Tag Archives: Duran Duran

Bea Arthur, Shoulder Pads and Duran Duran

Tiffany,

I’ve been thinking a lot about our recent conversation regarding identity and want to share another trip down memory lane with you. When I was a child, I fell in love with the music of Duran Duran. They have been part of my life for a number of years and at many points along my journey I have found comfort and solace in their music. True, I have no idea what the hell ‘The Reflex’ is about, but it makes me feel good so I don’t really care. All I know is that the Duran Duran mullet defined an era and Nick Rhodes proved that Bea Arthur wasn’t the only one who could rock the shoulder pad.

Tiffany, do you remember those buy 12 records for a penny offers that Columbia House used to have back in the ’80s? I remember my sister and I used to sign up for those offers all the time. True, we would often get in trouble by our parents for doing such things, but that didn’t stop us. Besides, all my dad ever listened to was the Beach Boys, so my sister and I were forced to take drastic measures into our own hands (Pet Sounds really isn’t all that amazing after hearing it 500 times).

Anyway, I remember one time my sister and I sat poised at our dining room table pondering our 12 choices and trying to be very diplomatic in our process. My sister, with pen in hand, would fill in the album code on the Columbia House form while we both scanned our choices, rating each record based on how much we wanted it. This must have been circa 1986 because Duran Duran’s Notorious album had just come out. I wanted it. Badly. I remember pleading with my sister to let me have it. I even let her pick more albums than me in order to get my hands on it.

In the end, my sister conceded defeat and filled in the album code for Notorious on the order form. Let’s just say I’ve never been the same person for it. Although my love affair with Duran Duran had started before Notorious, there was something about that particular album that spoke to me. Songs like American Science and Matter of Feeling touched me quite deeply. I remember listening to them in the dark in my bedroom over and over again, completely enthralled with their beauty.

Then, there were the Duran boys themselves. Now, shockingly, despite how attractive they are, I never had a ‘thing’ for any of them. However, I was always oddly attracted to Nick Rhodes’ gender-bending style. He looked fabulous in pink lip-gloss and black eyeliner. I even seem to remember him rocking tri-colored hair once (black, white and red) and being totally amazed by it. Gender-bending was a big part of the New Romantic movement in which Duran Duran pioneered. I loved many of the New Romantics because of their stunning combination of glamorous music and striking visual imagery. Duran Duran just happened to be my favorite.

At this point, you might be thinking that I am writing this post whilst donning my fake eyelashes and ruby-red lipstick. Truth is, I never raided my mother’s makeup when I was a child, that’s not the point I am trying to make (but if that’s you, go for it!). The point I am trying to make is that the New Romantics represented a stance against traditional cultural norms of what it means to be masculine. They threw ‘manliness’ out the window and created something entirely new. It was a bold statement that spoke to me. It said that it was okay to be me, whatever I decided that should be. In other words, it meant freedom of expression without fear of oppression.

So to loop this piece back to present day, earlier this week Duran Duran released their fabulous cover version of David Bowie’s Boys Keep Swinging – a song that pokes fun at machismo and the idea of the privileged white male. It has been on constant repeat on my iPod for days now. In my opinion, this is the first time Duran Duran have embraced their classic sound and New Romantic sensibilities in over 25 years. I will even go so far as to say that this song represents the very core of what Duran Duran are all about, at least to me. It’s also a representation of what I would like to think I am about.

In other words, nothing real or meaningful can be gained by conforming to society’s idea of the privileged white male. You don’t get to be ‘first on the line’ just for being a boy, you get there by being yourself.

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Australia!

Tiffany,

Have I ever told you about my fascination with Australia? I am in love with the Land Down Under. First, let’s get out all the shallow details: I have this fantasy that every man strolling along the beaches of Sydney will look like they just walked off the set of an Aussie Bum photo shoot: waves crashing in the background as they show off their rippling thighs and abs. Then, one of them will approach me and start speaking to me in that delicious accent of theirs. He will say many words to me with ‘a’ sounds in them because I am particularity fond of the way the Aussies pronounce the letter ‘a’. He will let me touch his rippling thighs and abs. Then we’ll stroll along the beach together, wind in our hair, our coppertone tans the envy of the crowd.  Well, at this point, you can probably guess where this fantasy will end up: that’s right, it proudly goes straight into the gutter.

But, Aussie Bum fantasy aside, my romance with this country started at a very early age; mostly in a musical sort of way. Before I even knew the significance of the words ‘Diva’, ‘Gay’ or ‘Icon’, I developed quite a thing for Ms. Olivia Newton John. That should have been one of many clues to myself (and to my parents) that I wasn’t going to turn out like most other boys. But shockingly, it was not. I had many of her 45s, and when she would sing ‘let me hear your body talk’ I would swing my hips around and make ’em talk! In fact, I was so in love with Ms. Newton John that my sister and I had dance contests to her songs. Actually, we were trying to create our own music videos, but that level of sophistication was beyond us. That said, I do remember putting on quite a show to ‘Landslide‘ and ‘Physical‘. My moves were fierce; I channeled the power of the Solid Gold dancers and I was unstoppable. Of course, being the older sibling, my sister pretended to not be impressed, but I really know it was just jealousy.

A couple years after my love affair with Olivia Newton John had ended, Australia re-entered my life in an unexpected way. In the early 80s, Duran Duran released an album titled ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’. It was the last record the original fab-five would record together until 2004. Now, the Duran boys are British as you know, Tiffany. But, this record, which features my all-time favorite Duran Duran song, ‘The Reflex‘ was recorded in Sydney. This, after the band had scrapped other songs from recording sessions in various locations around the world. The poor sods, paid by a record company to tour the world eating caviar and drinking champagne and they couldn’t even finish the record.  In fact, ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’ is the ultimate symbol of 80s excesses, sex, drugs and fame. It cost millions of dollars to make, but launched Duran Duran’s already soaring career into the stratosphere securing their position as the number one heart throbs for young girls and gay boys everywhere.

Tiffany, do you remember the Australian band Midnight Oil? They were all about burning beds, saying fair is fair and paying rent. I had a brief love affair with them in the late 80s. Somehow they just seemed so cool to me. While everyone else was listening to REM and the B-52s, I was listening to Midnight Oil and thinking I was somehow more deep, sophisticated and special than the REM crowd. Of course, it didn’t hurt that my best friend at the time really loved REM, so I pretty much had to be different.  Besides, they were so much better than that other Aussie band, Men at Work. I mean, even my parents liked Men at Work and when your parents start liking a band, you know things are seriously, seriously wrong.

The music of Australia has struck me again, quite recently. I have been listening to an electro-pop band from Melbourne called Parralox quite a bit lately. Parralox just released a new song called Supermagic which is pretty cool. Warning: there is a gratuitous foot shot at the end of the video (I am not much of a feet person.  The thought of a person putting a foot in their mouth makes me throw up in my mouth a little), but beyond that, it is a great disco track with a pulsing bass line – how could a good gay guy not like that? Besides, I like lead singer Amii’s style and it’s pretty clear that she has taken Olivia’s place on the throne as my new Australian diva – eat your heart out Kylie Minogue, you’ll always be sloppy seconds in my eyes!

Lastly, on a political note, I noticed today that Tasmania is now recognizing same-sex marriage. It’s great to see Australia on the forefront of the gay rights movement. Will I ever get to Australia to celebrate this victory and hear them say lots of ‘a’ words? I don’t know, but I certainly wouldn’t mind trying.

Tad

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