Monthly Archives: March 2014

My First Time (with Duran Duran)

On March 21st, 1984 I attended my very first concert. Duran Duran’s Sing Blue Silver tour arrived in New York City and sold out two nights at Madison Square. Despite my parents’ assumption that riots were guaranteed to break out at any and every rock show, I was able to score tickets and permission (in that order) to the concert. A few days before the show I found out that pop station Z-100 was going to broadcast the concert live. I immediately set up a plan that would enable me to relive this historic moment in pop history over and over again.

I was able to convince my mom to agree to tape the show for me. This was a decision she would quickly regret.

Step 1 Teach her how to record radio on my boom box:  “I’m going to leave the radio on all day in my room so all you have to do is push the play and the record buttons at the EXACT same time at EXACTLY 8:00pm. Don’t push play and then record – you HAVE to push them at the same time, ok?  Alright, then come back at about 8:50 and as soon as the band finishes whatever song they’re playing QUICKLY flip the tape to side B, rewind to the beginning if necessary, and then IMMEDIATELY hit the play and record buttons again.”

Step 2 – Trial Run (“OK – see you hit the record button too late. You have to use two fingers! No – I’m sorry, I’m not raising my voice, it’s just that …”)

Step 3 – A few hours before the show call home and make sure Mom has retained her lesson. Also remind her that the benefit of listening to the show is the added peace of mind of knowing that the state police have not been called in to halt the Duran Duran riots.

Step 4 – Get a friend to tape the show – just in case.

I attended the show with my friend Diana. At the time we were friendly, but not the best of friends, but our mutual appreciation of Duran Duran set up a solid foundation.

The exultant anticipation of walking into MSG to see a show for the first time is an experience you never forget. Getting from the street to your seat literally takes a lot of time and effort. First you have to make your way past the sketchiness of 34th street/Penn station. Then, relieved you haven’t been mugged or pick-pocketed, you walk through a cavernous under ground bunker into the lobby, through the ticket gate, and finally begin your ascent – up, up, up the escalators. And at MSG when you’ve only paid $12.00 for tickets you spend a lot of time going up the escalator.

When Diana and I arrived at our seats we realized we were in the rafters but that didn’t temper our excitement. We ignored the opening band (the cool thing to do) , chatted with a couple of other concert goers and then . . .

the lights dimmed . . . and then . . . the eruption of screams from thousands of frenzied pubescent girls. And the screaming did not stop for the next two hours. At first it was fun, but three songs in,it quickly grew tiresome.  “I get it – three of the five band members are REALLY hot (I didn’t have the nerve to say) but can we tone down the screeching and focus on the music, just a little?”

Duran Duran T

An exact replica of the t-shirt I owned. I may need to buy a new one on ebay.

The next day I proudly walked the hallways of my high school, ears ringing, wearing my Duran Duran concert tee. Girls I didn’t know came up to me to ask for details about the show. They jabbed their fingers against my chest, tracing the outlines of their favorite band member, “Oh – Nick is my favorite – how did he look? How was his hair?!?”

 

 

Most of my friends found it hard to believe how much I liked the group. They understood why so many 9th grade girls liked the band – but why was I so enthralled? I’d argue, with 100% sincerity, that these guys had every right to be compared to the Beatles.

“Rolling Stone Magazine called them the Fab Five.”

“These guys are real musicians who play their own instruments and write their own songs.”

“Their lyrics are really deep. Take Union of the Snake  for example. Of course it’s about sex – ‘the UNION of the SNAKE’. But it’s also about our inability to communicate, ‘If I listen close I can hear them singers/Voices in your body coming through on the radio.’ Think about it.”

In truth – I did like Duran Duran’s music – it was catchy and fun and danceable. And when Nile Rodgers started working with them (The Reflex single remix, Wild Boys, Notorious) their music also became interesting. But I was also drawn to the image  – the band’s look and their looks. I embraced the aforementioned Rolling Stone cover story because it a) gave the group some musical cred and b) gave me the chance to stare at those pretty, pretty faces.

duran-duran-rolling-stone-cover

They’re looking through me.

And in case you were wondering – here’s how they ranked (16 YO Sean and Sean of today have similar taste, although today I might swap Simon and Roger).

5. Nick

4. Andy

3. Roger (arguably the most underrated member of the group)

2. Simon

1. John

 

Alas, mom did a great job taping the show (the second tape ran out during the final song – but who could have predicted Duran Duran would do a 12 minute encore version of Girls on Film!!??)

Last year while working at Fuse I met John Taylor –  backstage at Madison Square Garden. It was a nice ‘full circle’ moment. I made a point to tell him that 29 years earlier he and his band mates had the honor of providing me with my first concert experience. I think I expected him to be a little surprised (there weren’t many boys at the show and the only other black people in the arena were the two back-up singers and Nile Rogers). But without a pause he thanked me for being a fan and remarked how quickly the time had passed. I guess when you were at one point the biggest band in the world you assume everyone was a fan.

John Tayor and SDJ

Apologies to the colleagues who I cut out of this shot – but this is a two man band.

John Taylor was gracious and funny and his well aged cheekbones were still on point! Later that night I sent a little psychic message to my 16-year-old self. “Duran Duran may not be your favorite band forever (or even later this year) but for now – your love of the Fab Five is completely justified.”

 

 

 

 

 

 Duran Duran at MSG – March 21st – The Set List

1. Tiger Tiger

2. Is There Something I Should Know

3. Hungry Like the Wolf

4. The Reflex

5. New Moon on Monday

6. Union of the Snake

7. New Religion

8. Cracks in the Pavement

9. Of Crime and Passion

10. Rio

11. Friends of Mine

12. The Seventh Stranger

13. The Chauffeur

14. Save a Prayer

15. Planet Earth

16. My Own Way

17. Careless Memories

18. Girls on Film

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to 1984

This blog is dedicated to the irrefutable, undeniable fact that in the year of our lord, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Four, the pop culture gods smiled down and bestowed upon us the single greatest year of pop music the world has ever known.

Why 1984?

Why not ‘83 or ’85 or ‘64 of ‘92 or any other year that contained a number of great singles and albums? Well, it’s my belief that in 1984 the pop world coalesced in a way it had never coalesced before (and most likely will never again). Call it Karma or call it blessed coincidence  – but this was a unique moment in time when musicians were creating masterpieces AND music labels were making the right decisions AND the general public was ready to hear and see and embrace it all. The result? 12 months of great (the greatest) pop music; from January when Michael Jackson’s Thriller  – THRILLER!!  – sat in the top 10; through December when Band Aid released “Do They Know Its Christmas?”

1984 brought ascension (RUN-D.M.C., Madonna, R.E.M.,), resurrection (Tina Turner, Chaka Khan) and evolution (Bruce Springsteen, Patti Labelle) for countless musicians (and listeners).

1984 also brought us the seminal song, soundtrack and film all sharing the two-word title:

Purple.

Rain!

(MUCH MUCH MUCH SO MUCH MORE on Prince and Wendy and Lisa and Doc Fink and Brown Mark and Bobby Z in future posts!)

I have to admit my love of 1984 has just as much to do with who I was during that year as it does with the great music I listened to. Does anyone love or connect to music as much as they do as a teenager?

At age 16 I was ready to tackle the radical political commentary of Frankie Goes to Hollywood‘s Two Tribes and the subtle sexual lyricism of Depeche Mode‘s Master and Servant.  I also believed that the analytical muscles I developed studying Lord of the Flies and Julius Caesar fully empowered me to decipher the deeper meaning of songs like New Moon on Monday, Pretty Persuasion, and Karma Chameleon.

In ’84 I also fell in with a group of friends who became my group. We came from all 5 boroughs of NYC and were black and white and Asian and Latino and biracial. That level of diversity seemed rare but it felt comfortable and it fit (People are People, indeed). So when I saw Mikey Craig in Culture Club or The System or General Public or Hall & Oates‘ live band or The Revolution – all of the decisions I was making (at the time I didn’t realize they were decisions) felt affirmed.

During this year I also noticed a number of music artists who were playing with gender and sexuality just enough to intrigue, but not freak out an adolescent who had recently become aware of some unexpected desires. Whether it was Annie Lennox or Boy George‘s gender bending or Bronski Beat‘s lyrics or Rockwell‘s eyeliner (and his alleged romantic relationship with Michael) – some of my favorite artists seemed to take their inner most desires and literally wear them on their sleeves. I was far from ready to do that, but felt grateful they were willing to do it for me.

So here’s to the music that entertained me, changed me, guided me, and inspired me to such an extent that 30 years later I’m compelled to return for a visit.