Tag Archives: Astronaut

How do we really feel about Autumn Albums?

I think we can all agree it’s been pretty quiet recently. I can appreciate friends who post topics to get a conversation started, particularly when it comes to Duran Duran.  Personally, I love surveys and polls. They’re fun little “litmus” tests for the fan community, and they’re fun to look back on from year to year to see if there’s been any changes.

One of my Twitter friends, @BoysMakeNoise (you should follow him!) likes putting together surveys. This week, there was a survey on Autumn albums. Each of the albums that Duran Duran has released in Autumn months was given a star rating of 1 to 5, and then that information was compiled to find out what album was most liked.  He ran the same survey last year at about the same time, and now we’d have a comparison.

2017 Results  (average rating)

  1. Red Carpet Massacre  (2.95)

  2. Medazzaland (3.06)

  3. Astronaut (3.73)

  4. Big Thing (3.78)

  5. Paper Gods (3.96)

  6. Notorious (4.00)

  1. Seven and the Ragged Tiger (4.07)

2018 Results (average rating)

  1. Red Carpet Massacre (2.99)

  2. Medazzaland (3.06)

  3. Astronaut (3.63)

  4. Big Thing (3.74)

  5. Seven and the Ragged Tiger (3.86)

  6. Notorious (4.06)

  1. Paper Gods (4.28)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I like to extrapolate information from results like these.  There were 100 participants in the survey. The number isn’t enormous, but I think it is fairly representative. Chances are, the people who participated are not simply “fair-weather fans”. These are people who know the band’s catalog, and know it well-enough to debate the components.

Astonishingly, the real movement here was between Paper Gods and Seven and the Ragged Tiger – one of the “Holy Trinity” albums. (First album, Rio and SATRT). Rarely do I ever see any of the initial three knocked out of the top three of any survey ever taken. They tend to be considered Holy Grail, virtually untouchable. The rest of the results stayed within a reasonable range of last year’s survey results, but most did vary.  Medazzaland, pinpointed at an average rating of 3.06 stars each year, was the only album with stagnate results.

Nostalgia at Work

It is rare to see any of the first three albums removed from the top of any “favorites” list. There are a number of reasons for this. The album was released in 1983, there was a reasonably huge tour to support it, and it came out at the height of their popularity. This album marked the end of the initial “Fab Five” era, and for that reason alone, even post-1980’s fans hold it close to their hearts. The nostalgia for this album is enormous, and that alone keeps it afloat.

Over the years I’ve been participating in social media, I’ve been involved in more than one discussion about Seven and the Ragged Tiger. It is a difficult album for me, because I remember how much I adored it when it was released. The funny thing is that even in 1983, I don’t think I really “got” it. I can remember thinking how strange it sounded compared to anything else out at the time—and I liked it that way. Even today, I’m astounded by just how much is going on in every single song. There are no “empty spaces”.  There are layers upon layers of music and background effect. The question, is whether or not it was overdone, and that’s always up for debate.

I can see the first three albums in a definite progression. The first album was pretty raw and natural. In my opinion, that album remains the most uniquely untouched “Duran”. No egos, no fame, no fortune to muddy the picture. Rio, has far more finesse. A little more ego, but not too much. After all, they didn’t “hit” in the USA until much of Rio was remixed (Kershenbaum) and re-released here in the states. They were UK stars, but America was another challenge. Next was SATRT, and they pulled out all of the stops for this one. There’s a lot going on, and I don’t just mean musically. The band clearly had an ego by this time, and they felt like they had something to prove, with all the resources in the world to do it. I can hear the inner tug-of-war going on within the band, and if you listen closely – you can hear Simon tell you all about the struggles of fame, too.

The trouble is, at least in my opinion, as much as I loved this period of time – the album has its challenges. In hindsight, Seven and the Ragged Tiger is representative of the band’s excesses on nearly every level. Even so, I can’t quit it, and likely – neither can you.

What about Paper Gods?

In the other hand lies Paper Gods. Upon first glance, you might not even recognize that it’s the same band, particularly if you’re not a diehard fan. As I bow to my fellow nostalgia-nerds out there, I can’t help but say that Paper Gods is the better album. The quality of construction is there. It has all of the finesse of Rio, with the same quality of ingenuity that created Seven and the Ragged Tiger. On the same token, Paper Gods is not a one-listen album. In order to fully appreciate the music, it takes time. Once again, if you listen closely, you’ll even hear Simon tell you everything you need to know about their career. Paper Gods is truly a survey of their career, and a hallmark album. I believe these to be the reasons for the growth in the survey results for Autumn albums over last year.

In other words, it is not so much that Seven and the Ragged Tiger has lost a huge amount of favor with fans as it is that Paper Gods is becoming more beloved. I don’t think there will ever be a time when a significant number of fans won’t include SATRT in their top three or four list of favorite DD albums, much less Autumn album. The nostalgia for the time, paired with the album’s historic status (it was the last album with the original five until 2004) continue to keep it balanced on a narrow pedestal. Perhaps though, Paper Gods will occupy its own nearby pinnacle. Time will tell.

-R

“Hold Back the Rain” for Astronauts in 2001!

Most Duranies seem to recognize a space theme within Duran Duran. Songs like “Planet Earth”, albums like “Astronaut”, and the alien manning synthesizers back on the risers, all support the idea. But did you know that Duran Duran even helped NASA once?

During the summer of 2001, the Space Shuttle Atlantis was due to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a 12-day mission to the International Space Station. At the time, they were still assembling the space station, and so there were many of these missions taking place. In fact, there were 3 spacewalks on this particular mission.

The shuttle was due back on July 24, but Mission Control was concerned about the landing due to poor weather. Yet, they really needed to get the shuttle back on the ground.  So, who and what did they turn to in their time of need??

Duran Duran and “Hold Back the Rain”, of course! They played this song for the shuttle crew, motivating them for a safe landing in bad weather. The shuttle made it back on the ground without a hitch, and this mission became another part of history, so they say.

Unfortunately I can’t seem to find a NASA clip of it being played for the astronauts on YouTube, but I do have the 2017 performance from the Fox Theater in Oakland. I was in the audience that night, and nearly lost my mind. It was a thrill to have it included in their set that night.

The power of Duran Duran. Even NASA gets it!

-R

 

Trampled but Still Breathing and Reaching for the Sunrise!

Good morning, everyone! (It’s still morning in California!)

This is going to be a crazy week, and I feel compelled to share. I don’t know what anyone else did over the weekend,  but I rebuilt part of our back patio cover, alongside my husband and son. This morning, every part of my body is loudly reminding me that I am no longer a teenager.  I’m very thankful that at the last-minute, my husband decided to hire a painting company instead of going with the original plan to do it all ourselves (a task beginning this morning, as I type).  Today it’s only the outside being washed and painted, but tomorrow they’ll be prepping inside for similar treatment. Not a single wall is to be spared, and we’re going with the popular millennial color choice of “minimalist grey” to clean and update the inside of the house. We’ve hired a realtor, and within the next couple of weeks the house will be on the market. Writing the blog continues to be my source of refuge, particularly during the insanity of this moving process!

I love some of the questions that DDHQ has posed to the community over social media lately. While some of them allow me to answer within a second or two, others challenge me to really think. Today’s question nearly has me stumped.

“Of all the FIRST and LAST songs on Duran Duran albums, which opener and closer do you think make for the most powerful combined listening experience?”

Initially, all I could think about was that I hadn’t yet had my standard cup of coffee and that this question was far too deep for a Monday morning. Or at least my Monday morning.  I also was envious, because it is a great question, and I wish I’d thought of it myself so that we could have used it for Daily Duranie!

It is generally easier for me to consider the most recent album – in this case Paper Gods – because I’ve been listening to it for the past few years. So my knee jerk reaction was to say “Paper Gods” and “Universe Alone. The thing is, if I were in charge, I’d put “Before The Rain” as the opener and “Universe Alone” as the closer.  Not that I don’t like “Paper Gods”, but I personally feel that “Before The Rain” is a stronger song (For me.  Perhaps not so for you, but for me.), and  would have been an outstanding opener for any album. Granted,  “Before the Rain” and “Universe Alone” are on two completely different albums, and “Before the Rain” wasn’t even an opener!

The best news in this case, is of course, that I’m not in charge.

So I’m back at square one. I have to go back and actually look at all of the albums now, which is both pathetic (shouldn’t I know this offhand by now?) and also diligent. (if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right!)

Right off the bat, there are album openers/closers that I discarded. I’m not going to say which ones, but for me, there are albums that just don’t seem to have strong openers or strong closers…or maybe an album has a strong opener but not a strong closer, or vice versa. I’ll be honest, I found this to be the case more often than not at the beginning of their career as opposed to more recently. Whether this is because I have a serious lack in good judgment (!!!) or because the band has gotten better about the song order of their albums is hard to say. (both??)

For me, the answer to this question does not have a lot to do with whether or not I “like” an album. After all, I love the albums of the 1980s, but song order never entered into that. (For me) One of my strongest contenders would be the opener “The Valley” and the closer “Last Man Standing” because I always felt that both of those songs were strong, and even conveyed where the band stood in that moment, and yet Red Carpet Massacre is not one of my more beloved Duran Duran albums.

For me, it comes down to three:

“[Reach Up for the] Sunrise” and “Still Breathing”

“Big Thing” and “Lakeshore Driving”

“The Valley” and “Last Man Standing”

Of these three, I struggle at first, thinking I must pick a favorite. In the midst of my short reverie, I realize that the question isn’t about my favorite, but what is the strongest opener and closer for an album. When I think about that, I think the choice is clear – “Sunrise” and “Still Breathing”.  Aside from maybe “Rio”, I really can’t think of a Duran Duran song written that conveys more joy.  It is a very strong opener, and in my mind, “Still Breathing” is a strong, introspective way to close an album. The song isn’t incredibly loud, but it is powerful in meaning, and even musically – I think the word I’m looking for is “stoic”.  No, it’s not world-ending in the same way that “The Universe Alone” might be, but I have to love that the band chose to end an album meant to signify the reunification of the fab five with a song titled “Still Breathing”. As they were then, as they are now. And so are we.

-R

Breakfast with the Arts 2005

On this date in 2005, Duran Duran appeared on A&E’s Breakfast with the Arts. They were deep in the publicity stage for Astronaut, and this was just one appearance of many on television programs throughout the world.

I had hoped to find a clip of the entire interview, but I was only able to find the last part, including a performance of “What Happens Tomorrow”, thanks to Lizard King.

 

I know that this would stir up all kinds of legal trouble – definitely more than I could ever handle – but it would be wonderful to have one central place to host every appearance, interview, video, etc. that the band has ever done (or that we could compile). Kind of like an archive, but for tv/video/media clips.

It’s a dream, but I think it would be wonderful to be able to access all of that.

-R

Twenty-one years and counting.

On the 22nd of January, twenty-one years ago, I woke up at 6:30am and new something wasn’t quite right. I was having short little pains, but they were enough to wake me up out of a sound sleep. Smiling, I began to time them, and oddly – they were coming at fairly regular intervals. Ten days late and counting, I knew that I was finally, blessedly, in labor with my oldest.

After what I felt was many hours of waiting, I finally got the OK to go to the hospital at about 1pm. It was in the middle of a snow storm, but I barely remember the drive from our house to the hospital, except that my mom was with us and we really had no idea what we were about to be in for. I’ll save everyone the details except to say that what began that morning didn’t actually finish until 12:05am the following morning – which if you’re following along, meant the 23rd of January in 1997.

I always like to say that Heather Kathryn Rivera was born in the middle of a blizzard (this is true), she was ten days late (also true, and really eleven if we’re counting – which believe me, at that point, I was), and that to this very day, the child is still late. She runs by one clock: her own. She still prefers the cold weather to our ever-sunny days, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she ended up back in the Chicagoland area after college. (then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if we did as well!)

Today, she turns twenty-one.

I’m marveling about that, because it doesn’t seem possible. I still remember seeing the snow fall that day and night in the hospital, I still remember sitting up in bed the following day, looking at her wondering how on earth I was ever going to be able to handle caring for another human being.  They say that to have a baby is to agree to allow a part of your heart to walk around outside of your body forever. That’s so true. It is simultaneously the apex of joy and some of the worst pain imaginable at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for all the peace in the world. (Most of the time, anyway!)

I remember not long after Heather and I came home from the hospital, I was watching Rosie in the afternoon while trying to feed Heather. Guess who were her guests?  Simon, Nick and Warren. They were there promoting “Medazzaland”.  I remember watching them while Heather was crying, and I was so upset because I could barely hear the interview. I was already learning who came first, of course, and before long I was crying right along with Heather. As much as I loved being a mom, and I really did, I missed being me. I didn’t know how to be both a mom and Rhonda, the human. Life circumstances at the time didn’t help, either. The real “adjustment” didn’t come until later, when I finally figured out that in order to enjoy being a mom, I had to enjoy being ME, too.

Guess when that happened? I can tell you the exact date. March 28, 2001.  House of Blues, Anaheim CA. Duran Duran walked out on that stage, and something in me that had been dark for many, many years suddenly lit up like a Christmas tree.

I’ve written about it before, but finding myself again was really the key to being a good parent. After that concert, I started being ME. I found friends, I went to a convention, I brought my own personality to the table of parenting. My kids know exactly who I am. They’re not afraid to call me out for it sometimes, too.  

My Heather is a beautiful human being. She is so much better of a person than I could ever hope to be myself. She’s got a sharp tongue, a wicked sense of humor, and a very kind heart. She’s tenacious in a way that I never learned, and she has more talent in her pinky finger than I do in my entire body. She’s danced her way through life so far, and now she’s twenty-one. She’s grown. I don’t even know how it happened, because at some point on the way home from the hospital, through the snowy streets and freezing temperatures, I blinked. Now she’s an adult. Where does the time go?

I guess I feel similar with Duran Duran, really. At some point after New Moon on Monday, I blinked. The past thirty years went by in a single blink. The last 17 in particular FLEW by, and I can mark the moments in Heather’s life by songs, concerts and road trips I’ve taken along the way.  She still smiles widely at the memory of going with me to the Astronaut signing in Hollywood when she was just seven or eight. She remembers Simon quizzing her about her favorite song and how he asked about the book she was carrying (I think it was a Nancy Drew book). She also remembers how tan they all looked for not being from California (I laugh about that because she’s right) and how they all wore more makeup than I did. (also true!)

Heather and I at The Pearl 2009

We still laugh about how she went with Amanda and I to see Duran Duran at the Pearl in Las Vegas in 2009. She was twelve, although a tall twelve-year-old at the time, and she STILL laughs heartily over her reaction when John walked up to the microphone during the show and called us Mother F*kers. Heather turned around and looked at me with her eyes as wide as saucers. I doubled over laughing. Yep, I’m that kind of mom!

Amanda and I always talked about employing her to drive us from gig to gig after she turned 16 so that way we didn’t have to drive ourselves any longer, but we’ve never done it. Today, she’s old enough to belly up to the bar right along with us.

 

Somehow, that doesn’t seem quite right. AT ALL.

Heather taught me how to be a mom. She patiently waited for me to figure out how to manage feeding and caring for an infant and yet still being able to take a shower and get out of pj’s by noon. She would smile and sit next to me when it came time for me to learn how to do it all again when her brother Gavin was born – so all of that x2.  Then she taught me how not to be one of those “stage moms” and how to provide a stable environment for her when everything else in her life was chaos with dance and school. She forgave me for having yet another baby just as she was becoming a teenager, and even offered to help with her youngest sister. I will never ever forget going through that pregnancy because Heather was by my side nearly the entire time. She’s become a second mama in a lot of ways to the baby of the family – who isn’t a baby anymore (so she constantly reminds me).

Heather listened to me complain about life, growing older, losing a parent, learning how to be a better caregiver and spouse, and even how to be a better mom to her as she grew up and had her own ideas that may or may not have been completely opposite to her dad’s and mine. I daresay that parenting is toughest after the children have grown.

Through most of that, she also had to contend with this crazy blog, my writing, the road trips, conventions, and the ups and downs within. Duran Duran has been a near constant presence in her life even though she’s only met them from across a table (same, Heather, same here for the most part). I don’t think she can really hear Duran Duran without thinking of me immediately at this point, and I don’t know whether to apologize or applaud.

So today, as I watch the kids at recess and continue thinking about the journey I’ve taken over the last twenty-one years, I’m also thinking about how this is just the beginning for Heather.  I love that kid and I couldn’t be prouder. Today is bittersweet for this mama, but I am looking forward to taking her out tonight for her first (legal) margarita. It has been quite a journey.

(BTW John and Nick… if you need a choreographer for a musical….I know somebody…..)

Happy Birthday, Heather-Feather. (You can thank me for not printing your REAL nickname at any time.) Be careful, but not too careful – Love Mom.

-R

Feel the New Day: What’s your theme song?

Every once in a while, Duran Duran puts out a question on social media that makes me think. This morning, as I was quickly scanning through Twitter, I saw a tweet from them asking about personal theme songs.

That tweet made me stop and think a little. My knee jerk reaction was to go with a favorite song, but those favorites aren’t necessarily theme songs—they’re just songs I like. For example, my very favorite DD song is still “Is there Something I Should Know”, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt like that song SPOKE for me in that way, exactly. I just fell in love with it from the first listen and it’s stuck with me. By the same token, I’ve had a few songs become sentimental favorites along the way because they came out at particular points in my life, and perfectly described how I was feeling or what I was going through in those moments. “Finest Hour”, and “Red Carpet Massacre” are two songs that come immediately to mind.

When “Finest Hour” came out on Astronaut, I immediately took the song to heart because it was describing exactly how I felt at the time in my private life. I was also rediscovering who I really was as a Duran fan, and to some extent, I was learning about myself as well. The song really kind of epitomized that moment for me.

“Red Carpet Massacre”, the title song from the album of the same name, was released in probably my darkest time. I’ve written about my feelings about the album and even what I was going through personally, but the more I listened to this song, the more I felt that it described the nature of this fan community at times. The album came out during a time when I was just really starting to see the cutthroat nature of fans, and so at the time, the song really did become a sort of theme!

In the years since, I’ve had moments where various songs have become my sort of personal theme. “Late Bar”, “Secret October”, and even “Rio” have all taken their turn as my theme of the moment or day.  Right now though, I feel as though “Sunrise” describes it best for me. I’m looking for that new day to come. I have the sense that life is about to take a turn for my family, and I’m waiting to see how that’s going to play out. I’m trying to see it all as positive rather than dwell on the negative part, because hopefully that will be short-lived (Which is that my husband is currently sitting in my son’s room, which he’s converted into his temporary office space, looking for a new job).

So, what’s your theme song?

-R

VH-1’s “The Set” in 2004

Yesterday, I wrote about 2011. Today, I’m going back even farther.

Does anyone remember “The Set” on VH1 in 2004?  It was sponsored by Bailey’s (I don’t know why I have zero trouble remembering that little bit of trivia….), and it was filmed in California, just outside of Los Angeles. I remember that DDM gave away tickets to fans so that they could go and be in the audience to watch it being taped. I also remember being so jealous because nearly every Duranie I knew who lived here or was willing to travel here got tickets.

Many DDM members had signed up to enter the contest, even though they didn’t have a way to get to Los Angeles. Those that did win were given two tickets. So, if you were smart, you teamed up with a friend and both entered, basically doubling the chances to win. Well, so many people had won that either couldn’t get here or already had a ticket because a friend had won, that Jim – the person in charge of DDM at the time – had to go down a list of people to contact in order to find people who could go. He contacted a friend of mine who already had tickets, and she even gave him my name as someone who didn’t already win. Even then, I still must have been so far down the list that I was never contacted. I can remember the disappointment, particularly once I heard about all of the people who signed up to win even though they knew there was no way they could go. Alas, that’s the way it goes!

Even so, I was able to watch the broadcast, and out of their appearances in 2004 for Astronaut, it remains one of my favorites. I found a clip or two of it on YouTube to share.  In some ways, it’s funny to watch it now, because so much has happened in the years since, but it’s a good reminder of where we’ve been, particularly when fans aren’t really sure of where we’re going next!

 

-R

There’s nothing gonna ace this

My desk calendar tells me that on this date in 2004, Duran Duran played on Good Morning America. It feels like a million years ago. Andy was still with the band and all seemed well on the outside, even if it may not have been on the inside. I had no inkling of the struggles it took to get the album recorded. I didn’t realize that drama from the past had somehow crept its way back into the studio and beyond, and I sure as heck didn’t know that over the course of the next year or so, Andy would stop performing with the band altogether. I was so naive, I had the audacity to believe that the original five would keep going. It never occurred to me that the relationships were so fragile.  Then again, I didn’t really know much of what had gone on behind the scenes in the 80s, either. I basked in the glory of having the band back together again, and in some small way that is typically unlike me, I appreciate that I had no idea of what was to come.

Wide-eyed innocence was sort of my theme for the entire Astronaut period. I was new to traveling to see the band, I was new to the fan community (although I’d been a fan for many years), new to message boards, and the group of friends I’d stumbled upon as a result were all brand new to me. At the point of this GMA appearance, I had just recently gotten home from the Friends of Mine convention in New Orleans. I can remember sitting in front of my TV with Gavin on my lap, marveling over some of the women in the front because I’d met them at the convention. Prior to Astronaut, I had never known anyone who had even gone to something like that, much less gotten up so close! When I think back to those Astronaut days, I’m amazed at how naive I was to the entire fandom phenomena. Everything seemed bright, colorful, new, and lovely. I didn’t see much of the insipid bickering, or the jealousy between fans. I hadn’t gone to enough shows or mingled with enough hard-core fans to know that while all is fine and good when the band isn’t around, once they enter the room, the struggle to be seen and acknowledge is so great that we often push one another out-of-the-way just for that tiny bit of validation. In my head, fandom was a utopian paradise, and I wanted to take up residence, permanently.

There are shorter clips of this, but I chose the long one – nearly a full hour – because there are so many short snippets of the crowd.  On this day, it is a breath of fresh air to look back at the memory of what it was like to simply be in love: reinvented, reimagined, reinvigorated, naive LOVE. I particular enjoy the vision of an audience sharing those same feelings.  There is nothing that can ace this.

Yeah, I know the band isn’t nostalgic. Sometimes though, it feels good to look back. It reminds me how I got here, and why I stay.

Take a look. Breathe deeply. Squee if you must…I did 🙂

-R

Limited Edition Double Vinyl of Astronaut released, 2004.

How many different versions of Astronaut do you own? I can’t even answer that myself – a lot of them are packed away, but I know I must have a few. I’ve got a couple of copies of the regular CD that I bought at midnight at Virgin Records in Hollywood.  I also remember buying this special CD – it was a dual sided CD if I remember right (did those ever really catch on??)—and it had 7.1 surround sound. I can’t remember what was on the other side, though. Was it a DVD?? I really need to go find it and look.  Anyway, I liked that CD because I could actually hear Andy’s guitar (which is another blog for another day), and because it was unlike anything I’d seen before.

But on this date back in 2004, Duran Duran released the limited edition double vinyl of Astronaut. I have a copy, and it is signed by all five members.  I’m particularly proud of it because it’s the one thing I have signed by the original five members of Duran Duran, and for a long time – it was the only thing I had signed, period. I can remember periodically sitting and staring at that vinyl from time to time. It was one of those moments where afterwards, you wonder if it really did happen. I can tell you that back when I was just a kid listening to Rio, never did it occur to me that one day I’d actually meet them. That just seemed like something out of a fairy tale, and admittedly it felt a little that way when it happened.

Seems like a great day to take out that double vinyl album and spend a little time thinking back on 2004. For me, Astronaut helped to mark the beginning of the community aspect of fandom.  I had just gone to my first convention, and everything felt bright and new.  Astronaut was a new beginning for Duran Duran, and I’m happy to spend a little time thinking back on that time today.

-R