Tag Archives: Depeche Mode

Presales and the die hard fan: Is the process really meant to be fair?

A couple weeks ago, Amanda blogged about the new presale system that Depeche Mode is using for their upcoming tour. In full disclosure, I am not a huge Depeche Mode fan in 2017. I owned all of their albums up until the late 90s or so, but I got bored. I’m not here to get into a debate over their music, so we’ll just say that I always take notice when they come out with something new, but I’m not quite as driven as many others.  So, when their new tour was announced, along with a vague explanation of this new presale system where your place in line is at least partially determined by how hard you work to promote Depeche Mode and their tour, I knew there was no way I was getting involved.  I just don’t love them that much. I’m not sure I love any band that much, outside of Duran Duran.

Oddly, considering the tone of this post, I have always been a big supporter of fan marketing. That means that an artist shares the responsibility of marketing with  his/her/their fan base, and then rewards them for their efforts. Depeche Mode isn’t necessarily wrong to use a similar method for this tour. I think the idea of rewarding fans who go the extra mile is a great idea…and that has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve written a blog for the past six years. It just makes good sense. But how to make it all work? The devil is in the details. Or, in other words, something that sounds good on paper doesn’t always work out in real life. Or online.

For the past two weeks or so, I’ve seen a lot of my friends post or tweet something about registering for Depeche Mode tickets using their link so that they can move up farther in line.  I saw the same posts from the same people tens, if not hundreds of times. I don’t know if just posting helped them, or if they really needed people registering off of their link for it to count. I also saw, with some regularity, posts from other friends who were complaining about how far they’d dropped in line. Very few of them seemed to move up, and staying in the lower digits at least seemed pretty difficult to me from the outside looking in. I don’t know how much effort it took to remain in those spaces (and if anyone has insight on that, feel free to drop me a line or share your tale in the comments!), but I do know that if I’d been involved, I would have obsessed over my number in line, which is never good (for me, anyway).

The frenzy of posts seemed to grow until this weekend, where it seemed CRAZY, until last night when the same friends got their emails telling them their presale times for this morning. I woke up this morning to many negative-leaning posts about the presale process.

It was about this time when I started being thankful for paying my $35.00 a year membership to DDM, and only having to work within the DD presale process. Yes, Ticketmaster has not always been kind to me, but to be fair—the main reason I have had any kind of trouble has been because I didn’t want to pay for top tier Duran Duran tickets,  so I have gone with a lesser VIP package, and then been appalled where those packages have ended up being, seat-wise. I don’t know what that’s about with me, but I’ve just learned that if I’m going to go, I have to suck it up and pay the big prices to be up front, or just be satisfied I’m in the building. There’s no in between for me, I really am that high maintenance, and that is MY problem. But back to Depeche Mode…

As I observed friends getting more and more impatient over the Depeche Mode presale, I realized that there just isn’t any one way to make this process fair for everyone. There’s always going to be someone who feels screwed, no matter what is done.

Let’s face it, a successful tour means sold-out shows, and if there are sold-out shows, it means that sure enough, somebody, somewhere, will end up without the tickets they want. Demand exceeded supply. Hence the sad posts from fans without tickets, angry posts from those who ended up with back row, and frustrated posts from those who think $300 for one mediocre seat in the rear of the venue is a little out of hand. And trust me, it is, I agree…but we pay it because we desperately want to be there. The venue, management and a host of other people who make their living from concerts all know this. It is the name of the game. Business. 

I saw a lot of disappointed posts this morning, and a lot of people saying they bought some tickets but weren’t at all happy about what it took to get them. I thought a lot about the things I’m willing to do to go to a DD show these days. For me personally, I’m not sure where the line is drawn. Some days, like today, I’m thinking that I do enough as it is. I just want to buy the damn ticket. I would be really upset if they went to a similar system as Depeche Mode, and I’m not sure I’d bother.  On other days, I might say that if I had to participate with all of that posting and tweeting in order to do a presale and get a decent spot – I suppose I might. I’m not sure. Right now, I’m feeling tired. I don’t feel young, and I’m just not sure it’s all worth it, but that could easily change overnight. I don’t want to begin jumping through more hoops in order to see Duran Duran, but when push comes to shove would I really be willing to stop seeing them live, or would I be willing to forgo a good spot in line for presales?  Would you?

I hope I don’t have to find out any time soon.

-R

 

Another Way to Presale

Believe it or not, I try to pay attention to a few other bands/artists out there besides Duran Duran.  While nothing compares to my love and dedication to Duran, I am a fan of other bands.  I just don’t spend anywhere near the same amount of time and money on them.  My fan status is much more casual fan as opposed to the intense fandom of Duran.  One of those other bands that I’m a fan of is Depeche Mode.  It has always ranked within my top five bands.  I own every album of theirs and do try to see them live when I can.  Right now, Depeche is preparing for a flurry of activity.

Depeche’s latest album, Spirit, is due out on March 17th but they have already released a single.  “Where’s the Revolution?” came out this winter and is definitely getting fans’ attention.  If that was not enough, the band has a tour planned for this summer in Europe and more dates coming up in the U.S.

Now, we all know how Duran typically does their pre-sales.  A show is announced on the band’s social media and official website.  That announcement includes information about how much the tickets are, what kind of VIP packages are available and a date and time for the upcoming pre-sale.  Usually, that pre-sale takes place within a couple of days.  At the time of the sale, fans usually have a code that they use to buy tickets.  From there, it is a first come, first serve system.  All fans who are part of the fan club have an equal chance of getting whatever tickets the fan club had, theoretically.

Over the history of this blog, the topic of pre-sales has come up often.  Fans, including ourselves, have, at times, complained and within reason.  Some of us didn’t and don’t like the use of Ticketmaster.  What is or is not included in VIP packages has often been discussed along with the value of the concert tickets, in general.  Many have expressed frustration over what tickets are even available to fans through these pre-sales.  I could go on but you get the drift.  To summarize, many Duranies are not certain about how Duran chooses to run their pre-sales.  Thus, I’m always looking for how other bands do it to see if there really is an alternative.

This week, I learned about how Depeche Mode is going to run their pre-sales.  According to the article on diffuser.fm, this is their plan:

In order to head off scalpers at the pass, they’ve opened what they’re referring to as a “digital waiting room” where fans can get first dibs on tickets.

“Depeche Mode are coming back to North America,” the band writes. “And this time, they’re doing something different. Before scalpers and bots, true fans would line up at the box office for days to get tickets. This is the same thing, but online. Claim your spot in line by signing up below, and the higher your spot, the better your access to tickets during the fan pre-sale. End up at the very front of the line for your city and you’ll be invited to meet the band before the show.”

When I learned about this, I followed the directions to sign up.  Interestingly enough, the site asked me to confirm the location of the show I would go to.  Their website goes on to say:  “When we announce the tour dates, we’ll send you your exact spot in line for the city closest to your preferred location. Your spot will determine when you will get access to the fan ticket presale, but it isn’t final until signups end. By purchasing the new album, sharing on social media and generating sign-ups through your link, you can improve your spot.”  Clearly then, you can move up in line based on what you do to help promote the new album and tour.  Fascinating.

Apparently then, I will receive a code, which will give me access to the fan presale but the time that the code will become valid will be decided by my virtual place in line.   From what I read, the line stops changing 48 hours before the pre-sale starts.

I find this system really interesting.  It seems to me that they are hoping that by using this method, they will get more people to buy the new album and promote the album and tour.  As someone who writes a blog each and every day about a band, I love the idea of that work being recognized and rewarded with better concert tickets.  I wonder, though, if this system would even recognize something like a fan blog.  Will the system only acknowledge certain fan actions and behaviors that can be easily “read” and calculated by technology?

Another element of this pre-sale system that I question is the idea of having to give a location.  For me, this works for Depeche Mode.  I won’t travel to see them.  Thus, if I go to a Depeche concert, it is likely to be in Chicago or Minneapolis.  If this was for Duran Duran, though, I would travel, if dates work out better, but the chosen location has to be determined immediately to get in line.  Also, what happens if fans want to go to more than one show? Do they rely on other friends put other locations down?  Does this just end up encouraging going to only one show?

All in all, I find some of this idea fascinating and potentially positive for fans.  On the other hand, it limits fans to one city without knowing any of the dates.  It will be interesting to see how this works in real time.  What do the rest of you think?

-A

Amazing or Consistently Good?

Earlier in the week, I wrote a blog in which I provided a review of Duran Duran’s New Year’s Day show and the weekend in general.  If you have not read it, you can read it here.  Overall, the response was positive as many, many readers agreed with me and added even more examples from their own experiences.  Yet, one reader questioned the structure of the blog post as I focused on responding to a review of the show.  The criticism was that I should not have reviewed a review, that I should have just written about my thoughts about the show.

This reaction made me think.  I get that a reader would want details about the show.  Yet, I felt and still feel that I needed that review to respond to.  If you have been reading this blog pretty consistently over the last year, you recognize that I have attended a “few” shows since Paper Gods was released.  This means that I have seen basically the same set list a “few” times.  I have seen the same visuals, the same dance moves, the same introductions (in many cases).  I have reviewed many of the shows I have seen here on the blog.  I am not sure what more I could say beyond, “I love having New Moon on Monday in the setlist.”  I have said that before.  I have commented on how it represents my fandom.  I could have repeated that as well as other comments about DoJo, JoSi, the amazing visuals during What Are the Chances, etc.  I didn’t, though.  I didn’t want to rehash old blogs.  That’s not fun, nor interesting.

So why could I not discuss the differences with this show?  Why didn’t I mention the uniqueness of that particular New Year’s Day show?  Frankly, there wasn’t much difference between that show and the show I saw in Chula Vista, California, or the one I saw in Toronto, Canada.  Most of the shows I have seen during this era are consistently good.  It seems clear to me that Duran has worked HARD to put on a good show night after night.  I don’t hear or read criticism that a show sucked ever.  No one says that.  I think back, though, to shows in 2005 or 2006 or 2007, etc., and I do remember hearing that some shows weren’t as good as others.

Similarly, I can think back to the shows that I have seen and there were definitely some shows that were amazing!  I remember leaving the Brighton show in 2011 thinking that there was never going to be a better show than that and the next night in Bournemouth seemed to prove that to me as that show wasn’t that great.  In the past, shows varied with some being a lot better than others.  Now, before I get hate mail, don’t get me wrong.  “Less than perfect” Duran shows are still better than lots of other bands.  I don’t regret seeing any Duran show and clearly, I’m still addicted since I have tickets to more.  I’m just saying that some were “good” and some shows were “amazing.”

This leads me to think about other bands.  I have seen Depeche Mode, for example, a number of times.  They are consistently good.  I can count on that band to put on a good show.  Yet, despite having had seen them a bunch of times, none of the shows stick out to me.  No show was better than others.  I could say the same about their albums.  Generally, Depeche records good albums, consistent albums.  Duran has had some AMAZING albums and some albums that weren’t as great.  It seems to me, though, that when Duran makes a good song, it is beyond fabulous and cannot be compared with anything else.   The same is true with their albums as well.

This makes me wonder.  Which is better?  Is it better to be consistently good or it is better to have moments of being awesome and some moments of being less than great?  For me, if I really wanted consistently good, I might be writing a blog about being a Depeche Mode fan.  Yet, I like that Duran takes chance to reach that 10 with their music, their albums, their live shows.  At times, they not only reach that 10, they push passed.  Yet, sometimes, they try and miss the mark, creating only a 6.  I think it braver and more interesting to follow a band that isn’t always the same.  I like that they change and try new challenges.

What do the rest of you think?

-A

How Important is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Anyway?

How important is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame anyway?

As I read through this year’s list of nominees, this question swirled in my head. Sure, Chic is on the list. Again. For the 11th time, they appear on the list. Then there’s Depeche Mode, Yes, Janet Jackson, The Cars…..Tupac Shakur, Pearl Jam, Chaka Khan, ELO (Electric Light Orchestra), Journey, The Zombies, Bad Brains, J. Geils Band, Joan Baez, Kraftwerk, MC5, Joe Tex, and Steppenwolf.  I think I’ve gotten them all.

It seems like every single year I write something about the Hall of Fame. Quite frankly, I detest it. I dislike it to the point where it really isn’t worth my time—yet here I am, writing about it again.

It seems to me that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the one accolade everyone loves to hate. The process, in my mind, is absurd. The nominating committee of the RRHOF Foundation gets together and comes up with a list of nominees. The list is publicized, and then some 600-historians and members of the music industry vote upon the all-powerful although in the past few years (since 2012) they’ve bestowed that same glorious right to vote upon the public, so our collective opinion is also taken into account. The top five vote- getters are then inducted.

First of all, the nominees, or at least a reasonable percentage of them—are questionable. I could sit and name names, but the reality is, those that I may find odd are the same bands and artists that someone else probably sees as shoe-ins. So, I’m just going to leave it that I find a lot of the nominees to be questionable, and the inductees typically make me roll my eyes.

Secondly, Chic has been nominated ELEVEN DAMN TIMES. Come on now. That alone tells me something is screwy about the process. Yes, Chic is disco. Yes, Americans (in particular) have forgotten just how much disco-elements we use in our music even today. Even so, eleven times?  Unbelievable.

Thirdly, I’d argue that outside of the US, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame means nothing.  Just yesterday, one of my friends commented that they never hear about the RRHOF, and they live in the UK.  I have no doubt that’s true. Many (including myself) say that the heart of the music industry is here in America, which is probably why the Hall of Fame works here – but the rest of the world doesn’t care. I can’t blame them, because really, is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that important anyway?

I doubt it. Each year when Nile, as the sole surviving member of Chic is nominated, he graciously tweets something about being happy to be on that list, but he also mentions how many times he’s been on it. In my head, it’s becoming a terrible joke. What makes him any less deserving than Green Day—a band that has been around for a fraction of the time—but was inducted in 2015, the very FIRST year they were even eligible?  Absolutely nothing but votes.

Who votes? Who decides? The RRHOF description of their voters is remarkably vague. “some 600 historians and members of the music industry, including those who have previously been inducted.” Then there’s the public, of course. Fans are going to vote for their favorites regardless of whether they’re the most deserving. In the same way I voted umpteen times for Duran Duran to win the MTV EMA this year or “Best World Stage” without watching the other nominees to see if their performance really was the best, fans are going to get out the vote for their favorite, and I can’t blame them. But, that does not equate (in my mind) to being deserving of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Ultimately what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame comes down to is a glorified popularity contest.  The only people I ever see commenting on its importance are those who make a living commenting on such things (the aforementioned music historians), those who have been inducted, or perhaps fans.  As many Duranies mention, in any interview where the band has been asked, they carefully word their answer about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The band recognizes that the process is entirely political and not at all indicative of any success the band may have had, their continued relevance, or inspiration they may have given to other bands along the way.  It is difficult for me to argue the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in any other light, because I too, see the nominating process and the joke it has become.

Each year I read the list of names, and while of course, there are several on there that should and deserve to be there, there are just as many that I seriously question. Even bands I adore, like Depeche Mode or The Cars, I really have to wonder about. What makes them any more deserving?

Most awards come down to popularity. I’m well-aware that the MTV EMA’s are also awarded based on vote. Is it any different? In some respects, yes I think it is. The EMA’s are not trying to decide the most important acts of our time based on the previous twenty-five years (or more) of work. They reflect a single year, and in many aspects they reflect a single song and how it was received by the public.

Ultimately, this post isn’t going to convince anyone of anything. It’s simply a conversation starter in the same way that morning talk shows might spark discussion. Speaking of which, in case you haven’t heard, Lori Majewski (author of Mad World and fellow Duranie who once  was the editor of her own fanzine named Too Much Information: the Definitive Duranzine ) along with co-host Nik Carter have their  own brand new music talk show called Feedback on Sirius Channel VOLUME. It airs 7-10 AM EST live in all time zones and then repeats as soon as it ends, and is also available on demand. We wish Lori the very best!

-R

 

Look For the Girl With the Sun In Her Eyes and She’s Gone

They are pretty much dropping like flies at this point, aren’t they?  I have to admit that each morning as I open my laptop, I’m almost nervous to see what the news might be…which idol, legend, favorite, etc, has left us.  January has not been kind to the music lover this year. Yesterday afternoon, it was announced that Glenn Frey, founding member of The Eagles, had passed away. I don’t know how popular The Eagles were in other countries, but for me – they were one of the quintessential California bands of the 1970s. I grew up listening to them on the radio, whether I knew it or not at the time.

At heart, I am a rock and roll girl. While it’s certainly true that Duran Duran has left an indelible mark on my soul and I love 80s New Wave with a passion that continues to burn bright a few decades later, it is also true that I adore a great classic-rock guitar. (is this really a surprise to anyone?)

Some of my friends had parents that listened to The Beatles, whereas my parents were fans of Elvis, in a pretty big way.  My mom likes to say that The Beatles came too late for her in the same way that I say New Kids on the Block were too late for me…so I get it. (Although I am a pretty big fan of The Beatles, oddly) Before I came along, my parents were also big fans of The Beach Boys (hence my name). I don’t know how that fits into the whole “rock” scenario – but we all have our departures. For instance, I love Duran Duran, but can also be known to blast Styx (anything but Mr. Roboto) from time to time. It happens. I make no apologies, but I’m getting away from myself. The point being, I was groomed on rock and roll (and a little bit of the blues, I guess…which is both bizarre…and fitting at the same time.)

When the news came out about Glenn Frey yesterday, I started thinking about all of the songs I knew of his. There are too many to list, yet again – just as I noticed with Bowie – I really didn’t take stock in many of them until after he was gone. It’s the case where I recognize his music, I don’t typically change the radio if they happen to come on, but I also didn’t seek him out, and I didn’t ever stop to think of just how many of his songs I really knew. I think in a lot of ways we take these legends for granted. We don’t ever consider that one day they might not be here, until they’re just not…and this month, well, that’s happening on a near daily basis, isn’t it?

I was in the car this morning, considering what I might write about this morning, and Come on Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners came on the radio. This is one of those songs that I almost never turn off. If it comes on – whether it’s the radio or my iPhone – I don’t skip it or change the station. I love the song. It’s ridiculous, but it always reminds me of school dances in junior high. You’d think that memory alone would be enough to force my hand, but no. They’re good memories, albeit awkward ones. Then I started thinking about other songs that I always allow to play through, and decided to create a list when I got home. I’m going to share mine here – trying to go for at least 25, but we’ll see. The caveat: NO Duran Duran, and they have to be songs that whenever they play – you let it play through. I have a ton of songs that I adore (in fact, most of my favorite songs are this way), but I have to be in the right mood to hear them.

These songs, for the most part, aren’t even favorites (with the exception of the few classical ones I’ve mentioned – those are definite life long favorites of mine). My list could be WAY longer than 25, and I didn’t include nearly as many new wave songs as I would have first thought. I just sat down and just started writing the first ones that came to mind, coming up with 25 in an incredibly short amount of time, and they are in no particular order, and like I said – I could have added so many more. I was surprised. Makes me wonder why I haven’t ever done this before.

I encourage you to do the same and post it!  I wonder how many out of our lists will be from musicians we consider to be legends?

The Wall………………………………………………….Michael Jackson

Mr. Brightside…………………………………………The Killers

Mad World………………………………………………Tears for Fears

Alive and Kicking…………………………………..Simple Minds

Marriage of Figaro………………………………..Mozart

Rhapsody in Blue…………………………………..Gershwin

Tom Sawyer…………………………………………….Rush

Jessie’s Girl……………………………………………..Rick Springfield

Too Much Time on My Hands……………..Styx

In the Mood……………………………………………Glenn Miller

String of Pearls………………………………………Glenn Miller

Hit Me With Your Best Shot………………..Pat Benatar

Should I Stay or Should I Go…………………The Clash

Anyway You Want…………………………………Journey

We Close Our Eyes……………………………….Oingo Boingo

Blasphemous Rumours………………………..Depeche Mode

Been Caught Stealing…………………………..Jane’s Addiction

Eleanor Rigby…………………………………………The Beatles

More Than a Feeling…………………………….Boston

Infected…………………………………………………..Bad Religion

Under Pressure……………………………………..David Bowie/Queen

Rock With You……………………………………….Michael Jackson

Love Will Tear us Apart………………………..Joy Division

To Cut a Long Story Short…………………….Spandau Ballet

Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds……………The Beatles

-R

The Importance of the Audience?

One of the things that I love about doing this blog is being able to communicate with other fans.  Many times, having conversations help me with my thinking.  It helps me to formulate my thoughts or solidify my thinking.  Perhaps, this is also why Rhonda and I can be best friends.  We both need to communicate when it comes to the band and fandom.  We need it so much that we do this blog, in fact!  Anyway, at times, comments made by fellow fans really get me thinking.  Last week, I did a blog about the intensity of teaching and the intensity that the band must feel about their job.  (If you missed it, you can read it here.)  One of the comments I got about the blog was from a good friend of ours, Heather, who mentioned about how festivals must be easy for the band and she compared it to what my life would be like, if I had someone do all of the preparations to teach and I just come in to deliver the lesson.  My response back was how this was like substitute teaching and in order to teach well and enjoy it, I must know my audience, my kids, my students.  This got me thinking, though.  How much of a difference does an audience make to a band or artist?

I have seen Duran Duran play a lot of shows.  I have seen them multiple times in one given tour.  I have seen them play very large venues to smaller theaters to festivals to charity gigs.  I have even seen them play a “fan only” show.  There are definitely shows that were better, in terms of their performance, than others.  In thinking about the shows that were better performances, what were the audiences like for those shows?  How much did they contribute to a good show or how much can a bad audience make a possible good show, bad?

How do I define good audience or bad?  That’s a good question.  I would say that a good audience is one that is into the show.  The people came to have a good time and are determined to make the show fun.  Does the audience have to consist of diehard Duranies, in order for it to be good?  No.  I don’t think so.  Does it help?  I think it could.  Some of the best Duran shows I can think of were made up for a ton of serious Duranies.  For example, the best show of the southeast tour of 2012 was Durham.  I think it absolutely helped the band that the crowd consisted of a ton of solid Duranies, many of who partied together beforehand at a wine bar meet up organized by yours truly and a couple friends of ours.  Initially, during that show, the band seemed to be not giving it 100% but sensed that the audience was and they came to life!  By the end of the show, they were into it 110%!  I believe that Duranies lifted the band up to a great performance in that one.  Now, that said, I have seen Duran perform really well at shows that weren’t made up of all Duranies.  They did pretty well at the Voodoo Music Festival in 2006, in which they were facing a mixed crowd at a festival.  There was some energy coming from the crowd at that one but not enough to feed the band onstage, in my opinion.  Did they have to work HARDER to achieve a pretty solid performance because the crowd had NON-Duranies, then?  Probably so.

So, then, what is a bad audience?  A bad audience is one that is filled with judgement and negativity before a note is played.  They assume the band or artist performing is going to suck, no matter what.  They probably haven’t heard much music from the band/artist in question.  Yet, they already know that they aren’t going to like it.  Perhaps, they don’t like the genre or style of music.  Can bands/artists overcome that?  Sure.  I’m sure they can win over audiences.  After all, isn’t that what a lot of opening bands have to contend with?  While it can be done, it doesn’t seem that easy.  I’m sure a lot of opening bands put up with it in order to get to the next step of their careers but I can’t imagine an established band wanting to deal with that for long.  Thus, if I was Duran or someone on their same level, I wouldn’t want to play for tough audiences like that.  I would much prefer to play for a kind, supportive audience who will still love you even after you mess up, which is what happened at the “fans only” show in June 2007.  They were playing only to members of DDM and most of those fans who were there, including the authors of this blog, weren’t happy with the performance but we forgave and moved on with the band.

Now, while my examples given above all show that it is better, easier, more fun to play in front of die-hard fans, there may be one exception.  For some bands, playing in front of fans might make them lazy or not work as hard.  These bands might know that they don’t have to give it their all because the fans will fill in the energy they lack and/or will forgive them for a less than ideal show.  For those bands, they might prefer crowds of non-fans.  Maybe, they work hard to give a better performance that way.  I remember seeing Depeche Mode a couple of times in one given tour.  They did much better in the smaller city with less fans.  I assume it is because the band had to push themselves more and did.

All of this has me thinking about Duran Duran playing at festivals this summer.  Right now, it doesn’t appear that they will play much from the new album (according to the surprise Katy Kafe with Simon).  We also know that festivals aren’t exactly filled with die-hard Duranies.  I wonder why they are choosing this route.  If they aren’t selling new product and aren’t playing for audiences who won’t help with energy, why?  What’s the focus?  Maybe it is like it was for Depeche Mode in the smaller city or those opening bands who have to work super hard, extra hard to convince the audience to give them a try.  This might, indeed, be good to get them back to touring mode.  That said, while I always assumed that doing festivals is easier than a regular shows with fans, now I wonder.  Are they really?  Then, are festivals good for Duran Duran in the long run?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Time will tell.

-A

Book Club: Mad World (The Psychedelic Furs, Depeche Mode and Yaz)

It is Monday and you know what that means! It is the next installment of our most recent book club, in which we read and discuss a book, chapter-by-chapter! This time around we are reading, Mad World. This week, we read the chapters on The Psychedelic Furs, Depeche Mode and Yaz. We would love to have you read and discuss right along with us!

The Psychedelic Furs:

Amanda:

This entire chapter made me think about what makes a certain band, a certain rock star cool and popular. Lori Majewski mentions in her introduction that Richard Butler, the lead singer, became “one of the most romantic figures in music.” That quote got my attention as I never once thought about him in that way. I am a fan of both of the songs, Love My Way and Pretty in Pink, discussed in this chapter and yet, I never considered him “romantic”. If I read the lyrics, I can see where she is coming from. I suspect that this has less to do with the lyrics or the mood of the song and more to the age we were when these songs came into our lives. I’m young for the typical New Wave fan. For example, Love My Way came out in 1982 but I don’t remember hearing it or knowing it until much later. If I did hear it then, I was 7. I certainly wasn’t thinking “romantic” then.

Later in the chapter, Richard Butler explains how the band had a “cool popularity” and Love My Way threatened that. He explained how with that song, girls started to show up in the front rows and that they had to use back doors because of the fans. He said that they had to be “careful” with this popularity. As someone who studies fandom and fan/celebrity interaction, I totally understood what he meant. On one hand, having that level of fame and adoration must be amazing and addictive. On the other hand, it can and does change people significantly. Perhaps, the goal isn’t and shouldn’t be to be the most popular. It sounds like the point was that they wanted to have “fans” but not in an all-encompassing, overwhelming fan base kind of way.

Similarly, he didn’t seem all that excited with having Pretty in Pink associated with the John Hughes movie starring Molly Ringwald. I was a little jarred by that statement as someone who grew up watching those movies and loving them. Yet, for him, it seemed like he was bothered by how the intention of the meaning of the song seemed to change by its connection to that movie, that storyline. On one hand, I can understand that frustration. On the other, I like songs that can be interpreted in different ways. To me, that is a sign of intelligence by both the songwriter and the listener.

Rhonda:

So, to jump on Amanda’s bandwagon – I wasn’t into Richard Butler. I loved Psychedelic Furs, but this is one case where I can easily say I loved the music. Period.  Maybe I’m a late-bloomer, but “Love My Way”, “Pretty In Pink” and “Ghost in You” were some of my favorite songs simply because of the lushness of the sound – I don’t think I really listened to the words for interpretation until I was much older. (I think back to how my mom would ask me “Do you know what this song is about?!?” and how often my answer was “No, Mom. I don’t even listen to the words. I just love the music!!”….and I guess it’s not really surprising that my kids answer similarly when I ask them the same question. Sometimes I’m really shocked by what my kids are hearing until I realize that it was the same for me…and I survived.) So to recap: never thought of Richard Butler in that romantic sense….I didn’t listen to the words…and yet I call myself a fan. Awesome.

I’ve seen Psychedelic Furs live a few times, and so it was not really a surprise to me to read “We’ve always been a band that pulls people in. You won’t see me stomping up and down saying, ‘Can you hear me at the back?!’ and ‘Hello Chattanooga! It’s great to be here!’ The amount of words I will say to an audience during a tour is a page of a notebook and they would most be ‘Thank you.’ I don’t like talking much between songs.” (Page 155) 

I’d agree. Richard Butler doesn’t say much during a show – and from what I’ve witnessed, this is a band that, when they’re on, they’re good. When they’re off (which I’ve seen more than once), they’re not good and no one is being drawn anywhere. There’s not a lot of “connecting” going on between the band and audience – this isn’t a band you go and expect great showmanship in the same vein as you might from others. Whether that is a good or bad thing really depends on the show, in my opinion. 

I found Richard Butler’s comments about the movie, Pretty In Pink to be pretty sad. The movie gave the music more exposure…even if the song wasn’t presented in the light the band had written. I thought it was interesting that Richard didn’t necessarily think about how many possible fans could have been drawn to their music through that movie – for him it was all about the song and it’s use. In that sense, and based on his activity during their shows, I’m not sure that he derives a lot from the audience or his fans. There isn’t really as much of a give and take sort of connection there as I have seen with other bands, such as Duran Duran, but certainly others as well…and I think his statements here are good example of that.  It’s not that I think it’s particularly awful he feels that way, either. What’s fascinating to me though is that he’s also a painter – which is a very sort of introspective sort of art. One doesn’t necessarily connect with their audience when they paint – they connect with the work itself, in much the same way as Butler does or did with his music. Coincidence? Probably not.

Depeche Mode:

Amanda:

I openly admit that Depeche Mode is one of my favorite bands and has been for a long time. It hasn’t been as long as I have been a Duran fan but close. The introduction to this chapter reminded me that Depeche has changed over time, much like any other long lasting bands. In their case, they started out “optimistic” and cheerful unlike many of the other synth pops of that era. Of course, Depeche Mode at this time included Vince Clarke, who later left to form other bands like Erasure. Despite my love for the band, this early period isn’t my favorite Depeche era. I have always preferred the darker Depeche.

Vince described how they were often bored in the town of Basildon as it was a town that had nothing to do for kids. The town is described as just “mud”. It seems to me that music produced from a band in an area like that could either express the frustration, the despair created from the environment or the opposite. Depeche obviously didn’t want their music to match their surroundings. Of course, they also opted for synthesizers over guitars as they were “cheap”.  They didn’t need expensive amps like guitars did. Likewise, they didn’t require any knowledge of chords. This reminds me of how Daniel Miller in a previous chapter declared that electronic music was the most democratic. It was more accessible to everyone.

As Vince shared the story of how Depeche got started, I was amazed that one label offered them a spot on the Ultravox tour if Depeche signed with them whereas Daniel Miller offered only a single and they went with Daniel. It seemed like they did because of who Daniel was connected with. I know that Duran looked into who else EMI had signed into consideration when they were trying to decide which label to sign with.

I always wondered why Vince decided to leave Depeche. While this chapter didn’t really explain that much, I did learn that he was truly the leader of the band at that time. Perhaps, his leaving could have been the best thing for the rest of the band as they had to step up and take on more responsibility. This would be needed if the band was going to continue and be successful. Obviously, it worked out well for Vince, too.

Rhonda: 

Like most teens, I had my happy-go-lucky moment and my depressing moments. Thankfully for me, Depeche covered both rather well.  I’d start off with “Just Can’t Get Enough” and end with “Blasphemous Rumours” (my long-lasting favorite).  Never did I realize that Vince Clarke had everything to do with my happy moments, and nothing to do with my sadder ones. I feel a little embarrassed to admit that, given that I’ve been a DM fan for almost as long as I’ve been a DD fan – but the two bands couldn’t be farther apart from the ways I choose to practice that fandom. For me, DM is the band I simply listen to in the VERY few quiet moments I find. DD, on the other hand…well, I do write a blog, don’t I? I’ve never seen Depeche Mode live, yet I own all of their albums and a lot of their imports – singles, etc. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything having not seen them. In fact, I rather enjoy that for me – this fandom is EASY. I expect nothing but music, and I’m never disappointed.  

Like New Order in some respects, Depeche Mode got me interested in electronic music. I asked for a cheapy Casio keyboard for Christmas one year just because I wanted to be able to learn to play some of their music by ear. It’s funny to me that I never thought to ask for a guitar – I think that generally speaking, the guitar seems a lot more complicated to me. All those strings, chords and fingerings. I can make a lot more happen on a keyboard or synthesizer by fiddling with some knobs and buttons. So, I can understand why Martin Gore went with the synthesizer – and it’s a good thing for us that he did go that route, since everyone in the band followed! 

Vince says something else that really hits home with me, “I’m a fan of Kraftwerk, but I’m more of a fan of people like OMD, because I like emotional records. Music affects me changes my insides – it really does.”  This couldn’t possibly be any more dead-on. I’ve never been able to articulate why I like some electronic and dislike others. I didn’t really have a good answer for why I’m not into some of the electronic I hear today…until now. The emotion matters. Music has to hit me internally, it needs to stay with me. Some songs do that just because of the music – I don’t know why but they do. Others, it’s the lyrics. With Depeche, I find a lot of both, and equally from the one record that Vince Clark did with them through to what people like to call “Depressed Mode”. Truthfully, their songs ARE depressing – but those songs are also what helped this very-awkward young lady get through some difficult moments in high school.  

Yaz:

Amanda:

In this chapter, the song, “Only You,” is described by Alison Moyet, the singer, as a “universal, everyman song.” Vince Clarke agreed that it had a simple arrangement and one he had written after Depeche.  He wanted Alison to demo it because she could sing with emotion.  She agreed simply because she needed the money. She didn’t desire to be a pop star or have a big hit. I always find it interesting when some artist gains some success without really trying 110%. I always hear the opposite. Success happens with that passion combined with lots and lots of hard work, right? Maybe not always.

Alison’s frustration about the lack of acknowledgement about her work in the band comes through loud and clear in this interview.  According to her, people always assume that Vince wrote everything and she was just the singer. She sounds so tired of trying to explain to everyone that she, too, wrote songs for the band. Is this an example of sexism within the music industry? Possibly. I would be interested to know if other female performers who wrote material experienced the same assumption. Yet, she later states how women experienced less sexism then in comparison to present day. Now, she says women have to present themselves as sex toys but then women could express themselves as independent people with a bit of aggression. I have to agree with her that real freedom isn’t always about appearing as characters in male sex fantasies.

I found her definition of being “famous” to be really fascinating. To her, it wasn’t about people all loving her as much as it was about how she was recognized and how people always had something to say about her. Is that the real definition of fame?

Rhonda:

I had no idea that “Only You” was written by Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet.  I knew it as Yaz, and I knew that I loved it’s simplicity. Sometimes it’s nice just to love something without knowing anything about it – it feels innocent and pure. Sure, I might be naive…and I like it here.

I like the way Alison Moyet describes the song as nursery rhyme simplicity – and how Lori Majewski calls it a lullaby. Those words are perfect. The song is simple, clean and beautiful. My only disagreement with Alison Moyet on this is that I feel you DO have to be a great singer to pull off that emotion – and she does. Period. End of story.

While I would be perfectly content to keep this song on a pedestal of its own and never know the backstory – it’s interesting to read that Clarke and Moyet weren’t really “a band” in the same sense of others in this book. They were so detached from one another, it blows my mind that they could be that detached and yet put out two albums – maybe I shouldn’t be surprised (hello naivety!!)  I can absolutely read the frustration from Alison when she talks about how it was assumed that Vince was the creator and she was the voice. I’d like to tell her that for me – it was always her. She was the voice, and I just assumed that for her to sing with that kind of emotionality, she had to have been the one to write the words – if not the music as well.  I just didn’t know any different.  I’d also argue that for me, I usually assume that the vocalist IS the writer.  Maybe that’s just because Duran Duran has trained me to think that way – but I do, and I doubt I’m alone. 

I usually leave the comments on Feminism to my writing partner – but on this one, I have to interject. I agree wholeheartedly with Alison Moyet that today – women can’t just present themselves in a male light without being sexually aggressive. It’s annoying – it’s as though the only way a female can portray real power in the industry is as a sex-toy.  It’s so insulting to me as a female that women in the industry line up, practically begging for the opportunity to be used in that way – it’s as though they’re willing to do whatever they’ve got to do in order to make it through.  It’s gross. I choke on the idea that Beyonce…of all the women on the freaking planet, is considered to be “the most feminist” of female artists.  Are you joking?  Because she tells men that if they liked it they should have put a ring on it?  That’s IT?  We have pretty low standards for what qualifies as power these days.  

Next week, we take a look at Kim Wilde, Howard Jones and Berlin – so be sure to check in!!