Tag Archives: Social history

What Planet is this?

There’s no sign of life

It is a special sort of hell when Tuesday feels like a Monday. On one hand, I love having a 3-day weekend. My daughter was off from school yesterday, so we went to the movies and had a mom/daughter dinner together. Loved every second of that. Then this morning happened. It wasn’t any one horrendous thing, just a bunch of stupid little things. My husband is working in Santa Barbara all week so he was up early, which in turn woke me up way early (never a good thing, I might add). I go to get out of bed and immediately realize that somehow, I’ve managed to injure myself….while sleeping. Truthfully, I think it’s probably just arthritis in my knee and ankle. Regardless, it’s still dumb! Then, as I’m sitting in my car at 7:59am, a good 15 minutes later than acceptable, my daughter finally got herself out of the house. She was very late – so late that I am pretty certain I broke traffic laws getting her to school before the first bell rang. It was one of the Monday-est Tuesday mornings I’ve had in a while.

You’ll see I’m right some other time

Lately, I’ve been reading Rock Music in American Culture: The Sounds of Revolution by Robert G. Pielke. Amanda sent it to me for Christmas. I wanted a book that covered the social history of music in America, and this definitely fits the bill. It was exciting to see that not only did the book cover the beginnings of rock and roll in the 50’s, but it continues through the 80s and to nearly present-day.The author took the time to explain not only what was happening in music during each year covered, but also explained what was happening to affect our American culture. Not focusing solely on politics or historical points – but also covering popular culture, and then using those points paired with music to describe how cultural revolution took place.

I was thrilled that the 1980s were discussed at length. Granted, I’ve read more than my share of books about that period of time, but never something that really covered the social and cultural change. I was anxious to see how the author would describe New Wave and it’s influence on our culture – how that music, along with music video, pushed the envelope of conservative values and forced us to make change.

My head is stuck on something precious

More specifically, I was looking forward to seeing how bands like Duran Duran were commemorated or mentioned. Throughout the book, the author took the time to explore not just American bands, but the British Invasion(s), and covered a plethora of artists along the way. Granted I lived the 80s, but I like reading someone else’s point of view. I was very young at the time, and I’m sure my memory doesn’t do the time enough justice. As Amanda and I will continue to work on a writing project for several weeks this summer, I knew this book would be a great resource.

A number of bands of that period were mentioned, but not Duran Duran. Not only were they not included in the discussion, but the words “New Wave” are only found once in the book – as they describe each day of the US Festival in 1983. At first I was shocked, then sad, settling into disappointment. I just don’t know why a book would make mention of the Dead Kennedys not just once but four times, write at length about Boy George and Culture Club, but not bother to mention Duran Duran—even in conjunction with the rise of MTV. I mean, come on. That’s not a tough connection to make!

Granted, Duran Duran is not from America. Then again, neither are The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Culture Club, The Clash or Freddy Mercury. So what is it?

Look now, look all around

The focus of this book was social and cultural change. The author worked to show that the change occurred not just in historical points, but mirrored in the music of the time – focusing on items that demonstrated the largest waves. To him, MTV was merely a ripple, while Boy George made us all rethink our gender roles. Ozzy Osbourne was mentioned due to a claim that his music induced suicide (the lawsuit was later dismissed). Duran Duran? New Wave? Apparently, according to this author – they did nothing.

There were chapters discussing gender roles, racial disparity, religion (Sinead O’Connor tearing up the photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live) and even pop culture characters such as Murphy Brown, but nothing about music videos and their effects on an entire generation. He couldn’t find one single thing to mention about one of the biggest band’s in the world in the 1980’s. Fascinating.

Granted, I am biased. There’s no arguing otherwise, and I wouldn’t waste my time trying. I guess for me though, it comes down to a simple fact: I don’t think we can accurately discuss or do justice to the 1980’s when we are communicating about music without mentioning New Wave, MTV and Duran Duran. Those three items changed everything going forward. I’ve yet to find a scholarly book that covering the 1980s that thoroughly explains their influence. This both frustrates, and intrigues me.

Is there anybody out there

On one hand, I wonder if I give the band far more credit than they deserve. To be fair, they were my biggest influence, and I remember them being the biggest band in the world at the time. I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a magazine, a poster in a record shop window, or even t-shirts at the mall. There was never a question of IF a Duran Duran video would play on MTV – it was a matter of how long between each one. That said, maybe it wasn’t really like that for others during that same period of time. In my 1983 junior high yearbook, they were the most mentioned favorite band of the graduating class! I can’t imagine those kids were wrong….

Over the years, Amanda and I have shopped book ideas to publishers. Invariably, proposals have been turned down because of the topic at hand. Sure, we could self-publish, (and when we are ready, we just might!) but it confounds me as to how books on every band from Ratt and Poison, to Elvis Costello and yes, even the Dead Kennedys, can find publishing deals, but not Duran Duran. I don’t get it. Somehow, I’m expected to believe that a book on Elvis Costello has the potential for a larger audience than Duran Duran? What planet am I on???

I am brought back to something a friend has said from time to time – Duran Duran are underdogs. It is what has kept them going. If their continued longevity had been easy, they’d have quit long ago. Maybe so. I don’t think a little respect would kill anybody though.