Tag Archives: John Taylor

Continuing to Trust the Process

Two things today:

First off, if you’re not already watching John’s bass tutorials on Wednesday, you should. They’re fairly short – this last one clocking in at a teensy bit over seven minutes – and they are highly entertaining, particularly if, like me, you’ve always wanted a birds eye view of what the song evolutionary process is really like!

Yesterday, John went into a little depth about Girls on Film, diving in and explaining everything from the beginning groove to finished bass line product. Dissecting the song to this level, down to the beginning thoughts of using octave intervals as the bass line, made my ears happy. I loved hearing the differences over the course of the process, and yes – one can see how you really do have to “Trust the Process” when it comes to songwriting. I can hardly wait for more!

Along those same lines, I tuned back in to listen to John welcome Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles) to a Q&A session. I must admit that while I’ve enjoyed a few of their (The Bangles) songs over the years, I’ve never been a die hard fan. Listening to Susanna talk about her career was fresh and new to me. She seems delightful and kind, not at all “Hollywood Fake-y”, which I appreciated. Somewhere deep and hidden within the cobwebbed caverns of my brain, I vaguely recalled hearing that Prince had written “Manic Monday” for them. Listening to Susanna explain how she drove herself down to Prince’s studio to get it, and then what it felt like to hear it for the first time, gave new life to a fun and easy song I never minded hearing on the radio. Good old pop music, right?

The best part of John’s Q&A sessions is that so far, they’ve encouraged me to seek new music. Last week, after he chatted with Dave from Chromeo, I spent some quality time with Spotify and their catalog, enjoying a lot of what I heard. Later today, it’s time for some of Susanna’s music. She’s even writing a novel, which I’m looking forward to reading when it comes out. My point of course is that it’s never too late to find new music that makes your ears and heart happy.

Which brings me to item number two: what have you been doing to occupy your time during this pandemic? Have you been seeking creative outlets? Arguing politics? Relentless social media posts? Cleaning? Cooking? Eating?? Finding new music, perhaps??

That last one has taken up residency on my to-do list as of late. I’ve been spending increasing amounts of time on Spotify, scrolling through my curated playlists that Spotify throws together, based on my listening habits. (good luck with THAT, Spotify!) I’m discovering new bands I’ve never heard of, older bands I’ve still never heard of, and music I somehow completely missed along the way. I’ve also downloaded the app “Readly”, and have been spending an ungodly amount of time reading music magazines, when I should be cleaning this house. Shhhhhh

The fact is, I’ve gotten supremely lazy with my listening. Instead of working to find something new, I stick with what I know. Books I’m currently reading and articles I’ve read this week tell me that at my age (which is far from old, but also kind of far from young), this is normal behavior. It takes work to find new music. It’s EASY to stick to things we know, and if you don’t want to spend a lot of time searching – what do you do? You find that old playlist that has gotten WAY too much of your tine lately, hit “play”, and move on…am I right? You know what you like!

Well, I do that too. I know what I like. I also know that for several years now, I’ve stopped listening. I play new DD albums when one comes out. Pop the CD into my car stereo, and leave it there for months. (Okay, years) Listen to it over, and over again. I get so sick of it (yes, I really do), that I eventually stop listening to all of their music, and switch to First Wave on SiriusXM. That’s all fine and good, except that on First Wave, I usually hear nothing new. I’m digging my own grave here. So, I decided enough was enough, and have forced myself out of the box. Or coffin.

After nearly 50 years of listening to everything from “Patty Cake” to “Don’t Start Now” (Dua Lipa), at the very least, I know what has pleased my ears in the past. That’s something to start from! Team that with being a musician myself, and I’ve got zero excuses. So now it’s just a matter of training myself to try so that it feels normal to me, rather than some strange, foreign exercise. I’m not quite there yet.

With that, I am wickedly tardy and must be on my way….this house isn’t going to clean itself!

-R

We Walk the Mile

I have really been enjoying the extra content lately. The bass tutorials, the instagram chats, lengthy interviews, and of course Duran Duran radio, have all been fantastic. I want to make sure to yell that out to the world, and to thank all those involved. All of it has helped to keep me entertained, engaged, and interested, and I’m positive I’m not the only one feeling that way.

This pandemic has kind of forced all of us to see things differently, and I’m not just talking about the issues at hand. Specifically, I mean life. Friendship. Family. Learning. The list goes on and on. We have all had to find our way. Some of us are better about it than others, and that’s not really a surprise. I’ve chatted with family via text and email, Zoomed with a couple of friends, and spent more time with my three kids at home than I have in years. My husband and I have grown closer, and we’ve learned to rely on one another. I’ve cooked more at home meals over the past eight weeks than I have in YEARS. (I can’t say I’m loving that, but I’ve grown used to it, albeit begrudgingly. I even prepared food yesterday for Mother’s Day!)

We’ve slowed down a little. I think my family spends a little more time talking, a little less time rushing about. As a household, we’ve agreed to become even more self-reliant, pushing forward with our plans to become more of a homestead where we grow our own food and start our own cidery. (Think winery but with hard cider and mead. Mead is essentially wine made from honey.) We’re seeing how the world is changing and trying to adapt so that we can be happy, fulfilled, along with exercising some control over our own destiny.

I don’t think we’re all that different from Duran Duran, or anybody else really. None of us asked for this set of circumstances to be dropped like a lead weight in the middle of our lives. It is doubtful anyone really knows how long this is likely to go on. I’ve sat in on a lot of webinars lately, both those inside and outside of the entertainment industry. Concerts aren’t coming back as soon as we might hope, and even if they do – it’s hard to guess how they’ll look. It appears that the band recognizes that too. I mean, how could they not? They’ve decided to wait on releasing the album until 2021, which isn’t a surprise. I can be sad, but I don’t blame them. In the meantime, they’re doing what we’re all hopefully trying to do: exploring alternatives!

Simon discovered that he doesn’t mind doing a recorded radio show, or podcast. Katy seems to like that too, which I think is great! Nick took time to do a lengthy interview that I can’t imagine he’d have done normally. I mean, two and a half hours is a long time! John seemed to really enjoy his bass tutorial last week, along with the chat he had with Dave from Chromeo. (A band that I am going to check out this week. I know, I know…I’m slow, but I’m trying!!) While Duran Duran might not be a band that performs to an empty audience, or films a song during zoom calls, editing and then sharing it with fans, they are finding ways to engage and share parts of themselves in ways that many of us have wanted for years.

Personally, I love what they’re doing. I don’t need another Twitter Q&A, circa 2012 to remind me that there are 50,000 other fans out there, each vying for their two and a half seconds of attention with <insert band member name here>. What I do appreciate though, is getting past that nonsense, and hearing real discussions about music, their experience, or whatever they’re willing to share about themselves and Duran Duran. I feel far more connected to them now than I have in, well, a very long time, and I haven’t even left my house. Maybe it’s just me, and I can accept that some might disagree, but I think the content they’ve been creating has been golden. I look forward to whatever comes next.

As I said weeks ago, it is going to be the bands who figure out how to continue engaging their fan bases in some way that make it through this crisis, particularly if the lack of live shows continues into 2021. It is the people who find some way to make lemonade from lemons that will thrive in the future. Sure, my life looks different in 2020, as I’m sure yours does, dear reader, but it isn’t all bad. While I have my bad days and I worry about things from time to time, as does everyone, I also see that the only way through this is to keep evolving and finding the good. I’m going to keep working on that.

-R

It’ll Take a Little Time

I have decided that there are some perks to working from home. For example, I have been able to sleep in longer. After all, I don’t have to make a lunch, get my bag together, drive to school, etc. I also get to take naps more frequently. One other big benefit is that I get to check into social media more regularly. Social media, for me, helps me feel less alone. I can quickly respond to friends, check in with the news and more. I am lucky in that I don’t have a lot of arguments or see a lot of fighting. Instead, I get the message that I’m not alone in thinking and feeling as I do. That helps me to keep going, to keep my head up, etc. As an added perk, I also get to see what Duran Duran is up to. When school was in session, I could and did check out social media in between classes, at lunch, etc. but it was always super fast, often not allowing me to watch or listen to what was posted. Now, though, I can check into things more immediately or participate as events happen! I could follow along on Twitter when each band member showed up to do a “chat,” instead of having to read the transcript later. Likewise, yesterday, I was able to watch John’s little bass lesson that he is calling “Stone Love Bass Odyssey.” I was able to listen in on his live chat with Dave from Chromeo, too.

As I watched John’s tutorial, I could not help but to smile and not just because he was educating all of us on Planet Earth (my favorite) but because he was playing teacher. Now, I will be the first one to admit that I don’t know anything about how to teach music but I do know education. Overall, I would say that he did a pretty impressive job in breaking tasks down, not going too fast, explaining each step well. Obviously, this is not a perfect learning situation. As someone who has been trying to do “virtual teaching” for awhile now, it is definitely not the same as being there in person. It isn’t like we could ask John questions or get immediate feedback. A lot of teaching is an instinct. You either have it or you don’t. Then, of course, education classes can take that instinct and add practices and strategies that take it to the next level, to reach all learners. If John wants to learn some of those, I am sure that I could offer some ideas to him. 😉

Of course, after the lesson, we got another treat, which was watching/listening/responding to John and Dave from Chromeo have a nice chat about music. As I watched, I could not help but think of John as a talk show host especially as he signed off by thanking everyone who tuned in. It made me smile.

One statement that was made that caught my attention was when John said that they had hoped that the album would be coming out this fall but have decided that it won’t happen now. Hearing that reminded me when I heard that I would not be going back to school this year. It didn’t surprise me as I was expecting it. Yet, it still made me stop in my tracks and made me feel deeply sad even though it is the absolutely right move. I’m not surprised that the band is not able to finish it right now. After all, they are separated from each other and it cannot be easy to try to work on music from afar. So, while I understand and totally get it, it still makes me sad. I would love to have new music to hear and digest it all. It would have been a welcome distraction. Heck, at this point, I love all forms of entertainment that can distract, help me escape from this dystopian world.

That said, my plan now, though, is to turn this piece of information from something sad to something else to look forward to when things return to “normal”. I know…easier said than done.

-A

Crisis Equals Opportunity

Raise your hand if you have a copy of John Taylor’s Feelings Are Good album. I do. When I think of this early solo album of his, one of the first things that comes to mind is the phrase that I used as the title. Crisis equals opportunity. I think about it as it is on the cover of my copy. I had not heard the phrase before even though it has been around long before this album was released. Clearly, though, John felt that this phrase fit for him at the time of the release. It is a phrase that I always keep locked in the back of my mind since then. I like the idea that you take something awful, something terrible and it takes you to somewhere or something better.

This phrase, this idea is one that I have revisited frequently in the last few weeks, especially this week. When this pandemic first started, my anxiety went through the roof. I worried about my own health after having been in a building with 2000 people on a daily basis. My concern for my parents could not have been greater as I constantly fretted over whether or not they got it and would stay in. (For the record, my parents are stubborn and often feel/act like they are invincible.) When thinking about my job, I had no idea what my school district would do or what I would need to learn/do in response. In those first few weeks, I experienced constant tension, headaches, etc. My body clearly reacted to the extreme anxiety I was experiencing on a constant basis. As days and weeks passed, I figured out that this was not going to be a short term deal but one that could/would last far longer than I ever expected. I knew, then, that I could not keep going as I was. There was my crisis. I could either fall apart or I had to remember and use any and all strategies I had developed/created in dealing with my anxiety disorder over the years.

In looking back at various points in my life when my anxiety was particularly challenging, one or two strategies come to mind. For example, a few summers ago things were rough when it came to work. I started journaling again in response. I had to get it all out to make things not so scary. Before that, I had to walk on a daily basis to get rid of the headaches I was suffering from. So, now, I knew that this time would require a strategy or two to get myself together. I started coloring. It helped but not enough. I began journaling. It helped but not enough. I tried making a schedule in an attempt to have a sense of control. Naps became a daily feature. All things I attempted/started and helped but I still felt like a human ball of tension. What’s the deal?

I had to start really thinking about this time. What is the same and different about this period of extreme anxiety? One big element is that I am alone. I literally have been all by myself for almost 6 weeks. Once I realized that this is a big part of it, a lightbulb went off in my head. This anxiety is doubled, is magnified because there is the social aspect to it. Throughout my life, I have never been great, socially, which is interesting because people fascinate me and I chose a career in which I am around people all day long. No, I have always desperately wanted to have people like me, to be friends with me but I have been hurt a lot by people I called my friends once upon a time. This has led me to do more observing than interacting until I can trust people. So, now, I wouldn’t say that I have a lot of friends but I do have people I can trust. How does this fit into this crisis? How does recognizing that I need people I can trust in my life factor in? More importantly, what do I really need right now, socially?

In thinking through all of this, I have come to realize that I need to know that I matter. I don’t mean that I need to know that I make a difference as I do get that feedback from teaching, political activism and even from writing this blog. No, I need to know that people think about me, care about me, and not because of a job that I have but because I’m a person that they deem worthy, important and important to them. Thankfully, I have my family who checks in with me and the rest of the family daily. I have a couple of friends here where I live that text me each and every day. They text me random things from things about work or politics or just how they are feeling. In thinking about all of this, I am thankful that they just stepped up to do this but I should probably be prepared to explain to those people I have come to trust what I *need*. For a long time, I thought the goal was to be able to survive 100% on my own without anyone else but I don’t think that is right anymore. I need strategies to deal with my anxiety, including having people care about me. That doesn’t make me weak or demanding. That makes me feel like a person who matters.

This time in self-isolation has definitely been a crisis of sorts but it has also been an opportunity to learn about myself, about what I need to be well and to thrive. Am I 100% where I need to be? No, I’m definitely a work in progress and some days are pretty awful still. For example, Tuesday night featured a pretty bad meltdown in which I was screaming, shouting and crying about how hopeless it all seemed. This carried over until Wednesday, which was my birthday. I have had some weird ones over the years but being alone? That felt terrible compounded by having a window leak in my condo. I am still struggling to get everything I want to do done as there are moments during the day that I just sit down and feel paralyzed. That feeling, especially happens every time I think about the job search that I know I should and want to do.

In turning this crisis into what I hope is an opportunity, I’m hoping that the anxiety is more manageable than not so that I can continue to work, to function and even to write this blog. As I move through this process, this time, not only will I continue to think about my strategies but also will look to Duran Duran to inspire, to keep my going and thinking just like John Taylor did with including that phrase on his solo album. Crisis equals opportunity, indeed.

-A

I wish *I* Knew What’s in Their Head(s)

It is always nice when DDHQ gives me something to think about and chew on while blogging. Yesterday, they asked the “simple” question of what has been the most surprising change they’ve made during the course of their constantly evolving life as a band?

Naturally, this question is fully loaded. I can cite about 35 surprising things just off the top of my head. Should I answer the question from the POV I once had as a preteen Duranie? How about as an adult? Fan blogger? Overall?? Could I even begin to decide on ONE thing that has surprised me more than all others?

Let’s face it, there have been many things to shock the hell out of me over the years. Roger left the band, first of all. In my mind, that wasn’t supposed to happen in 1985, or any time. I can tell you exactly how I responded to that news: “Why is it always the band member *I* like that has to leave first??” Imagine that sentence loaded with all of the self-centered emotion of a 14 year old girl, and you’d pretty much have my feelings in a nutshell. The music didn’t surprise me much, but having my guy leave certainly did!

Warren came along right as the 80s were about to leave the building. Sure, I’d seen him getting in there, but to be fair – I tried not to notice too much. I figured that as long as he towed the line (Andy’s line, I might add), it would all be fine. Say whatever you want about him – at the time I didn’t know anything about Warren except that he wasn’t Andy Taylor. That fact, was unsurmountable, but I had high hopes until I started seeing one interview after another where Warren took great joy in announcing just how much better of a guitarist he was. To me, *that* was what was so surprising about him, not his playing. I’d always been taught that if you’re good at something, it’s your actions that put the proof in the pudding, not the words.

Then there was Ordinary World. Just when I had begun to think that was all there was, the band proved they had more gas in the tank! The song was nothing like “Rio” or “Planet Earth”, and yet they were getting more radio play than they had in years. I wondered how long it might last. Yes, I know Warren is responsible for the guitar part. It is not my favorite song by a long shot, but I appreciate that his work kept the band going.

More recently, there’s been Red Carpet Massacre. The album surprised me because it seemed like such a departure from anything they’d done previously. People have said there’s no “Duran Duran” sound, but I’d humbly disagree. There are certain qualities to most, if not all Duran Duran songs over the years that I can absolutely attribute to the band. Simon’s stacked harmonies, John’s bass lines, even the atmospheric synthesizer and keyboards from Nick. Those elements seemed to be missing or at least very hidden in the mix on Red Carpet Massacre. Add to that the likes of Timberlake and Timbaland being VERY audible, and you’ve got one surprising album.

Anybody remember the days when John was on Twitter? How about Simon’s vocal problems in 2011? Both things shocked the heck out of me to some extent. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to engage with a real member of Duran Duran on social media…or anywhere….ever…and I did! I tend to wonder if perhaps John didn’t see the value in being on Twitter, or that it made the relationship between fans and the band more complicated, between all of the “likes” and “follows”. That is certainly understandable, but the one thing I am grateful for when it comes to social media, is having that time. As crazy as it sounds, it made the band feel a lot more human to me, and while I can’t account for the feelings of every fan – I can say it was more than I could have ever hoped for as a kid, which in turn makes it one of the most surprising things this band, or members within, have done.

Paper Gods surprised me because it was all of the things that Red Carpet Massacre was not, incorporated into all of the things that Duran Duran has always been. While I am not going to say the album was perfect, I can appreciate the effort to modernize Duran Duran’s sound. It still surprised me though, coming off of All You Need is Now. Two incredibly different albums within the same decade. Amazing.

All of those things, plus so many others have kept me captivated and learning to expect the unexpected from Duran Duran over the years. The surprises have kept the band fresh, and their sound from becoming stale. I could name probably ten more things that made me sit up and take notice over the years. But, one thing above all else stands out in my mind as being the most shocking.

One night in 2003, I snuck into my husband’s office downstairs while my kids were playing and Walt was in the garage. Earlier I figured I could pop onto duranduran.com and check out the message boards before anyone (Gavin) learned how to build a bomb. What came up for me as the website loaded was beyond my wildest dreams. Five faces stared back at me, and even then, I was confused. Wait. Could it really? Nah…… But wait, is that…is that John? If that’s John, who are those other guys?? It was only after I read, and re-read the headline announcing a show at the Pacific Amphitheater over and over, and over again, that I even allowed myself to consider that maybe, just maybe I was going to be able to see all five members of my very favorite band for the first time. So yes, for me, having the fab five reunite was, by far, the most surprising thing this band has ever done, at least, as far as I’m concerned….and that’s not a dare for them to try to up the ante!

-R

The Future, It’s Still Tomorrow

It is Friday and I have to admit that it has been awhile since the idea of a weekend was something to look forward to. No, obviously, it is not because I have big plans on the town. I wish. No, it just means that I get a break from working all day. This week was the start of online learning for my district and it has definitely taken me a bit to feel like I’m up to speed. I’m hoping that the rest of today is pretty productive so that I don’t have a lot of work to do over the weekend and can just relax.

All that said, there are a few things to look forward to both today and in the next few days for me. On a personal note, I am having a happy hour with a friend tonight and on Monday, my campaign team will get together, virtually, to hold a victory party, no matter the results of the worst election day ever. On the Duran front, there are two things to get excited. First, Duran Duran’s twitter will be getting a workout with a chat with Mr. John Taylor. Unlike previous Fridays, the chat will take place at 2 pm EST or 7pm GMT. I suspect that there will be a lot of people wishing John well, which I can totally understand. Even I am feeling like commenting and I never try! (But it is John, right?!) After that, you can party with our favorite DJ at 1 pm PST. I, for one, cannot wait to see what gems are included in the setlist!

Of course, if you are anything like me, listening to a fabulous set of Duran only makes me want to see a show. While we cannot have that yet, we can remember the good times we have had at shows. Just this week, I saw a couple fun BINGO sheets from Concert Weirdos. (Anyone else follow them on Twitter?) Here they are:

So, how did you do? Did you make a BINGO in the top one? The sad part in the first one is that I can almost cross every single box off. EEK! I’ll just say this. No tattoo for me! I have thought about one but nothing has really ever stuck with me long term to really consider it. What about the bottom one? That was is designed to be “more extreme”. That’s fair as there are more boxes that I cannot cross off. On top of the tattoo one (again), I, thankfully, have never been given the mic to sing at a show. Once in Biloxi, the kid next to me was given the mic for the Reflex. I remember that he really had no idea what Simon was asking and it came out as banana rather than ta-na-na. Anyway, that is not one that I would *want* to do. The same thing could be said about being pulled on stage. I have no need for that! I guarantee that the audience would agree.

What about the rest of you? How did you do on these BINGO sheets? More interestingly than that, are there ones that you have not done but wish you have? Maybe then, when concerts resume, you can aim for that as a concert goal!

-A

On the Other Side

I was thinking this morning about this band, and how with each album, particularly post-reunion, we seem to run into roadblocks.

Granted, Duran Duran isn’t alone. Crazy things happen all of the time, and sometimes to all of us at once – like right now. I just had to chuckle a bit when I thought about it all though.

During Astronaut, they were managing their own reunion. I believe John used the words “Union of the Snake” in some way to describe the sometimes tenuous recording sessions and band meetings. So while to fans, the band getting back together wasn’t a terrible thing (far from it), for the band it must have been incredibly fraught with frustration at times.

Red Carpet Massacre saw the end of the Fab Five. It began as one record and ended as another. I don’t think the recording process is ever that smooth – ask any five musicians their opinions on writing and recording, and I’m sure you’ll get five different responses, but to have your guitarist quit and go from self-producing to working with someone you’ve never met before couldn’t have helped.

Most people likely recall All You Need is Now. Goodness knows I sure do. What started off with a bang (at least with fans), ended up having a serious false start as Simon had to end the UK tour before it started due to vocal problems. The momentum ramped up, only to hit a virtual wall. Crazy times indeed.

Paper Gods seems to be the outlier here….although I know that John said something (why is it always John, or is it just that I pay more attention to him?? Hmm…I’ll add that to my list of future contemplations!) about having to overcome some sort of serious strife or gulf between band members in order to finish the album. My guess is that there’s always something!

Which brings us to present. The unnamed album #15. It seemed as though the creative process was on a good roll. They were nearing the finish line, and sure enough – Coronavirus. Come on now. They’ve had festivals canceled. The 40th anniversary is now going to be a 41st, or even a 45th if we’re not careful. Hyde Park, The 501st and 502nd DD show at The Cosmopolitan (a minor exaggeration on my part)….all of it wiped out for the spring and summer. 2020 has been canceled, as far as I can tell.

The one thing I will say about Duran Duran, even when I’m frustrated, even when I don’t love some of their decisions – is that they’re resilient. Quitting is not in their collective vocabulary. This is a band that could have fallen apart a dozen or more times by now. Things that could have crushed other bands have ended up making this one stronger. (pretty sure there’s a saying about something like that) Sure, John (I think this is the third time I’ve mentioned him in this single blog…) had Coronavirus, and yeah, that pandemic has pretty much stopped the entire world on its axis for a bit, but they’ll be back.

-R

Call Up Your Numbers

Moments madness

I don’t know where the idea of “Galentines Day” came from, but it is definitely not happening here today. I woke up twenty minutes late, far too late to shower and get ready for the day like a normal human. Instead, I woke up groggy from a strange dream where I was at an amusement park, riding a roller coaster over and over again in search of something or someone I never found. It was 7am, and I should have been up at least twenty minutes earlier. What a way to wake up.

I stumbled into the bathroom, squinting because my head, neck and right ear hurt so bad. Apparently I slept in a bad position. I threw on clothes, went out in 35-degree weather without a jacket to feed the chickens (it was cold and woke me up a bit!), made a sack lunch for my youngest, put coffee on, and got her to school just in time. Came home, grabbed the dog and took him to his “spa day” at the groomers. You know, for Valentines Day, because he’s my dog and deserves the pampering.

Along the way, I started thinking. When was the last time I had my hair done at a place that didn’t just squirt it down with a spray bottle before chopping? As an aside, gotta love the experience in going to those places. I look at my hair one last time before getting out of the car and wonder, “Well, how bad could it possible get?” It’s like a game of Russian roulette. Sometimes I’m lucky, and other times, I grow out a very bad haircut for several months. Always an adventure!! But really, how long has it been since I had a real stylist? I think it’s probably been at least seven years, and likely more. Our bank account loves it – I pay about 1/10th of what I used to pay for a cut and color – but I secretly fantasize about just going and getting it done again. I miss having great hair. Oddly, my husband says he doesn’t even notice the difference. Awesome.

Sure to pass

Spa day?? What’s that?! Needless to say, I’m in a mood. It’s not really a bad mood…more like a “Who needs a good slap?” sort of mood.

Oh wait, you’re saying that IS bad? Hmm. I may need more coffee.

Once I was back home, I scanned social media. It didn’t take long to find fuel for blogging. After seeing a article from one of those teen mags titled Stars on 45’s – it gave me the creative inspiration I needed. John Taylor was the star, and he reviewed a collection of singles, including ones from Human League, Tina Turner, Echo and the Bunnymen, Nik Kershaw and Lionel Richie. To cut a long story short, John was less than impressed with anything he heard. Words like “disappointed”, “charmless”, “hated”, “faceless music” populated the article, to the point where I admittedly found myself chuckling.

He wasn’t a fan of Alison Moyet’s voice, hated Lionel Richie’s “Stuck on You” (I have to quote him, “I don’t know why people call us millionaires when Lionel Richie is around.”), and he very much didn’t like “What’s Love Got to Do with It” from Tina Turner.

Falling off the same mountain

Granted, I agreed with him on several of the singles, even today. But, I think even John might agree with me that the article makes him sound like a complete egomaniac. Clearly John was on the side of “Nothing is going to ever sound as good as the music we create. Why can’t these people up their game a bit?” To be fair, Duran Duran was at the very top, the apex, the Mt. Everest of their career at that point. They were so in the middle of it all that there was no way for John to know that in just a couple of short years, he’d be looking UP at the top of that mountain. Hindsight, you know. It’s 20/20.

So while I feel like I can poke the bear just a little bit here (it’s all in good fun),I also read the article knowing exactly what was about to happen. I know that John was young, and at that time – the ego was probably on full display for all to endure! Can you imagine, even for one minute, what it must have been like for Simon, John and Nick in 1986? They went from being the biggest band in the world (yes, I said *the* biggest), to arguably at least struggling to keep a grip on the mountain trail back up to the crest! They might not have lost their way completely, but they had definitely begun the extended slow slide downward.

In 1984 when this article was written, John was about 24. That’s only a year older than my youngest, which is fairly mind-blowing. He grew up rapidly from the time that Duran Duran first solidified itself with Simon at the helm to that point. I’m not entirely sure John really knew who he was as an adult at that point. I mean, he went from teenager to teen idol with the turn of a page. He never had an opportunity to really know himself without a legion of screaming, adoring fans following him. He went from that one year, to less-than-full audiences in small theaters over the course of what – maybe five or six years? Perhaps even fewer?

Never let the zeros get you down

How does the ego manage all of that? Never mind the drugs and alcohol – although let’s be honest, we all know how much that played part. Even without it, for the most well-adjusted amongst us, can you imagine having to deal with it? When you’ve pegged your own “self” to what you have created…or when the band you are in becomes bigger than YOU are, what do you have left when the audiences inevitably fade? Sure, we can all take the encouraging high road and say it doesn’t matter. The thing is though, when you’re young and still very much learning and developing (they say the frontal lobe doesn’t finish maturing until the late twenties!), it does matter.

Listen, I have issues just seeing the natural wave of audience interest and traffic on our site during the years when Duran Duran is actively touring, versus when they are quietly recording. I have learned not to look. It doesn’t matter. (Secretly though, I wonder what it would be like to blog if they truly had a bonafide hit album.) For a time, l worried about the numbers. It definitely did not help my writing. Not one single, solitary, bit.

If that isn’t enough to convince you, think about social media today and it’s effect on youth. All of those “likes”….. they matter. As adults, many of us couldn’t care less about how many people follow or unfollow (I for one can’t honestly say how many followers I gain or lose on Twitter or Facebook. I don’t even know how many the blog has, and I don’t care. Haven’t looked in years!), but kids care a lot. There’s a problem when we start assigning quantitive value to a person based on “likes”, but really – isn’t that the same thing that is done to a band or artist? Sure, perhaps the mode is different. We count albums sold or radio plays, or streaming numbers, which translates into dollars, but the emotion is likely the same.

Nothing really gets that high

A band looks out into the audience and can see how many people are there. I mean, they can’t really count them, but they can tell whether a venue is full or mostly empty. They can hear the cheering and the applause. To go from a club, to Madison Square Garden or Wembley and then back again, all before the age thirty. Well, that’s a trip.

I said today that an experience like that most assuredly needs therapy, and I don’t mean in the form of white powder or alcohol. At 24, I was about to be married. I was young, immature, and stupid – so much so, that I didn’t even know it. My self-worth was meaninglessly attached to things like my boyfriend giving me a ring, the clothes I wore, or the apartment I lived in. I had no idea of who I was, what I wanted to do with my life, or how much I needed to grow. I would have been a total disaster if I’d attached my ego to my popularity or wealth. It couldn’t have been much different for Duran Duran.

-R

PS. Happy Valentines Day!! You’re very appreciated and loved!! We adore all of you who take the time to read, and we hope every single one of you has a wonderful day!

January 2020 Katy Kafe with John

Finally, I might be caught up with the kafes! Okay, I know. There is one more in which Katy and Nick share their predictions and thoughts about the Oscars. Generally, I don’t review that one as I am not the biggest movie buff. Anyways, this January kafe features our bass player and yours, Mr. John Taylor. It also highlights fan questions. As always, I will only be sharing what catches my attention. If you want to hear the whole thing (without any of my commentary), I recommend heading over to DuranDuranMusic and listening yourself.

Question: Any new TV show?

John started to watch Schitt’s Creek, which he has been enjoying. (Me, too! My nieces have harassed me enough that I started it.) He felt like he needed a comedy, which I can understand.

Question: Some Duran songs that you don’t love but have to play live?

No. He said that he cannot help but love them. (Really??? Ugh. Come Undone? Oh, wait. That’s me.) Although, he did admit that he might not listen to them but appreciates how they were constructed. (I can get that.) He also likes the idea of trying to play each song the best ever each and every time he plays.

Question: What inspires you to write new music?

In answering this question, John shared a story about buying a nw Wire album, which brought him back to when he was a kid wanting to make music. He said that he has learned about where to go to get inspired, which is especially important while working on a new album. (Interestingly enough, he talked about how they are at the very difficult point in making #DD15 in which they have to finish the songs. It isn’t easy but they push in order to put out something “that the fans could be proud of.” I have to admit that comments like that really warm my heart.)

Question: What can we expect from the next album? Different from Paper Gods?

It is “quite different” from Paper Gods, according to John. That said, it still is Duran Duran with the same formula as usual. He is not ready to talk more specifically about the music. They are not there yet.

Question: Would John consider teaching a master class on bass playing?

No. He might consider some class about creativity in a broad sense but does not consider himself a teacher in that way. He also mentioned about how he was self-taught. Simon, on the other hand, can teach other singers. (Interesting. I think John makes a really good point that I completely appreciate as a teacher. Just because *you* know how to do something does not mean that you can teach it to others. Teaching is an art and a science, for sure.)

Question: Does current events influence the band’s work?

John admitted that it does to some extent but he tries not to have politics overtly influence as it is hard enough to finish songs.

Question: How do you maintain normalcy on the road?

The internet helps John stay in touch while on the road. He also explained about having things like Netflix has helped to create more of a common culture, making things feel more normal. He says that it helps having really nice people around them, too.

Question: Favorite Duran song that you wished fans embraced more?

John quite likes Finest Hour even though he thinks they did not get it completely right. (I love that song so I agree with him!)

Favorite album art work from other artist: London Calling by the Clash

Theme song for his life: James Bond theme

Do you respond if someone calls you Nigel: No. (Ha!) His parents eventually called him John. (That’s a fun fact.)

Funko Pop Dolls: John wonders if they double as sex toys? (Uh…what?!) Then, he manages to point out that sex toy discussion is usually Warren’s territory. (Oh…my.)

I have to admit that I heard some concerns about how John sounded during this one but he seemed perfectly normal to me. Yes, the work surrounding the album seems stressful but I get it. I am the exact same way when I’m in the middle of an intense campaign. In my opinion, that feeling could result in something amazing. As always, I enjoyed listening and taking some notes. It was a nice way to end my weekend.

-A

Hothead – The Daily Duranie Review

Here we are. We have indeed arrived at the time to review Hothead. Produced by Chris Kimsey, featuring spoken word by none other than Simon Le Bon, there isn’t much written about Hothead. The song does not seem to be a fan favorite, so let’s get to the bottom of it!

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation

The first thing I notice is the guitar, which quite frankly for a Duran Duran song, isn’t always the norm. Not buried too deeply in the mix, not an esoteric enigma, vaguely floating up in the stratosphere – for this track, the guitar helps ground the track like a root in the soil. The synthesizer takes on it’s old role, creating atmosphere and answering the guitar in the chorus.

The thing is, the music is kind of catchy. I like the slight grit to the guitar posed against the silky texture of keyboards. The semi-haunted house feeling of the descending synthesizer chords during each verse help to create interest, and it lends a bit more meaning to the point of the song. I picture wandering down into the proverbial rabbit hole, or falling into a pit while in a forest! This is the first DD album, to my knowledge, where the band samples from newscasts and television, incorporating those bytes into the background of the sound. I like that they did that, because those samplings give the song context. It isn’t difficult as a listener to understand the time frame in question, or why the song was written. Given that triumph, I don’t hear much bass though, which is strange – I think it’s in there, but during this period of time I think bass was more “felt” than heard. The band seemed to have backed off from the more complicated bass lines of Rio days and before. The drums are solid, no with no-nonsense, which probably is appropriate given the texture and point of the song.

Vocals

So, this is where things start to go sideways. The very first voice I recognize is that of Former President George Bush (the first one). That can’t be a good omen, can it? You hear news report snippets, which are sampled and as I said before – give context to time and setting of the song, and then Simon begins. Not quite spoken word, not quite singing…but then he does sing the chorus, doesn’t he? That’s followed by a stop gap, more than a little cringy, yet oddly appropriate, “hothead” sung in high-soprano by backing vocalists. I can’t decide if the cringe is meant due to the meaning of the song, or if that’s just *my* take on it. Before I can decide for sure while writing, I hear Simon’s rap section.

This may not be a popular opinion, but the words “Simon” and “rap” really don’t belong in the same sentence. It is very difficult to get past the sing-song aspect and take it seriously. Some artists rap well, and some just don’t. It’s my (possibly unpopular) opinion that Simon does not.

Lyrics

I’ll admit something right here and now: I’ve never read the lyrics to this song before. Lyrically, the song is strong, and arguably, more “political” than Paper Gods. The words were timely then, timely now, well-written, and (still) have a great message. They’re not dated, and they’re definitely not vague. He wasn’t wrong that governments use media and propaganda to change the mind of the public, and that whatever they say today might totally change tomorrow depending upon whatever view they wish to spread at the time. There is absolutely a message warning us to wary of those with the loudest microphones. I can’t argue with any of that. It isn’t the words that are the biggest problem.

Overall

While I can’t say it is a favorite song, there are a couple of things I liked. The guitar line is great, and I love the call and answer with synthesizer. I do give credit for innovation. The sampling of the news bytes was something that we may take for granted in 2020, but in 1990 was still fairly new. Overall, the music is pretty good. The lyrics themselves are solid, although I know they’re not the poetic ramblings that fans enjoyed in earlier albums. The real problem, at least for me, are the vocals and their delivery. I’m not opposed to rap or spoken word – but the sing-song delivery that seems to accompany the way Simon raps does the song an enormous amount of injustice. It cheapens the message and makes it out to be far more of a game or joke than I think was intended. I feel like the song started off to be a great idea, but during recording, it went ass-over-teakettle.

Cocktail Rating

two cocktails!

Amanda

Musicality/Instrumentation

This song definitely starts out in a non-typical Duran way with extremely obvious guitars. While I cannot say that I’m the biggest guitar fan, I think the jarring nature of the intro guitars is fitting with the theme of the song. You cannot talk about politics like this with a pretty synthesize sound, for example. Speaking of synthesizer, I really like the keyboards that pop up more when the guitars are pausing. The drums are solid with nothing too crazy going on. I don’t hear a lot of bass, though, which is a bummer. One thing that I notice about the musicality of this song is how the instrumentation is strong until the vocals and soundbytes begin then it almost feels as if the music takes a backseat.

Vocals

I’m not even sure where to start about the vocals. I guess I will start with the soundbytes of news headlines. I don’t mind them. In fact, part of me finds it fascinating what they chose and makes me wonder why those. To me, they fit with the theme of the song. Then, there is Simon’s vocals. At first, they aren’t terrible. I don’t mind them. Then, the first chorus happens. What the heck is that all about? Why the shouting like of “hothead”?! Why have a female vocal singing “hothead” for far too long? What is the point?! I don’t get it. Then, Simon’s vocals take a noticeable change for the final verse. It is more spoken word but not really. I don’t get that either. The vocals just make the song feel disjointed, lacking cohesion. It feels like they couldn’t decide exactly what they were going for so they did a bunch of stuff. It doesn’t work.

Lyrics

I have to admit that I find these lyrics pretty interesting but then again I spend a lot of my life involved in the political sphere. One thing that I find most interesting is how the overall message about media, politics, propaganda, etc and so forth is not dated at all. These issues are still relevant. In fact, they might be more relevant now in 2020 than in 1990 especially with the rise of social media, fake accounts, interference from other countries, etc. I look at other lyrics that might fit in the same category and feel like some of them feel more dated than this. The biggest example is Too Much Information. It definitely feels like the focus is on the Gulf War of the 1990s. Again, I give a little shoutout to the soundbytes as I found them to be interesting, too.

Overall

This song is definitely not a fan favorite and I totally get why. While there are elements that are interesting like the lyrics and much of the instrumentation, the vocals really detract from the rest especially since they are so front and center during the majority of the song. I do appreciate the fact that the band decided to do something political in nature but because of the vocals, specifically, I think it turned a lot of listeners off. They did not get the message or did not or could not think about what the lyrics might mean. That said, I do give credit for even mixing things up, musically, by having the guitar start it out and in such a dramatic way. I have to just wonder that if they had tweaked things a bit if the final result would have been significantly better.

Cocktail Rating

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two cocktails!