Tag Archives: Michael Jackson

Being Hard Isn’t Being Strong

Yesterday was my first day back at work.  As with every other teacher inservice day, the agenda was filled with meeting after meeting.  One meeting involved us getting into small groups and sharing the path each of us took to become a teacher.  One of the specific questions involved childhood and our experiences as kids.  Interestingly enough, before yesterday, I had been thinking about my childhood and how that fits who I am now specifically in regards to my Duran fandom.

As I told my colleagues yesterday, I spent my formative years in two very different places.  I was born on the south side of Chicago and spent the first half of my childhood in the south suburbs.  Most of my classmates were African-Americans who like my family were part of the lower middle class.  Like many of you reading, during this time, I witnessed the explosion of MTV and found myself falling for five British guys with catchy pop tunes and fascinating, beautiful storyline-filled videos.  Despite it being the early 80s, Duran Duran was not popular in my neighborhood or in my school.  Michael Jackson was the be all and end all to most of my peers.  (For the record, I liked Michael but not like I loved Duran!)

I remember sitting at the cafeteria next to my friend, who was the only other Duranie I knew, across from very serious Michael Jackson fans.  We debated everything (or so it seemed from an elementary school position).  I can recall talking about the differences in videos from Michael’s Billie Jean to Duran’s Hungry like the Wolf.  Billie Jean was better, according to my classmates, because Michael “danced”.  While I couldn’t disagree with that fact, I focused on the more intense storyline and the exotic location of HLTW.  These (mostly male) classmates could care less about the storyline.  To them, Michael’s commercial success combined with awards received proved he was better.  I tried, unsuccessfully, to show that Duran was more compassionate by being on Band-Aid, months before Michael joined with others to do We Are the World.

Part of me loved these debates as it was thrilling to demonstrate my passion.  I also felt confident that I had enough information to really argue my point.  In reality, I desperately wanted to prove why Duran was better.  Looking back, I know that part of this desperation was that I believed I was judged by my likes.  If my friends didn’t like Duran and didn’t think they were cool, then would they still like me, I wondered insecurely.  I also really liked the idea that I could be SO convincing to increase Duran’s fan base all by my little self.  I wanted to feel powerful and to be looked up to.  I’m sure some of that feeling comes from being the youngest of three children and having brilliant older siblings that I never felt I could live up to.  Overall, though, the goal was to keep or make friends, something that never has come easy for me.

The lunchtime debate didn’t not last much past the release of the videos for Thriller and Wild Boys as I moved about 70 miles away to a small town.  Before I even stepped foot into my new bedroom, I already despised the town.  MTV was not available and there was no Top 40 radio.  My family moved into our new house on a hot August day with the idea being that my room would be all set before I would enter one of the town’s elementary schools.  As the movers pulled away from the curb, a girl about my age stopped her bike in my driveway, introducing herself.  Having hope for the first time that the town might not be as bad as I feared, I greeted her and began to ask about what liked.  My hope was dashed quickly as I found out that not only wasn’t she a Duran fan, she had never even heard of the band!  I was outraged!

Needless to say, I spent a few years feeling pretty alone.  Initially, I tried to engage in debates similar to the ones I had in the suburbs.  For whatever reason, these heated discussions turned negative and personal very quickly.  Soon enough, Duran was used to make fun of me.  The year was 1985 and I was all about John Taylor’s Power Station look.  I wore a lot of black and red as well as those black jelly bracelets that he sported at the time.  Unfortunately, kids in that town did not appreciate my fashion style and frankly dismissed Duran as a “bunch of homos”.

Now, I find myself still responding as I did as a kid.  On one hand, part of me wants to openly share my fandom and my love for Duran.  I want to prove them and my love of them worthy to everyone I can.  Part of the reason is because of the passion I feel for the band.  The other part has to do with me protecting myself and feeling good about myself.  If I can convince others that what I like is great, then they will be with me.  They will be an ally.  This would also make me feel really good and cool and who doesn’t like that?  They will want to be friends, perhaps.  The protective side knows that even if they don’t want to be friends, they at least won’t make fun of me.  It is hard to make fun of someone who shares your interests, right?  Strangely, adult Amanda still worries about this kind of thing, which is a big part of the reason that I seem so private.  The less people know, the less people can make fun of me for, the less I can be rejected for.

Sometimes, the fear is so strong that I just hide my interests including this fandom or elements of my fandom.  I’ll give an example that once again circles back to work.  Today, we are going on a community scavenger hunt.  The directions include a statement about wearing something comfortable.  My initial thought about what is comfortable is a Duran t-shirt.  The kids are not there yet.  I don’t need to look “professional”.  Lots of people, including my boss, know that I am a big fan.  Other colleagues wear t-shirts advertising their interests.  Yet, I struggled to put the t-shirt advertising my interest on today but I did it.  I wore the shirt.

It is funny how a simple discussion at work brought up a lot of realizations on my part.   Moving forward, I would like to be able to embrace my fandom–not to increase my coolness factor or to protect myself from attack but because it is a part of who I am.  I want to be authentic and confident enough about what I like and who I am.

-A

Look For the Girl With the Sun In Her Eyes and She’s Gone

They are pretty much dropping like flies at this point, aren’t they?  I have to admit that each morning as I open my laptop, I’m almost nervous to see what the news might be…which idol, legend, favorite, etc, has left us.  January has not been kind to the music lover this year. Yesterday afternoon, it was announced that Glenn Frey, founding member of The Eagles, had passed away. I don’t know how popular The Eagles were in other countries, but for me – they were one of the quintessential California bands of the 1970s. I grew up listening to them on the radio, whether I knew it or not at the time.

At heart, I am a rock and roll girl. While it’s certainly true that Duran Duran has left an indelible mark on my soul and I love 80s New Wave with a passion that continues to burn bright a few decades later, it is also true that I adore a great classic-rock guitar. (is this really a surprise to anyone?)

Some of my friends had parents that listened to The Beatles, whereas my parents were fans of Elvis, in a pretty big way.  My mom likes to say that The Beatles came too late for her in the same way that I say New Kids on the Block were too late for me…so I get it. (Although I am a pretty big fan of The Beatles, oddly) Before I came along, my parents were also big fans of The Beach Boys (hence my name). I don’t know how that fits into the whole “rock” scenario – but we all have our departures. For instance, I love Duran Duran, but can also be known to blast Styx (anything but Mr. Roboto) from time to time. It happens. I make no apologies, but I’m getting away from myself. The point being, I was groomed on rock and roll (and a little bit of the blues, I guess…which is both bizarre…and fitting at the same time.)

When the news came out about Glenn Frey yesterday, I started thinking about all of the songs I knew of his. There are too many to list, yet again – just as I noticed with Bowie – I really didn’t take stock in many of them until after he was gone. It’s the case where I recognize his music, I don’t typically change the radio if they happen to come on, but I also didn’t seek him out, and I didn’t ever stop to think of just how many of his songs I really knew. I think in a lot of ways we take these legends for granted. We don’t ever consider that one day they might not be here, until they’re just not…and this month, well, that’s happening on a near daily basis, isn’t it?

I was in the car this morning, considering what I might write about this morning, and Come on Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners came on the radio. This is one of those songs that I almost never turn off. If it comes on – whether it’s the radio or my iPhone – I don’t skip it or change the station. I love the song. It’s ridiculous, but it always reminds me of school dances in junior high. You’d think that memory alone would be enough to force my hand, but no. They’re good memories, albeit awkward ones. Then I started thinking about other songs that I always allow to play through, and decided to create a list when I got home. I’m going to share mine here – trying to go for at least 25, but we’ll see. The caveat: NO Duran Duran, and they have to be songs that whenever they play – you let it play through. I have a ton of songs that I adore (in fact, most of my favorite songs are this way), but I have to be in the right mood to hear them.

These songs, for the most part, aren’t even favorites (with the exception of the few classical ones I’ve mentioned – those are definite life long favorites of mine). My list could be WAY longer than 25, and I didn’t include nearly as many new wave songs as I would have first thought. I just sat down and just started writing the first ones that came to mind, coming up with 25 in an incredibly short amount of time, and they are in no particular order, and like I said – I could have added so many more. I was surprised. Makes me wonder why I haven’t ever done this before.

I encourage you to do the same and post it!  I wonder how many out of our lists will be from musicians we consider to be legends?

The Wall………………………………………………….Michael Jackson

Mr. Brightside…………………………………………The Killers

Mad World………………………………………………Tears for Fears

Alive and Kicking…………………………………..Simple Minds

Marriage of Figaro………………………………..Mozart

Rhapsody in Blue…………………………………..Gershwin

Tom Sawyer…………………………………………….Rush

Jessie’s Girl……………………………………………..Rick Springfield

Too Much Time on My Hands……………..Styx

In the Mood……………………………………………Glenn Miller

String of Pearls………………………………………Glenn Miller

Hit Me With Your Best Shot………………..Pat Benatar

Should I Stay or Should I Go…………………The Clash

Anyway You Want…………………………………Journey

We Close Our Eyes……………………………….Oingo Boingo

Blasphemous Rumours………………………..Depeche Mode

Been Caught Stealing…………………………..Jane’s Addiction

Eleanor Rigby…………………………………………The Beatles

More Than a Feeling…………………………….Boston

Infected…………………………………………………..Bad Religion

Under Pressure……………………………………..David Bowie/Queen

Rock With You……………………………………….Michael Jackson

Love Will Tear us Apart………………………..Joy Division

To Cut a Long Story Short…………………….Spandau Ballet

Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds……………The Beatles

-R

Guest Blog: The Notorious Mr. Nile Rodgers

By PamG

As most of us in Duranland know, the band has recently worked with the legendary Nile Rodgers for the new album. This news really made me happy. I mean, really, really happy. Not only does it signal forward progress on the new album, but I’m also hoping it means he’s bringing back some funk on the long-awaited album. And since reading his memoir Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny, I am even more interested in what happens next.

As a child of the ‘80s, I had mostly known Nile as that guy who did the awesome remix for The Reflex and performed with Madonna during Live Aid. Oh, and he had something to do with David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album too, since his name kept coming up during whenever Bowie was nominated for Grammy or VMA awards for it. Over the years, I came to realize that he played a very large role in the music that shaped my adolescence.

When I learned that he had penned his memoir, I knew I had to read it. I didn’t know much about the man, but I assumed he’d have a lot of tales of the 1980s music scene, and of course I was hoping for some new salacious tales about Duran. So if nothing else it might be a good source of gossip and backroom Studio 54 stories.

Little did I know how moved I would be by his life story. For this white girl who grew up in the suburbs, his background was nearly 180 degrees away from my middle-class experience. That wasn’t too surprising. And frankly those are the kinds of memoirs I enjoy reading. Sure, I expected there to be tales of drug use and abuse; that was a pretty safe bet with anyone who was in that music scene. And there was a rags-to-riches story too. But what hit me was how much Nile had survived before the tender age of ten: he was born to a teenage mother, witnessed rampant drug use in and around his home which was constantly on the move, and was sent to live in a convalescent home for his severe asthma. And this was only Chapter 2. This man was a survivor.

Don’t get me wrong: his brutally honest narrative is not a drab, sad tale. Even as he tells the tales of the ups and downs of his life so far, he does it with some humor too. And from the many interviews I’ve watched in recent years, it just seems that it’s part of his survival tactic. Mr. Rodgers’ memoir was published in 2011, not long after he was diagnosed with cancer. He addresses the diagnosis in his epilogue, but continues to publicly share his story on his blog “Walking on Planet C” (http://www.nilerodgers.com/blogs) and his Twitter account (https://twitter.com/nilerodgers). He recently shared that he is now cancer-free, and I wish him good health for many years to come.

Photo: Nile Rodgers Facebook page August 23, 2014
Photo: Nile Rodgers Facebook page August 23, 2014

Are there spicy tales about Duran in Le Freak? Yup. He speaks to some of his collaborations with them, both in and out of the studio. As expected, Nile also shares stories of other collaborations from the 1970s and 1980s, including Madonna, David Bowie, Donna Summer, Mick Jagger, and Michael Jackson, just to name a few. For a kid like me who grew up on MTV, this book is rich with tabloid-like tales that are like bedtime stories to me.

But in addition to the behind-the-scenes tales, I found myself drawn into the story of his musical collaboration and inspiring friendship with Bernard Edwards. When describing the first time they played together, Nile describes a musical telepathic connection. They follow their musical passions and form the band Chic. It didn’t take long for the disco world to become their oyster. But it’s Nile’s tale of their friendship—including when they drifted apart—that impacted me most. Reading the passage about their last moments together was both chilling and tear-jerking.

What will come of his collaboration with Duran on this next album? Time will only tell. But no matter what, I will be forever grateful for his remix of The Reflex. That record changed my life. Not only is it one of my favorite Duran songs, it was the first 12” record that I ever bought, and it opened my musical ears to the world of remixes. In the latter half of the 1980s I spent countless hours in record stores (remember those?). I still have vivid memories of heading straight to the “E” section of the store, backing up one row to the end of the “Ds”, and then filing through the Duran section for any 12” records that I hadn’t found before. Of all the vinyl I used to own, the Duran 12” singles are among the very small collection I have retained. It is rumored that The Reflex wasn’t even considered as a single off of Seven and The Ragged Tiger until Nile’s remix happened. On behalf of many Duranies, thank you Mr. Rodgers!

Photo: Duran Duran Facebook Page August 21, 2014
Photo: Duran Duran Facebook Page August 21, 2014

I recommend Nile Rodgers’ memoir for anyone who is interested in a story of how music can change the trajectory of a person’s life. Or if you want to read one man’s story of survival. Or even if you just want the behind-the-scenes stories of some of your favorite ‘80s darlings. And of course, it’s also for anyone (like me) who is still hungry for more Duran while we wait for #DD14.

 

PamGPamG has been a Duranie since the early days of MTV. In addition to all-things Duran, she also enjoys music documentaries, pop culture trivia, and live concerts of any kind. Her Duran dream would be to journey across the pond and see the band play throughout Europe. After waiting over 25 years to see Duran Duran live, she saw her first show in 2011 and it changed her life.

Love Never Felt so Good – Jackson/Timberlake

It’s rare that I discuss other bands or artists here on the blog, but I kind of thought this deserved special mention.

Have you heard the new Michael Jackson song that features Justin Timberlake…and more importantly, have you seen the video?  It’s all over Twitter this morning, and so I decided to take a peek.

I heard the song itself on Monday night when it was used on Dancing with the Stars – not a show I normally watch, but I was flipping channels and caught it.  I have to say that I like the song. It reminds me very much of Michael’s older work.  I hear a lot of “Rock with You” in there, and I really like that. I have no doubt that the song, the album, and just about anything else they can squeeze the life out of will be exploited well beyond reason, which makes me incredibly sad, but the song is good. It’s Michael….and oh yes, it features Justin too.

I watched the video this morning. Granted, I’m not a Justin fan and I really don’t get his part in the video. Yes, I know he sings on the song, but for me even that seems to be a carefully placed afterthought. That doesn’t mean I don’t think he does a good job, because he does. (It’s his type of music and he performs extremely well. It’s not like he’s actually trying to sing on a Duran Duran song or something!  Oh wait…) I just think his part wasn’t necessary.  (Please see the above comment about exploitation.)  However, that wasn’t what really set me off this morning to write this blog.

As I watched the videos, I must admit that at several points I found myself watching the clips of his old videos and feeling pretty melancholy. I wasn’t ever a huge Michael Jackson fan. My sister might even say that I couldn’t stand him. That’s not exactly true, I was just sick to death of hearing about him during a time when I felt that Duran Duran ruled the world…but that’s OK. I was young and didn’t quite get it, I suppose.

I don’t think you can really be a music fan or a fan of the American Dance movement and not see the genius that took place every time Michael performed. Overexploited? Yes. Without a doubt…but still brilliant in every single way. As my daughter Heather’s dance instructors have always told her since the very day Michael passed – when you watch Michael Jackson, you are seeing the same moves we use today, and he was the reason we do them.  Musically, Michael is *the* reason people like Justin Timberlake got into music – you can hear that influence consistently in his work.  So while I may not pay homage to the man in the same way I do Duran Duran, I have great respect for his music and talent.

So, getting back to that video – as I watched, it felt just a little creepy to me. I couldn’t decide if I was disgusted that once again Michael continues to be exploited even after his death, or that I was annoyed Justin Timberlake needed to take center stage…or that it was all just way too soon.  In some ways, I suspect the latter.  Michael died on June 25, 2009 (I googled it – no, I don’t just have these things in my head!), and while it has been nearly five years, I found that watching other very talented dancers doing his moves while his own videos played in the background just a little…well…sad.

I think to Duran Duran.  How would I feel if it were them? I don’t even like to think about that.  But truly? How would I feel if a label took their most iconic videos, like Rio or Hungry Like the Wolf put them together while someone like Justin – who claims to be just as influenced by DD as Michael (I really don’t buy that, by the way) did a duet with Simon…and not only Simon, but Simon post-mortem?  Granted, Simon’s not a big dancer (unless you’re counting that chicken dance….hey…did you know it’s National Chicken Dance day??), but even so…a label will do whatever they need to do to milk the last bit of life out of something.  If THAT doesn’t give you the shivers on this Wednesday, nothing will.  But really, how would YOU feel?

I’d hate it. With a passion. I’m not really sure five years could make that work for me, either.

So to recap: Yes on the song…and a very sad no on the video.

-R