On today’s date in 2004, Duran Duran played Wembley Arena in London, UK. They played Wembley Arena five nights during this period in 2004: April 13, April 14, April 24 and then April 30 and May 1st. I hear they sold the place out….
As you might recall, the band released a little DVD aptly named Live from London, which was recorded at Wembley during these shows… and if memory serves, there may have been a few theatre screenings of this DVD scattered across the US to celebrate it’s release. Duran Duran on a big screen? YES.
We should really do all that again, don’t you think??
On this day in (a year I won’t mention today)…Amanda Pustz of Daily Duranie was born. 😀 Happy Birthday Amanda!!!
Let’s take a look at some special Amanda/Rhonda memories over the years, shall we? In September of this year, I will mark 10 years as having known Amanda. Prior to our meeting in person at a DD fan convention, I did run into her posts from time to time on the DDF message board – but it was only after we met that I think she became more involved on the message boards and online communities for Duran Duran. One might say that I was a bad influence. However, I present the following as evidence in the contrary:
Quick question: which one of us is holding the vodka bottle?
I thought so.
But…rather than embarrass Amanda (primarily because she will get me back in spades…and who really wants that?!?), I decided to pick out a few of my better memories with a few stories that go along with them: (They aren’t in order. I’m not the organized one out of the two of us…)
This is on Bourbon street in New Orleans. The date is right, so we were there for the Voodoo Festival Let’s see if anyone can guess what we’re yelling. (I’ll never tell…)
Below is from the same weekend. Club Ampersand – where a fan get together had been planned by DDM. It was a fascinating beginning to the weekend, I must say.
We made it to the star in LA and took photos. This isn’t just about it being Duran Duran, this is a memory that (for me) showcases how long we’ve worked together on our manuscript, this blog…and bigger dreams.
Naturally, I can’t ever forget the trips we made to the UK. Who ever thought we’d go?? Twice?? In a single year?? Thankfully, I have a fantastic traveling partner.
Success!!! This is a photo of us in Brighton Centre – I won’t ever forget that night, and I’m sure Amanda won’t either.
And then there’s the night we finally found ourselves in front row!!
And lastly (for now), there’s Durandemonium. There is no way I would have ever attempted such a thing without her – and I can really say that had she not been there pulling me along – it likely wouldn’t have ever happened. And now we’re planning another!
We try to remind everyone that while the music is what brought us here, it really is the friendships that keep us coming back for more. Maybe I’m just a big sap, but as I was driving home in particularly nasty traffic last Friday afternoon, it occurred to me that if the band REALLY needs motivation to continue, or inspiration to write – they really need not look further than the real friendships that they, in an indirect sort of way, have helped to create.
Amanda, I hope you have a wonderful birthday – and next year, I hope we’re celebrating the release of some really fantastic music to add to the soundtrack of our friendship at the same time we’re celebrating your birthday!!!
Yesterday afternoon, I packed up my Mad World book, picked up my own chauffeur from work (my husband!), some Daily Duranie wristbands (do you have yours yet?!?), my camera and made my way up to the Sunset Strip to one of my favorite bookstores: Book Soup! My mission was to have my book signed by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein, authors of Mad World. I’d never been to a book signing that had a DJ along for the ride, spinning tunes as we stood in line. My husband Walt commented as we stood in line hearing Echo and The Bunnymen that it felt like we’d been propelled back in time to the early 80s. Observant, that husband of mine…. I loved the music, and yes, I did stay long enough to catch the familiar chords of Girls on Film flowing in the air. But back to that signing…
Book Soup is not a huge bookstore. It is this fabulous, homey feeling bookstore in the heart of the Strip. Situated just up the street from the likes of the Key Club, Viper Room and The Whisky among others, it’s in an unlikely spot, which is very much part of it’s charm. It reminds me of the independent bookstores I’d find on the main street of Glendora or Covina – my home town(s). Not only can one find books in Book Soup, but there’s vinyl as well – bonus!!
As I arrived last night and stepped into the store, there was no way you couldn’t be immediately swept away back to the 80’s. Kajagoogoo was playing, and no – I can’t listen to “Too Shy” without thinking of Nick Rhodes. I’m forever cursed. Thanks Nick. I wound my way to the line snaking around the perimeter of one side of the store, and as I stood in line, I dared myself to think back to what it was like listening to these songs in the 80s. I was pretty young back then, and if I only knew where it all might lead me… (and if I could figure that out now, well, maybe I’d actually be making a decent living!!) I just remember a time when I could turn on the radio and song after song would carry me away from my teenage problems to a world of daydreams. Nowadays I struggle to find a regular radio station that I can actually stand to listen to more than a song or two. The joys of aging, I suppose.
I looked up as I stood in line and caught the wandering eye of Lori Majewski, as she glanced to see how far back the line began. She waved. I started to wave back but then thoughtto myself, wait a minute. She couldn’t possibly recognize you, Rhonda. She doesn’t even KNOW you. Now you’re waving like an idiot. Awesome. So I looked around, only to find that no one else was looking up. She was waving my way after all. Great job, self-confidence. *begin slow clap here* I swear it was it was my own personal Ducky moment from Pretty in Pink. (watch the end of the movie if you don’t know what I mean…and why on earth do you not know what I mean?!?)
As I recovered from that moment (there are just times when I’m glad the band ISN’T there, you know??), I saw Patty Palazzo walk past me – and so I did what any normal person might do any Duranie might do, I got out of line to go say hi! I’d never met Patty before, but I have exchanged emails a few times….and actually, we’d agreed to talk that night about setting up an interview for the blog!! (I’m so excited about this news that I might burst! No really. I just ate carrot cake. I might honestly burst.) I don’t know where my courage came from because I am really not this brave ever, but I walked up and said hello, and even dared to hug her. *gasp* I don’t know WHERE that came from, because my friends – Rhonda is not a hugger. I like personal space. I am not touchy-feely. But I hugged Patty last night, and I’m pretty sure I violated her personal space. Maybe this is why I’ve never really gotten anywhere near the band…I’m a closet hugger!!! *gasp* This is really why I should never be allowed to go to events like this unattended. (meaning without Amanda) I even got Patty and a few new friends to wear our Daily Duranie wristbands! Amanda should be so proud…because I had those darn wristbands in my bag, and I kept thinking to myself: do I dare hand them out? Really? Should I? Will I look as super cool as I do right now if I hand them out?
(The answer is no. No Rhonda…you never looked super cool to begin with, so…you’re safe. Go with it.) So I did! Never mind that it took my darling husband three or four tries to get a decent photo…
Before I knew it, we were up to the front and Jonathan Bernstein was doing everything possible to make sure I knew it was time to hand over my book. I was too mesmerized by the process to see that he was practically grabbing my book out of my hands. (so sorry!) The next thing I knew, I was being introduced to Lori Majewski by Patty, and we’d set up a time to get together for something I’m not going to talk about just yet…you’ll have to just watch this space! (Again, I’m really thinking I might burst. Remind me that carrot cake is never an acceptable breakfast substitute…)
It’s blurry (sorry Jonathan…I hope your photographer was better than mine!)…but it is a very cool memory. Admittedly I am fangirling just a bit over meeting Lori. Back in the day, before writing Mad World, before Teen People, she was the editor of a Duran fanzine. How cool is that?? I don’t know where in the hell I was back then, but I intend to ask her all about that…when we meet up for that thing I’m not going to talk about just yet!
If that weren’t enough, and it’s really not EVER enough (I believe there’s a John Taylor quote to be had somewhere in there), after I had my books signed I had the chance to run into Duranie friends. I know that I’ve lamented here about how much I miss the band, and I do. Maybe that’s overly sentimental, but I miss seeing them play and I especially miss that sense of “one-ness” that we all feel with them when the show is going right. We’re all in that same place together feeling the same thing. It’s a remarkably cool feeling that I hope all fans get to experience at one time or another. However, it’s in moments like some that I had last night that I remember how much I miss my friends from afar. Friends from the UK, Europe, the midwest, east, northwest…southeast…I’ve been very lucky to have made real friends in a multitude of places, and last night I had just the smallest taste of getting to see some of them again. We don’t gather very often, and it was really nice to catch up with a few of them. Friendships are the one collective “thing” about being a Duranie I treasure most. Well, there is the music too…I mean, duh… (can’t really forget to mention the band, can I??), but I love seeing friends from all over.
The night ended relatively early for us, as we had to get back home, but it was really a great night and I’m glad I went to the signing. If you haven’t gotten your copy of Mad World yet, do yourself a favor and look for it on Amazon. I have read the entire thing once and am going back through it a second time. Jonathan and Lori did a fantastic job interviewing all of the bands, and there is just so much information in there – things we never would have ever known about the music we grew up with. It is genuinely worth the read. You should see my book, I was telling Jonathan last night as we left that my book is all marked up, highlighted, red-lined, complete with notes in the margin! (Note to self: next time, bring a book that is not already marked up with your notes in it…)
As many now know, it was announced last night that John Frusciante will be making a guest appearance on the next Duran Duran album. News had initially been leaked early Monday morning (US time) through Guitar Magazine. At that time, the news was largely dismissed as rumor, given that Duran Duran management (or as we lovingly refer to them – DDHQ) had not confirmed.
Let me kindly repost the statement, copied directly from Duranduran.com:
“April 23rd, 2014
We were holding this exciting news because we were hoping to give you full details when we announced, but as word has leaked out, catching us rather off guard, we wanted to confirm… yes it’s true, the extraordinarily talented John Frusciante has indeed been doing some work from his home base in California on our new album. The tracks have been going back and forth via the internet, and we are thrilled with the results. We are all such big fans of John’s work and are honoured to have him adding his magic to the record! There are no current plans for John to tour with us, but his guitars sound incredible on the tracks.
Hoping to have more news for you soon.
– Simon, John, Nick & Roger”
Naturally, that news took many of us…many of us who are fans and supporters of Dom Brown, by surprise. Would he appear on the album at all? Would Dom tour with the band? Thankfully, while I was in the midst of a book signing in LA (another blog, another time), @durantigger dared to ask the question to DDHQ and they responded quickly saying that Dom would appear on the album…and from what I know, he will also be touring.
When news of John Frusciante guesting on the album first broke, I took to Spotify to really listen to his work. I know the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers , but had I really listened to the guitar enough to draw any sort of conclusion? Probably not. Then I listened to John’s solo work from Enclosure, a very recently released album. It is incredibly different from his work in Red Hot Chili Peppers. Truly, the styling could not be more different. Clearly he is a very talented and versatile guitarist, but whether or not his work will properly mesh with that of the band is yet to be heard (by fans). It is clear that most fans are thrilled with the news, with very few dissenting opinions.
As I type this, I know what many of our readers are waiting to read. They’re hoping for some drama, some reaction from me on a personal level. The fact is, I can’t comment or react to something I haven’t heard. I won’t comment on their choice to work with someone in addition to Dom Brown, because truthfully, it is not my band. I’m just a listener. I don’t have any idea what the band is thinking. I never do. I know that I’m ready for some new music, and I’m hoping that at some point before I lose my hearing to old age, we’ll get some. I know that the band threw out a years worth of material to start anew here, and that it’s all part of the creative process. I also know that before this process ends for them, it is entirely possible that they change their minds again and start over. You never know, and I’m just not going to react to something until I’ve heard it. And then…you’ll get my opinion on whether or not this worked.
On today’s date in 1993, Duran Duran played the Durban Expo Centre in Durban, South Africa. This is not an area of the world where the band tours often…so I have to ask, did any of our readers attend??
Also on this date in 1984, The Reflex reached it’s peak of #1 in the US!! Not too shabby for a little band from Birmingham….
Sometimes, I think Duran Duran albums talk to each other. Specifically, they talk to their predecessor. I remember the first time I listened to The Wedding Album and hearing the line “You rescued me from liberty” in Love Voodoo, and wondering if I was reading too much into the lyric to wonder if Simon wasn’t taking a shot at the last album. Or the beginning of “Hold Me,” when he starts with “This time…” — somehow I got into my head that “Hold Me” was one of the first songs written for Notorious and that line/ad lib was basically Simon’s way of expressing the uncharted territory the band was in, now down to a trio. Additionally… all the lyrics to “Still Breathing,” which I took as a declaration against the previous lineup of the band. I can’t prove any of this, it’s just in my head when I listen to these songs and albums.
This topic circles in my head for a few reasons. First, we are between albums. Speculation abounds about the sound of DD14. We know the band never does the same thing twice. We also know that, on AYNIN, they finally felt comfortable “reclaiming” some of that old ground/sound. So what will happen on the next album? In what way will it be a reaction to what they did on AYNIN?
Additionally, Notorious, the album, has been in heavy circulation on my iPod for the last few months. I think there are a lot of parallels between Notorious and All You Need Is Now. Both feature very strong title tracks that will likely be a staple of the band’s live set as long as they continue to tour (I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that the song AYNIN will continue to be featured, but you never know). Both were heavily anticipated after a pause in the band’s career in which it was uncertain what direction they would take. Both were heavily influenced/co-written by the album’s producer, and both featured a mix of guest musicians on other tracks (and in the case of Notorious, it remains the only Duran album that features the work of both Andy and Warren).
Why do I bring up these parallels? I am trying to draw conclusions about DD14, and I think we might gain insight by understanding the relationship between Notorious and its follow-up, Big Thing.
I’ve always viewed Notorious as being a very solid, “orderly” album, with perfect alignment between the A and B sides, the Hitchcock theme, and the neatly packaged video that tied back to the album artwork. Big Thing is the exact opposite. It’s noisy, disorganized, loud (at least the first half), moody (the second half) and unconventional. Notorious features a virtual all-star cast of guest musicians, including Nile Rodgers, Andy, Warren, and Steve Ferrone, not to mention the album cover featuring super model Christy Turlington. Big Thing boasts no such lineup—it is the truly the first (and ultimately only, as it would turn out) Taylor-Rhodes-LeBon collaboration, with Warren sprinkled in, albeit in a non-writing role. On Notorious, the songs tend to follow the standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/outro format, which the exception of Winter Marches On. On Big Thing, it’s the exception when a song follows that format. Notorious is defined by its title track; the song Big Thing mocks itself and the music industry in general, and is probably one of the more forgettable songs on the record.
When John, Nick, and Simon hosted an hour-long countdown of their favorite Duran videos on MTV in 1988, they commented that on Notorious, they were very polite to each other and trying to figure out how to function as a band. Not so during the Big Thing sessions, where “we were all screaming at each other.” This is not surprising. The trio had weathered the uncertainty of the Notorious era; they had put out an album and toured and had success despite the loss of Andy and Roger (of course, they were no longer the biggest band in the world, but at least they knew there was still an audience for their music, albeit a smaller one than before).
So, with that out of the way, they pushed themselves creatively on Big Thing. What resulted was an album of disparate sides: the first consisting mostly of noisy, dance “house” music, and the second slower, moody ballads. Side one featured the hit single “I Don’t Want Your Love,” that is possibly the band’s most underrated and forgotten hit (and one of my personal favorites), and the follow-up single “All She Wants Is” which didn’t chart as well, but did see a lot of club play. The B-side is built around the lush anthem “Land,” one of the longer Duran songs in the catalogue that clocks in at just over six minutes. Preceding it are the haunting “Do You Believe in Shame?” and airy “Palomino.” I remember first listening to Big Thing and strongly disliking the second side, and then about a week later I had a strange tune stuck in my head…and it turned out to be “Palomino.”
Conversely, I did love “Edge of America” the minute I heard it, and still do to this day. And I always have considered “Edge of America” and “Lake Shore Driving” to be one song, even if they have different titles and are on separate tracks. It’s an unconventional way to end Big Thing but it works, as the Nick’s synths and Warren’s guitar bring the proceedings full circle to how the album started.
There are many other details about Big Thing that we could cover (the two different producers, the controversy over the mixes of “Drug” that highly annoyed John, etc.) but those can be left to another blog. The question is, how can Big Thing’s differences from Notorious inform us as to DD14’s differences from AYNIN?
For starters, I suspect that there will be more of a balance between ballads and dance songs on DD14. AYNIN was heavily skewed toward upbeat music (much like Notorious) with several well-placed slower songs to even out the album’s pacing. I think it’s natural for the band to be inclined to write some more moody material after an album as upbeat as AYNIN.
And speaking of the band…by all accounts, it’s just them, just like it was on Big Thing. Or at least it’s more of “just them” than the AYNIN sessions, which included Mark Ronson, Ana Matronic, Kelis, Owen Pallett, and Nick Hodgson, as well as newscaster Nina Hossain. There was a report that Ronson worked with them initially but every quote I’ve read since indicates that it’s just the five (Rhonda says four…because we certainly don’t hear much of Dom being there lately. Just saying..) of them in the studio.
Is this a good thing or not? I think time will tell. Duran has made some tremendous music when they close ranks and keep it “in house”—see Big Thing and The Wedding Album and Astronaut, at least as originally conceived. But therein lies my concern: Duran Duran also seems to make ill advised decisions when there is no outside producer to referee things. (I’m convinced that Ronson or even Timbaland—yes, Timbaland—or any of us, for that matter—would have told them to keep “Beautiful Colours” and “Salt in the Rainbow” on the Astronaut album. As it was, they went through three producers on that one.)
Do you think I’m reading too much into the relationship between Notorious and Big Thing to infer anything from AYNIN and DD14? And are you worried about the apparent lack of an outside producer tied to this project?
C.K. Shortell is a lifelong Duran Duran fan who lives in the northeast with his wife and two sons, one of whom loves watching concert footage of the band. When he’s not struggling to explain to a two 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.
It’s April Katy Kafé time…and that means Roger Taylor is in the Kafé!
As always, I dutifully listened to the Kafé, took copious notes, and am ready to once again summarize, translate, commentate, and flat out poke fun at Mr. Taylor, although I will go easy on him since of course it is his birthday month. (Happy Birthday Roger!!) It is a very tough job, but I do it all for you. For YOU.
I will reiterate my disclaimer: I am not rewriting the Kafé word for word (are you kidding me?), you are merely getting my point of view, and if you were to listen to the Kafé yourself (and I wholeheartedly recommend that you do), it is extremely likely that you might hear things differently. This is my blog, I write it as I hear it. Done.
Mr. Hudson: While I was a little confused as to whether Mr. Hudson was writing with the band or producing (and I still kind of am), Roger said that Mr. Hudson approached management about working with the band. Wendy called the band, mentioned that he was interested in working with them, and the band agreed to have him join them in the studio for a meeting and go from there. From what I could gather, it sounds as though he worked with them on two songs – this Kafé was done a week ago or so (I’ve lost track of time) when Mr. Hudson was currently in the studio with them. One of the songs is slower but is still “groovy” and has an “amazing chorus”. The other is more uptempo. Roger says that Mr. Hudson brought some new energy in the studio and quoted John as saying he gave the band a “musical face lift”. It wasn’t made clear as to whether he was continuing to work with the band or if he was just doing those two songs . What WAS made clear is that the songs he was working on with the band were both brand new in addition to the breadth of material they already have written, and they do not know what will actually be on the album yet. As Roger put it, all of the songs are kind of fighting for placement on the team at this point. At the end of the process, they will sit down and decide what 9-12 songs belong on the album. They try to keep an open mind throughout the process…which by the way Roger says they are 3/4 of the way through at the moment.
DD14: Personally, I cannot wait until I can start typing the name of the album. I know that’s a long way off, but it’ll be nice. I have a feeling though that DD14 has earned it’s way into being the “forevermore” loving-moniker for this album by the fans. In any case, Roger feels pretty sure that fans will have new music to hear by the end of the year. He said that it would be finished by summer. I had a difficult time trying to decide if he meant one song, the writing for the album, or otherwise, but given that he believes they are 3/4 of the way through the process, I would have to assume that he means the writing and recording, but if someone wants to clarify that for me – feel free. I am not very privy to the process of mixing, but I gather that can take a very long time, which must be why Roger said “Obviously the album will not be out this year”, but they are really trying for early 2015. I have to believe him, and hope we’ll have much more to talk about in the latter part of this year into 2015. Katy mentioned (and I thank her for this) that it’s been stone silence from DD in the studio. She’s right, it definitely has, and Roger was quick to explain that right now, they’re in the mode of keeping their heads down, keeping focused, and working. Again, I believe that, and have no doubt that is how it has to be in order for them to ever get this album finished. But, we’re human and can’t help but mention that we miss them. Right?!?
The Reflex: Katy mentioned that they were working on something really cool for the fans to commemorate the anniversary of this album. I can only imagine…and chances are it’s being posted somewhere as I type this, because that’s typically how it all goes down. Things happen when I’m not looking. She asked Roger how it felt to be celebrating this anniversary. Roger said that he’s gotten “used” to these anniversaries. (Me too – although 30 years still feels like a really long time!) He said that he feels The Reflex is one of the most important songs they’ve released. The album version didn’t “jump out” at them until Nile got hold of it and “turned it on its head” As I mentioned in my earlier blog from today, a good many fans look to this song as the one that turned them into Duranies. I’m still wondering what DDHQ has cooked up for fans…
Fan Q&A: (I tried to get names. I am probably misspelling them, and I apologize!!)
Michelle wanted to know if Roger has any hearing damage from playing drums all of these years. Roger said that he was tested four or five years ago and was told that he had the same hearing as someone who has been through a war. Roger takes this in stride, saying that it’s to be expected when you’re a rock musician, but that his hearing really isn’t too bad.
Christine asked about whether or not Roger contributes to lyrics or song titles at all. He said that on this particular album there has been a lot of discussion amongst the four of them regarding titles and lyrics, but that Simon has taken the helm with the bulk of the writing on this one.
Athena asks about places that Roger hasn’t been on tour that he’d like to go, and Roger said he’d like to go to India, China and Israel.
Maia wanted to know if he’s used new technology on this album. Roger said that he’s been using the brand new Roland TD40 kit a lot for this album and he seems to really like it.
Sam asked when Roger knew he’d made it as musician (pop star) and how it felt. He answered saying that at one time early on he and John went record shopping right after the release of Planet Earth and their appearance on Top of the Pops. Girls recognized them and they ended up having to run down New Street in Birmingham. It was about that time that he’d been asked for an autograph for the first time, and he said that’s kind of about the time you start realizing that you’re famous.
Marilyn wanted to know if Roger would marry her to which Roger said that he would NOT say it depended on what she looked like but that it depended upon how she is, and that he liked her name. But then Katy reminded him (good save, Katy!!) that yes, Roger is in fact already married. “Oh, that’s right!! Rewind…rewind!!”
Roger is lucky he is not my husband today…because he’d be getting a phone call. 😀
Lastly, what does Roger want for his birthday if he could have anything? (I didn’t catch who asked this and I’m sorry!) Roger said that he would like a brand new Aston Martin in dark grey. Yes…because wouldn’t we all??? But he’s also going to the Maldives for a vacation for his birthday, and the only way you can get to the island is by sea plane (note to fans who might be thinking they can go find him there – I hope you are good swimmers!), which worries him a bit since he is not a fan of small airplanes.
He thanked everyone in advance for their good wishes, and was back in the studio within a flash. Nice, short and sweet Katy Kafé. No spoilers. No song titles…but we did hear a little bit about what’s going on in there, which is something!
If you’re a Duranie and you have a heartbeat (which is likely since you’re reading), chances are, you already KNOW what today is in Duran history. If you’ve been on Twitter or Facebook this week, you should know this, but I’m not into Pop (Ha ha, I made a funny) Quizzes, so I will spill: on today’s date in 1984, The Reflex was released.
Thirty years ago, people. Thirty years.
Now, I’m not saying you’re getting old or anything, particularly if you weren’t around to hear The Reflex on the radio the day it was released…but I was. So….there’s that. Happy days!!
For many Duranies, this was the song that made them cross the bridge, dance on the valentine, and swear they would be Duranies forever more. I wouldn’t know about that, because well, I was already a Duranie for a few years before this song came out. (again, we’re not saying old, but…) My partner-in-crime claims this date as her Duranniversary (I have played around with the spelling of that word more than I ever care to count…I’m going with this one!), so Happy Anniversary, Amanda!! Thirty years, thirty some shows??? (There would be more if the band ever decided to do some more shows. Just saying, because I can.)
I can remember hearing The Reflex on the radio in 1984, but it really wasn’t until I was in marching band in about October of 1984 that other kids in band started telling me about the song. I would patiently stand there, listen, and roll my eyes back into my head when they would say it was new…because by then it was SO six months ago…but that Nile Rodgers remix did something special with it, and I can remember friends, even friends who *gasp* were not into Duran Duran, thinking it was cool. Because it was. Maybe it wasn’t the best DD song ever written, maybe it was. One thing is certain: there was something special there…and here we are thirty years later.
#DDReflex8414 (I probably don’t get extra brownie points for posting the hashtag on the blog, but that’s OK!)
As promised, today I’m going to give a brief review (with no spoilers!!) of Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein’s new book, Mad World which is out today!
First of all (and most important), I want to disclose that Lori approached Amanda and I several months back about helping them out with promo for Mad World. While the typical “Are you sure she meant to contact us? I mean…we’re just a couple of fans!!” were made between Amanda and I, we were (and are) extremely honored. I suppose we could act cool, calm, collected and professional and put off an air of “Well of course they’d want our help”…that’s not exactly our style. Amanda and I are simply fans. Like you. We began this blog from that very simple two word fact, and that’s how we’re going to continue, forevermore. I should also disclose that I received a copy of the book early for review – and that has never happened before, so for us, this is a first, and we are completely honored by the opportunity. Maybe that’s overreaching on our part, maybe we’ll be slammed for saying so; but for Amanda and I, the way we see it is that someone out there sees the good we’re doing, and we’re very, very proud of that.
However, that won’t stop me from bringing forth an objective review….just so we’re clear about how much I adore this book.
I don’t want to give a lot away about Mad World because I really want everyone to go get their own copy. But, if you could see mine – you’d see it completely red-lined and highlighted. Yes, I still read as though I’m reading for a college course. If you take away just one thing from my review – I want our readers to know that reading this book makes the songs sound new again. Let me try to explain. Let’s face it: these songs are around thirty years old now. At one point or another, the songs started fading into the background. I might still listen to the music. I might (I do) still have nearly all of them included on my trusty mp3 player, but I don’t really hear them the way I once did. I don’t pay attention to every last drum beat, or every single crescendo or synth loop. I still love the music, but I don’t feel the music as much. It doesn’t completely consume me. Or at least it didn’t before Mad World.
Once I started reading though, that all changed. The book is basically divided into chapters that correspond with songs. So for example there is a chapter called Girls on Film. I’m pretty sure you can guess what and who that’s all about. Jonathan and Lori give their initial thoughts on the song (and band in a broad sense), then they include the interviews done with the band about that particular song – since this is an oral history. What I really like is the song is discussed in the original historical context – “How was it back in the 80s”, and then they have a section called “That was then, this is now”; and in that section the song is talked about from the present point of view. So, I found myself listening to the song before reading the chapter, then reading the chapter, and going back to listen to the song again. I couldn’t help but hear the song differently. It was as though my ears were reinvigorated!
This is not a book that I would critique based on writing style, or how much “dirt” was drummed up about the subject…although I feel that the bands involved seemed to be incredibly forthcoming and honest about their work, which is refreshing. Of course the writing is good. and I love that Lori and Jonathan are true to themselves. When they are fans, they say so and own it rather than try to play the “We are completely professional and above it all” card. Their commentaries are rooted in reality, and it is obvious that they enjoyed the work that went into the writing. However, the real star(s) of the book are the interviews. I learned so much in reading, and it wasn’t the big picture stuff that resonated – it was the little things. I could really get a sense of the emotionality that some of the artists interviewed continue to carry with them about songs that were written so long ago. I felt some of the heartbreak that others had when they looked back. I could even hear the anger, despair, distain and even apathy of others for their fellow band members. Those points in the book make the songs whole. It’s as though now I’ve got the full story – the 360 degree view.
This isn’t a book that could have been written as successfully even ten years ago. So many of these people needed to get past their own egos, whether they were overly trumped up, or completely deflated in the years gone by. It has taken this long for many of them to simply come to terms with what took place, which is why I really believe the interviews worked so well. In all honesty, I think that I needed to become an adult in order to fully treasure their stories.
Lori and Jonathan say that they wanted Mad World to be a fan friendly book. They have taken the route of going directly TO the fans to answer our questions, and get us involved. I have to give them kudos for doing so, because I believe the evidence is clear: it worked.
I am an 80s kid. I was born in November of 1970 and so when the year 1980 rolled around, I was 9 years old. My formative years were spent in the 80s, and when I think about the music I love, New Wave from 80s is the first to come to mind. It is a vital portion of my personal soundtrack, my playlist. Mad World fills in the gaps, the things I pondered while laying on my not-quite-orange but also not-quite-brown shag bedroom carpet listening to my stereo and staring at my green walls peppered with pinups of Duran Duran when I was a kid. Definitely worth the read.
Amanda and I plan to do more with Mad World in the coming weeks – so watch this space!