10 August 2012

Why I Love Duran Duran

They say that you never forget your first love. Well, you could say that my first love was Duran Duran. They have had more of an impact on my life than any other band ever has and that's saying a lot, because I've listened to and admired an eclectic and vast mix of musical artists over the years, but to this day, the only band that I have ever truly idolised is Duran Duran.

I was born in 1970 and grew up in the city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. When I was 12, we moved to the suburbs and I started high school. At first, I had high hopes, but Grade 7 ended up being a very difficult year.  Not only was I coping with my parents’ separation and trying to fit in at a new school, but it was also the year that I discovered just how cruel teenage girls could be. Basically, my first year of high school ended with me in tears, begging my mother to change schools. Hesitantly, she agreed and for me, it was a fresh start and also the beginning of a new chapter in my life. The year was 1983, I was 13 years old and suddenly, the soundtrack of my life changed dramatically. Duran Duran came into my life when I needed them most.

Initially, I was drawn to their music. Then, I was captivated by their videos. Of course, hormonal teen that I was, I couldn’t help but notice their incredibly good looks but, it was their fascinating personalities that really got my attention. The more I learned about Duran Duran, the more I could relate to them. My whole life, I had felt like I was different and here were these five handsome lads, telling me that it was okay. Moreover, I found out that I wasn’t alone. Making friends at my new school was easy now that I had Duran Duran on my side.

I saved my allowance and babysitting money and headed to the unchartered territory of the local record store. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had already released not one, but two albums: the ground-breaking, self-titled debut Duran Duran (1981) and the brilliant Rio (1982). I bought them both, took them home and revelled in their magic. A few months after my obsession began; they released their third album, the atmospheric Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983). That wasn’t enough for me, though. I was insatiable. I spent my weekends hunting down rare import singles and 12” long-versions. They had opened a portal to a world that I longed to embrace; a world where riveting melodies collided with surrealist lyrics, a world of boundless joy that soothed my teenage soul.

I watched every video show televised in Canada: Video Hits, Good Rockin' Tonite, Friday Night Videos, praying that the Fab Five would make an appearance. I anxiously awaited each new issue of BOP!, Tiger Beat, Teen Beat, Smash Hits, etc. I bought every book or fanzine on Duran Duran that I could find. My bedroom walls (including the ceiling) were adorned with Duran Duran posters. I was the only one of my friends to own Sing Blue Silver Arena and I watched them over and over. I wrote fan-fiction (back in the days when I didn’t even know it was called fan-fiction) about them that was so popular at my high school that I had to make loads of photocopies every time I wrote a new chapter. Kids who I didn’t even know would approach me in the hall to ask when the next chapter would be out.

Over the next few years, they continued to influence me in many ways. I coloured my hair because of them, wore jazz shoes, emulated Simon Le Bon’s dance moves and generally took a keen interest in anything they talked about or recommended. For instance, I doubt that I would have ever watched the sci-fi cult classic Barbarella (1968) if it weren’t for Duran Duran. I read Voltaire because of the song Last Chance on the Stairway. I discovered the world of Andy Warhol because of Nick Rhodes.

Through Duran Duran, I became a scholar of pop-culture and learned all that I could about the musical artists and the movements that had inspired them to create their unique sound. Let’s face it; I was born in 1970, so I was a little kid when movements like Glam-Rock, Disco and Punk happened, but Duran Duran indirectly turned me on to bands from all of those eras. Moreover, as a teen in the 1980s, I became well-versed in the world of New Wave music and listened to a lot of Duran Duran’s contemporaries such as Japan, Aztec Camera, Echo & the Bunnymen, OMD, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Nik Kershaw, The Psychedelic Furs and Depeche Mode, just to name a few. Nonetheless, I wasn’t nearly as fanatical about any of them as I was about Duran Duran and anybody who knew me as a teen could certainly vouch for that!

I truly believe that I would not be the person that I am today if it weren’t for them. If it hadn't been for Duran Duran, would I have learned to express myself through clothing and attitude and delved into the world of youth subcultures?  Would I have developed such a passion for music? Would I have become an avid reader of thought-provoking literature? Would I have started keeping a journal, writing poetry and short stories? Would I have started going to museums and art galleries on a regular basis while most other teenagers were hanging out at the mall? Would I have attended drama school? Would I have taken singing lessons? Would I have had the courage to travel on my own and to live abroad? The list of ways that they changed my life is endless and the answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO!

When drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor left the band in 1986, I was devastated. I must admit that shortly after Notorious (1986) was released I took a break from Duran Duran and went through a deep, dark and rather depressing Goth phase.  I mostly listened to The Cure, Bauhaus, The Smiths, Joy Division, and dressed in black every day and hid from the sun and read gothic novels and did seriously strange things to my hair and was generally gloomy. When I was 17, I went through a Mod phase that lasted until I was in my early-20s.  I have fond memories of those phases in my life and I believe that I had to go down those roads in order to grow as an individual. All of these things are a part of who I am, but it all started with Duran Duran.

In retrospect, although I have been inspired by many other musical artists, I can honestly say that the pure joy that Duran Duran bring to my life is something that I have never been able to truly find elsewhere. In that way, just like their music and their five distinct personalities, they are, and always have been unique. Furthermore, I often think that I would have never found the inspiration or the courage to become part of those youth subcultures had it not been for Duran Duran. I never stopped listening to their music and long after the posters came down, the lessons Duran Duran taught me have lingered. To this day, I am unafraid to always be myself. I have led a rather unconventional life and refuse to be bound by the rules of society.

Although the obsession subsided somewhat in 1986, I continued to follow Duran Duran’s career over the years. I saw them in concert for the first time in 1987, after Roger & Andy had left. They were touring with David Bowie on the Glass Spider Tour. I was thrilled to finally get to see them, as I’d missed my chance when they came to Montreal in 1984 on the Sing Blue Silver Tour. I’ve watched Sing Blue Silver so many times that it almost feels like I was there, but sadly, I wasn’t. It’s a long story. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I never seemed to be in the right place at the right time, I didn’t get to see them again until 2008, on the Red Carpet Massacre Tour, when they came to Seoul, South Korea, where I was living at the time. I got to see them again in Seoul in March of this year and had the honour and privilege of writing about that incredible experience here: DURANASTY.COM.

At the beginning of the new millennium, when the original five members announced that were getting back together, I was totally stoked. I absolutely loved the album Astronaut (2004) which was the only album that they released as the reformed original five. This was my chance to finally see the original line-up that had been such a huge part of my formative years! I was living in Japan in 2005 and I bought VIP tickets to their show in Fukuoka. Sadly, Roger Taylor injured his foot and the Japanese tour was cancelled. Needless to say, I was thoroughly gutted.

Fast forward to 2011… Duran Duran re-entered my life at a time when, once again, I needed them most. It wasn’t the first time that I took out my Duran Duran vinyl collection (of course, I own their entire discography on CD and have uploaded everything to iTunes, but there's nothing like the sound of vinyl) and gave it a spin. It wasn't the first time that I took the old videos off the shelf and watched them. It wasn't the first time that I delved into all the old books and posters and clippings. The simple fact that I've kept all of these things over the years says a lot about how much I will always cherish this band. They’re not just a band; they’re like old friends who are always there for you when you need them the most. I was inspired by their latest album, All You Need is Now, because they have truly returned to their roots with this one and it reminded me how much I love them.

What they’ve accomplished with All You Need is Now (2011) is nothing short of astonishing. They've managed to replicate the magic of their early sound yet produce an album that is extremely relevant and fresh. Not to mention, the message behind the title track resonates deeply with me. The last few years of my life have been difficult: failed relationships, an ailing father, difficult work situations, moving around from place to place, in some ways feeling just as lost as I did when I was a teen… none of it matters. All that matters is NOW and what you do with the moment that you are in. That being said, on April 26th, 2011, I got to see Duran Duran live at a very intimate venue in Montreal during their  All You Need is Now  promotional tour. Hearing them perform the new songs live, alongside their classics, was an experience that I can only describe as magical. It was an evening I will never forget.

After that show, I re-activated my long dormant Twitter account and started following Simon Le Bon and John Taylor. I can’t begin to explain the thrill of being in (kind of) direct contact with these men who have had such a profound impact on my life. My fascination with Simon, the charismatic frontman who has always been my favourite member, is just as strong now as it was almost 30 years ago.  I’ve been bitten by the Duran Duran bug all over again and this time, it’s for good! My life is simply better with them in it. Not only have I re-connected with my favourite band, but I have connected with so many wonderful Duranies in the last year and a half. They have become an integral part of my life and I am grateful to have made such incredible friends. Their love and support means the world to me. I can't believe that I am finally going to get to meet some of my new friends very soon...

A few months before leaving Korea, I found out that Duran Duran would be returning to North America shortly after my planned return. I decided that I was going to attend as many shows as possible. I am going to four shows on this last leg of the All You Need is Now Tour, will be visiting seven American cities (six of which I've never been to) and will be meeting up with friends, old and new alike, along the way. I’m leaving in less than a week and my first show, in Memphis, is in one week from today! Needless to say, I’m incredibly stoked about what I’m calling my Great American Duranadventure!

Today is Duran Duran Appreciation Day. I hope that what I've written explains, to a certain degree, why I appreciate them so very much. I'd like to dedicate this blog entry to Friends of Mine. You know who you are...


Cheriqui said...

Phenomenal entry. I don't know if we can ever express to the guys how much their music and gifts truly mean and how much joy they have brought to us. Because of them I have a wonderful friends like you. Because of them we all are forever bonded. And I can never ever thank them enough for that. You are a gift just as much as they are. xoxo #DDAD

Deena said...

Thank you for your kind words, K. It means the world to me and please know that I feel the same. xoxo #DDAD

Asha said...

I very rarely read blogs, but I knew yours would be different, very well written and goes a long way in educating me on the whole Duran Duran phenomena which I find amazing, ( not being a long term fan myself )

Deena said...

Thanks very much for your kind words, Asha. I can't believe it's been a year since my last blog entry. Happy #DDAD2013!

Kym Faircloth said...

Thank you for this! I feel like someone just wrote the biography of my adolescence. Amazing how small the world really is when you realize you truly aren't alone in your experiences, emotions and journeys.

Andrew Golub said...

Hello Deena,

I stumbled upon your lovely blog and was delighted to find your heartwarming expression of love for Duran Duran! I so enjoy learning how the band has affected people and influenced their lives, I can certainly relate!

I am a Duran Duran archivist and I thought I'd let you know of my recent book release, "Beautiful Colors: The Posters of Duran Duran". It's a 260-page art book chronicling the band's history through rare posters from my archive, currently on Amazon. But I'm not writing to make a sale. I just wanted you to know how I appreciated your eloquent words and lifelong passion. Beautiful colors indeed.

All my best,

Andrew Golub

Deena said...

Hi Kym!

Thank you very much for your kind words. I agree, it is amazing how we're all connected. I feel very much the same way about Duran Duran as I did when I wrote this 3 years ago and I'm looking forward to seeing Duranlive again in 2016!

Deena said...

Hi Andrew!

Of course, I know who you are. Are there any Duranies out there who don't know the famous Durandy? I am deeply honoured that you read my blog entry. Thank you very much for your kind and touching words. I'm sorry I'm only seeing your comment now.

I hope to someday own a copy of "Beautiful Colors: The Posters of Duran Duran" and thank you for sharing your passion with the world. I also hope to meet you someday. So far, I am going to two shows on the North American Paper Gods Tour in 2016, both in Canada. Sadly, I do not have the funds to attend any more at this point in time, but I haven't given up hope.

All my best to you, too. Keep sharing your passion for this band we love so dearly!