It is Book Club Monday! There are only 2 weeks left of our latest book and book club. As we hope you know, we have been reading and discussing the book, Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 1980s. This week we are focused on the chapters on INXS, Thompson Twins and Simple Minds. Join us with your thoughts on these chapters!
Before I started reading this chapter, I wondered if the focus was going to be Michael’s death or how the band has attempted to keep going without him. I wouldn’t have criticized that, if that had been the focus. After all, Michael was such a talent, a larger-than-life person. Yet, I knew that the loss of Michael would be felt, would be acknowledged (as it should) through the music, according to the last couple of lines of author’s, Lori Majewski’s introduction about interviewing remaining members of the band, “…I could tell that they were still dealing with the loss 16 years later. But they weren’t melancholy conversations, because we were talking about the part of Hutchence that will never die: his songs.” Truly, I think this is all any artist can hope for–that one’s art, no matter the medium, lives on.
Like Rhonda mentions in her section, I, too, wasn’t surprised that Original Sin was produced by Nile Rodgers. Much like Duran, they were clearly fans of his and knew that working with him meant that they had were in the current music scene. I suspect artists today still feel the exact same way. Of course, they were such fans that they were nervous about working with him. I can understand that. Nile saw that and knew that he was going to have to deal with that. I love that he did by having the rehearsal of Original Sin be secretly recorded and going with that. Of course, the song created some controversy with the interracial lyrics. It saddens me that lyrics about an interracial couple would cause anyone to be upset, but I’m not surprised by this, especially in the States during that time. This reminds me about how the record label of Duran’s didn’t like Nile’s mix of The Reflex as they felt it sounded “too black”. Clearly, racism was alive and well then.
One thing I always like about reading these chapters is how I learn something new about the artists behind the music. I was fascinated with the statement about how Michael felt that he could talk to people through his lyrics. He didn’t need to talk much and let his lyrics speak for him. On one hand, I love the idea that one’s writing, one’s art truly does show what someone thinks and feels. On the other hand, I know how easily one’s lyrics can be interpreted in multiple ways. Wasn’t he worried that there would be misunderstanding? That said, I guess all forms of communication can be misinterpreted. No matter how his lyrics are interpreted, I, for one, are thankful they were written and made available for all of us to enjoy. Truly, his voice and words live on.
You know what I would love? I would love for the first thought to come to mind when talking about INXS NOT be that Michael Hutchence is no longer with us. But it is, and as much as I try to fight that – I simply can’t.
Some say that Michael Hutchence was sex, personified. I probably wouldn’t disagree. Lori Majewski mentions that his death was the first time she’d lost one of her idols. Again, I wouldn’t argue one bit and there are times when even now, I sit back and think “Wow, did that really happen?” That’s real grief, and it’s unavoidable. She says that in interviewing Andrew and Tim Farriss for this chapter she could tell that they were still dealing with his death. I have no doubt. Grief changes in feeling, but it’s still grief. Jonathan says, “I listen to ‘Devil Inside’, ‘What You Need’, and ‘Never Tear Us Apart’, and I think ‘Boy, could we use a band like that today.’” AMEN.
It was never a surprise to learn that Nile Rodgers had produced Original Sin. One cannot help but hear his influence…and let’s face it…he also worked with Duran Duran (notably after INXS). It’s no wonder the band wanted to work with him – he is a genius. Tim Farriss notes, “We were the first young white band to use Nile. I remember seeing John Taylor, and he was saying how much [Duran Duran] would love to work with him. ‘You used Nile Rodgers, eh? How is he?’ I was like, ‘Awesome man, but I don’t think he likes bass players.’ I was trying to turn him off to the idea. Sure enough, they ended up using him. That trick didn’t work.” I laugh.
What IS surprising, however, is Original Sin was a one-take record. Nile realized the band was in awe of him, so he had them rehearse it – while he had the sound engineer record the entire thing. That’s the way to get ‘er done, Nile. (I know a band that could use some of that again….*coughs*)
More “surprises”…the song was banned in the US, and I’m sure it’s because as Andrew Farriss described, it was the elephant in the room (and still is). It’s so silly when you think about it now, but back then? That was a huge deal. Yes, America is still far behind the rest of the world. To my parents – you just didn’t see that sort of thing in their generation much. Just to let you all in on a piece of my own history: it was a HUGE deal when I dated a Mexican kid in high school. You can’t even imagine. I mean, I’m Italian for crying out loud (my dad was kicked out of places when he was growing up because he was Italian and lived in New Jersey – where that lineage was frowned upon!) – and my boyfriend at the time was half Mexican/half white-as-me, but I practically had to get permission from the Pope before my parents gave me the OK. Ridiculous. My kids don’t even blink when they see people together, which is the way I want it. Things change. We’ve still got a long way to go, but from my point of view, it’s getting better. Slowly.
It seems like the only other thing to touch on is life after Michael. I have a continued difficult time with that – and I’m not even one of their biggest fans. I’m just a fan who loves their music, and I miss them. I’ve had fleeting affairs with some of their lead singers, but none touch the heartstrings of Michael – and I’m not really sure I’d want it any other way. I wish the band would tour again on one hand, and on another I’m not sure it was ever the same…but then, I never expected it to be. I just wish them well.
This is going to sound weird but my most vivid memory of this band and this song was when I was stereo buying. My first CD player happened as a result of my 8th grade graduation. It didn’t last. By sophomore year in high school, I was back to buying a stereo. I couldn’t live without my music! How did I decide which stereo to buy? I decided by listening to this song played loudly in the store on various stereos! While I always liked this song, there was something about hearing it played in such a way that I appreciated it in a much bigger way afterwards.
Two aspects of the Thompson Twins story really caught my attention. First, there was the couple aspect between Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie. Second, there was their very clear decision to be “pop stars”. Both seemed to affect not only the life of the band but also their decision not to reform as Thompson Twins.
Again, like Rhonda below, I had no idea that Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie were together, eventually married (and divorced) and had children together. I’m not ever really surprised when I read about how two people from a band were romantically linked. I think that can happen whenever people work very closely together. What I find more interesting is what it was like for the third member, Joe Leeway. Was he worried about how their relationship would affect the band? What if they broke up? Would they want to become a duo? Clearly, they managed to navigate this but I still wonder what affect it had. Now, of course, Tom and Alannah are divorced. Would they be more interested in reforming, if they were still married? Who knows.
Lastly, I found it very interesting that they made a clear distinction about being pop stars instead of trying to be pop stars. They went this way in order to treat it like a serious job and as a means to achieve their goals. I think things like how you refer to yourself definitely does affect how confident you are, which impacts everything else. Yet, now that they have different careers, does the title hold them back from reforming? They can’t reform because they aren’t pop stars anymore? Again, who knows.
My name is Rhonda Rivera and I am a fan of Hold Me Now. Any hope of being “hardcore” (as my 17-year old daughter Heather says) is finished now, I suppose. Damn. I loved that song the entire way through school, and I still love it today. I miss the band, having bought all of their albums and continuing to treasure them today.
As nieve as I was, I had no idea that Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie were a couple. This explains the song so much, and yet I understand why they kept it private. I had a friend who was in a rock band that was becoming well-known and somewhere early into the journey he told me that he was taking a stage name. I didn’t get it at the time, but now I understand. For him, he was trying to keep the stage life separate from the real life. I don’t know how successful he was (we lost touch), but I can understand the need to compartmentalize.
One thing I truly loved about the Thompson Twins was the audible influence of world music. I think of “You Take Me Up” or “The Gap” and you can’t help but hear the African influence, and it’s done well. The other thing I loved about the Thompson Twins was something I didn’t even realize until I read this book – and that was Nile Rodgers. It isn’t lost on me that among the bands I cared about most during the 80s – Nile seems to be a common denominator. (Not bad for someone who never thought she was a disco fan!)
It’s curious to me that during the writing of the book, Tom Bailey says that he isn’t interested in touring as Thompson Twins, which I really can’t blame him given that he and Alannah Currie are divorced. But not long after reading, I saw that he is actually touring with Howard Jones, Midge Ure and others. Good for him.
Seriously, this is one of those songs that I have to wonder if there is anyone of my generation who doesn’t love it. Much like the movie in which it featured in the soundtrack, it represents that time for so many. Everyone knows it. Everyone loves it.
When I read this chapter, I realized how lucky we all were that it got made. Clearly, the band wasn’t super comfortable to do someone else’s song. (Isn’t that a sign of the times, too? Nowadays, I assume that any popular, radio-friendly song is written by someone OTHER than the artist/singer/band performing it. Then, though, I thought everyone wrote their own songs. I believe that all the songs written in this book, up until this point, were written by the singers/bands themselves, just to prove a point.) Yet, they decided to “smell the coffee” as they phrased it and went with it. I like how they worked to make it their own, though. I suspect is something not done much today as performers just go with what has been given to them for whatever reason.
Throughout this book, there have been a number of themes to emerge. This chapter brings out two of them: how bands dealt with their apparent (but not really) one hit and how this time period was filled with such creativity. I have to say that I truly appreciated how Jim Kerr viewed both. While he knows that he had many, many other quality songs beyond this one, he knows that this is the one that has lived on. He understands that the song now belongs to everyone. It is that HUGE. He also understands the connection to a movie that also connected for so many. There is no bitterness or anger there. I only sensed acceptance. Likewise, I appreciated his attitude when discussing the creativity of this musical era. He talked about how bands all hung out together and would acknowledge chart success. Competition did not seem to be fierce, but part of that seemed to be because each group was so unique. No one had to worry about the other. There was “no collective sound” but an “imagination”. I miss that.
Another “most favorite”. I think I might be better off naming the bands that are NOT on that list – it would be far shorter! When I think of this band, I can’t help but think of “Alive and Kicking” and “Don’t You Forget About Me” first…but bringing up the rear is “Someone Somewhere in Summertime”. I got a massive sunburn while listening to the entire album (New Gold Dream) one year while camping in San Diego, but I still love the song.
I never realized the song wasn’t theirs, and that’s on me. I just assumed…which I’m finding in this industry is a huge “joke is on you” type of error to make. I will say that Jim totally makes it Simple Minds own with his vocals and his “Hey hey hey HEY” at the beginning, and I’m glad that they consider it a pleasure to play. So many times it ends up being the thorn in the side of what was a great career, but they seem to have embraced the fact that the song really broke through the American Ceiling for them. I think what bothers me about the band is that they’ve still got a lot of great music going for them that never gets heard over here, and as a result they rarely tour here, which really bums me out as a fan – but I get it.
Once again I find something poignant to end my portion of the discussion, this time from Jim Kerr himself – about the 80s, “There wasn’t a collective sound like there was a sound of the sixties, but there was an amazing imagination. That was a very potent collection of kids – and we were kids at the time – and I still listen to a lot of that music to this day. (299)
I couldn’t say it better.
It’s nearly the end!! Next week we end our chapter-by-chapter discussion of Mad World by discussing what is likely the most shocking and shameful chapter in the entire book – “Obsession” by Animotion. Then we turn that emotion on it’s head by talking about the most beloved holiday song for nearly any Duranie/New Wave fan: “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, by Band Aid…and then just maybe we’ll do a wrap up of what we’ve learned along the way. Please feel free to join in!!
-A & R