Thursday, May 17, 2012

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran

by DionysusPsyche

Rob Sheffield's first book Love is a Mixed Tape reels you in with his superhero type love for one woman and their adventures falling for each other and road tripping around the Appalachian mountains in search of epic, almost-famous bands. In his second book, Rob takes us year by year in his life and the songwriters and lyricists who meant the most to him throughout the 80's, starting and ending with Duran Duran. For those of you who are too young or not savvy on music from that era, Duran Duran sing "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Rio" to name a few.

The great thing about Sheffield as an essayist is that while he's a rock critic at heart (and always has been), he's adept at capturing his viewer's attention and weaving each artist's work to his own personal life. For those that love the 80's, but aren't as familiarized with the works of Morrissey, The Smiths, and the Psychedelic Furs, Sheffield also incorporates his beloved main stream pop like Madonna, Bonnie Tyler ("Total Eclipse of the Heart," "I Need a Hero"), Prince, and Hall and Oates. And of course, no book would be complete without an ode, however brief, to John Hughes and what he did for teenage cinema to someone who was a teenager in the 80's--how it continues to define teenagers throughout the decades and how Judd Nelson's fist pump is every kid who's ever scored a kiss with that special someone.

Sheffield delves into his relationship with girls and how he went from full on hermit and exasperated with love to learning what love was all about through the music."I had pretty strict ideas about how I thought the world should be, and my plan for getting a girlfriend was to make the world rearrange itself...Madonna kept reminding me over, over and over, how full of shit I was."

He talks a lot about his family in his second book, and since he's the only son, he naturally compares his musical differences to that of his sisters. One of Sheffield's strengths is relativity and accessibility."Rhythym was girl code, which is why I was obsessed with the claps, but I never got it right. Handclaps were the difference between boy music and girl music...the real action was going on down below, where only girls could hear it."

Of the Beatles, he writes about how they were a teen sensation. All girls at the time were crazy about them, and yet the men of the band were serial monogamists. "It is both weird and impossible not to notice that all four Beatles had absurdly long-lived marriages, seconds marriages in most of their cases--did any other rock band spawn such notoriously doting husbands?"
I like the Sheffield books, and although I recommend both of them, there are nuances that would attract readers to one over the other. In Love is a Mixed Tape, Sheffield talks about the idea of big love and how real it is and it overcomes you beyond anything you'd believe--even the saddest parts. Talking to Girls About Duran Duran focuses more on the intricacies of growing up as a teenager and dissecting pop music as a language to understand "what boys want" or "all she wants to do." I prefer the former, but I love them as separate entities. I encourage anyone who's up for a light and quick read to check out both books at your library or local bookstore.

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