We're continuing with our discussion of Wild Boy this week - focusing on chapters seven through eleven.
This chapter takes place during what we know to be the Sing Blue Silver tour of America. For many of us, this is the point when Duran Duran took over our world. One couldn't go into a grocery store and down the magazine aisle without seeing the band on a half-dozen covers. Andy opens the chapter by discussing The Reflex and how they had to practically force Capitol Records in America to release the version that Nile Rodgers had remixed. According to Andy (and every other piece of information I've ever found on the topic), the label felt it was "too black". Andy is right that in 1984, black musicians had a very difficult time getting airplay. Not even MTV would play videos by black musicians, and this was an open standard in the industry. Of course in the coming years this will change dramatically - but during that time, the music industry was extremely resistant and slow to react to change. (Still is, in my opinion!!)
As we all know, the band went to bat for The Reflex, and it's a good thing they did - it reached number one in both the UK and in the US. "Some things are worth fighting for." (Page 147) Absolutely.
Andy spends time discussing the enormity of the US tour. I have to say that just the idea of needing to coordinate how each semi-truck gets on and offloaded would make my head spin. This is why I never went into stage management, apparently. I know the difficulties of just getting five teenaged kids, along with their instruments and gear on and off of a stage and back into a small van without incident, so I can't even begin to think of what dealing with 9 semi-trucks, 150 people and a zillion fans must have been like. No thank you.
One thing Andy does mention though, is this idea of an "Inner circle". He makes mention of it throughout the book here and there, and basically - no one gets in. If you're a member of the band or perhaps a family member, fine - but by Andy's account, he was a firm believer in "No New People". He goes to the length to even say that "contrary to popular perception, unlike the free and easy days of the Rum Runner, no member of the band slept with fans while we were on the road. It was just something that we never did because we simply didn't allow outsiders into our inner circle, plus we all had partners by now." (Page 150) I never went to a show on the Sing Blue Silver tour, mostly because at the time I was barely thirteen and my parents were extremely strict at that point. I have no way of knowing for sure what went on, but I will say this much - and this is not a spoiler because it's been written about in nearly every single promo article that has been done for John's book. If band members didn't sleep with fans - I have to wonder what point there really was in publishing a number in the corner of the day sheet the band members received each morning under their hotel room doors. That number, as we all know by now, was the legal age of consent in whatever city/state/country they were visiting. Sure, it could very well have ONLY been for the benefit of the road crew. True. But then if that were the case, I wonder why John brought it up in his book? I guess my point is simply that once again, this proves that the truth may not be the same for everyone.
At the end of this chapter, it becomes clear that Andy has some definite questions about his place in the band, and the unity within. He brings up the recording of Seven and a Ragged Tiger, and how the experience really broke up the unity. When John and Roger finished their parts, they no longer hung out in the studio. Andy talks about how Nick wanted to change things, and so Andy felt as though he needed to stand his ground to protect their input. Alex Sadkin had asked John to rerecord some of his parts, and according to Andy - John became enraged. Then there was the relationship of Andy with the Berrows. I barely remember the year that the band was nominated for and won two Grammy awards (Best Short Video for Girls on Film/Hungry Like the Wolf video 45 & Best Video Album for the Duran Duran video album that I'm sure most of us have somewhere in our VCR or Beta tape collection....) The reason I probably don't have a good memory of it is because the band wasn't present to accept their awards. I didn't realize that the band didn't even know that they'd been nominated until I read this book! It's funny because as a fan, there are times when I wonder "Does the band even KNOW this is going on? Do they even realize that it's important to us as fans that they know??" and invariably there will be someone else to say "Oh Rhonda, I'm sure they know. Of course they do, it's their band!" Well, here is one case where apparently they didn't. I thought it was horrible that the Berrows brothers didn't tell them until it was too late, and I agree with Andy that of course it had everything to do with the fact that they didn't want to reschedule a show to accommodate the band appearing at the award show in person. It's just a shame that they never were able to experience that moment the way it had been intended. There are some things in life that you get one shot at - and when it's gone, it's gone. I've heard a similar story with regard to another band member (not Andy) and their child being born (It doesn't matter who this was...only that it happened.) The news was kept from them until just before the show, when in fact another member of the band was planning to announce AT the show that a baby had been born. I have got to say that as a parent, a partner and a spouse to someone who always travels - that I would have had that person's HEAD, no matter the reasoning. Being in a band shouldn't give someone else the power to decide how and when information like that is delivered. It's wrong, it's irresponsible, and it's flat out dehumanizing. I still get angry when I think about it! I can't blame Andy for wanting to be rid of them, it's difficult to be forgiving in situations like that.
Andy begins this chapter with another tale of John hurting himself. This time, it is his foot - and I've got to say - I don't ever remember hearing this story "way back when". Andy says it was downplayed in the press and I'm sure he's right. The story he tells, about how horrible the scene was, how John need stitches, morphine AND pharmaceutical strength cocaine to be able to shoot the video for Arena - is harrowing to say the least. I'm such a lightweight MOM at times. It's obvious I couldn't have come from a place farther away from the rock-and-roll-world, because I just can't even imagine it all. Even more alarming to me as a person though, was how nothing was ever discussed. It's as though real problems like that couldn't be discussed in such a "fake" world full of smoke and mirrors. As a fan, it really makes me angry, because to me - these guys have been nothing BUT real. Why couldn't they have helped one another? Andy explains it as though they all came from different directions when it came to communicating. I can see what he means, but I think the real issue is that if they made notice of John, they'd have to actually look in the mirror to admit what was happening to themselves - and at that point in time - they weren't quite ready.
There just seems to be more cracks in the foundation as we read deeper into the chapter. Andy talks about how physically demanding the tour is (and I have no doubt he is right about that!), and then he delves into the friction between himself and Nick. According to Andy, Nick was "increasingly dismissive of the contributions from John, Roger and me." (Page 163) This is of course a subject that is near and dear to my heart - simply because I've always had trouble with the direction(s) the band seemed to take after Rio. It seemed to me that with every subsequent album, guitar took less and less of a leading role - while the synthesizer became more and more of the broad stroke holding the artwork together. I know I'm not the only fan that missed the hard edge that Andy's guitar would provide, and I felt that their music needed that edge just to make it different from everything else that was out there. Andy comments that he used to jokingly refer to Nick as the Lyric Police - in turn I know many of us that lovingly refer to Nick as The Controller, whether that is a fair statement or not, I don't think I'll ever know for sure - I only know what I see and hear. All of that said, Andy seems fairly rough on Nick when he tells the story of hiring a stripper to close the tour in San Diego - and I can imagine just how angry Julie Anne must have been at the time.
Andy closes this chapter with more of his fragmenting thought process when it came to the band and if he really wanted to continue. He speaks of how demeaning it was to go through customs to get back into the UK, that they had to submit to a strip search (So, so wrong, in my opinion) and while that was happening, the car that Tracey was waiting for him in outside of Heathrow was completely mobbed by fans. Now, as a fan of the band - I'm mortified when I read this. I feel horrible for Tracey, and I feel horrible for Andy. It's fine to love the band. It's fine to even want to greet them when they come home. It is NOT fine, however, to create mass hysteria. I know what kind of a frenzy can happen though - and when the energy of the crowd seems to feed on itself, there's literally no stopping it. Andy aptly describes it as a mob mentality. Scary. He ends the chapter by saying "Fuck it. I am leaving it all behind. Thank God." I think that in that moment, Andy knew what he wanted to do, whether or not he was consciously leaving the band right then or not.
This entire chapter is about the band's drug use, purely because someone in their entourage from back in their days at the Rum Runner turned out to be a complete asshole and sold his soul to a paper. It's the most disgusting thing I've read yet about this band, and when I think about it, it still pisses me off, to be honest - it's not about whether or not the band did drugs. (I think we all know now that yes, they did.) It's not about their image (although at the time, it most certainly was), it's about the fact that from that incident - that band learned that they couldn't trust anyone, and that's a shame. I have to say that for myself - I never really knew much about their drug use until probably the mid to late 90's. That isn't to say I didn't wonder about it, but it wasn't something I really considered or thought about. I was just too far removed, and quite honestly - *I* was as squeaky clean as you could get. At least until college. <insert halo and smile here>
"Drug use is very common in the music industry, so the people immediately around us were not actually that shocked. It's true that we had a young teenage audience, which sat very uneasily with the drug revelations. But we were all teenagers ourselves when we started out - and we certainly didn't ask to be role models." Oddly, when I read this - I think about the hundreds of other celebrities and musicians out there that have said nearly this exact statement. The thing is, when you become a celebrity or a rock star, you're basically asking to become an idol to people, whether or not you take the time to recognize that fact. From adoration becomes idolization. One doesn't typically happen without the other to some extent. However, that shouldn't/doesn't mean that you stop being human - although to this very day I think there are a good many fans out there that bring themselves to admit that the band is human. The problem is far more complex than I think any of us care to think about. (Well, anyone except perhaps Amanda and I!)
This chapter talks about Wild Boys, which is fascinating in it's own right, but not what I want to highlight. Andy talks about a subject that encompasses a lot of my own childhood, and I have to say, when I first read this chapter, a lot of memories that I had buried in my head came to surface. He writes about the beautiful birth of his oldest child, Andrew and how he settled in to being a father. What didn't become immediately apparent, though, was how Tracey was adjusting. He writes about how he "came home one night and there was a different person in the house...She seemed to be confused about how she was." (Page 188) He explains how he found her standing next to an open window with Andrew in her arms and that he was afraid she'd jump, and how she was diagnosed with a nervous breakdown brought on by a full-blown postnatal psychosis. What's more, Tracey is put into a medical coma in order for her brain to rest. This hits incredibly close to home for me, as my own mom was diagnosed with this same exact issue after my sister was born. I was only four-and-a-half when this happened, and while the exact order of events are extremely fuzzy for me, I can remember with vivid clarity the day that my mom took a nap on our couch because she had a horrible headache, only to wake up and ask me who I was, and then when I told her - she started crying for her mom, as though she were a child. For what seemed like hours, she ran back and forth between the couch and her bedroom while my dad spoke to her calmly, trying to make her see reason. It wasn't long after that I was sent to the neighbors and my mom was admitted into a psychiatric hospital, where she remained for the better part of the next six months. I only saw her on limited occasions, and from what I understand - it wasn't until about nine months later that my mom finally came home permanently. It's not a subject we ever spoke about much and my mom still doesn't seem to remember much of it herself, but it made it's mark on me - I never got into trouble much, out of pure fear that I'd send her back to the hospital if I made her angry. (My younger sister though? She more than made up for me!!) So while sure, I recognize that Andy has made many of you angry over the years, the very fact that I understand SOME of what he went through here, but in a very different way has made me feel somewhat akin. I can't really imagine what Andy felt like as a spouse, but I would bet he had/has the same sorts of fears as I did - that never really goes away.
This chapter opens with a story about meeting David Bowie. What I found the most interesting about this story is what Andy said about meeting ones idols. "I'd learned pretty early on in life that meeting your heroes doesn't always live up to expectations. But we went downstairs and were introduced to Bowie." He doesn't say a lot about the meeting, other than he was "very opinionated and quite odd to talk to". That is one excerpt from this book that I've never forgotten, mainly because it's almost an omen to fans. I've kicked the thought around a lot, trying to decide how I really feel.The main thought that comes to mind is the word "Expectations". I can't really tell any of you just how many times a fan has come to me and told me how so-and-so was just awful. They either rebuffed their advances, refused a hug, refused a photo, or was simply rude. I never really know what to say or how to react. I feel bad for the fan, I wonder how the situation might have been handled differently, and then I have to wonder if the fan just didn't have expectations well-beyond reality. I never really know, but I try to put myself in their shoes. It's just not easy, or normal. For me? I merely hope that should I ever run into the band - it'll be under a normal, every day setting. I still think about the day I ran into Dom Brown on a plane to New Orleans. I hadn't been feeling well that day, so as I saw him coming down the aisle towards me, I was ready to melt right into the floor and hide. Unfortunately for me, I also had my Duran Duran VIP bag out - and he didn't miss it. I am sure I turned about 5,000 shades of red to purple before quietly telling him how great of a job he'd done the night before. It was completely bizarre, and yet so natural - I wouldn't have wanted it to happen any other way, and no, I didn't ask him for a photo. I didn't need one, as the memory serves me pretty well as is. I haven't had a lot of opportunities since then, but the fact remains - expectations are key. The band is human, and we fans need to remember and respect that.
We are trying to wrap our discussion of Wild Boy up this week - so we will continue on THURSDAY this week, with chapters 12-14, and then the final wrap up on Sunday, with chapters 15 through the Epilogue. Happy Reading!!