Tag Archives: Medazzaland

Was the Pop Trash Era Best?

Now that the beat is slow

DDHQ’s choice of the video for “Someone Else Not Me” for “Watch it Wednesday” sparks discussion of the Pop Trash era.

Admittedly, there were years from the mid-90’s until I saw the band for the Up Close & Personal tour in 2001, when I didn’t pay quite as much attention as I did in the 80’s. I was still interested, and believe me when I say my ears perked up at the mere mention of Duran Duran. Even so – my room was no longer wallpapered with posters and pinups. I grew up, and stopped needing those posters, I suppose.

I’ve spoken or traded posts and messages with a good many Duran Duran fans who proclaim the Pop Trash era to be their favorite – and if it wasn’t the music itself being mentioned, it was the live shows. Many of these fans are my personal friends within the DD community. I dare say that most of my friends in this community are die hard Duranies at heart.

Something I want to say

I only went to one Pop Trash era show—the one at the House of Blues for the Up Close & Personal tour in 2001. I will continue to scream “that single show changed my entire life” from the rooftops, but not for the same reasons that seem to come up with other fans. For me, that show re-opened up a door into my heart. I felt so much joy in being there in that room that I completely lost myself in the show. I didn’t even know the Pop Trash album that well at the time. The music between us, indeed.

Obviously, we can all make note of the hysteria present during the early 80s. Clearly that was missing by the late 90s. The era tends to ignite my curiosity not because of the fans who had left by that time, but by those who stayed connected.

Burst this bubble

So many of my friends who were truly engaged during Pop Trash speak so fondly of that time and those shows, over the years I’ve wondered what made it so. Sure, for many who loved the Pop Trash and Medazzaland albums, the answer is obvious. The music fuels the passion. For others, it was likely the proximity to the band itself. I have friends who tell me that back then, the band really seemed to embrace the fans. Rather than treating them like asylum escapees with a registered potential for violence quotient – they acted like they were old friends.

Were the fans just friendlier at the time? The late 90s -2000s were early days of the internet. Social media hadn’t yet hooked us with its talons. The reunion was a blip on the horizon, but no fan even suspected the possibility just yet.

Were die-hard fans during this period there more for the music than the nostalgia?

To type the words seems so judgmental. I don’t mean it quite that way, but to be fair – don’t you wonder what the ratio between die-hard and “I-heard-a-single-from-Pop-Trash-on-the-radio” potential fans were in any given audience on the Up Close & Personal tour might have been? Let’s just be blunt: there IS a certain percentage of the greater fan base that continues to show up because they’re still in love with the pinup images of John, Simon, Nick and Roger. That doesn’t mean every fan from the 80s lives in nostalgia, it simply means some still might.

Hardest thing is to let go

I can’t say whether I’ve tested my theories enough to call them law, but I have definitely noticed a certain “Where were YOU in the 90s?” attitude that has permeated over the years. If you suggest that you stuck around during that time, you’re alright. If, like me, you mention a sabbatical, however brief – one can sense the eyes upon you narrowing as they scrutinize from head to toe. Judgments are made based on how one answers the simple questions of what live shows you’ve seen, or whether or not you remained a “true” fan during the lean 1990s.

On the other hand, and most likely one attached to the body of someone who haughtily says they’re not at all nostalgic to 1980’s Duran Duran – there is the fact that during these same Up Close & Personal shows, the band played a FAR more varied set list, filled with songs from—oh yes, you guessed it—their first few albums and B-sides. Not nostalgic, you say? Please, tell me more about that. Fandom is fueled by nostalgia.

I don’t necessarily think I’ve discovered the answers to the questions on my mind, but on second thought, I’m really not sure there are black and white answers to be found. Fandom is complex. This isn’t math. There aren’t firm answers, even though people like me really might prefer that. A lot of the ground we walk on is slippery. I would know, I’ve fallen a lot. And repeatedly. Then, I’m a bit of a klutz trapped in a china shop. Save the china!!

-R

How do we really feel about Autumn Albums?

I think we can all agree it’s been pretty quiet recently. I can appreciate friends who post topics to get a conversation started, particularly when it comes to Duran Duran.  Personally, I love surveys and polls. They’re fun little “litmus” tests for the fan community, and they’re fun to look back on from year to year to see if there’s been any changes.

One of my Twitter friends, @BoysMakeNoise (you should follow him!) likes putting together surveys. This week, there was a survey on Autumn albums. Each of the albums that Duran Duran has released in Autumn months was given a star rating of 1 to 5, and then that information was compiled to find out what album was most liked.  He ran the same survey last year at about the same time, and now we’d have a comparison.

2017 Results  (average rating)

  1. Red Carpet Massacre  (2.95)

  2. Medazzaland (3.06)

  3. Astronaut (3.73)

  4. Big Thing (3.78)

  5. Paper Gods (3.96)

  6. Notorious (4.00)

  1. Seven and the Ragged Tiger (4.07)

2018 Results (average rating)

  1. Red Carpet Massacre (2.99)

  2. Medazzaland (3.06)

  3. Astronaut (3.63)

  4. Big Thing (3.74)

  5. Seven and the Ragged Tiger (3.86)

  6. Notorious (4.06)

  1. Paper Gods (4.28)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I like to extrapolate information from results like these.  There were 100 participants in the survey. The number isn’t enormous, but I think it is fairly representative. Chances are, the people who participated are not simply “fair-weather fans”. These are people who know the band’s catalog, and know it well-enough to debate the components.

Astonishingly, the real movement here was between Paper Gods and Seven and the Ragged Tiger – one of the “Holy Trinity” albums. (First album, Rio and SATRT). Rarely do I ever see any of the initial three knocked out of the top three of any survey ever taken. They tend to be considered Holy Grail, virtually untouchable. The rest of the results stayed within a reasonable range of last year’s survey results, but most did vary.  Medazzaland, pinpointed at an average rating of 3.06 stars each year, was the only album with stagnate results.

Nostalgia at Work

It is rare to see any of the first three albums removed from the top of any “favorites” list. There are a number of reasons for this. The album was released in 1983, there was a reasonably huge tour to support it, and it came out at the height of their popularity. This album marked the end of the initial “Fab Five” era, and for that reason alone, even post-1980’s fans hold it close to their hearts. The nostalgia for this album is enormous, and that alone keeps it afloat.

Over the years I’ve been participating in social media, I’ve been involved in more than one discussion about Seven and the Ragged Tiger. It is a difficult album for me, because I remember how much I adored it when it was released. The funny thing is that even in 1983, I don’t think I really “got” it. I can remember thinking how strange it sounded compared to anything else out at the time—and I liked it that way. Even today, I’m astounded by just how much is going on in every single song. There are no “empty spaces”.  There are layers upon layers of music and background effect. The question, is whether or not it was overdone, and that’s always up for debate.

I can see the first three albums in a definite progression. The first album was pretty raw and natural. In my opinion, that album remains the most uniquely untouched “Duran”. No egos, no fame, no fortune to muddy the picture. Rio, has far more finesse. A little more ego, but not too much. After all, they didn’t “hit” in the USA until much of Rio was remixed (Kershenbaum) and re-released here in the states. They were UK stars, but America was another challenge. Next was SATRT, and they pulled out all of the stops for this one. There’s a lot going on, and I don’t just mean musically. The band clearly had an ego by this time, and they felt like they had something to prove, with all the resources in the world to do it. I can hear the inner tug-of-war going on within the band, and if you listen closely – you can hear Simon tell you all about the struggles of fame, too.

The trouble is, at least in my opinion, as much as I loved this period of time – the album has its challenges. In hindsight, Seven and the Ragged Tiger is representative of the band’s excesses on nearly every level. Even so, I can’t quit it, and likely – neither can you.

What about Paper Gods?

In the other hand lies Paper Gods. Upon first glance, you might not even recognize that it’s the same band, particularly if you’re not a diehard fan. As I bow to my fellow nostalgia-nerds out there, I can’t help but say that Paper Gods is the better album. The quality of construction is there. It has all of the finesse of Rio, with the same quality of ingenuity that created Seven and the Ragged Tiger. On the same token, Paper Gods is not a one-listen album. In order to fully appreciate the music, it takes time. Once again, if you listen closely, you’ll even hear Simon tell you everything you need to know about their career. Paper Gods is truly a survey of their career, and a hallmark album. I believe these to be the reasons for the growth in the survey results for Autumn albums over last year.

In other words, it is not so much that Seven and the Ragged Tiger has lost a huge amount of favor with fans as it is that Paper Gods is becoming more beloved. I don’t think there will ever be a time when a significant number of fans won’t include SATRT in their top three or four list of favorite DD albums, much less Autumn album. The nostalgia for the time, paired with the album’s historic status (it was the last album with the original five until 2004) continue to keep it balanced on a narrow pedestal. Perhaps though, Paper Gods will occupy its own nearby pinnacle. Time will tell.

-R

Twenty-one years and counting.

On the 22nd of January, twenty-one years ago, I woke up at 6:30am and new something wasn’t quite right. I was having short little pains, but they were enough to wake me up out of a sound sleep. Smiling, I began to time them, and oddly – they were coming at fairly regular intervals. Ten days late and counting, I knew that I was finally, blessedly, in labor with my oldest.

After what I felt was many hours of waiting, I finally got the OK to go to the hospital at about 1pm. It was in the middle of a snow storm, but I barely remember the drive from our house to the hospital, except that my mom was with us and we really had no idea what we were about to be in for. I’ll save everyone the details except to say that what began that morning didn’t actually finish until 12:05am the following morning – which if you’re following along, meant the 23rd of January in 1997.

I always like to say that Heather Kathryn Rivera was born in the middle of a blizzard (this is true), she was ten days late (also true, and really eleven if we’re counting – which believe me, at that point, I was), and that to this very day, the child is still late. She runs by one clock: her own. She still prefers the cold weather to our ever-sunny days, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she ended up back in the Chicagoland area after college. (then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if we did as well!)

Today, she turns twenty-one.

I’m marveling about that, because it doesn’t seem possible. I still remember seeing the snow fall that day and night in the hospital, I still remember sitting up in bed the following day, looking at her wondering how on earth I was ever going to be able to handle caring for another human being.  They say that to have a baby is to agree to allow a part of your heart to walk around outside of your body forever. That’s so true. It is simultaneously the apex of joy and some of the worst pain imaginable at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for all the peace in the world. (Most of the time, anyway!)

I remember not long after Heather and I came home from the hospital, I was watching Rosie in the afternoon while trying to feed Heather. Guess who were her guests?  Simon, Nick and Warren. They were there promoting “Medazzaland”.  I remember watching them while Heather was crying, and I was so upset because I could barely hear the interview. I was already learning who came first, of course, and before long I was crying right along with Heather. As much as I loved being a mom, and I really did, I missed being me. I didn’t know how to be both a mom and Rhonda, the human. Life circumstances at the time didn’t help, either. The real “adjustment” didn’t come until later, when I finally figured out that in order to enjoy being a mom, I had to enjoy being ME, too.

Guess when that happened? I can tell you the exact date. March 28, 2001.  House of Blues, Anaheim CA. Duran Duran walked out on that stage, and something in me that had been dark for many, many years suddenly lit up like a Christmas tree.

I’ve written about it before, but finding myself again was really the key to being a good parent. After that concert, I started being ME. I found friends, I went to a convention, I brought my own personality to the table of parenting. My kids know exactly who I am. They’re not afraid to call me out for it sometimes, too.  

My Heather is a beautiful human being. She is so much better of a person than I could ever hope to be myself. She’s got a sharp tongue, a wicked sense of humor, and a very kind heart. She’s tenacious in a way that I never learned, and she has more talent in her pinky finger than I do in my entire body. She’s danced her way through life so far, and now she’s twenty-one. She’s grown. I don’t even know how it happened, because at some point on the way home from the hospital, through the snowy streets and freezing temperatures, I blinked. Now she’s an adult. Where does the time go?

I guess I feel similar with Duran Duran, really. At some point after New Moon on Monday, I blinked. The past thirty years went by in a single blink. The last 17 in particular FLEW by, and I can mark the moments in Heather’s life by songs, concerts and road trips I’ve taken along the way.  She still smiles widely at the memory of going with me to the Astronaut signing in Hollywood when she was just seven or eight. She remembers Simon quizzing her about her favorite song and how he asked about the book she was carrying (I think it was a Nancy Drew book). She also remembers how tan they all looked for not being from California (I laugh about that because she’s right) and how they all wore more makeup than I did. (also true!)

Heather and I at The Pearl 2009

We still laugh about how she went with Amanda and I to see Duran Duran at the Pearl in Las Vegas in 2009. She was twelve, although a tall twelve-year-old at the time, and she STILL laughs heartily over her reaction when John walked up to the microphone during the show and called us Mother F*kers. Heather turned around and looked at me with her eyes as wide as saucers. I doubled over laughing. Yep, I’m that kind of mom!

Amanda and I always talked about employing her to drive us from gig to gig after she turned 16 so that way we didn’t have to drive ourselves any longer, but we’ve never done it. Today, she’s old enough to belly up to the bar right along with us.

 

Somehow, that doesn’t seem quite right. AT ALL.

Heather taught me how to be a mom. She patiently waited for me to figure out how to manage feeding and caring for an infant and yet still being able to take a shower and get out of pj’s by noon. She would smile and sit next to me when it came time for me to learn how to do it all again when her brother Gavin was born – so all of that x2.  Then she taught me how not to be one of those “stage moms” and how to provide a stable environment for her when everything else in her life was chaos with dance and school. She forgave me for having yet another baby just as she was becoming a teenager, and even offered to help with her youngest sister. I will never ever forget going through that pregnancy because Heather was by my side nearly the entire time. She’s become a second mama in a lot of ways to the baby of the family – who isn’t a baby anymore (so she constantly reminds me).

Heather listened to me complain about life, growing older, losing a parent, learning how to be a better caregiver and spouse, and even how to be a better mom to her as she grew up and had her own ideas that may or may not have been completely opposite to her dad’s and mine. I daresay that parenting is toughest after the children have grown.

Through most of that, she also had to contend with this crazy blog, my writing, the road trips, conventions, and the ups and downs within. Duran Duran has been a near constant presence in her life even though she’s only met them from across a table (same, Heather, same here for the most part). I don’t think she can really hear Duran Duran without thinking of me immediately at this point, and I don’t know whether to apologize or applaud.

So today, as I watch the kids at recess and continue thinking about the journey I’ve taken over the last twenty-one years, I’m also thinking about how this is just the beginning for Heather.  I love that kid and I couldn’t be prouder. Today is bittersweet for this mama, but I am looking forward to taking her out tonight for her first (legal) margarita. It has been quite a journey.

(BTW John and Nick… if you need a choreographer for a musical….I know somebody…..)

Happy Birthday, Heather-Feather. (You can thank me for not printing your REAL nickname at any time.) Be careful, but not too careful – Love Mom.

-R

My thoughts on Medazzaland as it turns twenty

It is hard for me to imagine that Medazzaland has been a part of my life for twenty years. Coincidentally, twenty years ago last month, my husband and I moved back to California after living in Illinois for two and a half years.

We made the move not long after we were married in 1995, due to a job offer for my husband. When Walt’s company decided to sell his division, we moved back to California, now as a family of three.  We’d been back here and living out of boxes for a few weeks when Medazzaland was released, and I came out of my moving and motherhood fog just long enough to drive to Wherehouse Music to get a copy.  I remember unwrapping the CD and putting it in the car stereo. Walt wanted to scan through each song rather than hearing them play, which made the experience less-than-optimal for me, but I was so shocked after the first couple of songs, I didn’t know what to think.

I suppose I didn’t know what to expect going in. I knew it would be different, as they all are from one another, and I hadn’t been keeping up with the band in the same way I might now, so I was probably even more shocked. I probably was hoping for something that sounded closer to any one of the first three albums, which I admit severely undercuts the creativity of this band, but at the time, I didn’t think about any of that. I just knew what I expected to hear when I said “Duran Duran”.

I was looking for anything that made me feel like the old me. I was a new mom, dealing with a baby and postpartum depression, living with my in laws while we waited for our house to sell in Illinois so that we could buy one here. So just imagine someone trying to get a firm grip on some semblance or reminder of who they were – maybe hoping for a bit of Rio and instead – you’ve got Nick speaking the words to “Medazzaland”.

It was a bit of a shock, to say the least.

Sure, I took a deep breath when I heard “Big Bang Generation”. It’s still one of my favorites off of the album, and I won’t lie – those bright, stacked harmonies and melodious chords were exactly what I thought should be on the album. “Electric Barbarella” felt along the same lines. I started feeling better about the album, and then “Silva Halo” happened. The tempo alone made me uncomfortable. I didn’t declare it as genius, I’ll tell you that. I looked at Walt, he looked at me, and I was speechless. I felt completely left behind. I didn’t understand how the same band who wrote (yes) “Hungry Like the Wolf”, could write something like “Silva Halo” and believe it was good enough to put on an album. (How’s that for some Monday morning truth??)

That’s just the point though, isn’t it? This was not the same band. The band we have right now isn’t the same band who wrote Rio, either. It wasn’t as though they had Roger, Andy or even much of John in the studio writing and recording Medazzaland. This was a Duran Duran of (mainly) two original members, along with Warren – who may be a fabulously innovative guitar player in his own right, but he is also incredibly different from the original member. Of course they are going to create very different music, although I didn’t acknowledge that at the time. My problem was that I didn’t like a lot of it, which blew me away.

Yep, I could pretend that I was one of those enlightened fans who just “got” everything they did. I could say that I loved the way the band reinvented itself, and how they embraced innovation and experimental music. I’d certainly sound cooler if I did. But I didn’t. I listened to Medazzaland in its entirety exactly ONE time before I packed it away, never to get it out again until the reunion

No, that didn’t make me a good fan. Just the opposite, really, and I have to own that. I assumed that because I didn’t like that album on the first listen, that I had somehow grown out of being a Duran Duran fan. That was a hard, sad lesson for me. I saw my fandom, although I didn’t have a name for it at the time, as the one lifeline I really had back to a time before my life became a whirlwind of baby clothes, bottles and diapers. Once that was gone, I wasn’t really sure what I had left. I’d love to say I had other stuff going on for me at the time, but I really didn’t. I had a baby, a husband, and a life I really didn’t recognize. It was a very weird time. While it really had nothing to do with Duran Duran, in some ways now looking back, I can see that my initial reaction to that album had everything to do with me and what I was going through on my own. It’s kind of amazing to consider just how much life experiences shape our listening.

I don’t think I gave that album a fair shot until recently. I can’t pinpoint the year, exactly – but it was after I started writing this blog. I finally pulled out the original CD and played it again. It wasn’t nearly as strange-sounding as I remembered. I suppose I hear it with very different ears now. There’s still a fair amount of discomfort with songs like “Silva Halo”, “Buried in the Sand”, and even “Undergoing Treatment”. I hear a lot of sadness and pain in Simon’s singing. I also hear the ingenuity and experimentation loved by Nick and Warren. As Simon said, it was a difficult time for the band. It is clear, as I listen to the album again, that while the three may have been in the same physical space while recording – the disconnection is evident.  Nathan Stack surmised that Medazzaland “…is about humans trying to understand and connect with one another — sometimes tenuously succeeding, other times failing.” (www.duranduran.com Medazzaland October 2017)  His words read prophetic, if not for being twenty years post release.

In hindsight, I can say that it oddly represents a very difficult time in my life, too. I felt so disconnected to the world, you’d think that this album would have been my lifeline, and yet it just wasn’t. Simon says the album is like “Marmite”, you either love it or hate it. I just don’t think I was ready to hear the stories that this album was trying to share at the time.

I think that might be the silver lining. The music doesn’t cease to exist after a couple of decades. The songs are still there, ready to sing their tale and share their messages whenever we are ready to hear them with fresh ears.

On another note, I’ve really been back in California twenty years now…and more importantly…my daughter is about to turn 21 in a few months??

-R