Happy album release day, Duran Duran.
I grew up listening to Country & Western, almost exclusively. In our house, it was Willie, and Waylon, and Merle, Loretta, Dolly, and Patsy. Now and then I’d hear the Eagles or Elvis, but it was solid twang coming out of our stereos, with nary a hint of electric guitar. My mother loved disco, and she would play the Bee Gees and Barbra Streisand’s album of duets with Barry Gibb, but if I wanted to hear Chic or Elton John (and I did, oh, I did!), I had to wait until we went to the swimming pool and hope some teenager was already there with a loud transistor radio.
In sixth grade, a schoolmate came back from her winter break in London and brought a 12″ single by a band called Duran Duran. For whatever reason, our Spanish teacher let her play the album in class, and I was transfixed. Girls on Film. I was less impressed with the pictures of the band. Boys wearing makeup? Ew.
That attitude prevailed until the next summer, when Jamie and I reconnected at camp. She explained the beauty of the Taylor Taylor Taylor Rhodes LeBon quorum, and doled out Roger and Andy as my imaginary celebrity boyfriends. I balked. I didn’t want the short ones! I ended up with John and Andy, if I wanted him. Jamie got Simon, Nick, and Roger. A year later, I would try to pull the same stunt with Karen, for whose fandom I was responsible. She was my Duran Duran Padawan, and just as rebellious a one as I had been. She balked at Roger and Andy, too. I kept John, she got Nick, and we shared Simon back and forth.
Jamie actually owned pop music. I owned a Barbara Mandrell tape and got to play Blondie on the jukebox at the Waffle House. That was the closest to pop I had come. Jamie made me some tapes, and I cherished them like Gollum and the One Ring. (Then, a 7th grade science teacher –swearsies, the science teacher–convinced me that Duran Duran were devil worshippers and I would go to hell for listening to them, and I threw away my precious tape. A couple of weeks later, I decided I would risk hell and bought my very first cassette tape. 7 and the Ragged Tiger.)
The two of us spent our summer at Six Flags Over Texas, pumping quarters into the video machines to watch Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf, and buying trinkets to paint with, “Nick loves Jamie,” and “John loves Lane,” along with the biggest posters we could afford. Jamie made me a tiny photo album filled with pictures she had collected of John Taylor, and I carried it with me for good luck. We were silly, happy, baby-teens. We even figured out how we could tunnel under Reunion Arena to sneak in to see the band. All that was stopping us, in our thirteen-year-old glory, was not knowing how to get a bull dozer. (Wilier fans just hid under tableclothes on rolling tea trays. Wily, we were not.)
For Christmas that year, my mother bought me a casio mini keyboard, and I learned to play 7th Stranger. Badly. Repeatedly. I think my mother regretted that more than the Easy Bake Oven. She could fake eating the “cakes” I kept baking her until I ran out of cake mix (which she refused to replenish), but she couldn’t unhear me in my bedroom plinking away, slaving over the sheet music (I couldn’t read music then) and trying to hunt and peck my way into some semblence of melody. It was worse when I started trying to play Save a Prayer. I’m a vocalist, not an instrumentalist. That is well established. Like the fact that I am an eater, not a chef.
Aside from torturing my parents with my newfound musical tastes, and driving my father mad by wallpapering my bedroom in tear-outs from the magazines kept in business by my fandom, Duran Duran actually led me into some cultural awakenings.
I followed Simon LeBon’s lyrics into the school library, where I scandalized the librarian by checking out Candide and some dirty letters written by Voltaire–I wouldn’t have known they were dirty if she hadn’t told me. Kind of like when I read the Wife of Bath’s tale and just blinked and tilted my head a lot. Huh? Of course, reading Voltaire led me to Rousseau, and then I was off chasing after French Revolutionaries for five years. Interviews with Nick Rhodes sent me back to the library to check out Surrealism and sundry other art movements, and quite honestly, informed my whole outlook on modern art. John Taylor mentioned the books he was reading, so I read them. We have very different literary tastes, he and I. Roger never said anything, and Andy…well, Andy never said anything I thought worth following up on, so I can’t say that he was any influence at all. Also, Thunder stank.
I made friends who were also Duran Duran fans. Some were shocking in their balls out stalking-fanatacism, others practiced my milder forms of worship. In any case, just about every one of those friendships led to something else interesting.
Twenty years ago, you’d have found me at Sound Warehouse today, hoping to be the first to get the new album out of the cellophane, bouncing around with other Duranies. Since it is the age of the internet now, I’ve been hearing the first single for a couple of weeks and heard the whole album last week. Instead of meeting up with friends at the record store, I’m watching Facebook explode with the enthusiasm of my wasted youth.
Anyway, cheers to Duran Duran. I don’t care what anyone says, Wild Boys never lose it.