Tag Archives: John Taylor

Happy 40th Anniversary to the Fab Five!

If there was ever a day where I should wake up already knowing what in the heck I’m going to write about, it should be today…and I do.

Forty years ago today, there was this band who played their first show at the Rum Runner that included the full line-up whom most of us have come to know as the Fab Five: Simon, John, Roger, Nick & Andy.

I’ve been waiting patiently all year to write that very sentence. I thought I’d be doing so many things this summer to celebrate, such as in the UK, for one. Definitely thought I’d be seeing shows, or at the very least, hanging out with Amanda. I mean, how often does one get a chance to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a favorite band??

Simon said as much in a interview included in the UK based-magazine, Classic Pop, which circulated the internet yesterday. “I think 40 years is quite a landmark for a band, you are going some if you an make it 10 years now.”

Life has dealt a very different hand, for the entire planet. There will be no concerts, no in-person celebrating, or gathering. I see no reason why we can’t at least spread some joy online. This is one milestone that at least deserves smiles. As I sit here trying not to think about how and when I might travel overseas again, I’m grateful I still have this band to keep my spirits up.

I wish I could say that I was one of the souls in that audience at the Rum Runner on the 16th of July, 1980. When I first heard Duran Duran on the radio, I felt like molten gold was flowing through my veins. I wonder if I would have felt like that if I’d been in the crowd that first night? Then again, I’m not wishing for more years on this already-pushing-fifty body of mine. I wasn’t even quite ten when the band played at the Rum Runner!

Articles such as the one posted yesterday, give me a little bit of excitement and joy for what lies ahead. While I’m curious about the sound, as always (aren’t we all?)—Simon describes it as “naked, raw, the grass is slightly sharp and twinkly rather than smooth”, my interest is very much in the lyrics. “It’s modern and very honest, the lyrics are quite something. I won’t be doing a lot of talking about the lyrics because they really speak for themselves.”

He knows exactly what to say in order to get the attention of THIS fan, that is for sure. Momentarily, I even forget we’re in the middle of a pandemic and actually allow myself to think about the time – that glorious, stupendous evening – when this band is finally allowed to play a show again. When *we* are allowed to be together again. Can you imagine? Planet Roaring immediately comes to mind.

Who could have foretold that the band’s 40th anniversary would fall during a pandemic? In some ways, it is the type of irony that could only happen to Duran Duran. This band is truly like the Phoenix, and I have little doubt they’ll rise above the ashes post-Covid. In others, I just shake my head.

This post is supposed to be happy, although I find it to be a bit on the bittersweet side, at least for me. So, I’ll end it on a better, more nostalgic and personal sort of note.

Happy anniversary, Duran Duran. I feel as though I’ve been with you since nearly the beginning – at least since your music made it here to a little radio station named KROQ in Los Angeles. Since the moment I first heard the opening chords to Planet Earth, I feel as though you’ve always been in the background of my life in some way or another. Oddly, I never saw this ending with me writing about you, or about being your fan every day…but you know, who can really predict crazy things like this?

I have a lot to be thankful for. Your music not only got me through school, but also through a lot of my life. I can pinpoint songs and albums that coincide with precise lifetime milestones of mine, and I count myself very lucky to say that I really did have you to grow up with, and…grow older with. Not many people can say that about their favorite band, that is for certain.

Not only has your music been my soundtrack, but it has also been the force that has brought me to some of my closest friends, and favorite people, on the planet.

I hope to never forget the memories I have of going to my very first convention in New Orleans: the devil horns, the vibrant hue of Jessica’s red hair when she first opened the door to our shared hotel room that weekend, the utter joy I felt sitting at the table with new friends over dinner, and the sheer peace I finally felt knowing that I really did belong. Thankfully, the video of Amanda and I, along with many others, singing to Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf at Howl at the Moon has never surfaced….

I met my best friend that night, too. No one really understands Amanda and I, our friendship, or how we’ve remained friends this long. I just know I don’t question it. We are forever linked as a direct result of this band, and that is something I can’t ever express enough thanks for. Luck, indeed.

As I sit back and think on the nearly 17 years I’ve known Amanda, it isn’t where we’ve traveled, or what or whom we’ve seen, that my mind drifts off to first. I think about those lengthy car trips where we talked for hours, or the way that she and I pretty much know how one another will respond to one thing or another. I would have never ran into Amanda if it hadn’t been for Duran Duran. It is crazy, and if I could hug those guys for anything – it would be that.

The one constant I’ve had in my life over the past (nearly) 40 years has been this band. They’ve been with me through middle school bullying, high school boyfriends, college breakups, marriage, moving, childbirth (x 3…can’t forget that last one in 2008!), the death of a parent, high school and college graduations for my kids, a major move to the country, a global pandemic (really?? I mean… come ON!!), many milestone birthdays, and nearly losing my husband to a stroke. Duran Duran lives on, and so do I.

It’s early for a cocktail, and I’m not with Amanda to do this correctly anyway – but I’ll hold up my coffee mug in a toast to all: band, DDHQ, and everyone else on the band’s team (that includes pretty much everyone reading, I think). Congratulations. Don’t be afraid to mark this milestone, because you’ve outlived a lot of other bands, and critics that said you wouldn’t make it. You did, with style, grace, and fortitude, beyond measure. Happy 40th Anniversary.

-R

Quality Over Quantity: Fan Engagement

I don’t know how many people actually saw it, but John had a surprise for us over the weekend. Not quite satisfied with the birthday message he’d videoed for all to see, he “couldn’t resist” taking to Instagram live for a bit on Saturday.

I wasn’t around during the time he was actually “live”, but somehow I stumbled upon it later and was able to watch. While there were obviously sound problems (his sound went in and out during some of the most inopportune moments – so we’d only hear part of his answer to questions that fans were asking), it was really fun seeing him take to Instagram completely on his own that day.

I remember the days when John was on Twitter. He seemed to really take to the platform and would often get online for a few minutes at a time, navigating through a barrage of questions. Somewhat abruptly, he quit Twitter, and we didn’t really see or hear much from him again on any social media. Until recently, that is. It began with a Twitter Q&A, which – in my own opinion, was a nightmare. It has nothing to do with John, per se, but with fans themselves.

Any time the band gets on to Twitter, or anywhere that fans can directly engage – it’s a shit show of epic proportion. Yes, I said that. Truth be told, I find those moments oddly entertaining every once in a while, primarily because I’m not the one on the firing line. I’m in the peanut gallery, watching, making my own comments, and quite frankly – frolicking amongst the insanity.

My thinking is, I’m never going to get a single word in edgewise anyway, so best not to take any of it seriously. When the band started doing the Q&A’s at the beginning of the pandemic, I had some weird sense of hope that it wouldn’t turn into a free-for-all. As soon as the band announced that they’d take questions, it became a game of “How many times can the same person post the same question over and over again? Or “How many ‘I love you’ tweets can one band member receive?? It was utter lunacy. Hate is a strong word, and yet I showed up week after week anyway, so I’ll just say I disliked the exercise. Very much. Watching the Q&A’s was not really joyful, although I tried to find humor in them, and I can’t imagine there was a lot of joy in being the main participant, either. I’d commented to Amanda that all I really wanted was to be able to see and hear the band talk about something other than the new album, where they’d tour, how they were feeling, who they should say “hello” to…etc. etc, and not be interrupted for a change.

I don’t know if the band sensed the disquiet, were just looking for a way to engage without having to engage, or wanted some sort of creative outlet to pass their own time in lockdown. Chances are, it was all of it. Next thing I knew, Simon was doing his radio show with Katy, and John was offering his Stone Love Bass Odyssey chats on Instagram…and then the Q&A’s to follow. My jubilant cries could be seen all over Twitter in one form or another. This was what I’d been wanting all along.

Never did I think though…okay, I can’t really say “never” because I’m pretty sure John would occasionally hop on the DD Instagram to post a photo, or maybe even help Gela with her own…but I can’t swear to it…but I just didn’t see John wanting to do his own live Q&A thing. With fans. Even after Twitter?

Regardless, on Saturday when I saw he’d gone “live”, particularly at what seemed like a spur of the moment thing, I clapped. Yes, I’d missed the entire thing. I didn’t care about that part of it – that wasn’t the point. I mean, from my own point of view, John never minded chatting with fans on the internet. I don’t think he quit Twitter because of fans. As he says, he’s been a fan himself, and in turn I’ve appreciated how aware he is to the whole fan/idol debacle. On Saturday, he took questions and seemed very happy to be doing it, not at all like he was shackled to the computer, or some other form of torture treatment. I couldn’t see how many people had tuned in live, or how many questions were being hurled his way, but it seemed to go really well despite the obvious audio problems.

I’m not sure if I’m the only fan out there that feels this way, but the issue of quality versus quantity rings especially true. It isn’t the individualized milliseconds of “HiJohnI’mYourBiggestFanCanWePleaseTakeAPhotoRightNow” that I need while the band is on tour, or when I see them out and about. In fact, I’m a whole lot less likely to even approach them than most people, I think. I appreciate the other things, like when they take time out of their own day to do these shows (whether or not they have comments on!), or when they take the time to deconstruct the music and explain the evolution of their part, or whatever else they can come up with, for that matter. I don’t need to know when the next album is coming out, what the titles are, or much of anything about it right now, to be honest. I just like getting past all of that typical stuff and talking about things that matter. The music matters – it’s what got me here to begin with!

Maybe I’m just weird.

-R

Happy 60th Birthday John Taylor!

You would think that I would welcome writing this blog, right? After all, I am a John Taylor fan. He’s my favorite. Yet, this blog makes me nervous as I want to do an amazing job to be worthy, to do his birthday justice. I am not all that confident that I’m up to the task, especially since this is a big birthday for our favorite bass man. Alas, I’ll do the best I can.

Childhood

I have a confession to make. I was not always a John Taylor girl. I hesitate to even admit this but…when I first found out about Duran Duran at the tender age of 8, I gravitated towards Simon. After all, he was the voice of the band. Even the initial videos that I saw from Hungry Like the Wolf to Save a Prayer focused on him, or at least that is how I saw it then. One video changed all that.

All it took was one direct look into the camera for me to openly and loudly declare, “Oh, he’s cute!” Thankfully, my childhood best friend totally agreed with me. We both fell for him at the same time. Interestingly enough, we were too young to compete or to fight over who got to claim him as theirs as many other young, female Duranies did. No, for us, it was reassuring that we could pick out the “cute one.” It meant that we were normal, somehow.

After that, Beth (my childhood friend) and I sought out every picture, every interview, every moment focusing on John Taylor. When one of us got a new magazine, we would stare and dissect every picture and every word credited to be his. We tried to like what he did. John is a James Bond fan? Let’s check out some Bond films. He liked cars. Let’s fantasize about which cars we wanted as adults. Of course, we followed him with the Power Station side project and thought we had died and gone to heaven when this solo song came out.

For me, for my friend, John Taylor was just the coolest. He was so fashionable, so smart, so articulate–the exact opposite of what we saw in our working class south suburb of Chicago.

Reunion

Like so many, Duran Duran took the back seat of life for awhile as I finished high school and throughout college. Yet, I never forgot the band and tried to pay attention to what they were doing, when I could. At that point, a new friend made sure to let me know what she was hearing about the band happenings. We went to see Duran for the first time in 1993 and loved the show even though something felt slightly off to me. After that, I paid a little bit more attention and remember being shocked when I heard that John had left the band. It felt like one more foundational piece of my childhood was gone. I didn’t know the circumstances or his reasoning. I just never thought I would see it. That said, I still felt excited whenever I saw John appear on TV, usually to celebrate the 80s like in this clip:

Thankfully, all the stars aligned in the early 2000s as the band reunited and I finished graduate school. I found myself with more time and desperately seeking some fun. All I needed was to have someone mention Duran Duran and their reunion and I became obsessed. When did they get back together? Would that make new music? Would they tour? Would I be able to find fellow fans to hang out with? Similarly, what did I miss? What could I catch up on? It was like someone invited me to a Duran Duran all-you-can-eat buffet. I literally could not get enough as I caught up with albums like Medazzaland and Pop Trash. More fun, though, was to find all of John’s solo work.

As I got to know John’s work, I discovered that his lyrics were vastly different than what we were used to with Simon. John’s words tended to be more personal, more obviously autobiographical. As I listened, I often thought to myself that he had to write them in such a way. He needed to. He needed to be that honest, that open. It reminds me of how writing this blog has allowed me to think through things, to figure stuff out. While many Duranies criticized his work for this reason or others, I found it so incredibly brave. It is not easy to show yourself like that, especially after being on a pedestal for decades by countless fans.

Present Day

As the reunion moved into present day Duran Duran, I noticed that I began seeing John differently. He was no longer that perfect fantasy of youth, cooler than cool. He also wasn’t the guy trying to process through life changes and the battle for sobriety that I saw in looking back at his solo days. It felt like I began to see John more as a complex human being with a full range of characteristics, feelings, etc. He was no longer the flat stereotype of a teen heart throb of my childhood and he was no longer the 2 dimensional image of a rock star trying to get himself together. No, he is way more than that. He can be the teacher educating us all about how various Duran songs were created in his bass tutorials. He can also be the writer of his own experiences in his autobiography.

While he is still the coolest guy in the room, he is also willing to be silly and even dorky as seen by the awesome Dad dancing of Danceophobia.

As I think about wishing John Taylor a happy birthday, I cannot help but to think about the gifts that he has given all of us. Those presents are more than just the music that he has created and performed over the years, at least for me. I think about how much he has taught me about the kind of person I would like to be. It isn’t about trying to be super cool. No, it is about embracing who you are, sharing your truth and finding joy without really caring what others might think of you. For all of that and more, I wish John the happiest of birthdays and many, many, many more to come!

-A

An Unexpected Peace

Generally, I would say that I don’t mind a bit of intensity in my life. Teaching is such that I could eat, breathe, and sleep the profession and my students. Campaigning also leads to a lot of work in a short amount of time with lots, lots, lots of pressure. Even my fun tends to a have certain level of passion. I wasn’t content just to be a Duran Duran fan. No, I have to be part of a daily blog that has also planned meet-ups and a full-blown convention, etc. and so forth. Yet, these days are filled with a heck of a lot of intensity that I could do without. Obviously, in terms of world events, there is a LOT going on, much of which has caused me sleepless nights and terror about the future. If that was not enough, my place of employment has made some moves to undermine its workers, including myself. I feel downright shaken by it all. So, I spend a heck of a lot of time trying to figure out how to escape the insanity for a few minutes or a couple of hours.

Thankfully, Duran Duran has provided a number of ways to help me “get away”. When the pandemic hit home and we were ordered to stay inside, Duran opted to do some chats on Twitter, which Rhonda and I covered here. I “watched” each of the chats as band members showed up and fans rushed to ask questions, hoping to get said members to respond to them. As I observed these chats, I found myself inwardly cringing. Social media events like that set up fans to be competitive, to try to get attention over other fans. In some cases, people try to ask a clever question to rise above while others increase the frequency of tweets to do so. I hate it. Let me be clear here. I appreciate that the band wanted to interact with fans. I’m never going to complain about that, especially in the middle of a pandemic. That said, I am not criticizing any fan who participated. I totally get their desire to get attention from a band member. Who wouldn’t want that?!

But I hate the competition–if you get attention, someone else does not. It makes me feel icky. Now, I will be the first to admit that I shrink from competition like this. I don’t even try. It is less painful to not participate rather than try and fail. I mean…come on. I’m not going to ask a super clever question and I am not one to have a super quick and witty response. There is no way that a band member would see my tweet(s) over others. I’m just not that cool. So, yes, I admit that part of the reason that I’m not a fan of competition is because it makes me feel badly about myself.

Lately, though, the band has switched to other methods to remind fans that they are around and to give us something to distract us in this-less-than-fun times we are living in. No matter if it is John’s tutorials or Simon’s radio show, there is no competition present. Interestingly enough, both do allow for some fan participation. For John’s chats, fans can comment or ask questions on Instagram. Likewise, fans can send questions to Katy for Whooosh radio. Yet, I give both John and Simon credit in that they might take time to respond to a few people, they choose not to have that be the focus of their “shows”. They do not allow the competition to creep in. From this fan’s perspective, I never feel any pressure of “should I try to get a response”. No, I can just sit back and relax. I can just enjoy.

Over the course of my time in Duranland, there has been far too much competition for my liking. (Now I know that there are some fans who don’t see it, is not part of their experience or don’t mind it. That’s cool. I’m happy for them. I am only sharing my perspective and experiences.) That competition has, at times, threatened my enjoyment within this fan community. I, for one, am glad that I don’t have to worry about that right now. It has helped make fandom a place of just fun, escape, enjoyment again. That is much appreciated and needed.

-A

A Year I’m Not Likely To Forget

2020 has been a real shit show so far, hasn’t it?

If we weren’t already feeling the effects of being essentially locked away in our homes, or afraid of the what-if’s involved with a global pandemic, angry/mortified/terrified of the decisions being made by our leaders, including one who likes to govern via Twitter…there’s widespread unrest (for lack of a better term coming to mind, and I apologize for the attempt to sum it up in a single word) in the US.

If you’re included in my immediate family, on top of all of that, you’ve narrowly escaped a real tragedy in the past week.

Last Tuesday evening, my husband suffered a stroke. It’s really weird to type that. Even when I say the words, they don’t feel right coming out of my mouth. Since that night, I think I’ve walked on a virtual path of eggshells, not knowing exactly where it’s safe to step. I am beginning to feel the sort of exhaustion that comes with being on edge for nearly a week, and to be fair – we have a ways to go before things might go back to some sort of normalcy. Things like self-care, watching the news, or even deep breathing are all things I sort of put aside last week. I felt like I lived in a cave, really. In fact, I was so absorbed, that I didn’t even about George Floyd, the protests, or even the extent of violent rioting, until maybe Saturday night.

Telling the story is helping me process, so bear with me. Last Tuesday at around 5:30, I went into the bedroom to practice clarinet. The day had been very warm – I’d say it had reached a high of about 98 degrees (F), but it had begun to cool off. That’s important because while I was practicing, unbeknownst to me at the time, Walt – my husband – had decided to walk up to the top of our property to plant three small fruit trees that we needed to get in the ground. He disagrees with me, but I believe it was about 85 by the time he’d walked up the hill. I finished practicing about 6:30, and heard our dog Gizmo barking outside. I went out to investigate and found him at the turnaround point in our driveway/private road down to the house. I walked him down to the house, and set about making dinner.

I found out later that Walt had been up the hill at the time, looking down at me with Gizmo. Walt disagrees with me, but it’s not normal for Gizmo to bark at Walt unless something was wrong. Walt thinks Gizmo thought he was a gardener, and that’s…well, I know my dog. I don’t think that’s what Gizmo was barking about, but I’ll never know.

I’d gone back into the bedroom to fold a load of laundry, and came out to find Walt on the couch, beer in hand, sitting across from our oldest. I paid no attention as I walked to the kitchen and did some dishes, only to hear some commotion. I turned around and Walt had apparently fallen asleep while sitting up, and dropped his beer bottle, pouring out about half of the beer on him. That woke him up, and he and Heather were mopping it up.

This was weird for two reasons. First of all, in all of the time I’ve known Walt, he has NEVER dropped a beer bottle while napping. In fact, the guy regularly falls asleep at night on the couch holding a wine glass, a beer bottle, a small glass of whiskey…and never drops it. Me, I can’t seem to hold onto things while fully awake. The kids and I have always marveled at how he never seems to drop glasses or bottles in his sleep. Secondly, he spilled about half the bottle before snapping to attention, which seemed weird to all of us. I’m the klutz in the family, not Walt – whose reflexes have always been superhero like. This is a man who catches things in midair if I drop them! So, my senses were already on high alert. I think I knew something was off right away.

He walked over to the kitchen to throw paper towels away and I immediately saw that he wasn’t walking normal, kind of stumbling a bit. Not horribly, but enough. Something else, too. He had a weird sort of half-smirk on his face, and that’s not an expression I have *ever* seen Walt have…and good lord knows I’ve given him enough reasons to smirk at me over the years! I called him over and told him to look at me. From the second I saw his face, I think I knew definitively…but I didn’t want to believe.

Immediately, I ran through the stroke checklist I knew: BE FAST: Balance Eyes Face Arms Speech Time (to call 911). His balance was definitely off. I asked him if he could see and he said it was fine, but later I found out that he was seeing double…because why bother telling the truth to your wife when you’re ill, right?? ugh!!! His face was the teeniest bit droopy. His arms seemed to be fine (you have someone raise their arms and see if they struggle to keep them level), Speech – well, he couldn’t say my name (the most alarming thing I have ever heard in my life, by far) and words were garbled. So, that left me with time. Time to call 911…and my darling husband wasn’t having ANY of it. He fought me. I’d go so far as to say he was combative. Heather tried reasoning with him. I tried reasoning with him. Our youngest told us to listen to dad, and Gavin said he probably just had heat exhaustion. Walt was very quiet, and insisted that we leave him alone. I haven’t seen him that angry in a long time. The fact is, even thought I was sure…I wasn’t sure beyond a shadow of a doubt. Then again, I’m not a doctor…and also I’m really bad at fighting my headstrong husband.

We ate dinner, I watched him attempt to cover the fact he couldn’t hold a fork properly, and then, in an act of sheer bravado, as I was putting laundry away, he did the dishes. He never does the dishes. Then announced that he was really tired, and that he would not be going to the hospital. He needed rest from… you know, planting trees….couldn’t tell me how MANY he planted, but he was damn tired.

In hindsight, I should have strong-armed him into the car. I should have insisted. But I didn’t, and Heather agreed we needed it to be his decision. He was conscious, and aside from his being super quiet compared to normal and a smirk that no one in the house seemed to notice besides me, it didn’t seem serious. We went through a dozen other possible ailments, but I kept coming back to stroke.

We went to bed that night, and I couldn’t sleep. I had to have my hand on him the entire night for fear he’d stop breathing. He murmured in his sleep, and I laid there awake. The next morning, he got up late for his 7am conference call, but made his way into the office to take it. I took a shower, and as I was leaving the bedroom he came back in to take his own shower. I looked at him, seeing that he was pretty much the same. The next thing I knew, he was calling me. I went running. He was cold, clammy and lightheaded. That’s when I announced that we were going to the hospital and that was it. I called Heather, she came down to the house and we loaded him in the car.

At the hospital, we had to say goodbye to him at the door, thanks to Covid-19. I didn’t know what to think. On one hand, I hoped it would be anything BUT a real stroke. On the other, I knew what I saw. What I didn’t expect was that the hospital wouldn’t call me. I eventually did hear from Walt much later that day. He texted two words: small stroke. We asked for the hospital to call, which they did not. Later, as in yesterday, we found out that the hospital had gotten the wrong number to call me, and that Walt didn’t exactly mention that they needed to release all information to me, which didn’t help. My advice to anyone reading is to take the time to print out a sheet with emergency contact numbers and be SURE that the hospital knows who to call when and if your loved one goes in during Covid-19. That would have saved me a lot of stress and a few less points on my own blood-pressure meter.

So the end of the story, for now, is that yes…Walt came home. That alone is cause for celebration. I have friends who have already lost husbands, and one that lost hers from a massive stroke, so yes, I am lucky. The unfortunate thing is that no one has a stroke and gets away unscathed. There are some speech issues that he will be in therapy to manage. The confusion I recognized off the bat is starting to go away, the slight droop or smirk on his face is better now, but comes back the more tired he is. Even speaking has gotten better with each passing day. The more he talks, the more pathways in his brain get rebuilt. His personality is mostly the same, although because his speech is a bit of a struggle, sometimes I worry that I lost part of him. This is scary.

And, because I am me – I challenged him to Scrabble over the weekend. The joke was of course, that this may be the only time I’d ever beat him. I was wrong. Not only did he wipe the floor with me, he didn’t lose one single bit of his strategic game play.

It was the first time I was overjoyed to be the loser.

I just want to finish by thanking everyone for checking in on me or sending me notes via Twitter. Thank you for not saying anything on Facebook – Walt was adamant that he be the one to tell his family, and although I desperately needed support last week, I wanted to respect his wishes. I’d also like to thank Simon, Katy, John, and Roger because without their programming last week, I am positive I would have lost my mind. It was hard enough as it was! At least, I had a few things to take my mind off of what could be happening at the hospital, if even for an hour or two. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I know you don’t do any of it for just me, but last week – it sure felt that way – and I just can’t thank all of you enough.

I need to sign off for now, as we’re having a home visit from the hospital to make sure that Walt has ever thing he needs to ensure the best recovery possible. I will gladly accept any and all positive notes, vibes, tweets, etc for the coming weeks.

-R

Guest Blog: A Deep Dive Into the Bass Odyssey


By Nat Mingo

I found myself smiling at the latest Stone Love Bass Odyssey announcement.  This small moment of joy surprised me so I pondered what I appreciate about John’s latest endeavor. Here is what I found.

Anticipation

The band’s official account and some related social media accounts are doing a great job of advance promoting John’s Stone Love Bass Odyssey episodes. The event becomes something to record in my planner. It reminds me of the days when I would patiently record band radio interviews on cassette or elbow my siblings aside to record the band on the family VHS. Friday Night Videos, anyone?

Title

Only in Durandom would Stone Love Bass Odyssey make perfect sense!  I don’t quite understand it but I understand that this title must resonate with JT in some fashion.  I would welcome more elaboration through a Katy Kafe or any fan question opportunity.  Maybe it isn’t meant to be understood or, like other art, each person interprets it differently. SLBO also reminds me of Simon’s lyrics.  I don’t have a “favorite” lyric; I appreciate the unique moments as they come in songs. 

Platforms

Stone Love Bass Odyssey (henceforth typed as SLBO for brevity) can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit & Instagram. Using multiple social media platforms allows more people to engage. Not everyone uses all these platforms so there’s something for everyone.  The multi-platform approach also helps me to become more tech savvy as I awkwardly navigate to each episode.  SLBO gives me a legitimate opportunity to connect to the tweens/teenagers in my life as I name drop platforms in our conversations. “That sounds cool. I’m on Instagram as well; my favorite musician posts there.” 

Setting

John records in his personal space.  John seems comfortable in his Studio- Man Cave- Office- Library.  My home office serves this purpose for me.  My space has Duran memorabilia, Funko Pops, books, my everyday music collection and professional items.  It’s pleasant to watch his PunkMaster garbed-self  speak passionately about Duran music in his own “safe” spot. Plus, I enjoy peeping at the random objects on his bookshelf. Is that a Grammy?

Moniker

JT frequently introduces himself as “The Bass Man”. I hadn’t heard this nickname before.  Of course, we know that Simon is also Charley.  I wonder if this name was bestowed upon him or if John selected it for himself.  While its origin is unknown, John certainly embraces it as he proudly uses it in each episode. Perhaps this is a natural outcome when you formed a band with two other Taylors. 

Instruction

I am an educator who can’t read music.  At the heart of teaching is the ability to make something understandable and relate able.  John demonstrates these traits superbly in each episode. He names specific chords and deconstructs his basslines.  Then he combines the elements while weaving them through the songs. I find myself learning something new in each episode.  I’m also isolating his bass notes in individual songs more. I wonder how his instruction is impacting the musician-fans. 

Post Interviews

John has a conversation with various guests after each episode. He has spoken to a diverse body of musicians. He started with a younger musician, Dave of Chromeo. He spoke with Suzanna Hoffs, a peer, who also made music with The Bangles during the 80’s. He spoke with Mark Ronson, who was a fan and produced Duran. John spoke with Nile this week. John has openly spoken of his admiration with Nile, a music veteran. The performance background of each guest colors the conversations nicely. John finds ways to connect with the audience and the guest simultaneously. 

Live Playing

John plays during his “lectures”.  The bass he plays has little impact on me. My limited musical ability means that I celebrate when I can see if he uses a pick or not. When John plays, it reminds me of how much I love live music. It also reminds me of the strong bass lines of the soul-funk-disco 70’s music of my youth. John often uses a drum machine that I have dubbed “Wall-E” to accompany him.  I wish Roger would ambush an episode to play together with John. In my opinion, John’s basslines are so much more robust live than on Duran’s albums. I’m always in the market for fan recorded shows and I’m open to discussing this topic over drinks with any interested fans at a future time. 

SLBO isn’t a substitution for a Duran Duran concert. But while we wait, I appreciate this deep dissection into their music. And…I have ammunition for any foolish mortal who tries to call Duran Duran a “boy band”. John’s musicianship is evident. 

Stay tuned!

Nat

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