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.