Tag Archives: Something You Should Know

Depeche Mode’s Spirits in the Forest: Fans Connect

I know that we are supposed to be on a blogging break but I feel compelled to write. On Thursday, I went to a screening of Depeche Mode’s documentary, Spirits in the Forest, with my friend, Kristin. When I saw this advertised, I knew that I wanted to go even though I didn’t know much about the film. After all, I would list Depeche Mode as one of my favorite bands of all time. They were, in fact, the first concert I ever attended. Anyway, I went into the movie theater with a drink in hand and figured that I would just sit back and enjoy the music. I hadn’t even watched the trailer as I didn’t want any real expectations. Well, I was in for a treat.

Right away, I found myself surprised as I assumed that it would be mostly concert footage with maybe some interviews with the bands or random shots of fans. I did not expect that the film would focus on the personal stories of six fans from around the world. Almost immediately, I thought about other films that focus on fans. I did reviews of the two that popped in my mind instantly, which were Trekkies about Star Trek fans that you can read about here and Something You Should Know about Duran fans with the link to it here. In both cases, I had such high hopes for them. I wanted to see films that celebrate fans and fandom. Instead, I found both of them relying on common stereotypes about the extreme behavior of fans. It wasn’t enough to just shows fans but they needed to show fans who have collected personal items from band members or fans who love it so much that they create offices with their fandom at the center. I felt like if non-fans watched those films, they would assume that fans are all a little obsessed, maybe a little crazy. They wouldn’t be able to relate to them at all. If fans watched it, they might have a similar reaction, differentiating themselves from the images on the screen, thinking about how they are fans but not like that. There is a lot of stigma out there in the world about fans and presenting just the extreme behaviors feed or reinforce those stereotypes. So, when fans appeared on this Depeche Mode documentary, I worried.

As I watched the stories of these fans, I found that this is the exact opposite of those other documentaries. These fans were people I found myself connecting with. They were people that I wanted to meet or be around. I loved hearing about each one of their stories and, more importantly, how their fandom played a role in their lives. Then, as we learned more and more about them and their fandom, the film beautifully interweaves concert footage. These fans were not the ones with the biggest collections or the most concert experiences, although they might have been. No, that information wasn’t important. They were just people who loved Depeche Mode. People might not view them as the biggest or best fans (whatever that means anyway) but they were people who have connected to the music on a personal level and have found or kept personal connections as a result of being fans.

Throughout the film, these fans described how specific songs meant something to them and why. They explained how these songs hit them, emotionally. For example, one fan described how the song, Precious, reminded him about his divorce and his relationship with his kids. Another fan talked about how Enjoy the Silence was so fabulous to him that he tried to remake the video. In some cases, this personal sharing either brought tears to one’s eyes or laughter from the humor of the situation. You found yourself feeling what they are feeling. I know that I personally found myself connecting to the fan who listened to Depeche Mode during treatment for breast cancer as my mom was recently declared cancer free for four years. While she was undergoing chemotherapy for the same kind of breast cancer, we spent a lot of time listening to songs from women with strong, empowering messages. Music matters.

If all that wasn’t enough, the film also described how the music did more than just allow people to connect to songs but brought or kept people together. The fan with the kids created a silly cover band with his kids, bonding them for life. The fan from Romania discussed traveling to go to shows and meeting other fans that he now toured together. The woman with breast cancer educated her children about the music and more.

The film showed the absolute best part of being a fan. Fans fall in love with the music but they join a fan community to share that love with others. Some people might argue that the film should have focused more on a band. It should have had more concert footage or band interviews. Yet, the live shots brought it all together as the viewers could see that the band created this. Their music matters to people and has been the conduit between people. In this way, it celebrates Depeche Mode in a way that just a concert or interviews with the band could not. Fans are the results of producing material that matters.

-A

Here’s the trailer if you are interested. If you get a chance to go, I definitely would.

Front Row Podcast and Friendship

Do you listen to a lot of podcasts?  I don’t but I have many friends who love them.  That said, I’m always open to listening to one if it features members of Duran Duran.  Last week, the BBC Podcast called, Front Row, included a ten minute (or so) segment with John and Roger Taylor.  Of course, the purpose was to advertise the two TV specials, Something You Should Know and Boys on Film, that aired on Friday.  Whenever something airs outside of the U.S., I always worry that I won’t be able to see/hear it.  Luckily, though, a friend ensured that Rhonda and I could!

The Front Row podcast began by sharing the fact that the famous author, Neil Gaiman, first published work was, indeed, a biography of Duran Duran.  (That book costs a lot of money to buy, BTW.  Right now, you could buy a copy on Amazon for a cheap $157.)  Anyway, the podcast continued by discussing some of the highlights and lowlights of Duran’s career to introduce Roger and John.  The conversation, much like the documentary, runs in chronological order of the band’s career, obviously starting in the 1970s.  Interestingly enough, in describing punk, John talked about how the youth of that time were rebelling against their parents, the war generation.  That sort of made me sad as the World War II generation accomplished a lot like defeating fascism.  Nonetheless, I understood what he was saying.  Roger followed up talking about how all the family in his family held manual labor jobs.  In looking at his life, he acknowledged that just a couple of changes in his life or the band’s and he, too, could have been a manual laborer.  He’s really right.  Little moments and choices add to one’s life and any changes could make a big difference.

From there, they go on to discuss other topics, including the influence of glam and technology, the affects of having female teen fans, creating the James Bond theme song for A View to a Kill, the split in the mid-1980s, and advice for the young.  Which topic do you think caught most of my attention?  Yep.  I was most interested in what they would have to say about having female teen fans.  The interviewer directly asked if having female teen fans hurt the band when it came to the critics?  Roger acknowledged that it did.  He commented that it put them in a box with critics which resulted in having the music overlooked.  I don’t disagree with him at all.  That said, I wanted more.  Maybe I felt compelled to go deeper so I yelled  out in my living room the following (like Roger could hear me):  “Why is that Roger?  Why does having female teen fans mean that the music would be overlooked?  What would critics assume?”  So, what did  I mean about all of that?  Simple.  If a band has a lot of female teen fans, the assumption was that the band could not really play.  The only reason that female teens would like a band is because they were cute, not that they were talented musicians.  The implication, of course, was that female teens couldn’t judge music.  They weren’t smart enough, according to (probably) male critics.  Obviously, I think those assumptions are a bunch of bull.  I’m not sorry that I was a part of that group of fans, but I am sorry that sexism towards their female following hurt the band with the critics.

Overall, I enjoyed the podcast even though I wished it was longer and that I might have chosen a few different questions.  For example, I don’t think I would have asked about A View to a Kill because I have heard/read a lot about that.  I appreciate the discussion of the band’s origins but I would love to hear them analyze the reunion, for example, or the music industry.  All of that said, I completely appreciate our friend, Debbie, sending the podcast to us.  It means the world to us to know that there are people who know/understand how much we love Duran and want to be able to enjoy all media about the band.  It reminds me of what is really great about fandom when fans look out for each other.  Thanks again, Debbie, for both the podcast as well as the reminder.

I loved having new Duran stuff to write and talk about this weekend. Definitely added some joy when it was most needed.

-A

Do you remember the website for Something You Should Know?

During the frenzy of 2005, something else was going on besides just Astronaut tour dates. Something You Should Know was coming our way.

A director saw a story that needed to be told, and had spent time going around the country interviewing fans for a documentary named Something You Should Know.  M. Douglas wanted to tell the story of Duranies, explain why we were fans, and what kinds of things we would do to express our fandom. Many of my friends were among those he had interviewed for this documentary, and they were excited to know that at some point in the future, their tales might have ended up on a big screen.

The timing could not have been more perfect for such a venture. After a long hibernation for many, the re-emergence of the Fab Five with the Astronaut album provided just the enticement to come out of the shadows.  It seemed like I was running into fans nearly everywhere I went, and it made the journey that much more exciting. Like many of you, I sat waiting for the announcement that he documentary would be released. On this date in 2005, the website for Something You Should Know was launched.

While the documentary itself did not turn out quite as I had imagined – the storyline seeming to sensationalize the “slightly bizarre” behavior of fans rather than tell more of an honest story, I can remember being very excited to hear that someone even thought there was a point to fandom at all.  The irony (for me), is that now having been rejected a few times for trying to tell the honest story of fandom – I can see why it was easier to sell the sensationalized stories. I could easily step up on my soapbox and lecture why this is so wrong, but I’ll refrain.

You’re welcome. Happy Valentines Day!

This is one of those times where, as I’m writing, I’m thinking about how this feels like this happened so long ago.  A LOT of life has gone on since the website for Something You Should Know was launched. Even so, I remember…do you?

-R