would I miss?  Not only would I miss the writing.  I would miss the connection.  This blog has connected us with other fans.  I have met so many people as a result of writing this blog, hosting meet-ups and organizing the convention in 2013.  I’m grateful for everyone I have met.  Not only have I learned from each and every person but many of you have brought fun and joy into my life.  You all have reminded me that fandom is about connection.  It starts out with a love of whatever.  In our case, it is the love of Duran Duran.  The fandom part comes when we reach out to each other.  This blog has made that a lot easier for me.  I cannot say that I’m great in meeting people.  Often, I think I give off the wrong vibes or something.  Yet, this blog and everything that has come as a result pushes me to be better, to be more approachable with other people.

Now, this blog keeps me connected not just to the fans I might meet, the ones that I have met, but also with Rhonda and Duran Duran.  This blog is not mine, not Rhonda’s but ours.  It is still that way.  It doesn’t matter how often we talk, this blog is our shared space.  It is a “place” that we both call home.  It is where we are open about our love for Duran and touring.  Beyond that, it is also where we have shared stories about fandom but also about our real lives.  I often joke that it has become our journals.  This blog lets us process through our ideas about fandom as well as general life stuff.  Not only does it let you all know what is going on with us, but often it lets me know what is going with her and vice versa.  It forces us to stay connected and I am grateful for that.  (I wonder if any band member has thought something similar about Duran Duran, that the band has kept the individual members connected.)

This little blog also keeps me thinking about Duran Duran.  When we first started, Duran Duran was at the top of my thoughts when writing this blog.  I couldn’t really imagine writing about my personal life or even subtle aspects of fandom.  No, I wanted to write about just Duran Duran, the band, the history, the music.  Now, it isn’t that they aren’t important as they are truly essential.  They are the reason we started and the reason we keep going.  However, they are much like the other commitments in my life.  Being a Duranie is who I am.  I have been that for so long and in this public way for 8 years now.  That part of my identity and the love that it stems from is so interwoven in my life that I don’t need to shout about it in the same way to prove that.  I know how much Duran matters to me.  It is like breathing.  I don’t need to think about it to love them.  I just do it.

Overall, this blog has changed me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined on September 13th, 2010, when we entered into this adventure.  I am thankful that we started this and thrilled that we keep going.  More importantly, I appreciate that Rhonda is still here on this journey with me and am forever grateful to people who have read the blog once as well as to those who read each and every day.  You all keep me going.  Thank you.

-A

KROQ of the 80s is Back on Radio.com!

I discovered something new yesterday that I want to share!  I was reading through my Twitter timeline, and saw @roqofthe80s had liked one of my posts. Remembering that was a tagline for my favorite radio station back in the 80s and 90s, I clicked to investigate.

During the 1980s, there several “reasonably good” radio stations here in the local Los Angeles market, but KROQ rose above them all. They seemed to identify with most kids in my age range, playing music that no one else bothered to play. The DJs were funny, sometimes even a bit corny, but they knew their stuff and I appreciated that. Richard Blade, likely the most popular of KROQ DJ’s, was a god to most teenagers here in Los Angeles.  His career at KROQ is one of the shining memories of my teen years and early 20s. While Duran Duran may have been the soundtrack to my memories, Richard was the one spinning the tunes.

The KROQ I once knew wasn’t afraid to play brand new music, and although I had no idea at the time – they weren’t a big budget station at all. Naturally, tastes change, management changes, as does music. Through the decades since I graduated from high school in 1988, the format at KROQ changed as well, and while I don’t listen nearly as often,  it is still one of my presets.

So imagine my surprise (and initial skepticism) when I saw that KROQ – my KROQ – was back!  Oddly, I’ve never been into much internet radio, preferring just to stream Spotify. Among many other types of music, I enjoy finding a good New Wave playlist with songs I haven’t heard much in the past 20 years unless I’m digging through my own collection. I didn’t ever bother with iHeart Radio or even radio.com, until yesterday.

I figured I’d give it a quick listen, and my expectations were pretty low.  It turns that if you’re lucky enough to own a vehicle with an HD radio, you can even tune in at 106.7 HD2. At this moment, there are only two DJs (and if you’re not from LA you won’t recognize the names) – Freddy Snakeskin and Tami Heidi. To my memory, Tami started at KROQ fairly late in the new wave game. Freddy is far more recognizable to me and it was comforting to hear him. Right now, they seem to be playing a recorded countdown of the top 500 New Wave songs of the 80s on repeat, but given that the station only started on September 4th, I’m hopeful they expand beyond that format to something more live-ish.  In the meantime, I’m going to keep listening!

Check it out for yourself KROQ2 roqofthe80s on radio.com 

-R

Where Forever and Yesterday Collide

Where forever and yesterday collide…

I think those words, which I am borrowing from my friend @BoysMakeNoise, sum up the emotion of this day.

Today, we commemorate 9/11.  I had a friend lose a daughter that day, not a single Patriot’s Day goes by without my thinking about Lisa Frost or her family. I don’t take the date or the memory lightly, nor does anyone else I know, whether they are here in the LA area or in the east. My thoughts are with those who lost friends and family that day. We will never be the same, we will never forget, but we are learning how to go on.

September 11th has also become a day to remember something else in addition to the day our lives changed forever. We were given a cause to smile, if not quite celebrate. Paper Gods was released on this date in 2015.

My feelings about Paper Gods has almost certainly evolved over time. This single album is responsible for teaching me so much about myself, I am forever indebted. When I think back on where I sat three years ago, I assuredly see and feel personal growth. It wasn’t that I sat in a chair, hit “play” and felt an epiphany. If only.

No, when I first heard the entire album, I was aghast with some of the choices. I can’t say I fell in love immediately. In fact, I struggled. Rather than keeping quiet about it, I shared my tug-o-war. Probably not the smartest blogging decision I’ve ever made. People I deeply respect and very much care about had put their blood, sweat, tears into the making of the album, and yet I panned a major portion of it.

I still carry a fair amount of guilt about that. When I say I’ve learned from those mistakes, believe it. I sat with friends I admire and look up to, and did a lot of listening and soul-searching. I own my feelings about the album, but I wish that I had given myself more time to fully digest it all. Blogging for eight years has been a constant challenge and source of education for me, and that’s not an exaggeration. I’m definitely not the same person I was in 2010, and I have this blog to thank for much of that growth and adaptation.

Paper Gods isn’t an easy album. It is deep and complex, possibly in reflection of the band’s career. I sense the struggle in writing and recording it, and even the moments of anxiety and despair mixed with joy and satisfaction. It took me an incredibly long time to find my own way with Paper Gods. Great music can be that way, and I didn’t account for any of that when I gave it a knee jerk review. The pressure to be first outweighed the concern for being right or fair, which ended up being altogether wrong – at least for me. I’ll never do it again, that is for sure.

People tease me occasionally about my review of “You Kill Me With Silence”, a song that took me months to come to terms with. I loved the verse, but it was the chorus that bothered me. I liked the painstakingly slow and torturous melodic structure, but the chorus felt so bright and almost happy, it made me mad. It took me months to realize that the music perfectly described an emotionally abusive relationship, just as did the words. When that light bulb finally turned on for me, I embraced the song on a deeply personal level.

I also grappled with “The Universe Alone”.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the song. It is likely one of the most brilliant pieces of music the band has ever written. At the time though, I felt like the song was carrying me into a whirlpool, threatening to take me down into an emotional abyss I wanted no part. I may have taken the meaning of the song far too literally. If it was to be Duran’s end, I wasn’t going down quietly. Silly? Probably. I just wasn’t ready to even think about the end. But you know, in the three years since first hearing the song, I have a different understanding. For the band, each “last song on the album” is really kind of the end. It’s a new world on the other side, and this band never knows where they’re going next. Do any of us?  How will I feel when it really IS the end?  I’ll grieve and feel like there can’t possibly be a tomorrow, but the sun will defiantly come up again anyway. It always does, and we will all have to learn how to go on.

Then there’s “Danceophobia”. I have found reason to smile and even laugh with this one. Doesn’t it make good sense it was included on Paper Gods? On an album filled with seriously deep and complex feelings that appropriately seem to cover the entirety of their career up to this point, shouldn’t laughter and silliness be one of them?

I still have Paper Gods in my car, three years later. It is an album that I almost always play from start to finish, and I let myself listen and be carried by the current through all of the sentiments the music evokes. Lately, it has been exactly the therapy I’ve craved. The idea that it can sit side by side with their debut album, Rio, and even All You Need is Now and completely hold its own is worth celebrating.

On a lighter note, I think about all of the fun I had while the band toured this album. I can’t help but be filled with gratitude. Once again, the band was the backdrop for some of the best moments of my life. I can hardly wait to do it all again…and then some. I miss Amanda, Lori and Suzie terribly.  I can’t wait to watch Nick laugh at us, share knowing grins with Simon, maybe even scream for Dom. (Maybe??!) I look forward to seeing friends again and meeting new ones. The band might not be ready just yet, and we may have quite a while to go, but I’ll be ready when the time comes. Will you?

-R