This time of year always reminds me of two things: the Friends of Mine Convention in New Orleans, and the release of Astronaut in 2004. These two events took place just weeks apart from one another, and the whole fan community had a buzz of energy.
Back in those days, I don’t think things were very secure online. For example, the entire album – Astronaut, mind you – had “leaked” out several weeks before it was due to hit stores. Not only did I have the album in advance, I had several demos that never even made the final cut. I can assure you, if I had them, everyone did. I certainly wasn’t anybody special, I was just lucky enough to know people…who knew people.
I can remember listening to that album for the first time, courtesy of a dear friend. She had gotten the album handed to her, and I could feel the excitement reverberating off of her skin as if she were a tuning fork! Knowing that she had been given what amounted to gold in the fan community, I could feel the instant rush of adrenaline as she whispered, “I have the album!!” in my ear. When she put the CD in her laptop, I had this single moment of almost not wanting to hear it, because up until that second – Astronaut was an unknown. It could be anything I wanted it to be, and once I heard it, I knew that would change. The “new” era of Duran Duran, post-reunion, would begin. Mind you, we had no idea that Andy would leave or that there would be a new guitarist the very next time I saw the band live. We just knew that this was the album we’d been waiting to hear since Seven and the Ragged Tiger was released in 1983. (Not counting “Wild Boys” on the Arena album in 1984, or the song “A View to a Kill” in 1985, of course.)
I think that, above all else, is what made Astronaut so special. It was tough not to be completely enamored by everything about it, simply because it was The Fab Five. I don’t even think I knew HOW to be unbiased about it, or why I even needed to be. In my heart though, I can remember hearing it that first time and wondering why they had to change “What Happens Tomorrow”. Then later on the album, when “Taste of Summer” began, I wrinkled my nose just the tiniest bit at the “doo doo doos” that started the song. Even so, it was Roger, Andy, Nick, John, and Simon. I didn’t need a whole lot more than that to convince me to love the album. The moments felt magical, fresh and new then. I was with brand new friends, we’d already had a convention to pay homage to the band we loved best in the world, and I had Astronaut in my hands. What else could I possibly need?
If only I could have kept that wide eyed, utopian sort of fan feeling forever. I have loved nearly every minute of road tripping with Amanda, going to the UK, having serious sorts of discussions that happen over vodka and lack of sleep at 2am, reviewing albums with Jason, and going to Las Vegas far more than I ever felt I needed over the past several years. The one thing I can’t replicate though, is that incredible time post-reunion and during the Astronaut album and tour. Everything felt new, I didn’t know the drama that was about to hit in 2005, both with fans as well as the band and Andy’s departure, and I loved everything about this fan community. I hadn’t even thought of blogging at the time, but took my fandom just as seriously. We laughed, cried, sang at the top of our lungs, and retreated to our adolescent years more than once. It was an excellent time to be a Duranie. I’m grateful of having lived it.