Butter Up Your Stud Muffins, Girls!

As I understand it, the latest boy band phenomenon, One Direction, is a group that was packaged from solo talent auditioning for The X Factor in the UK.  I note that because it absolves them of the songwriting sins I am about to censure.  No, the fault lies with  Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk and Savan Kotecha, writers of the perky, and very listenable, What Makes You Beautiful.

First, let’s talk about what I think makes you beautiful.  That would be your confidence, your sense of humor, your intelligence and ability to carry on a conversation, your drive and ambition, the way you navigate through traffic, how you bake, your ability to sew anything out of nothing, your ability to do math in your head, the way you can make people feel at ease, your bartending skills, your laugh, how you know exactly the right thing to say, your ability to always choose the most amazing presents for people…you know, little things like that.

What do Yacoub, Falk and Kotecha think makes you beautiful?  Your insecurity, your great skin, your nervous hair flippery, your inability to maintain eye contact. 

Why do I care?  What does it matter to me, a 41-year-old woman, what a group of adorable, mop-topped, English stud-muffins are singing?  Especially since the song has a great hook, a great beat, and I can car dance to it–why do I care?

I care because I used to be 13-years-old, and I used to be in love with Duran Duran.  (Yes, all of them.  Well, not really Andy, but I thought he seemed like someone who could teach me how to shoot pool.)  And, being in love with Duran Duran, and being a 13-year-old, my friends and I would scour their song lyrics to determine what would make us attractive to them.  Not easy, considering Simon LeBon’s lyrics are about as straightforward as a Faulkner novel. 

Still, by the time the Duran Duran side projects, Arcadia and the Power Station, had come out, we had at least pieced together that these men seemed to like women who read books and knew philosophy (Last Chance on the Stairway), enjoyed art or could at least identify Rembrandts (The Reflex) , could dance well, were strong and fiery, and who knew just how much they were admired, and used it to their advantage (Rio), were take-charge types (Election Day), were comfortable with their sexuality (Girls on Film), presented a challenge (Hungry Like the Wolf), but who were not opposed to enjoying a no-strings encounter (Save a Prayer), who were memorable (Careless Memory), and who were built like trucks, oh my (Get it On.)  No wallflowers or milquetoasts for these once adorable, mop-topped, English stud-muffins.

I mean, we studied the lyrics!  We used music as a manual for what was desirable in women.  Forget Cosmopolitan, AC/DC told us that men liked women who kept their motors clean and were in good enough shape to outlast any rocker.  Prince told us that women, not girls ruled his world.  Foreigner was sure that a woman could teach what love was.  Bon Jovi’s type was a woman who gave love a bad name.  We considered what Night Ranger told us, what Hall and Oates were saying, what Wham was suggesting, and we put it all together, dressed it neon belly shirts and fedora hats, and walked out the door trying to show that we were confident, secure, intelligent women-to-be, with hair bigger than God’s head. 

None of our idols told us to simmer down and wait to be noticed.  They told us to rock out with our–well, they liked Madonna as much as we did, and we know that Madonna rocked out with her everything showing.  And she said who, she said when, she said how much.  Good lord, even our idealized hookers were more confident.  We weren’t victims!

It drives me mad to think that right this second, there is a gaggle of girls huddled together in the locker room of their YMCA daycamp/standing in front of the mirror in a pink bathroom/squeezed into one seat at the back of the bus heads bent over a lyric sheet, working out that to get a One Direction member’s attention, she must pretend to be shy and think she is ugly.  It aggravates me that instead of practicing their steps to the left, and flicks to the right, little girls are practicing how to flip their hair in such a way that it telegraphs insecurity and a need for outside validation of their worth.

Then again, my little friends and I were emulating strong women.  We grew up with Wonder Woman and Isis, Charlie’s Angels, and strong, intelligent, well written married and single mothers on television.  We had Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry, Terri Nunn, Pat Benetar, Tina Turner, Sade, The Go-Gos, The Bangles, Sheila E., Janet Jackson and, yes, Madonna in music.  Women who were all confident, self-aware, self-sufficient, and in-your-face with their own acknowledgment of self-worth and desirability.

You know, all the things I would want my daughter to be.  All the things I want the girls I know to be. 

In your face KNOWING they are beautiful.

Butter your stud-muffin with that, girls, and enjoy.

Friends of Mine, holiday guest blog, music

Days of Christmas: Holiday Have to Hear–Transistor Tramps

As I said the other day, I have the pleasure of knowing some very creative, talented people.  Among those people is David Sebrind, the synths and programming mastermind behind Transistor Tramps, a post punk, new wave quintet from Dallas.  Transistor Tramps is releasing their first CD this month.

I love it when my friends find success!

I’ve known David since high school, and though we fell out of contact during the college years, I was thrilled to see him on a mutual friend’s Facebook, and reconnect and rediscover his amazing talent.  He has lent his musical creativity and skill to several local bands over the years, coming to gel with Transistor Tramps after working with two of the other founding members on the soundtrack for an indie film  in 2008.

With Elle Hurley on vocals, the music evokes early Berlin for me, but darker and more slickly produced, with an Industrial feel.  Think if John Crawford and Trent Reznor had a baby girl using Terri Nunn as a surrogate, then got Matt Johnson to nanny for them.  That is Transistor Tramps–and someone I want to have drinks with.  This is definitely a project that should get attention for its cohesiveness, originality, and style.  I could absolutely hear it as soundtrack to a modern Bad Influence–the so bad it’s good movie (who wants to see young James Spader playing a good guy?  peh.)  that turned me on to Front 242 and Skinny Puppy.

So check it out and “like” Transistor Tramps on Facebook to keep up with the band.  After they go bigtime, you can brag that you “knew them when.”

Release Party promo.
Lancient History

You can take the woman out of her teens, but you can’t take the screaming teen out of the woman

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.