Tag Archives: New Wave

You Walk the Line

Yesterday, I came across a short article from tvovermind.com, titled “Five 80s Bands We Really Want to Make a Comeback”

Naturally, I had to click on it.

It turns out, and you may want to sit down before reading on, because it is certainly a shock…but Duran Duran is one of the 80s bands they want to make a comeback.

Now I can see the big idea

Strange things happen overnight. An article that had originally been worded with a vague reference to an MIA fan base was reformed. Now it’s not a “knock on Duran Duran.” It’s the opposite, so the article states. They’re just interested in a “certain type of music to be more prevalent”. Yesterday, comments about personnel changes and setbacks took the lead. Today, the blurb was edited so that the reader might understand that Duran Duran has taken their knocks along the way. But hey, they’re still thriving.

Well, there’s something I agree with!

Duran Duran IS thriving.

However, the writer wants the band to go back to their 80s roots, claiming that we’d all love them more.

Would we, though?

An empire in a day

I say again, it is 2019. Do we really want Duran Duran to go back to playing the same old, same old – or do we want this band to continue to challenge themselves as well as their listeners? I would argue that to continue writing music circa-1985 would be the easy way out. I also think we’d all be incredibly bored by now. I’ll just say it myself: I would be so bored!!

No, I haven’t fallen deeply in love with every single thing the band has ever done. I do; however, have a deep appreciation and respect for the course the band has taken to get to this point right here and now. As I tell my own children—sometimes, you have to fall, in order to get back up again.

Duran Duran isn’t the same band that they were back in 1985. Then again, it isn’t still 1985. A good many things have changed since then. Even the music industry itself has changed! Music doesn’t sell the same way, bands can’t market themselves with a glossy, lacquered video and expect the money to roll on in. This band, or any band for that matter, cannot simply turn back the dial to 1985 in order to hear their name roll swiftly off the lips of all who inhabit Planet Earth again. I’m not even sure I wish that as a possibility.

Out of range, but in time

As I complained openly on Twitter yesterday, I’m tired of reading about the hopes of a comeback. During the past 19 years, Duran Duran has released five albums (thank you to C.K. for reminding me that Pop Trash came out in 2000….five lashes to me for leaving that out!), and Paper Gods even sat in the top ten. That doesn’t sound like a band that needs to make a comeback at all. They’ve been bringing it the entire time! Where have YOU been?

While the band itself might be unfazed by such articles, and perhaps might even secretly enjoy seeing them because it puts them in the position of looking like they are constantly fighting—I specifically took issue because the original unedited piece made it seem as though the fans have been somewhat MIA.

I don’t know about you all, but I haven’t gone anywhere. I’m not done yet. Are you?

-R



It’s the Learning of this Journey

Happy Monday! I trust everyone had a lovely weekend? Mine was spent digging!! In the continuing saga of becoming a farm family – we are building some basic infrastructure around here, including a chicken coop and run (outdoor pen area). In order to build one that will withstand and prevent potential predators – a narrow one-foot deep ditch had to be dug around the entire coop and run. We’ll bury hardware cloth (think heavy duty wire fencing) to stop animals from digging their way in. I didn’t need a gym or additional workout this weekend, that is for sure. Our soil is great, until we hit the bedrocks about six inches down. Suffice to say I’m glad the rest of our supplies don’t get here until Friday. By then I will have given my back a chance to recuperate!

Going to who knows where

Despite the hard work and a bit of rain on Saturday, we’ve been enjoying some beautiful weather, and gave ourselves a little time on Saturday night to thumb through some old vinyl. My evening was spent retracing some of my steps through music. We started by listening to Shaun Cassidy! I chuckled when Walt brought out the short stack of Shaun’s albums – I don’t think I’ve listened to them since about 1980! They had that classic 1970’s “pop” vibe to them – I don’t know how to describe it except to say that if you’ve ever heard smooth 1970’s rock – it was kind of like that, with a definite bubble gum edge (or lack thereof) to it. Listening now, I really don’t know how I ever got into it back then.

No offense to Shaun, of course. He is a lovely, kindhearted man – I follow him on Twitter and on Facebook. Once, he commended me on having a mint, unopened copy of his Born Late album. Unfortunately, he also suggested that perhaps I shouldn’t bank on it funding my retirement. Well alright then. There goes that idea! Back to Duran Duran blogging I go then…

Not knowing where you’re rolling

We moved on to Rick Springfield from there. Decidedly rock, I had no problem understanding why I liked him – because I still do. Rick was a huge step from Shaun, really. Where “Da Doo Run Run Run” didn’t have a hard edge to be felt – Rick kept the rock vibe moving. Even at the age of 69 (that can’t be right. It just can’t), Rick can tear up a room with his music, and back in 1979 or 1980, it wasn’t much different. I can’t remember what drew me away from Shaun or towards Rick Springfield – only that it happened. I distinctly remember taking down the Shaun Cassidy pin-up from my door and putting up Rick Springfield.

While my love for Rick didn’t last long (after all, “Jessie’s Girl” came out in 1981 and I believe that was about the same time I heard “Planet Earth” for the first time), I still remember getting into TV soap operas purely because of Rick playing “Dr. Noah Drake” on General Hospital. The summer of 1981 was all about General Hospital for me! Forget Luke and Laura (my apologies to those not from the states that don’t know what I’m talking about) – I was there for Dr. Drake! Age difference? What age difference???

Yes, the age difference between Rick and I is about 19 years. Isn’t it strange how in 1981, I didn’t even think about that? The guy is literally six years younger than my mother! <insert shock and horror here>

Being what makes you breathe is enough

Hearing Rick’s albums versus Shaun’s made me consider the entire journey. I began with 1970’s smooth bubble gum pop and ended up in New Wave/1980’s alternative. I’m not quite sure I’ve ever really left, to be honest.

Each year during award shows, I’ll see a friend or two who clearly pride themselves heavily on enjoying the latest artists, basically chastise those who find today’s music (or much of it) abysmal. Here’s the thing: IT DOESN’T MATTER. I am not in a race with my kids to see which of us has the broadest tastes, nor am I trying to remain relevant. I’m relevant just continuing to breathe and take up space!

The fact is, I like my music. I’m proud of what I listen to – whether it is Rick Springfield, Pink Floyd, Shaun Cassidy, Led Zeppelin, Duran Duran, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Def Leppard, The Killers or even Lykke Li. I like it all. But, I cut my musical teeth, so to speak, on the music I grew up with. I have a special place in my heart for the sounds that got me through middle school, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. I still laugh at the trajectory that got me from Disney records to Duran Duran, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

-R

Some New Romantic Looking For the TV Sound

I heard you making patterns rhyme

If you had to categorize Duran Duran in a word, what word would you pick?

Are they pop? Rock? New Wave? Synthpop? Electronic? New Romantic? I think Nick described the band as Modernist once or twice?? What would you say?

My head is stuck on something precious

Yesterday, there were a few tweets going back and forth between several fans about DD’s music. Classic Pop Magazine has a Synthpop issue out on newsstands now. Although Duran Duran aren’t really mentioned in the magazine much, one of the editors put Ordinary World in their top ten synthpop songs. I find that interesting, because I wouldn’t characterize Ordinary World that way at all.

That got me thinking, of course. If Ordinary World isn’t truly synthpop, then what? I don’t think I ever came up with a reasonable answer for that. I always struggle with calling them a pop band because in my head – they’re not. They’re not music you’d hear on Top 40 radio (although we certainly did once). They might have some pop songs in their catalog, but I really hate the idea of categorizing them just as pop. It seems so pedestrian, boring and kind of cringy. Clearly, they’re not rock either. I mean, yeah, they’ve got guitar, but they don’t rely on it. I’d say similar for Synthpop – in my head, a synthpop group relies on the synthesizer for the melody lines. Is that the case with DD? I’d argue no on that.

Does it help to take one album at a time? I’d say no. For example, I mean, what do you call their debut? New Romantic? The problem with that, of course, is that the moniker isn’t as much about the music as it is about the fashion of the time. The reason we think of Planet Earth as New Romantic (aside from the words being in the lyrics…thank you Duran Duran…) is because of the ruffled shirts, the over the top hair and make up, the pirate look. To use a similar idea to what was discussed yesterday on Twitter, bands who were classified as New Romantic had synthesizers, but not all bands who had synthesizers were New Romantic. (nor were they New Wave – thanks @GuyFansofDuran!)

My eyes so cloudy, I can’t see

I think that for me, one of the reasons I’ve always valued Duran Duran so highly is that they didn’t CARE about boxes marked “New Wave” or “New Romantic”, or even “Pop” or “Rock”. The one thing I loved most about the band was also the one thing that challenged me from album to album. I never knew what a finished, new album would sound like, and there was never any way to prepare. As an aside, I’ve learned to never, EVER review one of their songs publicly after only a few listens. I have to sit with the music for a while. Paper Gods took me a good solid two or three weeks before I finally had that light bulb “I GET IT!” moment. I still don’t know what I’d characterize Paper Gods as, musically, though. Does it matter?

For those of us who tend to value a sense of routine and normalcy, Duran Duran has sometimes been the very opposite.

They’ve created music they liked. In their purist, most raw moments as a band in the very beginning, I don’t think they were worried about marketing or labels. Sure, they wanted fame and fortune. They wanted to be the biggest band in the world. But I don’t know that they were overly concerned with the minutia in getting there.

Can you hear me now?

What do I mean by that? Well, what I’m NOT saying is that they were careless for detail. That isn’t it at all. I just don’t think that they consciously sat back and tried to figure out what music might sell best, or get radio time the easiest. There was a certain kind of bliss with industry ignorance in that respect. How self-aware was the band before they really “made it”? I believe it was simple enough for them to get out of their own way back then.

Writing and recording under those conditions had to have been easier in that aspect. I mean, once you know who you are, and what you’ve done in the past, I suspect that has the potential to set the bar incredibly high. When I compare Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger, I see the latter as evidence of being far too self-aware, despite my undying love for the work.

I’m not sure how Duran Duran gets past all of the mind games that come along with recording nowadays. The ghosts of albums past, the requirements of record labels to deliver at least one verifiable, marketable, top 40 hit coupled with the notions of playlists, streaming, and the idea of how much differently music is consumed these days than forty years earlier. On top of all that, deciding what kind of music they’re actually going to record, and fighting whatever label people want to put on them now? Pop? Rock? Electronic? EDM? Urban? Contemporary? Oh hell no. How can anybody be creative in that environment?

Is there anybody out there trying to get through?

If I were them, I’d want to throw my phone in the trash compactor, unplug from society, and forget the labels. It seems to me that it might be the only way to record an album with honest, pure, organic intentions.

Of course, if they did that, then they wouldn’t be able to read my incredibly humorous and intelligent fodder.

Hmm.

Throw your electronic devices away, gentlemen… and good luck!

-R

KROQ of the 80s is Back on Radio.com!

I discovered something new yesterday that I want to share!  I was reading through my Twitter timeline, and saw @roqofthe80s had liked one of my posts. Remembering that was a tagline for my favorite radio station back in the 80s and 90s, I clicked to investigate.

During the 1980s, there several “reasonably good” radio stations here in the local Los Angeles market, but KROQ rose above them all. They seemed to identify with most kids in my age range, playing music that no one else bothered to play. The DJs were funny, sometimes even a bit corny, but they knew their stuff and I appreciated that. Richard Blade, likely the most popular of KROQ DJ’s, was a god to most teenagers here in Los Angeles.  His career at KROQ is one of the shining memories of my teen years and early 20s. While Duran Duran may have been the soundtrack to my memories, Richard was the one spinning the tunes.

The KROQ I once knew wasn’t afraid to play brand new music, and although I had no idea at the time – they weren’t a big budget station at all. Naturally, tastes change, management changes, as does music. Through the decades since I graduated from high school in 1988, the format at KROQ changed as well, and while I don’t listen nearly as often,  it is still one of my presets.

So imagine my surprise (and initial skepticism) when I saw that KROQ – my KROQ – was back!  Oddly, I’ve never been into much internet radio, preferring just to stream Spotify. Among many other types of music, I enjoy finding a good New Wave playlist with songs I haven’t heard much in the past 20 years unless I’m digging through my own collection. I didn’t ever bother with iHeart Radio or even radio.com, until yesterday.

I figured I’d give it a quick listen, and my expectations were pretty low.  It turns that if you’re lucky enough to own a vehicle with an HD radio, you can even tune in at 106.7 HD2. At this moment, there are only two DJs (and if you’re not from LA you won’t recognize the names) – Freddy Snakeskin and Tami Heidi. To my memory, Tami started at KROQ fairly late in the new wave game. Freddy is far more recognizable to me and it was comforting to hear him. Right now, they seem to be playing a recorded countdown of the top 500 New Wave songs of the 80s on repeat, but given that the station only started on September 4th, I’m hopeful they expand beyond that format to something more live-ish.  In the meantime, I’m going to keep listening!

Check it out for yourself KROQ2 roqofthe80s on radio.com 

-R

Happy 37th Anniversary MTV!

Can you believe that MTV launched on this date in 1981—a mere 37 years ago???

I kept going back and redoing the math on that, because it just doesn’t seem possible. I can’t remember exactly when MTV arrived at my house. I know we had cable at some point, and I remember watching MTV for hours and hours. I just don’t know when we finally got it, although I’m sure it was before Live Aid in 1985.  What I do remember is that my friend Marsha had it as soon as it became available to residents in Covina, California.  I began spending many hours of my day planted in front of her TV as a result. (Thanks Mrs. W!!)

My musical tastes were formed by two things: playing clarinet, and MTV.  As a clarinet student, I learned far more about classical music than I ever thought possible. In the years before MTV, I knew more about classical composers than I did contemporary 1980’s-era artists on the radio. By then, I’d cultivated a deep appreciation for  Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mozart, along with many others. That list is long, my friends. Benny Goodman was and still is my hero and spirit animal, right alongside Pete Fountain and Artie Shaw.  On the other hand, I really didn’t know much about pop music. I discovered a local radio station – KROQ – before MTV came along, but once the videos got started, there was no stopping me. I relished every single video that came on the screen, along with juicy bits of music news and background information that VJ’s such as Martha Quinn and JJ Jackson diligently doled out in between.

I cut my New Wave and Alternative teeth on artists like Wall of Voodoo, Burning Sensations, The Motels, The Fixx, Visage, Soft Cell, Joy Division—I could go on and on and on, and you’d likely know every band and artist.

It blows my mind that this all began 37 years ago. Can it really be possible? Sadly, I know it is. Life goes by in the blink of an eye.

I wouldn’t mind sitting down in front of the TV to watch an MTV video marathon direct from 1981, even if only for a day. It is a shame we can’t step back in time, for even just one moment. The innocence of youth, hope for what the future might hold, and seemingly limitless energy all seem very appealing right now.

Yep, I’d take a little more of all that today.

-R

Rio goes gold, 1983

Do you know what happened on this date in 1983?

Rio went Gold.

That means by this date in 1983, that little album with the recognizably Nagel cover had sold 500,000 copies. 500,000 people or so, snatched up that vinyl, or cassette. (did they have 8-track too??) I still have my original copy and remember buying it. Do you?

I’m a little surprised that my copy still works. I would have thought that with the number of times I played it – over and over again – that by now the grooves would have widened and been completely worn out. I loved that album from the very moment I heard the opening “backwards sounding” rush of notes all coming together to transport me away to a completely different world. Escapism at its best.

To this day, some of my favorite songs and videos are from that album. So for this Throwback Thursday, I’m going to spend some time gleefully skipping down a memory lane dipped in gold!

I couldn’t find a full-length clip of Last Chance on the Stairway (dammit, why hasn’t someone else done it for me?!) but I did find a couple of the electroset version they did….and this is the longest:

Happy listening and viewing!

-R

 

PS – Happy March!!!

 

 

World in My Eyes by Richard Blade

I haven’t given a book recommendation in a long time, but I’m about to offer up a good one!  As most know, I grew up in Southern California, probably about an hour from where I live now. If you really want to look it up on a map, the name of the town is Glendora. I lived in the far-less-than-wealthy, southerly section of the town.

At some point during the summer between fifth and sixthgrades for me (1981), I discovered KROQ 106.7. I don’t really remember much about how that happened, except that it might have been my friend Kristy who kind of led the way.

I had an old clock radio in my bedroom starting in fifth grade.  When I got it, I had no idea about radio stations – so I just turned the dial until I found one that came in clearly playing music. Nearly every morning I’d be woken up hearing “My Sharona” by the Knack. I still twitch funny when that song comes on the radio! Even so, I left the radio untouched because I had so much trouble finding a station that came in, let alone one with music I recognized.

During that summer between fifth and sixth grades though, I started becoming more interested in music.  I asked my friends, and Kristy piped up with “Listen to K-West!”  I didn’t know what K-West was, but I figured she’d know, and so when I went home, I fiddled with my clock radio, adjusting it to the 106-area. It was so hard to fix the dial to get something to actually come in, back then. Move the knob a teensy bit too much and it would be static or you’d not get the button exactly on the right station. It would appear to be on 106, for example, but it would actually be 105 or even 107-something. Annoying.

On that day, something did come in, and it was music I really liked. I had no idea what it was, but I stuck with it. I carefully placed the radio back on my dresser and didn’t touch it, assuming I was on K-West, and that Kristy was right. I never listened for that long, just when I was waking up in the morning. At that point, I wasn’t spending a lot of time in my room listening to music yet. I must have had that clock radio set to that station for a good year before I realized what channel it was. Richard started working at KROQ in 1982, and it is just about that time when I remember hearing his voice on the air. My memory might be a bit faded and mixed up (I’ll admit having to come back and edit this post well after I first wrote it!), but I can remember Richard giving out the call sign for the station like it was yesterday!

From that time on, Richard Blade was a constant part of my life. I listened to him nearly every morning, and he had everything to do with helping me shape my musical tastes. If radio weren’t enough, I watched him on MV3 which became Video One, and later on, once I was 18, if he guest DJ’ed at clubs in Los Angeles, I went. (The Palace in Hollywood, and Fashions on the Redondo Beach Pier to name a couple!)

Most readers might also know that I hold Richard Blade responsible for me meeting my husband. Richard was a near-constant figure at Fashions for years. On his fifth anniversary, I went to the club and met Walt. Sometimes I want to thank Richard for that, and other times—well, being married has its challenges, doesn’t it?! Even so, I have a beautiful family, and my children might not be here had it not been for Richard Blade, which is wild when I think about it! I don’t know that I would have ever known Duran Duran beyond being an obscure band from the UK, and I definitely wouldn’t have had my eyes opened to alternative music. Who knew a DJ could subtly influence the direction of my life?

Since those days, I guess I’ve followed Richard.  If he’s DJ’ing somewhere, Walt and I try to go whenever we’re able. He plays the music my husband and I listen to, and the weirdest thing happens when we are dancing (and yes, he and I LOVE to dance. It is what brought us together to begin with). I forget about the tough stuff, and we both get transported back to those beginning days downstairs at Fashions. It is like we remember what is really important, and get back to the basics if only for a few hours. Those hours have somehow saved our relationship over the nearly twenty-six years we’ve been together! We’ve had the opportunity to meet Richard a few times, have had a photo or two with him, and now my friend Steven works with him quite often, which is really cool to see.

When Richard announced his autobiography, World In My Eyes, I was excited to get my hands on it. Richard markets the book by saying that we’ll read about the bands we all know – including Duran Duran – but the truth is, at least for me, I wanted to read his story. It’s not his knowing Duran Duran or Depeche Mode that makes the book interesting – although for many, I understand it’s a true selling point. I haven’t even downloaded his interviews with some of the bands I know, I’ve been too busy reading! I’m not even halfway through it yet and I can honestly say – the man has LIVED. It is no wonder why he’s so successful, or why he’s been a constant source of inspiration and learning to me personally. He has had a life well-lived.

The book is outstanding so far, and I have just barely gotten to the point where he moves to California. It is easy to fangirl Richard Blade, and I don’t want to seem too gushy. To many in my generation, he is (in a very vague sense) our Dick Clark. We can leave American Top 40 to Ryan Seacrest—we don’t need him. But Richard Blade? He taught me nearly everything I know about New Wave and 80’s music. He’s open, honest, and cares about people and living things. He has no problem arguing his feelings and concerns, and while I might not always agree, I fully respect him.

Richard is the real deal, and I want to congratulate him on such a wonderfully written representation of his life. I know the diligence required with writing a manuscript, much less an autobiography. It isn’t enough to just want to do it, you have to want to do it more than anything. Richard wrote every single word, no ghost-writers involved, which is rare!

I have no problem highly recommending World in My Eyes. As I said, I haven’t even gotten halfway through it, and I would easily put this on the same shelf with Mad World. We are so lucky to have books about our music and the people who influenced us. I hope everyone grabs a copy. With the holidays coming, I think it would make a great present for anyone who loves music, Duran Duran and New Wave/80s alternative, or knows of Richard Blade! At over 500 pages, it’s the best $20 I’ve spent in a long time.

(And no, I wasn’t asked to write about his book, and I’m certainly not being paid to do so – this is all straight from me)

I can’t wait to get back to reading – so I’ve got to wrap this up for now.

-R

*edited because as I could have predicted this morning when I first wrote it – I got the dates all wrong. 🙂

Book Club: Mad World (Animotion, Band-Aid and Afterword)

This is our final book club for the book, Mad World.  We will finish by discussing the last three chapters on Animotion, Band-Aid and the Afterword by Moby.  Perhaps, we will also include a little bit of what we learned along the way.  I hope you throughly enjoyed the book and the book club as much as we did!  Jump in and join us!

Animotion:

Amanda:

Truly, this was an unbelievable chapter and story to read.  As I read it,  I almost thought that I should be keeping a chart about who did what, when, why, etc.  There were so many statements and moves made that affected Animotion that it was hard to keep track.  Clearly, VERY clearly, the band members, themselves, did not have control over their band.  Much like the lyrics to the song, there is a desperation underlying all of the agreements and moves made by the individual members.  They seemed to want to succeed so badly and the little taste that they had made them want more.  This desire was so strong that they made some questionable decisions.  Unfortunately, those decisions didn’t seem to put them in a better spot in the long run.

Before I dive into the chaos that was the Animotion story, I have to acknowledge what I knew before hand.  I knew that Michael Des Barres co-wrote this song and that it did very, very well for him.  In fact, before Power Station, this seemed to be his big claim to fame.  I never once thought about the actual band who performed the song.  I was just happy that Michael experienced such success and I guess I assumed that the band must have as well.  How naive am I?!  The band’s story shows or reminds that one should never ever assume when it comes to the music business.

Right away into Animotion’s story, I know that this wasn’t going to go well when the song, “Obsession,” sounded nothing like the rest of the album and didn’t match the sound they were going for.  It seems to me that it never ends well when ONE song or ONE album goes against the rest of an artist’s catalog.  When the band heard the song, one member loved it and thought it was the direction they should be going and the other wasn’t so sure.  Perhaps, part of the problem was that the band wasn’t really on the same page to begin with and weren’t comfortable with each other.  Yet, of course,  reservations were pushed aside as the song moved up the charts.

After that, behind-the-scenes became complete chaos.  There was the producer trying to run the show and get in between band members.  Then, the record label pushed new songs at them and when the next one didn’t do as well, the label backed off support.  A new A&R man comes in filled with hate over everything they had done before.  Likewise, new managers determined that key members needed to go and be replaced by Cynthia Rhodes.   It seems to me that member, Astrid Plane, summed it up best on page 307 about what it was like to be them then, “You were nothing.  You were an item that was going to be on a shelf to be sold, and if they felt like you weren’t sales-worthy, then [they’d] toss you in the trash.”  I am left just shaking my head at how horrible and upsetting their story really was.  I wouldn’t want any other band or artist to experience something like this, but I suspect their story really isn’t all that unique.

Rhonda:

Unlike Amanda, I was pretty naive about who wrote “Obsession”.  Of course I know the song – it’s difficult to claim yourself as New Wave fan without acknowledging the song (purely as an aside, my younger sister continues to sing this song to me at the oddest moments, whenever the timing makes sense…to remind me of my Duran Duran fandom. Thanks, Robin.), but I really never thought about who wrote it.  I guess you could even say that I didn’t care, because I really didn’t.  I just knew the song to be one of those overplayed-to-death songs from the radio.  I don’t know that I ever really think about that kind of thing as a music consumer. (except when it comes to Duran Duran and their various guitar players over the years) I was shocked when I read this chapter though. If there was ever any question about how the industry REALLY works – how incredibly unfair it can really be, or how it will chew you up, spit you out and then come back later for more – this is the chapter to read.  

Animotion was never one of my favorite bands from this era, and I wholly admit that this particular song had everything to do with that. I suppress a bit of a chuckle when I find that this song wasn’t even their typical sound. It sounds nothing like their music at all, actually. That’s a real problem for this band – because if you’ve got an audience wanting to hear more like “Obsession”, and you’re used to writing something much more similar to say, early Police or Fleetwood Mac, that audience is never going to follow you.  Instead, you’ve got a band here who literally floated to the top of the charts on a song that they didn’t write – therefore making nearly NO money on the song (even to this day, it’s the writer of the song – Michael Des Barres – who continues to see handsome royalty checks on this one), and there’s not any way to bring those fans of this song to their back catalog.  It is really THAT different.  I read stories all the time about bands who are/were famous and yet haven’t a penny to their name(s), and mostly I want to scoff and laugh because really – is that possible?  The answer is yes. Yes it is.  If you can’t/didn’t write your own music, I’m not entirely sure that you want to “just” be the performer, and especially not after reading this chapter. 

I’d like to share a quote from Bill Wadhams, followed by a quote from Michael Des Barres.  It’s easy to see that they are two sides of the same coin – two products of the machine.  

Wadhams says, “I go on YouTube and see Michaels Des Barres performing at SXSW, and he prefaces ‘Obsession’ by saying, ‘This is a song that I wrote that made me a bloody fortune.’ The year that ‘Obsession’ [was a hit for Animotion], each member of the band made about $50,000; the next year, just about nothing.  Whether it’s fair or not, it doesn’t matter because I don’t know that Michael Des Barres ever sang a song that was an international hit. I wonder whether he would trade having been the singer of the hit song for the money, if he would’ve been able to walk out on stage, sing ‘Obsession’, and have people go, ‘That’s the voice, that’s the hit that we love.’ (308)

Des Barres says, “It’s put my kid through college, [supported] two wives, and more besides. One song enters the lexicon of American consciousness, and it will take care of you for the rest of your life.”  (308)

Astrid Plane, singer for Animotion, finishes the chapter by adding, “We are still in debt to the record company to this day.” (308) 

Band-Aid:

Amanda:

Lori Majewski’s introduction in this chapter instantly brought me back to my elementary school lunch hour.  Why?  Simple.  I, too, experienced endless debates between Band-Aid and USA for Africa. While her debates might have been about which had bigger stars, mine focused on who was first.  No matter how many times and how many ways I tried to explain that Band-Aid was first, that they had started it, my classmates didn’t believe me.  This was obviously long before the internet so I couldn’t prove it to them but I so wanted to.  In reality, below the surface of the debate, it was more about which was better:  New Wave or Motown?  Duran Duran or Michael Jackson?  You see, unlike so many in 1984, I lived in an area where it wasn’t cool to be a Duran Duran fan.  Michael Jackson was the one and only king there.  Even now, I have to admit to loving the comments Nick Rhodes made in this chapter about the differences between Band-Aid and USA for Africa.  He seemed to be spot on, to me!

While I knew the story behind the song and how quickly it was put together, reading Midge Ure tell about it makes it all the more real.  They truly put the song together so quickly from writing to recording to getting it airplay.  He tells how easily it could have been horrible and that “it wasn’t that bad”.  I don’t know about the rest of you but I can’t imagine a holiday season going by without listening to the song and hearing it played somewhere.  It lives on.

Of course, the real story of Band-Aid isn’t so much the song itself or the bands involved, but what was pointed out in the introduction.  It marked the end of the party.  The first half of the 1980s, the New Wave era, ended with this song  and what followed with Live Aid and other charity events.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I wish the New Wave era, musically, continued forever as I loved it so.  Yet, I know that, sometimes, it is good for something to be shorter lived.  It wasn’t around long enough to get completely run down and sucky.  I still have mixed emotion about the worldly awareness that followed.  While I’m a political person, I have never chosen music that is overtly political.  I like artists to be smart, thinking and feeling people but not preachy.  Did Band-Aid change people and the industry to become preachy?  Maybe.  It is hard to say but things definitely did change after that.

Rhonda:

The holiday season just isn’t so without this song.  Like Amanda, I wish the New Wave age had gone on longer – I didn’t graduate from high school until 1988 and it could have easily continued that long without complaint from me. I will never forget hearing the song for the first time, or the glee I get each and every time I hear it on the radio during the season.  This single song sums up much of my entire music experience during my formative years.  To this day I smile every time I hear Simon sing his lines, and while I know the song is for charity and it’s purpose was to galvanize the community into support for Africa – to me it’s about so much more. It’s a musical era. It’s my history. It’s the capstone of New Wave, and it was a song ever created for a charity (sometimes I wonder just how much of that message gets lost amongst the noise).  

I don’t know if I like what happened following the release of this record so much.  For me, music changed after that. I won’t even mention the US answer to this song, suffice to say that there have been many attempts to copy what this song tried to do. There is something really kind about “Do They Know it’s Christmas”, and I think that feeling was completely lost after that with “other” attempts. It became production and big industry business. Maybe that’s why I’ve always stuck to British bands….

After that record though, music started having some sort of a conscious, and bands tended to forget that the purpose was to entertain, not preach.   And of course, New Wave as I knew it really ended.  But at the time, when this record came out – I had no idea. I listened to it nearly non-stop during that 1984 holiday season. Ignorance was bliss, and trust me – I was indeed full of bliss that holiday. 

Afterword:

Amanda:

Moby does a good job in expressing how New Wave was different–international, gentle, escapist.  I felt all those same things.  I felt that way living in the Chicago suburbs and later even more so when I moved to small town, Illinois.  I longed for anything that wasn’t small town American focused, jean wearing, beer guzzling, hard rock that was all the rage by the time I found myself transported to what seemed like another planet.  I still miss it but there was a desperation then in my youth that led me to reject anything and everything popular for a good number of years.

This book brought me back to my childhood and the music I loved so much.  It reminded me why I fell in love with it and truly what was so good about it.  I loved the imagination and the creativity that everyone seemed to bring.  There was uniqueness in every artist despite having common influences.  As the kid, the music seemed carefree and fun.  Of course, the book also shed light on the stories behind  the music and many of those stories revealed the good, the bad and the ugly.  I learned how quickly some songs were written.  I also learned how easily band members can grow apart even when they were the best of friends.  The music industry might have been kinder then, in general, but still was a thorn in people’s sides too often.  Yet, despite everything that happened to each of these bands, their music remains.  Like Moby, I’m definitely thankful.  I’m also ready for the sequel!

Rhonda:

I don’t think I grew up in a particularly small town, but even so, New Wave was my escape from reality. I was a typical junior high school band nerd. My friends were either band members, or they were also nerds. We didn’t know how to dress, make-up was still a mystery, and awkwardness was probably my FIRST name at the time. The popular girls at my school loved to pick on me, and music was how I escaped the ridicule. I think to some extent, it still is.  Back then I’d come home from school, and the first thing I’d do was turn on the TV in search of music video, or I’d run to my bedroom, flop on my bed and hit my stereo. I didn’t want to hear or see pop – I wanted bands like Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, INXS, Depeche Mode or nearly any other band mentioned in this book. (coincidence? Probably not!) I didn’t have an allowance, and money wasn’t “free-flowing” in my parents house, so I can remember waiting for KROQ to play certain songs so that I could tape them from radio.  The audio quality would be terrible (back then I literally had to take my tape recorder and face it towards one of my radio speakers to make it work, and I nearly cried with joy the day my parents finally bought me a “boom box”…good Lord…) I always loved the boys who were less football, more introspective, and if they played in a band – all the better.  So when I read Moby’s afterword, I find myself nodding in agreement. His story really isn’t much different from my own.  New Wave WAS my adolescence and it did make life bearable. I don’t know what I would have done without it. 

Like Amanda, I’m ready for the sequel. This book was everything I’d hoped, and much, much more.  If you haven’t grabbed your copy yet, I urge you to give it a try. I loved this book so much it’s earmarked and red-lined, with notes in the margins and sadly, a few pages have even come out of the binding at this point. I daresay it’s been well-consumed.

-A & R

Book Club: Mad World (A Flock of Seagulls, Modern English and Soft Cell)

It is week 9 of our latest book club!  The focus is Mad World and this week, we are reading and discussing the chapters on A Flock of Seagulls, Modern English and Soft Cell.  We would love to have you all read along and join in the discussion!

A Flock of Seagulls:

Amanda:
The introduction to this chapter is right on.  A Flock of Seagulls is a band that seems almost a caricature of the genre and that time period, especially with that hair.  As the introduction pointed out, though, we all remember the look!  Isn’t that what image was all about?  Trying to stick out from the crowd?  Getting attention and then staying in people’s minds long after hearing the song or seeing the video?  If so, this band had that part down, for sure!!
I absolutely had to laugh that they were aiming to follow the path that Duran went down but they weren’t as electronic as they wanted to be.  First, it doesn’t surprise me that Duran was influencing bands even then.  Second, I wonder what specifically made they want to follow Duran.  If they wanted to be more electronic, why didn’t they follow Depeche Mode, for example?  Did they like the fame and attention Duran was getting?  Was that it?
“When things are right, they line up,” said Mike Score, in reference to writing the song, “I Ran.”  He had seen a poster at a record company of people running from a flying saucer.  From there, he said that the song wrote itself.  What caught my attention there wasn’t the story behind the song as much as the line about when things are “right”.  As I read each and every story in this book, I keep thinking about what really made the song or the band successful.  Is it that it is just “right” so it is meant to be?  Is that the artist worked really, really hard?  Is it luck?  Is it meeting the right person?  It seems to me that most of the stories have a combination between all of these.  Is that the same with other professions/careers?
Mike Score emphasizes that they wanted the band, the song to be “sci-fi”.  It seems to me that there were a lot of New Wave artists out there who also had a focus of sorts on space and/or science fiction.  Obviously, Duran did.  While I could point out David Bowie as this chapter does, it seems to me that there has to be more to it than just David Bowie.  Why then?  People landed on the moon in the 1960s.  Science fiction was an established genre then.  So what was the deal?  Could the increased tension of the Cold War do it?  Could it be that people were looking for that positive future?  Could it be that they were looking for an escape from a world that seemed doomed?
Rhonda:
So I liked the hair. It was so completely different from what I was allowed to do with my own (no seriously, I wasn’t even allowed to wear skirts that fell above my knee, and no, I didn’t go to parochial school – that was my dad’s rule!).  As I read Jonathan’s little editorial on how he felt about Flock of Seagulls, I have to say – I’m glad I didn’t live in England (probably the first time I’ve ever said that). I would have been just as out of place there as I was at Sunflower Intermediate in Covina, California. (Go ahead, look it up, but it’s no longer a public intermediate school –  I think my “graduating class” busted the system or something).  I liked their music, and not in a “I secretly listen to One Direction when no one else is around” sort of way.  I danced to “I Ran”, and I liked it.  So, I’m sure it’s not a surprise that I side with Lori on this one.  I loved them, the song, the video AND their hair, and yes – they were cool.
I didn’t think it was such a surprise that they wanted to be like Duran Duran. They were really the first band from the UK that had really made a big splash in America in a very long time – I mean let’s be completely honest, for a while, Duran Duran was the biggest band in the world.  I think a lot of bands wanted to be on the road that Duran Duran had already paved, and probably kick Duran Duran out of their way as they went cruising by. 
I tend to agree with Mike Score – that when things are right, they do seem to just line up naturally. I hear that a lot, and even in my own life – sometimes the things that just happen naturally turn out to be the best.  He makes a similar statement about “I Ran”, that it wrote itself – “as all good songs do.” (200)  Over and over again throughout this book, artists make comparable comments about their biggest songs – that they came easily or wrote themselves.  I don’t really know what that says, because there are moments when we all struggle with our best work, but as I read I have to notice that it seems to be a very common thread.  
Mike’s very last comment in the book is one that I will take with me.  “As the band gets bigger, you tend to lose that camaraderie. I think that led to the downfall.” I think this to be very true. It’s as though the band becomes larger than the people within, and everyone wants a piece to control – until the machine – the industry itself – makes the band uncontrollable, never mind the egos within.  
Modern English:

Amanda:

I love this song and always have.  That said, I never placed it into a soon to be destroyed by nuclear war context.  As I read the lyrics and think about it, I can definitely see that.  As a historian and social scientist, I find it fascinating when I am able to put songs and musical genres into societal and/or historical context.  I understand a society and a time period more and I understand the song more.  I now get to do that with this song, too.  Very cool.

Of course, Robbie Grey of Modern English, expanded on this idea.  I love that the song was also trying to show the good and the bad with people.  Even the lyric about “mesh and lace” was to show this.  Once again, I am reminded that song lyrics can seem straightforward on the surface and be much more when you dig a little deeper.

He also tells a story about how the band went from playing to 200 people in England to playing to 5000 people in Florida.  What struck me wasn’t the idea of a very quick rise in fame that so many from this era experienced, but how Robbie saw the audiences in Europe compared to the audiences in America.  European audiences he described as “thoughtful” whereas American audiences just wanted to have fun.  I wonder if he would say the same now.  Do others agree?

Rhonda:

I Melt with You” is as 80s iconic as anything else I can think of – I know that when the words “New Wave” are uttered amongst friends, this is always one of the first songs they mention. (I know this because I tested my theory at a neighborhood block party last week!) They also mention things like “Madonna”…and that’s when I openly cringe and tell them that it’s time to re-educate themselves on proper New Wave.  I’m not invited to many neighborhood parties…

I never knew what the song was about, to be honest – but of course the line “Never really knowing it was always mesh and lace” sticks in my head as easily as “You’re about as easy as a nuclear war”.  I really think I spent most of the 80s dancing to the music and not really listening to the words. That came much later.  

I don’t know a lot of Modern English’s catalog. Like Jonathan, I was always very satisfied with just hearing “I Melt With You” and never felt like I needed more.  So I was genuinely surprised to read that Robbie Grey used to shout rather than sing and that this song was the first he actually sang that way.  I always liked the rawness of his voice – it added texture to the song.  

Like Amanda, I was surprised to read that there was such a difference between American and European audiences. I mean, Duran has said similar things (I will never forget reading a blog from Roger Taylor that called American’s “raucous”.  He didn’t mean it harshly, only that we’re apparently really loud and crazy. That stung, because I don’t see us quite that way. I don’t really understand the difference between the screaming “hard-core loyalty” they talk about from fans in Italy and the roar of the crowd they find here in America, but I have to think there really must be a difference.), but I just don’t really know what it means. I went to the UK for several shows a few years back, and to be completely honest I found the UK audiences to be very subdued to what goes on here at home. I mean yes they cheer, but it’s different. Would I call it thoughtful? I’m not quite sure that’s the right word.

Soft Cell:

Amanda:

Who doesn’t love this song?  I have loved versions by other artists as well as the Soft Cell version, but I have to admit that this is my favorite out of them all.  Is it that I know this one the best?  Is it that I fell in love with this one first?  Is it simply that this version really is the best?  I suppose it doesn’t matter why I love it.  I just do.

I love the fact that, according to the band’s Marc Almond, they went with this song to cover because doing a “soul song” was the most “un-electronic” thing to do.  I suppose that is a little like Duran covering Public Enemy’s 911 Is a Joke.  It just seems so out of character and, for Soft Cell, it truly was as so much of the rest of their material was shocking in many ways.  Yet, Marc goes on to say how they put their sound to the song, which included, “cold, electronic sound with a passionate vocal.”  That description could fit so much of the music I love.  Truly.

Marc Almond continues to say that the success surrounding “Tainted Love” made them uncomfortable because of their new young fans and the controversial nature of the rest of the work.  I would feel the same way, if I were them.  That said, I’m not sure a lot of other artists would have given that two thoughts.  A lot of artists would have just seen dollar signs and dollar signs only.  I never heard Duran, for example, say that they had any concern about the Girls on Film video after attracting a lot of young fans.  Perhaps, it isn’t because they weren’t concerned about their young fans but because they didn’t think the video would be harmful.  Still, it is nice to see that Soft Cell did give some consideration to their young fans.

Rhonda:

Without any disrespect intended, this is one of those songs that I could go without ever hearing again and not feel the least bit slighted. Once upon a time, I loved “Tainted Love” in the same way I loved “Hungry Like the Wolf”, but time (and radio) has ruined both for me. That said, I have always liked Soft Cell. I loved that their videos were meant to shock, and that they did. I like the avant-garde “art school” nature they had, and I think their videos are superbly odd.  I would characterize Soft Cell as the really strange contemporary art that a lot of people rush past in a museum because they don’t get it – and yet you’ll find me standing there staring at a rotting piece of cheese boxed in clear acrylic because I’m trying to understand what the artist is saying. I love that stuff! 

I think the real reason I liked Soft Cell and Marc Almond so much was because of something Marc says so eloquently, “Living in sleazy eighties Britain, repressed people leading secret lives, frustrated living in bedsits – it was the total antithesis of what Duran Duran were doing, which was singing about this glamorous life, and living in Rio, and sailing in ships on beautiful seas.”  I love an escape. Duran Duran were living a life I had absolutely zero chance of ever experiencing myself – so that attracted me as much as John Taylor’s cheekbones or Roger Taylor’s quiet and brooding eyes ever did. On the other hand, I liked the darkness and obscurity that Soft Cell had to offer. It was the opposite of Duran Duran, and I liked that. 

I respect Marc’s feelings for “Tainted Love” in the same way that I completely respect what “Hungry Like the Wolf” is for Duran Duran – you can’t (and shouldn’t) deny what those songs have done, and he’s right, they have to be embraced because people associate you with those songs. I think the problem with a band that has MANY of those songs is that they end up having to play a greatest hits show every night along with a few newbies – and for those of us who don’t need the reward of the hits in order to still support the band, we always end up wishing for the stuff no one else knows anything about.  It’s probably a very good problem for a band to have.  

Don’t forget to check in with us next week as we chat about A-Ha, Joy Division, and The Smiths!

-A & R

Book Club: Mad World (Kim Wilde, Howard Jones, and Berlin)

Welcome to the latest post in our most recent book club!  This time around we are discussing the book, Mad World.  We will be reading and discussing the chapters on Kim Wilde, Howard Jones and Berlin.  Hopefully, you, too, will read those chapters and dive into the discussion!

Kim Wilde:

Amanda:

I knew of Kim Wilde as a kid but I didn’t know her really well.  I definitely knew the song, “You Keep Me Hanging On,” and liked it, but I didn’t know enough to say that I was a fan.  I never thought about the songs or about the fact that she was a female singer.  Did this chapter make me see her and her position in the New Wave musical era differently than just a simple singer?  It made me think more about the status of women in the industry, then vs. now, for sure.

Before I get to gender roles, I was struck by her discussion of the lyrics to “Kids in America”.  She mentioned the idea that you don’t have to directly identify with the lyrics to be able to sing them or like them.  She says this, of course, because she isn’t American singing about kids in America.  I have to agree with her.  You don’t have to directly identify a lyric to sing it or like it.  Look at Duran’s lyrics.  I am sure that Simon can’t relate to every single thing he has sung about.  In fact, I might argue that a lot of Simon’s lyrics aren’t exactly autobiographical.

During this chapter, it seems clear to me that Kim just rode the waves of her experience.  She didn’t think about writing the songs herself, but was content to let her father and brother do it, at least at first.  Image wasn’t at the top of her list either.  Was that because she was young?  Was that because of her personality?  A combination thereof?  Possibly.  Yet, I think about how things went for her as a young female singer compared to the young female singers of present day.  Now, image is central to everyone’s career, I think, especially women.  This reminds me of last week’s discussion in the discussion about Yaz and how Alison Moyet pointed out the push for women to just act like sexual toys now.  Clearly, Kim felt sexy, at times, but didn’t feel sexualized, or objectified, in the way that Alison referred to many female performers today.

Rhonda: 

My knowledge of Kim Wilde pretty much starts and ends with “Kids in America”.  It was a song I heard on the radio and recognized, but I wouldn’t say I know her music beyond that one song.  It’s not that I didn’t care for her, it’s that my sights were focused elsewhere. 

I never really gave it much thought that Kim was singing a song about America and yet she wasn’t from here. It was just a song.  Personally I think that a good writer *does* always identify in some way with what they’ve written or sung about, but just as we say that Simon’s lyrics aren’t always as transparent as they may seem – I think the same can be said for nearly everyone.  That said, Kim Wilde didn’t even write the songs. Her father wrote them for her to sing and created an image for her from there. It’s not exactly the deepest story of someone climbing stardom from the rock bottom, gripping by their fingernails to get to the top, you know?  I mean, the song is fine – but let’s be realistic about what it was.  Was she talented? Sure. Talented enough to get by without her father doing the writing? Not immediately. I think even Kim acknowledges that her part was played elsewhere, with more to come later on.  Everyone gets their start somehow.

I agree with Amanda that Kim seemed to just ride the wave of her career. It seemed to me as though she knew her place, played her part but had no ambition for more. She was happy with what she had, and perhaps that was a sign (to her) that her real love was elsewhere. I see that she’s still recording and signed to a label, but I also see that she has had other interests in her life. Some people are not necessarily designed to do only one thing in their life, and maybe Kim Wilde is among them.  

Howard Jones:

Amanda:

I love that Howard Jones thought about what message he wanted to send with his first single.  I love the message about going after your number one dream, too.  Obviously, if he had the chance to write, perform and release a single, then he would be showing the world that dreams do come true.  I like the idea of that.  Of course, if he wasn’t successful, would the message still ring true?  As he points out, this was part of his own struggle to feel like he was in control of his own future.  It also puts him against the grain of the time since he was optimistic about the future when many others were not.

As the authors pointed out in the introduction, there were other elements of Howard Jones that didn’t fit into the usual New Wave scene.  Two things that he mentioned that shows this include the discussion on image and the discussion on his lyrics.  First, while he did have some spiky hair, he didn’t feel it super necessary to dress in a crazy sort of way.  He felt that if people wanted to wear jeans and a t-shirt, that’s cool.  Likewise, if people wanted to be more “flamboyant”, that would be fine, too.  Clearly, he wasn’t as focused on image in comparison to so many other artists of the time.  Second, he mentioned that the importance that the song lyrics be such that people could relate to them.  His lyrics were grounded in reality versus lyrics like David Bowie’s that he called “meaningless”.

In many ways, Howard Jones and Kim Wilde provide an interesting contrast to each other.  On one hand, neither one let image dictate.  On the other hand, Kim was more open to lyrics she didn’t directly relate to.  Perhaps, this has everything to do with Howard being a songwriter and Kim being initially just a singer.  That said, I see both of their points and, as a listener, I appreciate both–lyrics that I can relate to and lyrics that I don’t.  To me, quality lyrics is more important.

Rhonda:

Howard Jones has always been a favorite of mine, and it’s because of those lyrics. He writes songs that make me think, and I like that. I also liked that for Howard, he was more interested in writing quality songs than he was with being cool in order to attract attention.  I think I sensed that immediately – and it drew me in. He didn’t fit in, *I* certainly didn’t fit in much in high school, and I just liked his music. Easy.

I was completely struck by what Howard shared about David Bowie…particularly because it is exactly, without question, what I feel when I hear his music.  I like David Bowie’s music. I cannot stand the lyrics most of the time. I don’t get any meaning from them. I don’t feel lighthearted. I don’t feel anything.  As Howard says “Art for art’s own sake is just not me. I like being able to relate to what people are saying.”  That’s  exactly it. I know that this is practically blasphemy coming from a Duran fan – but it’s the truth for me. I’m really not a Bowie fan because I just never quite got it.  Hey, we all have our faults. 

Howard Jones has to be one of the most grounded musicians I’ve ever really read about. Perhaps for a lot of people that makes his story boring – it certainly isn’t ever going to hit headlines, but I like that about him.  He’s married, he has children, and he writes amazing music.  It’s as though he hasn’t allowed that one portion of his life – his career – to BE his life or to transcend all else.  I applaud that. 

Berlin:

Amanda:

Unlike Kim Wilde or Howard Jones, Terri Nunn of Berlin, right away in this chapter, discussed image and their focus on it.  The image she wanted the band to have was “elegant but sexy”.  She wanted to seem grown up and classy with dresses and martinis.  The band should be able to fit in with bands like Roxy Music.  I can appreciate that aesthetic as Duran portrayed that image, too, at times with their cool suits and fancy drinks.  Like Duran, they also went for a bit of controversy to get attention.  I can understand the motive for doing something like doing a song like “Sex (I’m a…)” even if it didn’t go exactly as planned.

It seems to me that Berlin’s story is like so many others.  Once a hit happened, the ego exploded like it did with Terri Nunn’s demands about how playing “Take My Breath Away” at the Academy Awards should be.  Of course, the fame also means that there is a cycle of life from studio to road to studio to road with little real interactions and few, if any, real relationships.  In the case of Berlin, they fell apart, which seems pretty normal to me.  I would think that kind of lifestyle would be exhausting and would cause tension and irritation for most people, no matter how great the relationship was to begin with.  Thus, the bigger question to me isn’t why Berlin couldn’t survive but how come some bands do survive.  What do those bands have that most bands do not?

Rhonda:

It is funny to see how image really mattered to some bands and not to others – although to be fair I think that most bands cared about image in the 80s, even if it was about making sure that they were completely different from anything else out there. (conversely nowadays I think image is about making sure you’re exactly like everyone else, oddly enough…) 

Being a child of the 80s, I grew up watching “The Metro” on Video One or MV3. (But I had no idea that Richard Blade and Terri Nunn were almost married!) I would look at Terri Nunn and immediately sense that there was no way on this God’s green earth that I’d ever be as cool.  That alone made me respect her and love her music…and that voice?  She was amazing then, and she’s amazing now. I will say this though: just as many people say that Duran Duran would be nothing without Simon LeBon because he is the “voice” (a stance I do not agree with, personally)….I think that is why Terri has been able to continue on as Berlin.  She’s the voice and the image. I didn’t ever even acknowledge that other people might have been in that band, because to me it just didn’t matter. Now whether that is something to applaud or something to fuss over probably depends on whether you’re Terri Nunn or one of those other guys in the band. 

Oddly, I was never a fan of Take My Breath Away. It’s a great song. Terri sings it beautifully. I also heard it about ten million times over the course of a single summer – and while it’s a beautifully sultry piece, I’m still a much bigger fan of “The Metro”.  I think it might be due to what Jonathan Bernstein said – it’s much more European-sounding than American.  

I live in Orange County (CA) and as a result I see ads for Berlin playing all over the place. I’ve seen them several times, and they put on a great show. Terri Nunn does an excellent job, and while sometimes you’ll go see a band that was big in the 80s and they’ll kind of seem like they’re just there to pick up their paycheck….that has never been the case with Terri. She still looks HAPPY to be there, happy to connect with the crowd.  I believe that is why her shows sell so well, because it’s impossible to come away without feeling just a little fired up, and who doesn’t want that?? 

Next week we’ll be discussing Flock of Seagulls, Modern English and Soft Cell, so do some reading at the beach or poolside and join in!!