Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. For many, this is not a favorite day. Personally, I have a “strong dislike”/love relationship with this holiday. To begin with, I don’t think we need a day set aside to tell people we love them – because we should already be doing that each and every day. Also, I don’t really enjoy setting people I know up to fail – and this holiday sort of does that for some reason. I also don’t think we need to remind single people that they’re in fact, single. They already know. This stupid day is sort of “in your face” about that, isn’t it? It’s obnoxious. However, I have children, and I have enjoyed spoiling them on occasion. I only have one at home now, and so today – she’s getting some treats.
So for the rest of us, whether you’re single, in a relationship, it’s complicated, or married (and isn’t it ALL complicated from time to time??), I figure we should treat ourselves. I mean, why not?
Last night for example, I watched Live from London. Now, that might not sound like much, but I hadn’t really watched it in years! I think Amanda and I sometimes include some of it when we do a video party online, but when that’s going on I have a hard time paying full attention to the video. So last night, I watched.
I cannot tell a lie – it was really nice seeing Andy on that stage with the band. Though I am well aware of the band’s working relationship over the years, there is just something about that guy with the music. Much of it was his. He wrote it, and he owned it. But even the music he didn’t originally write, he unabashedly made his own. (Whether people like the way he plays it or not… Andy doesn’t give a crap. He plays the way he wants.) There’s a confidence there and a sense of ownership that felt right.
Now, I realize that some of you are thinking, “But Rhonda, what about Dom?” Yeah, yeah…I know. The thing is, you can appreciate everyone who is has been involved with this band for what they bring to the stage. Andy’s swagger and “IDGAF-what-you-think” confidence, Warren’s artistry, Dom’s expertise as a studio musician and friendliness. All of it has brought us to present day. I was overjoyed, and even a little wistful, to see Andy’s larger-than-life picture onstage during the Miami show when the band played Seventh Stranger. I will be every bit as proud and excited to see Dom on stage next Friday.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Live from London last night. Fifteen years or so gave me a little different of a perspective. I still had chills when the band walked to the front of the stage while a track of heartbeats played. I remembered how that felt when I was in third row at the AllState Arena in Chicago. I noticed how different the band looked – their hair far spikier, and sure – they were a little younger. (as was I…) I noted how some of the songs were arranged the tiniest bit differently for that tour, which was interesting to hear. It also seemed like the whole production and staging felt a lot less choreographed than the Paper Gods shows.
I am hoping to get some time to watch a few more videos today. I feel like it’s time for another Sing Blue Silver viewing, but also maybe time for some YouTube searching for videos from Miami. At any rate – I hope everyone takes a little time to treat themselves today. You’re worth it!
Happy Valentines Day everyone! Have a wonderful weekend!
Happy Wednesday! I’m sorry for my unexpected absence yesterday. We were having carpeting installed, and we had to disconnect the octopus of wires behind a desk. Unfortunately, that also disconnected our WiFi and disrupted our internet connection until it was far too late in the day for blogging.
I’m also late today, because of a meaningful, deep, philosophical discussion regarding the merits of the song “Drive By”.
Only a fellow Duran fan understands enough to talk about the space a specific song or album occupies. It is rare to find someone who understands and is able to relate such a song to the bigger picture is a gift.
The conversation was simply about why I believe “Drive By” is a definitive Duran Duran song of the Simon-Nick-John-Warren period. Actually, I think its one of the more definitive songs of their career. “Drive By” is definitive of their career during the mid-90s, but does it’s statement go even farther than that?
Let’s consider the period of time. John, Simon, Nick and Warren were defining themselves as another iteration of Duran Duran. This was an era of rediscovery, reinvention, and to some extent – forgetting who and what they once were (as a group). So “Drive By”, a deconstructed, even “now separated, once-conjoined twin” of “The Chauffeur”, is a spectacular example of this period of Duran’s career.
I can point to the cover of “Medazzaland” as another example, granted in a slightly different period. The graffiti-laden image of “Rio” weighs heavily in my mind. I often wonder if they weren’t really trying to bury that bright and glossy 80s magazine pin-up image of the fab five. Let’s face it, there was quite a bit to run from at that point. Maybe they were really over the idea of fans swarming their limos, even if by necessity. Perhaps they were anxious to be accepted as serious musicians. Maybe they were over being the pin-up dreams of fresh-faced, dewy-eyed teenage girls? Maybe they saw this new iteration of Duran Duran as being the “anti”1980s Duran Duran? It isn’t difficult to imagine what they might have been thinking of when picking a cover for “Medazzaland”.
Rather than examining the song, or any one song, under the Duran Duran microscope, lately I’ve been thinking about the broader context. I’ve considered the changes in their sound over the years, such as the rearranged, heavy jazz sounding brass and horn version of “Hungry Like the Wolf” or “Burning the Ground” – the remix to put a final period on 80s era Duran Duran. I’ve pondered the more obvious, recent style changes, like the full, production-heavy pop sound on Astronaut compared to the deep urban groove of Red Carpet Massacre, or retro sounding All You Need is Now, along with Paper Gods. Individually, each seeming to be a stroll down a different musical lane, but collectively – what do they really say about this band?
To some extent, I tend to believe the band has spent a great deal of time and energy running from what they (and critics) believed they were in 1984. We can say they’re not comfortable sitting upon their laurels, and we can claim that they are not easily satiated, creativity speaking, and I don’t think we’d be wrong. However, I don’t think it hurts anyone to examine the deeper motivation of what might drive them.
Recently, during the BBC takeover night of DD television a couple of weeks back, John admitted that the critical comments from music journalists back in the day have bothered him up until very recently. This was not a surprise to me, other than being shocked at his utterance of the words out loud for all to hear. Amanda and I have been talking about that for years now – we’ve written about it many times on the blog, and I think we both cheered when we heard John say the words. Of course it bothered them. I get it! I very much appreciate his honesty and vulnerability. Accepting, and even respecting that one nugget of truth gave me such a different perspective on their career. It is like finally having the big picture come into focus. I just love them.
This is a band with an image based on the proverbial double-edged sword. On one side, they were incredibly successful because they appealed to teenage girls. They never said no to being the – poster boys of the 1980’s. In fact, they welcomed it, and we welcomed them! On the other side of that sword though, somewhere down deep, they secretly aspired to reach the recognition, acclaim and respect that comes from critics and other musicians. Screaming girls are wonderful, but perhaps having respect mattered too. Could we really blame them?
That isn’t to say the band’s career has been a giant folly, or that they were wrong to explore. Not in the least, and I want to be clear on that. In my mind, the fans are the ones who have made out the best on this deal. This band is still hungry. They are still in search of whatever is out there. With each new album comes a newly discovered Duran Duran. I just happen to believe the motivation to do so comes from something a bit more definitive.
I touched on the whole guitarist debate yesterday, and I realized I had something else to write.
Why does it really matter? What is it about Andy, Warren and now Dom that makes all of us feel the need to debate their worthiness?
Let’s face it, Andy was with the band during much of their climb to the top. He helped write many of the songs we continue to hear on the radio, and in their live shows. There’s no denying any of that, and I don’t think anyone is trying to rewrite that history. However, there’s also no debate that Andy has left the band at this point. He did his job, and from everything that I can see, it would appear that he’s happy to remain outside of Duran Duran.
On the other hand, Warren took up where Andy left off. While Andy was chasing a solo career, Warren made himself available and willing. He wrote a lot of the music that many love most, and at least two of the songs that are still played most on the radio. No one is trying to rewrite THAT history, either. However he too is no longer in the band at this point, regardless of how that happened.
Lastly, there is Dom, who is not a band member in the same respect as the other two. He began as a studio musician, a hired “gun”, so to speak, standing in for Andy while he was sick. Then again as Andy was away due to his father’s death, and carried on after he quit. He has been given writing credit on a few of the band’s albums in the years since, and while many have settled in with his presence onstage, still others choose to ignore what they cannot accept.
After a lot of needless, useless time spent defending Dom over the years – he doesn’t need defending – I realized that it doesn’t matter.
IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER (although sometimes I still forget)
Andy and Warren are ex-bandmembers. They no longer play with Duran Duran, no matter how amazing they were. There’s no debate there, even though I know that some fans are intent on having one. Even if Dom weren’t with the band, it would still be someone else other than Andy or Warren playing guitar, and we would still be hearing that they aren’t as good as <fill in the blank here for whatever the reason>.
It is a pretty unfair battle when you think about it. Can’t we just love them all?
The other day Duran Duran tweeted a question about how they celebrate anniversaries of songs, albums, etc. and then asked fans what DD dates they commemorate. Immediately, I responded about how I like to remember my concert show dates. In fact, in our homemade Duran calendar, the dates and locations of each show that Rhonda and I have attended, together or separately, is listed. Today is one of those dates for me. On this date in 2005, I saw Duran play in Detroit. It was the last of my spring Astronaut shows and the end of an amazing Spring Break in which I saw five shows that week. More significantly than that, it was the first show I saw with all five original band members.
At the time of Astronaut’s release, I remember feeling so behind the curve because I had yet to see the Fab Five live. It seemed so many other people I knew saw all of them in 2003 or 2004. Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards for me so I had to wait until Astronaut. In December, tickets were purchased and a countdown began. January and February felt like the longest months ever. During that time, I kept my excitement about seeing all 5 mostly to myself. I didn’t want to point out that I wasn’t a cool fan like all those who saw reunion shows. Then, finally, my part of the tour approached only to find out that Andy had to fly back to the UK to take care of his dad. Obviously, I understood but was disappointed. Others around me expressed that while I quietly convinced myself that I would still enjoy the shows, which I did.
By the time the third show came, I stopped hoping that Andy would return. I reassured myself that this was just one tour and that the band would be back around. Yet, I was stunned when my friend called the day of the Detroit show telling us that Andy would be there for the show! I cheered along with my friends and my excitement of the show increased immensely! Indeed, it was a special show and have a fond little spot in my heart for it. As I drove home the next day, I found myself feeling very, very lucky to have been able to see the Fab Five live and it didn’t matter that it was in 2005 rather than 2003 or 1984. I did it.
Speaking of lucky, I believe that I have been a very fortunate Duranie in that I have had the opportunity to see the band live with not only Andy, but Warren once and Dom a bunch of times. The debate of Duran’s guitarist will probably never die. While I personally love Duran as it is right now and feel strongly that Dom should definitely be there, I appreciate the history that came with Andy and the creativity that came with Warren. I know that each guitarist has brought something to Duran that cannot really be measured. So, on today’s date, I celebrate not only the Detroit show that took place 13 years, but also the guitarists that have been a part of the Duran story.
This month, DDHQ is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Duran Duran, or as most fans call it, The Wedding Album.
I’ve struggled with a topic for this particular post, primarily because as much as I’d like to celebrate The Wedding Album, I don’t honestly remember a lot about that period of time. I was in college, and my mind was about as far away from Duran Duran as possible. So much so, that I was actually shocked the first time I heard “Ordinary World” on the radio. I didn’t even know they had been working on an album, although I suppose I must have assumed they would be. I just don’t remember.
It is an accurate statement that Duran Duran hit it out of the park with “Ordinary World”. That iconic guitar line, along with Simon’s voice, makes the song. Any fan could be just about anywhere—the grocery store, in the car, at a mall, just about anywhere—and with the first note we are awakened like a dog to Pavlov’s bell. It is THAT kind of melody, and yes, we have Warren Cuccurullo to thank for it. There is no arguing that at the time, he brought something new to the table for the band to feed from, and it worked. The song remains fairly permanent on set lists, despite constant complaints from Warren fans about whomever is playing guitar. No one plays it the same way as Warren, and no one ever could. I don’t know why that is. Another guitarist could play the exact notes in the same way, and still not have the feeling quite right. It is something that only the most passionate of fans pick up on, and yet, it makes all the difference. I can only explain it by describing it as magic.
While I don’t remember a lot from that time as a fan, I do remember hearing “Ordinary World” on the radio. I remember how well it did as a single, and how utterly surprised I was to see Duran Duran back on the charts. That wasn’t because I didn’t think they were capable, but because the time was so different. Yet, hearing “Ordinary World” on the radio didn’t energize or excite me in the same way it probably did for many of you reading. I felt wistful for a time that had passed. In 1993, I was getting ready to graduate from college, I had no real plan for what would come next. My father was out of work, my parents were in the process of losing their home, and I bounced around from friend to friend so that I wasn’t another burden on my parents. Anxiety was not ever a welcome, close, friend; but it sure seemed to be looming around every corner, chasing after me with every step. I missed the carefree days of youth, and this song reminded me of that every time I heard it.
There are many people who are huge fans of Warren in the same way many are of Andy, John, Roger, Nick, Simon and yes, even Dom. For those people, The Wedding Album might be the equivalent to Rio, or perhaps even more aptly, their Duran Duran. (given its name and all…) I try very hard to remember that these days, because while this time period was not my personal favorite, for many of you—it was. I can appreciate that, and I’m trying my best to do it justice here.
In 2012, Duran Duran played a gig in Durham, North Carolina. I was there, and as Simon introduced “Ordinary World”, he explained the importance of the song for the band. The band had been at a fork in the road, basically. Either they were going to keep going, or they were going to hang it up. “Ordinary World” was the song that convinced them to keep going. I’m not doing any sort of justice to Simon’s eloquence that night, but his explanation convinced me – Ms. Doubter – of its permanence in the set list at the time. The word “convince”, isn’t right. That word makes it sound as though I’m an owner of the band, when I am absolutely not. I think the right word is “respect”. I have deep respect for the song, and obviously the band, and yes, including Warren for writing it. How could I not?
In years since that gig, I’ve witnessed “Ordinary World” do extraordinary things to people. Regular people sob openly when it is played. I’ve watched it heal, and I’ve seen it bring people together. I have also seen the song give someone strength when they needed it most, and create the strongest of bonds between relative strangers. There is indeed something very special about that song, and there is no denying it’s magic, even 25 years later.
On the 22nd of January, twenty-one years ago, I woke up at 6:30am and new something wasn’t quite right. I was having short little pains, but they were enough to wake me up out of a sound sleep. Smiling, I began to time them, and oddly – they were coming at fairly regular intervals. Ten days late and counting, I knew that I was finally, blessedly, in labor with my oldest.
After what I felt was many hours of waiting, I finally got the OK to go to the hospital at about 1pm. It was in the middle of a snow storm, but I barely remember the drive from our house to the hospital, except that my mom was with us and we really had no idea what we were about to be in for. I’ll save everyone the details except to say that what began that morning didn’t actually finish until 12:05am the following morning – which if you’re following along, meant the 23rd of January in 1997.
I always like to say that Heather Kathryn Rivera was born in the middle of a blizzard (this is true), she was ten days late (also true, and really eleven if we’re counting – which believe me, at that point, I was), and that to this very day, the child is still late. She runs by one clock: her own. She still prefers the cold weather to our ever-sunny days, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she ended up back in the Chicagoland area after college. (then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if we did as well!)
Today, she turns twenty-one.
I’m marveling about that, because it doesn’t seem possible. I still remember seeing the snow fall that day and night in the hospital, I still remember sitting up in bed the following day, looking at her wondering how on earth I was ever going to be able to handle caring for another human being. They say that to have a baby is to agree to allow a part of your heart to walk around outside of your body forever. That’s so true. It is simultaneously the apex of joy and some of the worst pain imaginable at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for all the peace in the world. (Most of the time, anyway!)
I remember not long after Heather and I came home from the hospital, I was watching Rosie in the afternoon while trying to feed Heather. Guess who were her guests? Simon, Nick and Warren. They were there promoting “Medazzaland”. I remember watching them while Heather was crying, and I was so upset because I could barely hear the interview. I was already learning who came first, of course, and before long I was crying right along with Heather. As much as I loved being a mom, and I really did, I missed being me. I didn’t know how to be both a mom and Rhonda, the human. Life circumstances at the time didn’t help, either. The real “adjustment” didn’t come until later, when I finally figured out that in order to enjoy being a mom, I had to enjoy being ME, too.
Guess when that happened? I can tell you the exact date. March 28, 2001. House of Blues, Anaheim CA. Duran Duran walked out on that stage, and something in me that had been dark for many, many years suddenly lit up like a Christmas tree.
I’ve written about it before, but finding myself again was really the key to being a good parent. After that concert, I started being ME. I found friends, I went to a convention, I brought my own personality to the table of parenting. My kids know exactly who I am. They’re not afraid to call me out for it sometimes, too.
My Heather is a beautiful human being. She is so much better of a person than I could ever hope to be myself. She’s got a sharp tongue, a wicked sense of humor, and a very kind heart. She’s tenacious in a way that I never learned, and she has more talent in her pinky finger than I do in my entire body. She’s danced her way through life so far, and now she’s twenty-one. She’s grown. I don’t even know how it happened, because at some point on the way home from the hospital, through the snowy streets and freezing temperatures, I blinked. Now she’s an adult. Where does the time go?
I guess I feel similar with Duran Duran, really. At some point after New Moon on Monday, I blinked. The past thirty years went by in a single blink. The last 17 in particular FLEW by, and I can mark the moments in Heather’s life by songs, concerts and road trips I’ve taken along the way. She still smiles widely at the memory of going with me to the Astronaut signing in Hollywood when she was just seven or eight. She remembers Simon quizzing her about her favorite song and how he asked about the book she was carrying (I think it was a Nancy Drew book). She also remembers how tan they all looked for not being from California (I laugh about that because she’s right) and how they all wore more makeup than I did. (also true!)
We still laugh about how she went with Amanda and I to see Duran Duran at the Pearl in Las Vegas in 2009. She was twelve, although a tall twelve-year-old at the time, and she STILL laughs heartily over her reaction when John walked up to the microphone during the show and called us Mother F*kers. Heather turned around and looked at me with her eyes as wide as saucers. I doubled over laughing. Yep, I’m that kind of mom!
Amanda and I always talked about employing her to drive us from gig to gig after she turned 16 so that way we didn’t have to drive ourselves any longer, but we’ve never done it. Today, she’s old enough to belly up to the bar right along with us.
Somehow, that doesn’t seem quite right. AT ALL.
Heather taught me how to be a mom. She patiently waited for me to figure out how to manage feeding and caring for an infant and yet still being able to take a shower and get out of pj’s by noon. She would smile and sit next to me when it came time for me to learn how to do it all again when her brother Gavin was born – so all of that x2. Then she taught me how not to be one of those “stage moms” and how to provide a stable environment for her when everything else in her life was chaos with dance and school. She forgave me for having yet another baby just as she was becoming a teenager, and even offered to help with her youngest sister. I will never ever forget going through that pregnancy because Heather was by my side nearly the entire time. She’s become a second mama in a lot of ways to the baby of the family – who isn’t a baby anymore (so she constantly reminds me).
Heather listened to me complain about life, growing older, losing a parent, learning how to be a better caregiver and spouse, and even how to be a better mom to her as she grew up and had her own ideas that may or may not have been completely opposite to her dad’s and mine. I daresay that parenting is toughest after the children have grown.
Through most of that, she also had to contend with this crazy blog, my writing, the road trips, conventions, and the ups and downs within. Duran Duran has been a near constant presence in her life even though she’s only met them from across a table (same, Heather, same here for the most part). I don’t think she can really hear Duran Duran without thinking of me immediately at this point, and I don’t know whether to apologize or applaud.
So today, as I watch the kids at recess and continue thinking about the journey I’ve taken over the last twenty-one years, I’m also thinking about how this is just the beginning for Heather. I love that kid and I couldn’t be prouder. Today is bittersweet for this mama, but I am looking forward to taking her out tonight for her first (legal) margarita. It has been quite a journey.
(BTW John and Nick… if you need a choreographer for a musical….I know somebody…..)
Happy Birthday, Heather-Feather. (You can thank me for not printing your REAL nickname at any time.) Be careful, but not too careful – Love Mom.
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I’m still trying to settle into the expectations of 2018. I went to work yesterday and survived. I’ve got to say, I’d be way happier about that if the day didn’t hadn’t begun at 5am. I also found out that I’ll still have a job next year.
It’s a long story, but in short, my school has secured it’s charter. There are going to be a lot of changes, one of which is that my particular region, or campus, will be expanding. The powers that be are looking at the possibility of my role being full-time. On one hand I’m thrilled because it’s touring money. I need that! On the other, I’m considering the expectations for this blog and writing in general. Time is of the essence, and I have had none lately. With the added wrench of my husband’s continued job search, who knows what will happen! We will see in the coming months.
Situations and plans change all of the time. One of the worst things to do is attempt to make plans, so I’m finding. One day I’ll blog about something I’m hoping to do, and the very next, the earth beneath me explodes, and I’m realizing that nothing is going to work as I’d written. Expectations are future resentments, so I heard once upon a time.
It is not a big shocker to read or hear that Duran’s plans for #DD40 are changing. But are they really changing? Or, is it just that fans had huge, unverified expectations for what 2018 might bring? The supposed “build up” for the 40th anniversary seems to have been something that fans invented on their own. While it was mentioned a few times over the course of the past year or two, the band itself never focused on it the way the fan base seemed. Perhaps fans let their imaginations run wild with anticipation over what might come.
I don’t think it’s very surprising that Duran Duran is not giving us a firm idea of when or how they plan to commemorate the occasion. The fact that there are only going to be limited dates in 2018 shouldn’t be a concern. No, it’s not a full tour. Why did anyone jump to the conclusion that it would be?
In listening to the end-of-year Katy Kafes, the band tried to readjust expectations. Not only was that fair, but wise. There have been some pretty amazing things mentioned about what the band is going to be doing to celebrate their 40th anniversary. The trouble is, none of that information came directly from the band. It was all assumption, rumor, and flat-out wishful thinking on the part of fans. The band never actually said they were going to tour non-stop for the next three years, for instance. Just because John Taylor said they’d probably celebrate beginning in 2018 and culminating in 2020 never meant they were going to be on the road the entire time. John didn’t elaborate publicly, so any assumptions made based on that comment were simply that – assumptions. Furthermore, there have been no press releases saying they were going to release Reportage, invite Warren back, sing Kumbaya with Andy, or release an anthology. In truth, the band itself has said very precious little, at least publicly. Given the voracity of this particular fan base, I don’t blame them one bit.
The band didn’t cancel #DD40. 1978 happened whether the band acknowledges that specific timeframe of the inception of the band or not, and it isn’t as though a huge celebration was planned. Simon simply mentioned that this year was only the beginning – and he did use the word “only”, should probably clue overzealous fans in. Yes, 2018 is the beginning, just as 1978 was just the beginning. Duran Duran went through a few alliterations before coming to be the Fab Five as we knew them in the 80s. It isn’t a surprise that for their 40th, they are going with 2020 as the “official” date. It’s called business.
Let’s just think back on 78-03, or as we all call it – The Reunion. Namingthat tour as 78-03 was convenient. With the press that the band reunited and that it was the 25th anniversary of Duran Duran, it was a golden marketing moment. They needed to get out and play live, and there was the reasoning for doing it. Simple, and the crowds went wild.
This time though, timing is likely different. Duran Duran likes to tour with new music. Simon didn’t join the band until later on anyway. Since they’ve been saying for a year or more now that the celebration would begin in 2018 and culminate in 2020, it would seem to me that not much has changed, and rest assured nothing has been “canceled”. Once again, the band never said there would be a gigantic tour, that is something that only fans have said. It is easy to make the assumption that the band would tour their 40th anniversary, but it is still just an assumption. Expectations are indeed only future resentments. Watch your footing.
While many are lauding their plan to write and go into the studio this year, Daily Duranie sits here applauding it. How many of your favorite bands are still writing?!? How many are still recording forty years in? Not many. Why are people finding fault with that?
I have even seen groups surveying the fan base about what they want, and then making incredibly leading statements that perhaps the band is actually going to listen. If only the world actually worked that way. There is far more involved with merchandising than simply what diehard fans may want. If the world worked according to diehards, the set list would change for each show. Talk about setting someone up for a big fall! It is no wonder that John, Nick, Simon and Roger never go into great detail about their plans, and that most of them even mentioned that there would be limited dates next year. Dialing back the expectations seems to be the right way to go because the high level of expectation is palatable. Even as we wrote Daily Duranie over the course of the past year or so, Amanda and I wondered how it would be possible for the band to meet fan expectations for the 40th. In reality, they couldn’t.
It is entirely possible that fans are putting an awful lot more pressure and stock into this 40th anniversary than the band might. This is not a band rooted in nostalgia, no matter what the rest of the world may believe. Duran Duran continues to look forward, not back. This is why they are going back into the studio and creating more music, whether it’s a full album or even a few songs. I don’t care how long that takes.
Not that long ago, someone mentioned to me that the band has nothing left to prove, that they write and perform for the sheer love of doing so. I’ve thought a lot about that, and damn, we’re lucky they do. Forty years and counting.
It is hard for me to imagine that Medazzaland has been a part of my life for twenty years. Coincidentally, twenty years ago last month, my husband and I moved back to California after living in Illinois for two and a half years.
We made the move not long after we were married in 1995, due to a job offer for my husband. When Walt’s company decided to sell his division, we moved back to California, now as a family of three. We’d been back here and living out of boxes for a few weeks when Medazzaland was released, and I came out of my moving and motherhood fog just long enough to drive to Wherehouse Music to get a copy. I remember unwrapping the CD and putting it in the car stereo. Walt wanted to scan through each song rather than hearing them play, which made the experience less-than-optimal for me, but I was so shocked after the first couple of songs, I didn’t know what to think.
I suppose I didn’t know what to expect going in. I knew it would be different, as they all are from one another, and I hadn’t been keeping up with the band in the same way I might now, so I was probably even more shocked. I probably was hoping for something that sounded closer to any one of the first three albums, which I admit severely undercuts the creativity of this band, but at the time, I didn’t think about any of that. I just knew what I expected to hear when I said “Duran Duran”.
I was looking for anything that made me feel like the old me. I was a new mom, dealing with a baby and postpartum depression, living with my in laws while we waited for our house to sell in Illinois so that we could buy one here. So just imagine someone trying to get a firm grip on some semblance or reminder of who they were – maybe hoping for a bit of Rio and instead – you’ve got Nick speaking the words to “Medazzaland”.
It was a bit of a shock, to say the least.
Sure, I took a deep breath when I heard “Big Bang Generation”. It’s still one of my favorites off of the album, and I won’t lie – those bright, stacked harmonies and melodious chords were exactly what I thought should be on the album. “Electric Barbarella” felt along the same lines. I started feeling better about the album, and then “Silva Halo” happened. The tempo alone made me uncomfortable. I didn’t declare it as genius, I’ll tell you that. I looked at Walt, he looked at me, and I was speechless. I felt completely left behind. I didn’t understand how the same band who wrote (yes) “Hungry Like the Wolf”, could write something like “Silva Halo” and believe it was good enough to put on an album. (How’s that for some Monday morning truth??)
That’s just the point though, isn’t it? This was not the same band. The band we have right now isn’t the same band who wrote Rio, either. It wasn’t as though they had Roger, Andy or even much of John in the studio writing and recording Medazzaland. This was a Duran Duran of (mainly) two original members, along with Warren – who may be a fabulously innovative guitar player in his own right, but he is also incredibly different from the original member. Of course they are going to create very different music, although I didn’t acknowledge that at the time. My problem was that I didn’t like a lot of it, which blew me away.
Yep, I could pretend that I was one of those enlightened fans who just “got” everything they did. I could say that I loved the way the band reinvented itself, and how they embraced innovation and experimental music. I’d certainly sound cooler if I did. But I didn’t. I listened to Medazzaland in its entirety exactly ONE time before I packed it away, never to get it out again until the reunion
No, that didn’t make me a good fan. Just the opposite, really, and I have to own that. I assumed that because I didn’t like that album on the first listen, that I had somehow grown out of being a Duran Duran fan. That was a hard, sad lesson for me. I saw my fandom, although I didn’t have a name for it at the time, as the one lifeline I really had back to a time before my life became a whirlwind of baby clothes, bottles and diapers. Once that was gone, I wasn’t really sure what I had left. I’d love to say I had other stuff going on for me at the time, but I really didn’t. I had a baby, a husband, and a life I really didn’t recognize. It was a very weird time. While it really had nothing to do with Duran Duran, in some ways now looking back, I can see that my initial reaction to that album had everything to do with me and what I was going through on my own. It’s kind of amazing to consider just how much life experiences shape our listening.
I don’t think I gave that album a fair shot until recently. I can’t pinpoint the year, exactly – but it was after I started writing this blog. I finally pulled out the original CD and played it again. It wasn’t nearly as strange-sounding as I remembered. I suppose I hear it with very different ears now. There’s still a fair amount of discomfort with songs like “Silva Halo”, “Buried in the Sand”, and even “Undergoing Treatment”. I hear a lot of sadness and pain in Simon’s singing. I also hear the ingenuity and experimentation loved by Nick and Warren. As Simon said, it was a difficult time for the band. It is clear, as I listen to the album again, that while the three may have been in the same physical space while recording – the disconnection is evident. Nathan Stack surmised that Medazzaland “…is about humans trying to understand and connect with one another — sometimes tenuously succeeding, other times failing.” (www.duranduran.com Medazzaland October 2017) His words read prophetic, if not for being twenty years post release.
In hindsight, I can say that it oddly represents a very difficult time in my life, too. I felt so disconnected to the world, you’d think that this album would have been my lifeline, and yet it just wasn’t. Simon says the album is like “Marmite”, you either love it or hate it. I just don’t think I was ready to hear the stories that this album was trying to share at the time.
I think that might be the silver lining. The music doesn’t cease to exist after a couple of decades. The songs are still there, ready to sing their tale and share their messages whenever we are ready to hear them with fresh ears.
On another note, I’ve really been back in California twenty years now…and more importantly…my daughter is about to turn 21 in a few months??
I apologize for the lack of blog yesterday. Yesterday was pretty crazy as I had to drive my niece to the airport for her to fly home for her fall break. What I expected to take five or six hours ended up being more like nine due to bad storms, slow driving and her delayed flight. By the time I got home, I was beat and the last thing I wanted to do was to do a crappy blog post.
The plan for today was to discuss my top 10 joyful fandom moments, but that is when I assumed that I would be able to blog about Medazzaland yesterday. No worries, I figured. It just means that I have an additional week to create my list as do all of you.
Yesterday, Duran Duran and their fandom celebrated the 20th anniversary of Medazzaland, the band’s ninth studio album. Initially, I was not sure how to focus this blog as I could focus on recent discussions surrounding the album or my relationship to the album. Then, I figured I would do a little bit of everything!
Fan Community’s Relationship with Medazzaland:
This blog has done much for me (and Rhonda). While it has provided me with the opportunity to write about Duran and being a Duran fan, it has helped me see the fan community in a different way as I can see patterns that I couldn’t before. When this album comes up in any sort of conversation within the fan community, I see two very opposite reactions. On one side of the fan community is the set of people is who don’t own the album and aren’t terribly excited by what they heard. Those fans tend to prefer and focus on the early 80s and that original Duran sound. Some might think the only real Duran is the one with Fab Five. The level of experimentation and artistry doesn’t intrigue them. On the other side are the fans who really love the album. That camp tends to believe that serious music fans would love this album.
There is a subtle undercurrent that exists in both camps. The anti-Medazzaland fans, it sometimes seems to me, feel that the real Duran is that early 80s sound. On the other end, the lovers of Medazzaland seem to present the idea that those who don’t love the album aren’t serious music fans. Both sides can bother me. On one hand, the classic Duran fans should give it a try. They might find out that there is a lot of great tracks on the album. On the other hand, people can be serious music and Duran fans and just not love everything about the album.
Official Press Release about the Album:
If you have not had the chance to go over to the band’s official website to read the review about the press release you should. Go here now. Not only is Nathan’s review of the album beautifully written but it provides lots of great reasons to give the album another try or another listen.
Of course, after Nathan’s review is an interview of sorts with the band discussing their thoughts about the album. Again, I recommend reading that. One line in that interview that has drawn the most attention is Simon’s statement that the song, “Who Do You Think You Are” was written about his relationship with Warren. Some fans have criticized Simon, stating that if he felt so negatively about Warren he should not have continued to work with him for another 3 years. I don’t necessarily think that is fair. First of all, I have to work with people I don’t like. It happens. Second, maybe Simon thought that it was best for the band to continue to work together even if he wasn’t particularly happy with all members. Overall, I am just not sure that we can judge based on this one sentence. We really have no idea what was done or said behind the scenes. I cannot judge. That said, I will acknowledge that I’m not a big fan of Warren. Maybe, I would feel differently if I was.
My Relationship with the Album:
I am definitely not in the Duran camp that says the only real Duran is that of Simon, John, Nick, Andy and Roger. I think the band has created a lot of amazing music after 1984. There are a number of tracks on this album that I really like, including Out of my Mind and Big Bang Generation. Additionally, there are other songs that I admire in terms of musical quality even if I don’t turn them on very often, including Midnight Sun and So Long Suicide. Yet, as a whole, this album never captured my attention. I don’t love it. Now, in fairness, I think there are two big reasons for this. First, this is the first album without John. He left during this album and I’m a big John fan. I miss his presence on the album. Second, it has a lot to do with where I was in my life when the album came out. In the fall of 1997, I was in the process of moving to Madison. That doesn’t sound like a big deal but I moved about 8 hours away from my parents to a city where I knew no one and didn’t have a job. It was pretty scary and lonely.
Simon said, “This was one of the most difficult albums for me, and the band wasn’t in a great place, nor was I,” in that interview. I feel the exact same way when I look back to that time period. In my opinion, it matters when an album comes into your life in terms of your ability to bond with it. Perhaps, now, I should give it another try. What about the rest of you? What are your thoughts about Medazzaland?
Well, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees are out, and you-know-who was notoriously left off the list. Again.
I’ve learned never to assume anything when it comes to writing this blog, but I have to think that many fans, but perhaps not all, would have liked seeing them included on the list of nominees. Am I right, or no? On the other hand, Duran Duran (notably Simon and John) have openly said during interviews that it’s a non-issue for them. They don’t care. They see it (the Hall of Fame) as a political vehicle and therefore it’s not worth their time. Whether or not this is truth or a carefully worded reply meant to hide disappointment, I can’t say.
Even so, there are groups of fans out there that try to rally support for their inclusion each year. In the past, we (Daily Duranie) have stayed out of the argument beyond echoing what the band has openly said themselves. It caused a few people, including those petitioning to have the band included, to block and unfriend us. Our official position was simple – if the band didn’t even want it, we felt like we shouldn’t push it. Some didn’t like that, and I can understand and accept their fury. I also need to call out what I see as industry-driven BS, as you’ll read below.
Before I go any further, here’s the list of 19 nominees for 2018:
J. Geils Band
LL Cool J
Rage Against the Machine
Rufus feat. Chaka Khan
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
The very idea that Duran Duran continues to be omitted from the list of nominees each year is gross. We’re not talking about a band that never graced a top ten list, or never did much beyond release a few unknown albums. At one point, Duran Duran was the biggest band in the world. They are video vanguards, lifetime achievers, and continue to influence younger generations of musicians and performers. They didn’t just embody the style of 1980 and beyond…they created and drove it. They’re still creating, nearly 40 years later.
Yet with each passing year, they’re not even given a mention beyond a couple of tweets from well-meaning fans. Not only is the Hall of Fame dismissing the band and their career, but they are also smugly discounting the thousands of fans who have stood by them for the last four decades. The old men might not get it, but the little girls completely understand, and always have.
Last weekend, I finally sat down and watched the induction ceremony for 2017. Yes, I’m behind. The one thing I saw over and over was how the bands thanked their fans for getting them there. Of course I liked seeing that, and it was touching that when it came down to it for the bands being inducted, their fans mattered. I thought about all of the history I’ve read about Duran Duran. Disparaging comments about the band’s fan base aren’t hard to find. The critics hated that little girls loved this band. As far as critics were concerned, the reason to hate this band was purely because little girls (who are now grown women) loved them. That one highlighted detail created a situation where Duran’s music was never quite taken seriously. Why would it? Girls liked them, they couldn’t possibly understand what good music is about, and therefore the band were pin-up material. Period.
Amanda and I haven’t just seen this written once or twice in books. It has been discussed in every piece of comprehensive band history we’ve ever read, watched, or heard.
Simon addressed this general topic in an interview done just before they appeared on Jimmy Kimmel in 2015. He commented about the critics and their hatred for them and their fans. He believes much of that comes down to jealousy, and that may very well be true. He also commented that much to the chagrin of the critics—many of whom are not still writing or in the industry—the fans of the band, and the band themselves, are still around today. In many aspects, that alone is the best revenge. But is it enough?
I’m not so sure.
Sexism, my friends, is alive and well in the music industry, whether the performers themselves, the business-side, or the fans. Look at the list of nominees again. Do you see many bands up there that have a predominantly female fan base? I can see a few that might have a sizable percentage of female fans, but none of them to the extent of Duran’s. None. Why is that?
The very idea that a sizable number of Duran’s fan base are women drives people crazy. Even the band tries to even it out in interviews by mentioning the growing number of men in their live audiences. People try to attribute our (female) presence to be about anything but the music. I’ve seen the very words “What would girls know about music?” in print more times than I can count.
I have heard similar anecdotes from female fans all over, whether they’re a blogger like me, your average concert-goer, or a radio show host. Sexism is everywhere. If you’re a woman, you couldn’t possibly know anything about the band you admire beyond their looks, and the only reason for being a fan is to fulfill that one-night stand fantasy. You know, the one we’ve all secretly held for nearly 40 years now? The assertion that we’re all fans because we’re still waiting for our one nighter with Simon, John, Nick and/or Roger is pretty astounding.
(Call me crazy, but the last thing I’d fantasize about is going backstage and getting on my knees for a band member, only to be gracefully guided to the exit doors immediately following. Why on earth would I waste FORTY YEARS on that???)
Seriously, people of this world, THINK. We’re gonna have to try harder. It does not have to be like this. We have to be ready and willing to call the bullshit out when we see it and force change to happen, because it is obviously not going to happen on its own.
Now THAT is an effort I can get behind.
An outspoken examination and celebration of fandom!