Beating on my Heart like a Feather

Today is my last day for a blog until later this week as Rhonda returns home from her vacation and back to reality.  I’m sure she is behind thrilled!  *snort*  Anyway, for those of you who stayed with me during Rhonda’s break, I thank you and ask that you treat yourself in some way.  I’m sure, by now, you are anxious to hear the other voice of the lovely, little blog.  From what I have heard, the trip was a fabulous one for her and I am sure she will share all of the details with us soon!  For my last blog of Rhonda’s vacation, I take a look to the past.  More specifically, I am looking back to twenty years from tomorrow, August 6, 1993.  What is the significance of that day?  Simple.  I saw my first Duran concert that day.  Twenty years ago and, yes, that makes me feel old.

The first question that might be asked here is how come my first show was as late as 1993.  This is a simple answer.  Obviously, I was WAY too young in 1981, 1982 and even in 1984.  In 1987, while I was older, I was living further away from the main concert venues around Chicago.  Thus, it would have required my parents to drive quite a distance to get to a show.  Then, they would have had to go with me due to my age and they definitely were not excited about that.  I’m not sure why since they have always been supportive of my fandom.  Nonetheless, they didn’t want to go.  My first concert then was in 1990, when I was 15, when I saw Depeche Mode.  While my mom had to drive my friends and I, there was a new venue, which wasn’t as far away.  Even better, she had a friend nearby so she could drop us off and go visit her friend.  Perfect.  In 1990, though, Duran wasn’t touring and wouldn’t until 1993.  While I can say that I went to the very first Duran show I really could get to, that isn’t quite how it went down.

In 1993, I wasn’t paying that much attention to Duran, despite their more frequent press and media attention.  I was way too wrapped up in graduating high school, getting ready to go to college and more.  Yes, I was listening to music, but most of it was connected to my friend group.  It is just how my life was then.  Therefore, when Duran’s tour came around, I don’t even remember hearing about it.  I know that we didn’t get tickets when the show went on sale.  Nope.  It wasn’t a concern, at all.  My friend (the one who inherited my Duran stuff) saw something or heard something about the show.  She then worked to get me and a couple of our friends to go with her.  Despite my lack of attention on Duran, I didn’t hesitate.  I knew, deep down, what Duran meant to me and how cool it would be to finally see them live.  I longed for that for about 10 years.  Our other friends agreed as well, even though, they weren’t big fans.  They liked them well enough and thought it would be a good time.  Now, even more shockingly then all this, was the fact that my friend bought the tickets.  I didn’t worry about it.  Yes, times have definitely changed.  Yes, my priorities have definitely changed.  Anyway, we were able to get tickets but they sucked.  Truly.  We were all in the back on the left hand side.  Not exactly how I wanted to see Duran for the first time.

What do I remember from the show?  Not very much.  I didn’t know the new songs very well but I do remember enjoying all of the songs that I knew.  I also know that my friends had a good time as well.  I did buy a t-shirt, which I still have along with a keychain that a radio station was passing out.  Afterwards, I do remember listening to more Duran than I had been and stating that I would like to see them again soon.  Thus, in many ways, the show did what it was supposed to do.  They got me listening to more Duran and got me wanting more shows.  Yet, it didn’t feel quite right, for some reason.

At this time of my life, after listening to music for years, I really thought I knew a lot.  I had this theory then that bands needed to be careful not to last longer that they should, that they should choose to end rather than be less than great.  Around this time, I declared that Depeche Mode should do just that.  (For the record:  I was wrong.)  After seeing Duran, I started wondering about them ending, as much as that hurt.  While I liked the show and had a great time, I just had a sense that something wasn’t right.  I had no idea what it was.  It just didn’t feel like I expected it to.  Looking back, I wonder if it was Warren.  Was I so busy expecting Andy that it left me with this feeling?  Was the chemistry wrong?  John wasn’t at his best, personally, then.  Was that it?  I have no idea.  Was it me?  I was in the back and Duran didn’t feature in my life the way they did and should.  Could that be it?  Could it be that my expectations were such that they couldn’t live up to them?  Could it be a combination of all of these reasons?  I don’t know.  I won’t ever know.

I think back to this show not with regret, not with sadness, not with excitement, but with understanding.    I understand how many factors affect one’s enjoyment of a show.  I understand a little bit more about expectations.  I appreciate this lesson.  I am glad that I went to this show and to every other Duran show I have been to since.  Each and every one of them have been important to me and worthy of note.  Today, I acknowledge the first and the lessons learned since that first show.

-A

We Have More Playtime than Money

One issue that seems to come up a lot in fandom, in one way, shape or form is money.  Let’s face, fandom tends to cost money, no matter what you are a fan of.  If you are a fan of a TV show, you have to make sure you have a TV.  Maybe, you need cable to watch the particular show you are a fan of or you opt to go the way of hulu to watch your favorite program.  If you are a fan of a book series, you need to be able to buy the books unless you borrow from friends or the library, but that might mean that you won’t get the books for awhile.  If you are a fan of a rock band or other musical artist, you have to buy the music and/or something to listen to it on.  If you are a fan of a sport teams, you have to find a means of watching the sport, either on TV or at the game itself.  Movie fans need the money to go see the film.  All of these examples are the very basic viewing, too.  Fans typically want to own the books, the movies, the TV shows, the albums of whatever they are a fan of.  Now, the cost has increased.  What about attending events like those sports games or concerts or conventions?  More money.  Of course, some of those events might not be close to where you live.  Then, you need transportation and all that comes with that.  Many fans like to buy other merchandise related to their fandom as well.  More cash needed.  What happens when you can pay to meet the idol(s)?  What happens when you can pay for that precious autograph or that picture?  Clearly, fandom costs money.  This makes sense, on one hand, since that is sort of the deal.  The idol(s) make or do whatever you are a fan of then you buy the product.  It is a financial exchange.  On the other hand, some fans can afford more than other fans.  This puts a whole other spin to it and a ton of questions.

The first question that can pop up is whether or not this is fair.  Is it fair that the fans with more money get more things?  More experiences connected to their fandom?  This, of course, is a dicey topic.  I think it is safe to say that many of us, most of us have to choose what we can and cannot do, what we can and cannot buy.  For some fans, buying things connected to one’s fandom is of a higher priority than others.  I admit that is a true statement for myself.  I have chosen to put my fandom as a higher priority in my own personal budget.  I would love a new dining room table, which is really my family’s old kitchen table from when I was a kid.  Yet, I would rather spend the money on a VIP concert ticket than buy the table.  It is a choice I make.  Therefore, the argument could be made that it is fair in this way.  Everyone can choose where they put their fandom in terms of financial priority.  Yet, we all know that for many fans, they can only put fandom so high due to other more significant costs like paying for shelter or food on the table or items that are needed by their family.  This means that for those fans, they simply miss out on the opportunities or products, which isn’t really fair.  What I do think is important for all of us to recognize and be clear, ourselves, that, for some, it is about making a choice between fandom and other things and, for others, it isn’t a choice at all.  So, if it isn’t fair to those fans who really can’t choose to put fandom higher, what should be done about it, if anything?  I already see the sides lining up.  Those who have the money to choose fandom might argue, “It’s my money.  If I have the money, I should be able to buy what I want.  While I’m sorry not everyone does have that choice, those options shouldn’t be taken away from me.  I like that I am able to buy more stuff and more experiences.”  Those who don’t have the choices might say, “I wish that I had the money to afford the items and experiences but I don’t.  I am just as good of a fan as the next person.  Fandom means just as much to me as those who have more money.  I should be able to experience and get some of it.”  One solution, of course, could be more contests but then again…fans who have more money could and should be allowed to participate, right?  Truly, I have no solution.

The second set of questions that come up with this issue is what the celebrity(s) should or should not do regarding money.  While I think we all recognize that there is a financial transaction that takes place with fandom, it isn’t all there is to it.  Fandom is also emotional.  The celebrity(s) should know that and understand, right?  Perhaps, then, there is the question of whether or not the idol(s) should then, in understanding, make sure that their products and experiences are fairly priced so that a large number of fans could possibly afford it.  Should, for example, Duran Duran lower the prices to VIP seats so that more people could afford them?  Of course, from a business standpoint, if people buy them at the prices they are on, there is no reason for them to lower them.  After all, they want to make the most profit they can and we can’t blame them for that.  Recently, someone pointed out to me, during the big Comic Con convention, that the stars of the X-Files charged $200 to have fans get their pictures taken with them.  Is this price outrageous?  Is it a matter of taken advantage of their fans?  Obviously, we could all decide this ourselves and their fans could decide whether or not that price was reasonable.  If they thought it wasn’t, they could choose not to buy, right?

Like I said, I don’t have good answers for this issue.  I do think it is important to acknowledge that it is an issue within fandom.  I don’t know what the celebrity(s) should do or not do.  I know this.  I feel lucky that I can make some choices with my fandom and I recognize that others can’t as much or at all.  I definitely don’t think that makes me a bigger or better fan than them.  It just makes me fortunate.  Some could argue that if I felt strongly about the costs and how it might exclude some people, then I could choose not to pay myself and that if everyone stopped paying, the costs would lower.  That is very true.  Yet, I hesitate to do that because I do see the idol(s) purpose of making money.  I also recognize that I really don’t know what, in turn, they have to buy themselves in order to do their jobs.  For example, a lot of people work in the Duran machine.  They all need to be paid.  Studio time needs to be paid.  Producers need to be paid.  I don’t know how much money they really take in.  Yes, I’m sure they take in WAY more money than I do.  The other reason I hesitate to stop buying is because I should have that choice to do things that I enjoy.  I like going to concerts.  I like buying music.  I like going on tour.  Clearly, this is one of those issues in fandom that don’t have any good answers, but one that I suspect everyone has an opinion about.

-A

Walking Proud, Talking Loud

Every once in awhile you see something or read something that just hits you.  Maybe, it is the mood you are in when you see it.  Maybe, it is something you were already thinking about and whatever it is you see or hear or read captures exactly what you have concluded.  Perhaps, it is something you forgot and needed to be reminded of.  Nonetheless, I think we have all had that experience at some point or another.  For me, this clip below was a little bit of all three.

I hope that everyone watched the entire clip as it takes awhile to get to the meat of it and why I felt like this was a great clip that needed to be blogged about.  The title of the clip is why it is awesome to be a nerd and, obviously, something that Wil Wheaton (famous for being an actor on Star Trek:  The Next Generation among other things) was asked to explain to a child in the future at what is clearly a fan convention.  To me, this clip, this speech was way more than about being a “nerd” but it was really about being a fan.  Maybe fans are nerds?!  Obviously, he starts out by admitting that he was a nerd and liked things as a kid that took a little effort to appreciate.  Right then and there, I knew he was talking about being part of a fan community, part of a fandom.  We all can be casual fans or this, that or the next thing but it takes EFFORT to be part of a fan community.  If you are reading this blog post, you have made an effort to click on it and actually read it.  That is more than just listening to a Duran song that pops on the radio and you declaring that you like it.  After that, he describes a little bit of the stigma and the mistreatment that goes along with being a “nerd” or a “fan”.  I think we could all relate to that as people still don’t understand fandom (hopefully they will after reading our book).

He really gets to the heart of the issue, though, when he says, “It isn’t what you love but how you love it.”  This, of course, was exactly my point in the paragraph above.  Being a fan is so much more than just liking something.  There is an intensity to it, a passion to it.  We all have that.  Every fan does–no matter what s/he is a fan of.  Then, he goes on to say that what makes being a “nerd” (or fan) awesome is finding others who love it like you do.  I feel so lucky that I found Rhonda.  Yes, obviously, she is beyond a good friend who puts up with me and even appreciates me.  Beyond all that, she loves Duran Duran like I do, which is very special.  We not only love that silly band in the same way but we love to express our love in the same way.  We like to tour the same way.  We like to talk about them in the same way.  We like to write about them and our fandom.  Truly, we are the luckiest people on the planet to have found each other.

Later, he discusses how “nerds” will travel to be around people like them, people who love similarly.  This explains so much about why I go on tour, why others go on tour.  It is why we went to a convention and will be again.  It is about being around others like you, who understand you, who love like you do.  Then, he finishes up by talking about how this child should find something to love and love it the most that she can.  I did that.  I do that.  At the very end of the clip, he talks about working hard in connection to what you love.  I swear he was talking directly to me and Rhonda.  It was a reminder.  It was affirmation.  It was just what I needed.

-A  

She’s Everything Headfirst

A couple of months ago, Rhonda and I thought it would be fun to have people give us lyrics and then we would blog about something connected or related to that lyric.  I think Rhonda might have used one or two of those lyrics but this one is my first.  Obviously, the title of the blog and this lyric is from the song, She’s Too Much, which is about Simon’s daughter.  While I can’t comment on Simon’s daughter or his feelings about her, I can talk about how I like the line.  Why do I like the line?  I feel like I can relate to it.

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you might have figured some things out about me.  For example, if you read any of our blog posts about touring, you might have heard about our tour binder.  This binder is a small (1/2 inch), plastic, bright blue, flexible binder.  I have used it for every tour since we started touring.  Inside this binder are dividers with titles like, “Flight info”, “Hotel reservations”, etc.  This is, obviously, how I keep track of all of our important documents.  I also will create a typed agenda about when and where we should be at any given time.  Now, I’m sure that you all might understand that I have been labeled “OCD” or “Anal” by many people in response to my extraordinary organizational skills.  In fact, I have a teaching evaluation in which my organizational skills were called “NASA like”.  I’m not kidding.  Yes, my boss had a sense of humor.  Beyond my organizational skills and attention to detail (Yes, I have been spending too much time with my resume.), I have a tendency to be a bit obsessive.  Like the lyric, I tend to dive in to whatever I’m doing.  I’m pretty intense about what I do.  Let me explain.

When I was a kid and I discovered something I was interested in, I would read as much as I could about it.  The obvious example here is Duran Duran.  I memorized any and all of the facts that I could get my hands on.  I took pride in my knowledge and enjoy, to this day, being able to share what I know with others.  I like putting up the “today in Duran history”, for example.  As soon as I became a fan, I tried to get my hands on everything I could as soon as I could.  I didn’t spread out my purchasing, when I had the money.  I wasn’t careless with my money but as soon as I could buy something I did.  I had to know it all.  I wasn’t just a fan; I was a Duranie.  I didn’t just like the band.  I LOVED the band.  Likewise, around the same time in my life, I discovered history and how cool it could be.  I could see the connections to my family, especially when it came to things like 20th century immigration to America and World War II.  (3 out of 4 grandparents came to this country in 1912, for example.)  What did I do then with this new interest?  I started reading as much as I could.  I got in trouble at school for reading the encyclopedia about World War II.  I kid you not.

This level of intensity did not decrease as I got older.  In college, I became interested in social movements and became active, politically.  I remember getting an email from my dad during my senior year as he expressed concern that my level of passion, as he so nicely put it, would eventually get me into trouble.  I was advocating for some significant changes on campus so I was running a petition drive at the time and was drafting a significant letter to the college president.  After college, my political activities chilled for awhile as I focused my attention on my career until once again politics found me.  Then, as we all know, I couldn’t just volunteer a little bit.  Nope.  I had to run a team and had to be responsible for getting out the vote in 13 wards in my city.  This resulted in significant amount of time, from 20-50 hours a week at peak election season.  Of course, I was also involved in the Wisconsin Uprising in the winter of 2011.  Did I just go down to the Capitol once?  Nope.  I went everyday for weeks.  I spent the night there.  I was there when both houses of the state legislature acted.  It was beyond intense, but this is part of my nature.

I used to hate this part of myself.  Yet, that seems silly.  I have to try and remember that not everyone is like me.  (The world is thankful, I’m sure.)  Heck, I have to try and remember that when it comes to my fandom.  Not everyone is as focused as learning and remembering everything about Duran.  I like when I know something but it is okay when I don’t.  I do have to remember that.  It is also okay when everyone doesn’t know as much as I do either.  It is all okay.  Nonetheless, I do wonder how many other fans share this characteristic with me.  While I might like knowledge, others might be a bit more focused on collecting everything.  I just wonder if this characteristic of mine makes me a perfect candidate for being a fan or if it just affects how I express my fandom.  Is there anyone out there (ha!) that also feels that they are headfirst with their fandom?  Anyone like me or am I totally weird?  (It is okay if I am.  I have accepted that a long time ago!)

-A

Guest Blog: Flip it to the B-Side

Recently, Rhonda and Amanda offered the topic of regret as one to guest blog about.  As I pondered that, I actually thought of two regrets that I think are intertwined.  It all begins with a simple question:  How often do you listen to music?  I mean really listen–put on headphones, close your eyes, and take it all in?What has struck me recently is the fact that, as an adult, I never just listen to music.  It’s always in conjunction with other activity.  Music is on in the car, or on the iPod while doing yard work, or at work.  In fact, the only time in the last ten or so years that I can recall just listening to music would be when I’ve been on an airplane.  I can’t count that, though, since when I fly I also try to ward off thoughts of crashing into mountains, engines bursting into flames, etc.  (Yes, I hate flying.)

Thirty years ago the opposite was true:  I was listening to music, and doing nothing else, all the time.  I didn’t get my walkman until 1986 and the first cassette I popped in was Seven and the Ragged Tiger.  I will never forgot how blown away I was by the experience.  And even without the walkman, I had spent hour listening to all of the early Duran cassettes, as well as So Red the Rose, on my boom box.  And then I would make mix tapes and listen to those.  Listening to music was its own activity back then.

I’ve tried to tell myself that there is not that much of a difference between sitting in a dark room with headphones on versus going for a walk while listening to your iPod, but it still isn’t truly the same.  I remember imagining videos for every song on So Red the Rose back in 1985; today, I can easily go for a walk or mow the lawn and completely lose track of the playlist and wonder how I missed certain songs that had played.

And thus does my first regret spawn a second one:  Not only do I miss the days of listening to music for listening’s sake, I miss the distinctive sides that you’d find on a record or cassette.  One of the elements of those childhood and teenage listening sessions was appreciating and analyzing how different each side of the cassette was.  It was a different experience listening to the B side of those early Duran albums.  You could generally expect to find more of the radio friendly songs on side A, while side B tended toward the slower and darker material (R.E.M. took this to another level when they used to actually name their sides, e.g. “Memory Side” and “Time Side”).

I realize that it’s the songs, and not the format, that make side A differ from side B.  And certainly, in the Duran catalogue, the difference is more pronounced on some albums than others (more on that in a second).  But there’s nothing like that unmistakable hiss you would hear just as the cassette was about to run out.  And that longer delay because you either had to flip it or hit the “reverse” button if you were lucky enough to have a walkman that could do that.  It felt like an intermission…like the band had just rocked out to Hold Back the Rain and were taking a break, and after a moment, were returning as the first haunting notes of New Religion began to play.

The first song on the B side was always a big deal to me.  It set the tone for the second half of the album; it also served as an interesting comparison to the album’s opening track.  NIght Boat might be the greatest opening track for a B side in the entire catalogue–until New Religion!  Of course, even though it’s not officially Duran Duran, Arcadia’s The Promise is another heavyweight track that would seem out of place in any other position on the album.  An exception to this would be Seven and the Ragged Tiger–I think the way side B ends, with Tiger Tiger and The Seventh Stranger, is more distinctive and memorable than how it begins, with Union of the Snake.

The last Duran album I bought on cassette was Big Thing, which is the poster child for albums with disparate sides (even down to the producers–one for each side!).  Astronaut, while not completely mirroring the slower tempo and darkness of Big Thing’s B side, probably comes closest of all subsequent Duran albums to offering such a stark contrast between sides.  And yet therein lies the problem, for Astronaut is a CD and there are no “sides.”  I would assume that Astronaut’s “A” side ends with Nice (track 6)…but that would place “Taste the Summer” as the B side opener.  I think Finest Hour is much more appropriate as a “B” side opening track..but without the cassette, who can say for sure?  I can’t speak to any aspect of sides or themes when considering The Wedding Album, Thank You or RCM, which seem to all go on and on for one continuous side.  Pop Trash Movie serves as a natural breaking point on Pop Trash, and the sequence of slow song/fast song/slow song that pervades most of the running order is distinctive.  Notorious’s two sides represent perfect symmetry:  both sides’ lead tracks echo Hitchcock movies; both penultimate tracks are slow; and both final tracks rock the house.  Medazzaland actually does have a natural break in the middle with Silva Halo, and the B side gets darker and more experimental (and more awesome…if that’s possible–from the first side.  Sorry–I will try to contain my love for that album…!)  Likewise, Liberty breaks evenly with its only slow song, My Antarctica, and gets more of an edge on its second side (with a very underrated and solid “Downtown” closing out the proceedings).

Which bring us to All You Need Is Now.  I tend to think of it as Duran’s first three sided album.  Side one ends with Girl Panic; side two ends with Runway Runaway, and side three consists of Before the Rain, Networker Nation, Early Summer Nerves, and Too Close to the Sun.  I’m sure a lot of this is due to the nature of the album’s release (first on iTunes, then the full physical release, then the subsequent “special editions” with more tracks” etc.)  It also has to do with how I listened to it–although Before the Rain was part of the iTunes 9 release, I tended to keep replaying Runway Runaway and not really getting BTR until I had the physical version of the CD with other material.

I’m curious what you think–do you find the time to just listen to music?  Or is it next to impossible to do so when you’re juggling jobs, families, and other obligations?  And when you think about the different sides of Duran Duran albums, what stands out for you?

C.K. Shortell is a lifelong Duran Duran fan who lives in the northeast with his wife and two sons, both of whom love watching concert footage of the band.  When he’s not struggling to explain to a three year old why the guitarist always looks different or just what exactly Nick is doing, C.K. is constantly reminding co-workers and friends that the band never broke up.  

Doesn’t Have to be Serious

Oh boy.  So, it is my turn to talk about what I might regret about my fandom.  Rhonda, obviously, chose a bit of humor with hers and I was pretty serious with talking about the band’s regrets.  Which side do I choose?  Maybe I should choose some of both, serious and humorous.  Balance is good.  Then, you all could decide which ones are which.

Shows.
Like every Duranie on the planet, I have missed shows and some that I’m truly sorry about missing.  First, I missed all of the reunion shows in Chicago in 2003 and everywhere else, for that matter.  While I have a very good reason for doing this (finishing graduate school), I still regret not being there.  Now, thankfully, I did have a chance to see the Fab Five play live together in 2005, but I do wonder whether or not those shows I saw had the same vibe as they did in 2003.  I suspect that they did not, especially with the audience and with band member interactions.  The other shows, in general, that I regret missing were any of John Taylor’s solo gigs.  Again, this was right during my “I just got out of college and I have to get this career going phase”, which did not allow any traveling and didn’t allow me going to many shows.  Heck, I didn’t even have a computer for a long time then.  Anyway, I really wish that I had been able to see one or more of his solo gigs.  Luckily, I think I do have his complete catalog but it still isn’t the same.

Biloxi.
Rhonda mentioned the Biloxi show during the blog yesterday.  While she might regret her reaction to Simon’s water spraying moment during White Lines, I regret being the most ridiculous front row concert attendee ever!  Rhonda mentioned that the show was a “blur” and she isn’t wrong.  I think I psyched myself so much about this whole front row deal that I forgot to have fun and enjoy!  Pathetic!  I could just imagine what was going through the band members’ minds that night.  “What the heck is wrong with that one?  She looks just stunned.  She isn’t helping me have any fun or enjoy the show very much.  Hey, security, could we get a new front row, please?!”  Next time, someone needs to kick me or spit on me or something to remind me to relax and enjoy myself!  What a dork!

Into the Arena.
This is such an embarrassing story.  Around 1988, I decided that I should move pass Duran Duran.  This wasn’t because I no longer liked them or because I wasn’t a fan but because I was trying so hard to find my way in the town I was living in.  While there were a couple of other fans in the town, I knew that I needed to expand my interests to find other friends and, more importantly, ones that would lead to a positive experience in high school.  Thus, I thought I had to put Duran behind me.  By now, you already realize that my thinking was beyond flawed and, in all fairness, I was a brand new teenager, freaked out by high school.  While I was prepared to “move on”, I couldn’t just let my Duran go.  I couldn’t throw things away so I gave most of my stuff to a friend of mine, who was also a fan.  Thankfully, she kept so much of it, including my copy of the Into the Arena board game.  Yes, now, it is back in my possession.  *sigh of relief*  Along the same line, I regret that I still don’t really understand how to play that game.  Goodness, I have a masters degree and can’t really figure it out!

Book of Words.
In the summer of 2009, I convinced Rhonda that we should write a book on our fandom.  Four years later, we have a finished the first draft (I say first but that isn’t really true since we did many drafts of each chapter).  Then, in the fall of 2010, Rhonda convinced me that we should do a daily blog.  I remember saying and hearing something about how–they wouldn’t be that hard; they wouldn’t take up too much time. Pfft…yeah, right.  I think it is fairly safe to say that many hours a day are spent reading and writing.  So, now, I regret ever asking her and I regret saying yes.  It is a job that we don’t get paid for and we aren’t going to take it anymore.  No, I’m not going to take it anymore!!!  Yeah, believe that one and I’ll tell you another!  I’m totally kidding about this last regret.  I’m getting a little punchy holding down the fort!  Sometimes, I do wonder if we were so smart by starting all of this, but, in reality, I’m so thankful that we did.  Really.

So, what about the rest of you?  What do you regret about your fandom?

-A

Flip it to the B-Side

Recently, Rhonda and Amanda offered the topic of regret as a one to guest blog about. As I pondered that, I actually thought of two regrets that I think are intertwined. It all begins with a simple question: How often do you listen to music? I mean really listen—put on headphones, close your eyes, and take it all in? 

What has struck me recently is the fact that, as an adult, I never just listen to music. It’s always in conjunction with some other activity. Music is on in the car, or on the iPod while doing yard work, or at work. In fact, the only time in the last ten or so years that I can recall just listening to music would be when I’ve been on an airplane. I can’t count that, though, since when I fly I also try to ward off thoughts of crashing into mountains, engines bursting into flames, etc. (Yes, I hate flying.)

Thirty years ago the opposite was true: I was listening to music, and doing nothing else, all the time. I didn’t get my first walkman until 1986 and the first cassette I popped in was Seven and the Ragged Tiger. I will never forget how blown away I was by the experience. And even without the walkman, I had spent hours listening to all of the early Duran cassettes, as well as So Red the Rose, on my boom box. And then I would make mix tapes and listen to those.  Listening to music was its own activity back then.  

I’ve tried to tell myself that there is not that much of a difference between sitting in a dark room with headphones on versus going for a walk while listening to your iPod, but it still isn’t truly the same. I remember imagining videos for every song on So Red the Rose back in 1985; today, I can easily go for a walk or mow the lawn and completely lose track of the playlist and wonder how I missed certain songs that had played. 

And thus does my first regret spawn a second one: Not only do I miss the days of listening to music for listening’s sake, I miss the distinctive sides that you’d find on a record or cassette.   One of the elements of those childhood and teenage listening sessions was appreciating and analyzing how different each side of the cassette was. It was a different experience listening to the B side of those early Duran albums. You could generally expect to find more of the radio friendly songs on side A, while side B tended toward the slower and darker material. (R.E.M. took this to another level when they used to actually name their sides, e.g. “Memory Side” and “Time Side”).
 
I realize that it’s the songs, and not the format, that make side A differ from side B. And certainly, in the Duran catalogue, the difference is more pronounced on some albums than others (more on that in a second). But there’s nothing like that unmistakable hiss you would hear just as the cassette was about to run out. And that longer delay because you either had to flip it or hit the “reverse” button if you were lucky enough to have a walkman that could do that.  It felt like an intermission…like the band had just rocked out to Hold Back the Rain and were taking a break, and after a moment, were returning as the first haunting notes of New Religion began to play. 

The first song on the B side was always a big deal to me. It set the tone for the second half of the album; it also served as an interesting comparison to the album’s opening track. Night Boat might be the greatest opening track for a B side in the entire catalogue—until New Religion! Of course, even though it’s not officially Duran Duran, Arcadia’s The Promise is another heavyweight track that would seem out of place in any other position on the album.  An exception to this would be Seven and the Ragged Tiger—I think the way side B ends, with Tiger Tiger and The Seventh Stranger, is more distinctive and memorable than how it begins, with Union of the Snake.

The last Duran album I bought on cassette was Big Thing, which is the poster child for albums with disparate sides (even down to the producers—one for each side!). Astronaut, while not completely mirroring the slower tempo and darkness of Big Thing’s B side, probably comes closest of all subsequent Duran albums to offering such a stark contrast between sides. And yet therein lies the problem, for Astronaut is a CD and there are no “sides.” I would assume that Astronaut’s “A” side ends with Nice (track 6)…but that would place “Taste the Summer” as the B side opener. I think Finest Hour is much more appropriate as a “B” side opening track…but without the cassette, who can say for sure? I can’t speak to any aspect of sides or themes when considering The Wedding Album, Thank You or RCM, which seem to all go on and on for one continuous side. Pop Trash Movie serves as a natural breaking point on Pop Trash, and the sequence of slow song/fast song/ slow song that pervades most of the running order is distinctive. Notorious’s two sides represent perfect symmetry: both sides’ lead tracks echo Hitchcock movies; both penultimate tracks are slow; and both final tracks rock the house. Medazzaland actually does have a natural break in the middle with Silva Halo, and the B side gets darker and more experimental (and more awesome…if that’s possible—from the first side. Sorry—I will try to contain my love for that album…!) Likewise, Liberty breaks evenly with its only slow song, My Antarctica, and gets more of an edge on its second side (with a very underrated and solid “Downtown” closing out the proceedings).
 
Which brings us to All You Need is Now. I tend to think of it as Duran’s first three sided album.  Side one ends with Girl Panic; side two ends with Runway Runaway, and side three consists of Before the Rain, Networker Nation, Early Summer Nerves, and Too Close to the Sun.  I’m sure a lot of this is due to the nature of the album’s release (first on iTunes, then the full physical release, then the subsequent “special editions” with more tracks” etc.) It also has to do with how I listened to it—although Before the Rain was part of the iTunes 9 release, I tended to keep replaying Runway Runaway and not really getting into BTR until I had the physical version of the CD with the other material. 

I’m curious what you think—do you find the time to just listen to music? Or is it next to impossible to do so when you’re juggling jobs, families, and other obligations? And when you think about the different sides of Duran Duran albums, what stands out for you? 


C.K. Shortell is a lifelong Duran Duran fan who lives in the northeast with his wife and two sons, both of whom love watching concert footage of the band.  When he’s not struggling to explain to a three year old why the guitarist always looks different or just what exactly Nick is doing, C.K. is constantly reminding co-workers and friends that the band never broke up.   

Are You Laughing at Me Now?

My biggest regret.  My other homework assignment…..

I have thought about this topic a lot lately. I know there’s some saying about not regretting crap because it gets you where you are today. I suppose that yes, that’s partially true, but sometimes we do or say things that we wish we could take back.  Those are still regrets, and I do have them…the question is which to include!

I could go for the obvious – I wish I’d gone to at least one of the shows in 1984. Yeah, I missed ’em, and I still blame my dad and his crazy rules for that, but I don’t know that it would have changed anything, and maybe, had I gone to that show – I would have had my “closure” and been over the band.

Yeah, right.

There has been many a moment when I say “Oh, wish I would have gone to _____ instead of ______”  We had a few of those on the last tour, and I’m sure we’ll have more on the next one.  It’s the way it goes, and Amanda and I are brilliant with our “choices”.

I could chose something a lot less obvious though, which is what I do think about most when this subject comes to mind.  I hope Amanda reads this…she will probably laugh.  Last year, in Biloxi, Amanda and I were in the front row, pretty close to the middle. It was the first time I’d ever been in the front row for an entire show, and I won’t lie – a lot of that show is STILL a blur when I think back.  Everything after the midsection of Planet Earth when John and Dom came to the front of center stage. I just remember grasping the rail with a white knuckle grip and then it all gets kind of gets fuzzy. There is one point of the show; however, that I remember with the minutest detail, and that is during White Lines.

We all know the drill – Simon sings, and then he goes to the drum riser and grabs a bottle of water.  This should have been my cue to run, duck or at least put up an umbrella, but I did not. I completely missed it because I was watching everything else on that stage. The next thing I know, I see Dom looking at us, and I realize that Simon is making his way down the stage…only to stop much shorter than normal, and spray water up over his own head (as opposed to out in the crowd). I was mortified, mainly at myself for not realizing what was coming, but also at Simon – because dang it -WHY must he do that?! The effect is really not that amazing for the audience, even if the lights work properly, I promise! Apparently the flabbergasted shock on my face as well as Amanda’s was pretty funny, because the rest of the band, who was indeed watching us, laughed. I laughed too, but I also looked at Nick, grimaced and jokingly ran my finger across my neck, assuming that he’d know what I meant (and I hoped he knew I didn’t really mean that) I laughed, but even as I laughed, I felt bad.

In all fairness, while I am pretty sure Amanda and I were still “baptized”, it could have been far, far worse. I don’t really know why Simon stopped where he did, or why he didn’t spit the water the way he normally does, but as I know – it’s all in good fun. I did laugh. So did Amanda…while we cursed. I just shouldn’t have reacted as I did because the fact is, I didn’t die. I didn’t get sick, and I still laugh about the whole thing. (ruefully) I remember blogging about it afterward and having some genius out there tell me that the bacteria count is far less than in other places or something, and I’m sure that I’ll get even more hate mail after describing the disrespect I displayed that evening here, which I do in fact, regret.  I can hardly wait!

The bottom line for me is that there are always going to be things I wish I could do over.  I suppose I wish that I could have been more lighthearted that night and less freaked out by the whole experience, and not just Simon’s spit sequence during White Lines, but the whole thing in general. I don’t think I’m really all that unique in that regard, but I think it’s important to acknowledge when something doesn’t go as planned, and then move on.

Next time, I’m bringing a spit shield, but I’m still going to laugh!

-R

I Won’t Cry for Yesterday

Last week, we had a little theme about proudest moments.  We discussed what the band might be proud of and we discussed what we were proud of as fans.  Then, we had a couple of great guest bloggers talking about what they were proud of.  This time, we flip the coin; we examine the opposite feeling.  We will be looking at regrets.  Just like last week, we will start with the band.  Then, Rhonda will share hers and I’ll share mine.  We have a guest blogger to finish up the theme on Thursday.

We all know that Duran Duran has been a very successful band.  They have sold millions of copies of their albums, many of their singles and albums have had chart success and they have a very dedicated fan base, which has stayed with them for decades.  Sounds like a perfect career, right?  Yet, one topic that seems to come up in Duranland quite a bit is what Duran should have done differently.  Many of us fans feel like they should have done things differently in order to experience more success, greater success.  While the band has been successful any way you look at them, many fans feel like if they had done this or that instead of the moves they made, maybe they would have sold more albums or had more fans or more chart success.  Some of the more common changes include ones focusing on guitar players, momentum, different single choices, etc.  As I type this, I’m sure that there are many of you already ready with your thoughts about what the band should have done differently.  Anyway, what do you think the band would say?  Now, we know what they say in interviews.  They never seem to have regrets and just focus on the current project, but I can’t imagine that they haven’t or don’t second guess themselves.  Do you think they might have the same second guesses the fans do?  Are they concerned about guitar players, momentum and single choices?  Obviously, we will never know but it could be fun to speculate.  Let’s consider the ones I mentioned here.

Do you think the members of Duran regret that they have had three different guitar players?  For a lot of fans, this is a huge deal.  A lot of us are pretty passionate about this and have our favorites.  For many of us, the guitar player made a huge difference both in terms of how the music was and what level of commercial success they had.  Yet, do we really think that the band might have regrets on this? That is hard to say.  I’m willing to bet that they didn’t love all the music that Andy made or all the music Warren made or all the music Dom made.  As far as commercial success, it seems to me that you can’t really compare.  The different guitarists were around at very different times within the band’s history.  Of course, we also have no idea about the behind the scenes interactions and conflicts.  We have no idea what is/was like to work with any of them.  Maybe, it was the working environment more than the music or the level of success that mattered to the band.  It is hard to say, isn’t it?

What about that fabulous momentum that Duranies so frequently talk about?  Do the members of the band agree that they suffered from not capturing momentum at any given time?  For example, a lot of fans criticize the move to make an album of cover songs, Thank You, after the commercial success of the Wedding Album.  Maybe other people feel like they should have toured after releasing Liberty or gotten an album done a lot quicker after Astronaut.  Would the band agree?  Again, this is hard to say.  It seems to me that they have made comments about Thank You and about much longer it took to make than they would have liked.  Maybe, then, the key is how long it took or how it didn’t go so smoothly.  Again, though, we have no idea about what was taking place behind the scenes.  Maybe a tour right after Liberty would have fractured the band from the pressure of touring.  Maybe, another new album after the Wedding Album would have tanked if they had attempted it.  We will never know.

Does the band question their choice of singles?  One that many fans mention is not having Falling Down be the single during Red Carpet Massacre.  Another one is making sure that Nice was a single during Astronaut and I’m sure there are countless others.  Would they agree with those?  I have no idea.  I do know that they were not so thrilled with the choice of Careless Memories for the second single on the first album as it didn’t do as well as either Planet Earth or Girls on Film.  Would they have others, though?

I have no idea what, if anything, the band would regret about their career or the moves they had.  Maybe, in reality, they would acknowledge that things didn’t go as well as they had hoped or thought it would.  They might not go so far as to say they regret anything as, maybe, they learned from each move that was made.  Isn’t that the key really?  One should learn from decisions, choices, actions that didn’t go as well as planned.  Perhaps, that is exactly what the band has does.

-A

Interpretations of To the Shore

This song, To the Shore, has been on my list of songs to interpret for awhile but I have not wanted to tackle it.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps, it is because I have never had a real strong connection to the song.  I blame that on becoming a fan in 1984.  I only knew the first album to include Is There Something I Should Know and didn’t discover this song until much later.  Maybe, it is because I don’t have a strong opinion about what the heck this song is about.  It hasn’t hit me, in some way, the way other songs have.  Before we begin, I would love to include a clip of the song.  As we all know, there is not a video that corresponds with this song and I couldn’t even find a clip of it.  I’m sure that part of the reason for that is because it is not something played live and it is a track that is a bit more rare from even the others off that first album.  Here are the lyrics, though.

Oh when your nine day feed is up and you’ve drained your loving cup
Come stands reeling to the shore oh when the brave are coming out
The dry fight and the dusty shout see you crawling on the floor
And diamond stars shining glitter bright gorging your sanhedralites
Words are falling to the floor glad stand pouring fruit trees
And now they glisten on the waterline sing home you are at the shore
I’m moving crissie pretty flowers in the shutter maze
Haul up all your petty desires leave them lying down they fall
Wash away the rusty disease of your brown town days in our silver sea
Leave it dying at the door feather yellow your time to leave
Open out your arms and breathe
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh to the shore now
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh to the shore now come on

Every time I look at those lyrics, my reaction is always the same.  I’m a little stunned, a little overwhelmed as I know that the meaning isn’t super obvious or super clear.  Where to start thinking about this?  I checked Duran Duran’s wiki, which you could find here.  According to this website, Simon said the following about this song:  “Whenever I listen to ‘To The Shore’ I am completely nonplussed as to what it is really about.  I think I was going through an experimental/impressionistic phase with my lyrics.  I didn’t really care what the words actually meant; rather, what people read into them was the important factor, like a sort of Rorschach test.  I do recall one of the tutors at Birmingham University, where I studied drama, was called Chrissie and I remember being quite fascinated with her, but quite why she figures in the song I have long since forgotten.”  Hmm…if we assume that this quote
is correct, this would mean that there really isn’t a meaning.  While that very well might be the case, it still is fun to see if some meaning could be pulled out.  So what theories are out there?  Well, shockingly enough or not so shocking, but there are very few theories out there.  One theory I did see thought that it was about masterbation.  Truly, that doesn’t seem to make any sense to me.  I don’t get it.  Maybe, that is just the assumption this person makes about any lyrics that aren’t so easy to understand.

Let’s look at it line by line.

Oh when your nine day feed is up and you’ve drained your loving cup- Perhaps, this is a reference to work.  You drained your loving cup meaning that you worked until you couldn’t work anymore.  Maybe, you worked nine days in a row.  Just a guess.
Come stands reeling to the shore oh when the brave are coming out- Hmm…this reminds me of the Battle at Normandy during World War II when the Allied landed on the beaches of Normandy, France.  Certainly, those soldiers definitely met the definition of brave.  Likewise, they could have worked very hard and “drained your loving cup,” too.
The dry fight and the dusty shout see you crawling on the floor- Fight could be another reference to war.  Yet, this fight is dry and dusty.  This could reference how World War II was fought in many places around the world, including places like Africa.
And diamond stars shining glitter bright gorging your sanhedralites- Star shining bright could be obviously referring to the stars in the sky.  Gorging your sanhedralites, on the the other hand, is a bit tough.  Sanhedralities has some connection with a translation of a writing in Judaism.  Again, this could be a connection to World War II.
Words are falling to the floor glad stand pouring fruit trees- I always took the line about words falling to the floor to mean as these words are said they aren’t hanging in the air.  Instead, it could be that they get buried and eventually lead to growth of something–in this case, fruit.  What I mean by this is that words are said and can lead to something positive or negative and here it was positive and “fruitful”.
And now they glisten on the waterline sing home you are at the shore- Could this be that the soldier has arrived home or is about to return home?  The memories, the words remain at the “waterline”, or at the battle.
I’m moving crissie pretty flowers in the shutter maze- There is the reference to the girl that Simon’s quote talked about.  Maybe, this guy is moving forward by going back home to his girlfriend.  He will bring her flowers and will take pictures (shutter maze reference).
Haul up all your petty desires leave them lying down they fall- Now that this guy has experienced war, he realizes that he can’t be worried about the little things and petty things in life.  He has to let them go.
Wash away the rusty disease of your brown town days in our silver sea- Rusty disease implies that the disease is old-fashioned.  Could it just be the hatred that brought the war on?
Leave it dying at the door feather yellow your time to leave- Maybe, the hatred is something he has from the war and that he has to let it go (“leave it dying”) before he really returns home (“at the door”). It is time to leave the battlefield, physically and emotionally, and go home.
Open out your arms and breathe- Now, it is time to live, to breathe. 


My interpretation is a rather simple one.  I took it to be about a soldier during World War II who experienced battle and hatred, but also bravery.  Now, the war is over and his return home is coming.  He has to let go of the hatred in order to move forward with his life and his girlfriend.  Of course, the song really could be about nothing and just lines that sounded like good poetry when written.  I will also admit that I am not someone with any talent in interpreting literature, poetry, etc.  Nope, I am a social scientist by nature.  I can read, write and analysis the world and the world’s people, but fall short with literature.  Nonetheless, it was fun to try to figure it out.  So, what do the rest of you think?  What is this song all about?

-A







An outspoken examination and celebration of fandom!