In college during the early 90s, I lied to guys in my co-ed dormitory about Duran Duran. I told them that I had once turned down an invitation from Simon LeBon (as if) because I thought that made me infinitely “cooler” somehow. Ordinary women didn’t turn down rock stars, that’s for sure. And I never wanted to seem ordinary, even if I was a textbook case of late-teen insecurities and low self-esteem. In public, I started listening to more “dangerous” or more popular bands – Red Hot Chili Peppers, NIN, Living Colour, GnR. To fit in, I abandoned Duran Duran, but still listened to their CDs and tapes obsessively in the confines of my room.
I developed a secret Duran Duran habit.
When their Wedding Album dropped, I was ecstatic. For a cultural minute, I could once again revel in the band. I could listen to their songs openly. Heck, I could blast Ordinary World on the radio. (Side note: The radio waves had been bereft of Duran Duran songs for a few solid years after the original group split and their second 3-member album tanked.)
Like they had done in my early teens, Duran Duran got me through the terrible awkwardness of my late teens. Something about the music soothed me and made me feel like it were possible for me to grow into the impossibly gorgeous, talented woman I had always wanted to be – but wasn’t yet. I was chubby (truth, though none of my friends ever believe me now), I was sheltered (my dad had banned me from dating, so my first kiss was at age 18), I had no idea what I was doing (by 18, I was living entirely without family).
Fast forward to 1998, and John Taylor on the phone with me, and the tape of our conversation that I now hold in my hand.
It had been nearly impossible to get John on the phone. He was touring as a solo act in the late-90s; Duran Duran was in the throes of what then seemed to be an interminable hiatus. I had several phone calls with his PR agent as we tried to schedule a time for us to talk for 15 minutes. In the midst of all this, John’s mother died. The PR agent was profuse in her apologies, but the interview would have to wait. My own mother had already been dead for 12 years, but I still felt the pinch of a sincere empathy. It was never easy, I knew all-too well, to lose your mom. So, I waited.
When my phone rang at the appointed time, I was too nervous to immediately pick up. If I had a dollar for each time I had imagined the moment that John Taylor would call me up, I would have had enough money saved for a better apartment in NYC. And yet, I never imagined it like a business call. I had to force myself to ask him normal questions, not Duranie questions (which, like Star Trek questions, can be overly specific). I was petrified of saying “I love you!” at some point in our conversation as a non sequitur.
What was supposed to be a 15-minute interview ended up being a 40-minute long talk. John was funny, thoughtful, and inquisitive. There were pauses where he would ask me questions and I would answer. He told me what movies I should go to see. And then, unexpectedly, I told him that I had to go. Something made me feel like I had taken up too much of his time; I almost felt guilty about it.
In the week that followed, I saw him in concert twice, and missed a phone call to meet up at his NYC venue. In the years that passed, I always regretted missing my chance to meet him in person. I filed the story on him; it was rejected because the editors felt that a story about the bass player for Duran Duran wasn’t half as interesting as its lead singer might have been. I moved on, but I kept that tape of the interview in my lock box. Until now, years later, as I prepare to listen to it again, for clues as to why I’ve held onto an infatuation for decades.
About a week ago, I met John Taylor in person at a record signing in Berkeley. I waited in a long line with other fans, slowly realizing that I wasn’t half the “Duranie” that I thought I was. No, I didn’t know Simon’s children’s names. No, I couldn’t name any tracks off of Astronaut. I had no idea that John had multiple tattoos, and I couldn’t tell you what they were. I felt like an alien in that line, like someone who looked like a Duran fan, but was a quasi-imposter. In truth, I had “moved on.” I had divorced Duran Duran slowly, over time, but I was still left with all of the baggage of a messy breakup. I loved that band and I always will. But something had changed.
This essay series will look at my life with Duran Duran, or, the band’s effects on my life. Our obsessions with bands are ultimately never really about the band, they are about us and what the band represents in our lives. For me, Duran Duran represents my youth, my potential, my future, and all the hope that I have poured into the figures of them over the years. These stories aren’t really about Duran Duran. They aren’t really about John Taylor, either. They are about a time in my life, about growing up, about discovery, about the passage of time.
We are all Duranies, in some sense of the word, even if the names of the objects of our affection and efforts change. Our affections belie our dreams. Our fandom reveals who we want most to be.