Yesterday’s winner: Relax
Which cover do you like better: Space Oddity or Starman?
Yesterday’s winner: Relax
Which cover do you like better: Space Oddity or Starman?
Yeah, I saw Lady Gaga last night. After realizing I wasn’t going to be at home in time to catch the beginning and a quick text home, I knew I’d be playing with the fast-forward button on my DVR in order to squeeze in the more interesting parts of the Grammy Awards into my evening TV plans. Rest assured, Lady Gaga and Nile were on the top of that list.
Naturally, I watched some of the rest of the awards show as well. I don’t know about anyone else, but it very much felt like a LACK of awards show, and much more about just performances, which is fine…I guess…but it was strange to be five minutes into the broadcast and have LL Cool J announce that Lamar Kendrick had already won five awards. What the hell? Maybe that’s just me.
As I continued fast forwarding whenever possible, I finally got to the Bowie tribute. Here is where things get tricky for me. First of all, I wouldn’t dare call myself a huge Bowie fan. I have dear friends who are huge Bowie fans, and it would be unfair to put myself in that same category. I will say that I have become far more of a fan since his passing, and that’s probably a subject for a much different blog post that has more to do with art than fandom. Moving on…
Performing something called a tribute is a very difficult balancing act. The goal of course is to honor the artist. That artist might be honored posthumously, as in the case of David Bowie…or they might be watching in person, as in the case of Lionel Richie last night. Either way, I truly believe that the people performing do so in an attempt to honor. Do fair justice and respect to the work without making the performance about you (the performer) when it should be about the artist being honored. Make it too much about the person you’re honoring, and it can end up looking like a mockery of the very person(s) you’re trying to honor.
This goes as much for tribute bands, who make a living (or try to do so!) playing onstage in the persona of the band/artist they honor as it would for something like the Grammy’s where a huge portion of the show was dedicated to tributes (like last night). When I go to see a tribute band (I go often and have seen many, from Elvis and the Beatles to Oingo Boingo, Depeche Mode and Duran Duran to name but a few), the acts that are the most successful are the ones that take it seriously without going over the edge into ridiculous. Make too many jokes about the band you’re paying tribute to – and you’ve just taken that down a road that fans will not like. Play too much like your real-self, changing the original music and arrangements to suit your own taste, and you’re just a cover band, which is fine, but don’t call yourself a tribute act. There’s always a fine line to walk, and many bands do not do it well.
So, with that in mind, I watched intently as Lady Gaga’s face appeared on my TV screen and became painted like the Starman. She came on stage with beautiful red-hair and sang incredibly. Had she just done that: relied on her voice, her obvious love for Bowie’s style, music and art, I think it would have been fine, I really do. But somewhere along the line, either she decided or someone told her that she should try to completely embody Bowie. And that’s where it all went wrong for me. I am not even a huge Bowie fan, and yet I couldn’t help feeling as though I was watching a poorly executed Vegas act in certain moments of the performance. It wasn’t her voice, gosh no. She was incredibly strong and did a beautiful job. It was theatrics that really got me. No one need point out that Bowie himself was theatrical. Believe me, the point has not been overlooked. The problem is, in recreating that drama, it felt very over-the-top, sliding down the steep terrain into mockery. It was pointed out to me by Katy Krassner that she really didn’t seem to be doing that intentionally (and I am sure she wasn’t), but I struggled with how to describe it all. Campy is the right word. Picture a Vegas lounge act, and I think we’re on the right track.
Here’s the thing, at least for me: Lady Gaga sang beautifully last night. I want to make sure that point comes across. As much as I disliked and was confused by what was going on visually, her voice completely blew me away. I really don’t know that they could have found anyone else to do the job as well when it came to singing the songs. I loved seeing Nile every time he was given precious camera time, and I was thrilled to hear just a few bars of “Let’s Dance”. I just don’t understand why her voice and Nile’s obvious talent and emotion for his friend weren’t enough without the theatrics.
The difference between Gaga and Bowie comes down to artistry. Bowie just knew how to make it all work together without one overshadowing the other, and he did it with ease. Bowie’s work never really looked like he was forcing it into being a spectacle, in my opinion. Even at the time of his death and in the making of the videos for “Blackstar” and “Lazarus”, he was able to work in those deep, hidden messages without changing the intention of his work. Hell, I fell in love with Lazarus before I even realized what it was truly about. That it ended up being this lasting message to fans about the end of his life on this earth, and the idea that he made his death into this gorgeous supernova which becomes a black star (another word for a black hole) that will live on, just makes me long for more. (I could write and talk for hours about that single album and its artistic references. I mean, the man turned his death into a fucking multimedia event. Who does that?!?) When Bowie sang Starman, for instance, it wasn’t campy or in danger of becoming a late-night lounge act on the Vegas strip. It was just enough without going over the edge. That’s where the real art lies, and for me, that’s what last night’s performance was missing.
I’ll end with this thought: should the day come when it is Duran Duran being honored, I would hope that it would be done with the utmost in care and respect. I don’t need to see a full-mock up of the yacht from Rio, military suits, tigers, leopards, or a scene from Wild Boys on stage to honor them. I simply want to see respect from an industry that has offered them very, very little over the years. I would think that is all any fan would want.
I’m not going to be around much tomorrow, so I’m writing this on Sunday night. With any luck, I am going to be at a day spa, relaxing and “balancing my qi”…as my youngest likes to say. There will be no dancing on the valentine for me tomorrow…hopefully just some lavender-scented bliss.
Every once in a while, I tend to get so caught up in the motor that runs Daily Duranie (and my house) that I actually forget to BE a fan. I forget to take time to stop and smell the roses much beyond the occasional “listen to Paper Gods” in the car. That bugs me, too, because here I am, trying to write a blog about what it is really like to be a fan, and yet sometimes I am hard pressed to even know what to say!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that being a DD fan is drudgery. Far, far from it. It’s the peripheral stuff. You know….life: taking the kids to school, trying to put together a lesson here at home. Catching up on Twitter only to find that a couple of friends had a fantastic (and yet way way way over my head) conversation about a group I know next-to-nothing about, but very much want to learn. I catch DDHQ posting a question about favorite lyrics from Paper Gods…and my mind goes completely blank. (I truly sat back and had to think for a few minutes. “What in the hell is ON that album anyway???”) In the interim I realize I’ve shot away 30 minutes that I should have been reading my world history textbook in order to teach a lesson to my son. There’s not much time for watching videos. For laughing. For enjoying being a fan.
This (school) year seems a bit worse than previous ones as far as time goes, likely because I’ve taken on some added responsibilities by deciding to homeschool my very youngest. Sometimes I question my sanity with that decision. (like right now in this moment) Even so, I miss feeling like I can sit around and chat with my friends on Twitter or Facebook…or even on our message boards without facing some pinnacle of crisis later in the week for not spending that 30 minutes doing one of the other 10,000 things I was supposed to do during that time. I am sure I’m not alone.
That’s why last night was so precious. I was able to spend four beautiful hours just watching videos and chatting with friends, both old and new, on the Daily Duranie boards. We have a “shout box” built into the boards, which acts as a chatroom – and it’s open all the time. (I noticed a few people saying they couldn’t find the shout box – when you get to the message boards, scroll all the way down to the bottom and it’s there.) We made it into a party, called it “Dancing on the Valentine” and even gave it a theme drink. (because why not?) We made up a video playlist and hung out watching videos and chatting. I can’t even tell you how much I needed a night like that. That’s the thing about Daily Duranie, we do this as much for ourselves as we do everyone else.
It isn’t ever very hard to remember why I became a fan. I’ve been told that this blog shows just how much love Amanda and I have for the band, even underneath all the blogs where we’re kicking their asses about one thing or another. It’s just that sometimes, I forget to actually be one.
Then there are the friendships. Oh, the friendships. It is easily the best part for me…I love seeing fans find other fans, connect and build a friendship. Hosting chats and online (and in-person) parties brings people together. Giving fans a place to meet and cultivate friendships begins to grow a loyal community, so anything that I can think of to make that happen is exactly what we’re going to do next.
Hosting chats isn’t exactly in my comfort zone. I’m really more of the type to sit back with my beverage and watch the scene unfold in person. You’re far more likely to find me in a dark corner talking to one person at a time than in the middle of a crowd. But, when it comes to Daily Duranie, somehow…I find a way to make it happen. And really, I need those moments.
Even more? I loved watching a lot of videos from Live in London, or smiling at the video for What Happens Tomorrow. I even saw clips I hadn’t seen before (there are a lot out there!!), like the band covering Starman, or the interview they did with Howard Stern back in 2006 (or something like that). In fact, I’m hoping to squeeze in a few more videos before bed tonight. (don’t tell anyone!)
Those moments, however far and few in between, renew my spirit and rejuvenate my fandom. I hope they do the same for you, and that if you missed our little party last night, that when we announce the next one, you’ll find your way to hang out with us.
It has been a week. My thoughts and feelings mirror many of the posts, tweets, messages I have seen, sent, and read since Monday. I’m exhausted. Mentally. Certainly emotionally. I feel very heavy and like I’m struggling to swim upstream. This, of course, is common when is grieving, even if that person or persons are not known to us, personally. This week, the world lost two greats in David Bowie and Alan Rickman due to the horrific disease of cancer and many of us are truly still mourning the loss. Yesterday, Rhonda blogged about her emotional connection to Alan Rickman and the Harry Potter fandom. While I do not share that specific fandom, I still get it. I truly get it. I understand how tough it is to lose someone who is a significant focus of a fandom one belongs to. While David Bowie might not have been the focus of Duran Duran fandom. He certainly had a direct connection. Since after all, it is probably safe to say that if there was no David Bowie, there would be no Duran Duran. He inspired them. He motivated them to not only form a band but to form the kind of band they are. His influence cannot be measured. Yet, it remains so evident, so clear in so much of what Duran has done and continues to do.
The love that Duran Duran has for David Bowie is so strong that they have covered his music more than anyone else, I believe. They love the music so much that they wanted to recreate it for themselves, to show the world how much the songs meant to them, or at least this is how I’m interpreting their choice to cover Bowie music. Over Duran’s career, they have, in fact, covered 5 David Bowie songs. One thing I have learned in my life is how important it is to celebrate someone you have lost. Thus, it seems fitting to me to celebrate David Bowie and his influence on Duran Duran by checking out those 5 cover songs.
Duran Duran included their cover of the song, Fame, as the b-side to their second single, Careless Memories, in 1981.
While they did, indeed, play this song live. I could not find a live clip of it. Therefore, I chose a montage video.
Duran Duran released this cover on the Japanese version of their Thank You album in 1995.
I do not believe that they ever played this song live.
This cover was played live and during TV/promotional appearances during the Thank You era of 1995. It never appeared on an official release, which is really unfortunate.
This clip is from 1995 at a Hard Rock Live performance.
After the Thank You era, which focused on cover songs, Duran Duran seemed to take a very long break from covering other artists’ work. They broke out from this break to record Boys Keep Swinging for the album, We Were So Turned On: A Tribute to David Bowie, released in 2010. This song was available as a limited edition 7″ vinyl single as well as a download.
They did not play it live much, but they did play it for the Fendi private party in 2010 as seen above.
Here is the recorded version as well:
Duran Duran played this song live in Greece in the summer of 2012 to commemorate Bowie’s first performance of the song on the UK’s Top of the Pops TV show in 1972.
Personally, I would love to see them perform this one live…perhaps in..say..the summer of 2016!!
The loss of David Bowie is immeasurable. I, for one, am thankful that his work, his music lives on and that we can all celebrate him forever.