I turned 13 in December, 1983, and like so many other kids my age, I was madly crazily in love with Duran Duran.
I developed a deep, personal relationship with John Taylor then, and I should probably minimize it now. I should probably tell you I'm over it. I should probably tell you that there is not a creepy time every June 20 when I remember that it's his birthday. I should probably say that when my friends who have similar feelings tell me that they love him more that I'm kidding when I tell them with a fierceness that they are absolutely stone cold wrong.
I can't. I'm not. I won't. I can't.
He looked like this then.
Seriously? How do you process that when you're an (extremely) awkward 13-year-old? Well, if you're me, you make a scrapbook. (Yes, I still have it.) You swindle your mom out of money to buy overpriced British music gossip magazines because they had pictures that American magazines didn't. (Thank you, Smash Hits.) You paper every possible surface of your room with his face.
You play air bass, although you have no musical skill. And when you get to high school two years later, you take a creative writing elective wherein your first story is a pitiful fictional account of your MARRIAGE to this man and your vacations ("holidays", naturally) on the very islands where his band's videos were filmed.
(That last one may have been a little bit painful to type. Oh well.)
I loved him. I thought he was beautiful. I was 13 and he was...24? 25? Sure. Then I was 14 and the video for "A View to a Kill" debuted on Friday Night Videos in the spring of 1985, and I sat up and wrote a NOTE in INSTALLMENTS to my friend Carmen, who was doing the SAME THING at her house, while we waited for our ONE CHANCE that week or maybe, oh my hell, EVER to see this video.
If that doesn't amplify the knowledge of our collective access to media now, I don't know what does. And really, all of my love for immediate gratification aside, was that so bad? We learned anticipation. We had to wait and wait, and doodle flowers and "I LOVE JT" in bubble letters (Simon, in her case) and sit up later than we usually did and then, all of a sudden, there it was, the three-minute thing we were waiting for. There they were, and then they were gone.
That summer I went to what may have been the first concert of my teenage years -- Howard Jones and Paul Young were in the same timeframe -- to see John with Andy Taylor in Power Station, partially processing my grief at missing the entire band on tour in support of Seven and the Ragged Tiger the year before.
My parents sat in the Merriweather parking lot and drank beer and waited for my cousin and me to emerge. I was even more smitten. He had started another BAND. He could do anything, truly. He was even more beautiful in PERSON.
Seriously. The energy of my love for this guy I didn't and would never know probably wafted the 20 miles or so from where I lived to the White House and contributed to the finer points of policy. Mr. Reagan asked Gorbachev to tear down that wall two scant years later. Coincidence?
Anyway. It continued. Power Station quit and Duran Duran took a break with no known end and reconfigured. There was Arcadia, which I thought was quite good, actually, and then in 1998 John put his "Trust the Process" site together. A shirt I bought from that project is still one of my favorites and I'd show you a picture of that too if it wasn't in the laundry.
But I wasn't just a groupie, I swear. I may have had Duran Duran posters taped on every surface of my room, including the ceiling, which was a huge effort as I've never been terribly coordinated. But as I grew into my appreciation for their music, and spent crazy hours focused on what they produced, I knew they were talented and not just hot pieces OMG.
Because John said to, I listened to Chic and Bryan Ferry and Ultravox and T. Rex. He dated Jody Watley briefly, so I skipped over "Don't You Want Me" on my dubbed tapes with a certain level of disdain that only matched my envy for her hair. My mother had no IDEA what these cassettes were that she was after for my Christmas stocking (except for Chic, because everybody knew "Le Freak" and "Good Times", and my mom has always been pretty hip.) I knew who Nile Rodgers was, because they told me about him, and I learned early on that I didn't quite get Andy Warhol, but okay, I probably should. I knew that Barbarella was a Jane Fonda movie, and I thought it was funny that they were so obsessed with Debbie Harry, because who wasn't, then? And although language has never been a huge problem for me, "contrived" was one of the first 50-cent words I ever worked into my vocabulary on a regular basis, because they used it constantly in their interviews and it was something that I knew they really didn't want to be.
And yes, I owned one of those stupid fedoras, and may have purchased some jazz shoes, and rounded out that ensemble with my "Choose Life" t-shirt a la Wham's "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" video, because I was Brit Pop all the way. I only pronounced the "True" band's name as "SPAN-dau BAL-let" in what I knew to be entirely supportive company, but the truth is that I was a tiny Anglophile tool, immersed in the music and the vibe of a country that to this day I have never visited.
It was really, really fun. It was a sickness and a habit, and looking back over how it all evolved I know for sure that there is no way that I could have been any different.
And then there were songs. I knew every word to every song on every single Duran Duran record. Try me.
I can peform, in its entirety, including sound effects, the 12-inch single of "The Reflex" (this isn't easy, people) and when I am alone and I listen to "Come Up and See Me (Make Me Smile)" which was a cover tune lifted from a British band called Steve Harley & Cockney Rebels, a B-side on that Reflex remix and, in my opinion, one of the best on a very short list of what I consider great live recordings in all of pop music I cry every time. I also air drum, in this case. It's just a great song.
We had a thing, me and these guys. I don't know when it happened, although I entirely know why (it's not something I can explain, it just makes sense.) It has lasted since 1983 and I'm pretty sure it will always be with me, because why not?
In 2004 (I think, it may have been 2003) they came to D.C. -- to Constitution Hall, in fact, where I will see them this weekend -- on their reunion tour. I had never seen the group intact, and never even seen them perform in any configuration as Duran Duran, only Power Station.
I worried that it would be disappointing. I was concerned that it wouldn't live up to my memories, and that I was too old and too past the point of excitement with them for it to be a good idea.
I was wrong.
My sister and I went. We were in the upper deck, and it didn't matter, because it's one of those venues where you can see pretty well from anywhere. I lost my mind. I screamed like a teenager. They sounded great. The old songs were as I remembered them and the new ones weren't bad. I was so happy to be there.
We went back again in 2008, to a show at an outdoor venue on the Red Carpet Massacre tour. We had -- I think -- even more fun then. It was everything I needed it to be.
As for John and all that he portends?
Well, I think this. I think that in the mess of relationships and real life and growing up that is an adult, American life, that if we are lucky a few unsullied things and places and connections remain among the mess. He is one of those things, for me. He was one of the first men -- real or fictional or fictionally real -- who I thought was gorgeous and talented, tall, funny in interviews, with an accent that made me die and a strange little lispy voice that I can hear in my head right now. Was I ever going to know him or be around him or date him? No way. But could I have an uncomplicated, purely appreciative relationship with him at a time when I didn't know how to do that with anyone? Sure.
I don't think I still know how to do that with anyone. Can I still have that with him? Sure. My reasons for this are scarcely different from the reasons why pre-teens chase after Justin Bieber on his Segway, or why my mom's peers passed out for The Beatles on Ed Sullivan or why any of us feel any glorious moment of fleeting, unimaginable joy when we drive with the sunroof open on a perfect weather day.
Some things just are, and in our culture, this is one that we get for pretty cheap. I can always see the "Save a Prayer" lighter reflections in my mind's arena, is what I'm saying.
Sure, I could ascribe some kind of weird meaning to how John Taylor, as my first teenaged celebrity crush, represented the first of several (in an entirely fictional and unrequited way, of course) weird relationships with real live bass players and drummers that have taken place across the span of my life. I could say that he was the original representative of men I've driven around and waited for outside of crappy venues, carried their stupid amps and then kissed. I could talk about how scarily prescient it all was, and also the reason why I tell anyone who insinuates that I ought to go out there at 40 and look for a musician to shut her hole, because no thank you. The rhythm section is shut down. We have all retired, unless at some point I pick up a drum, which is entirely likely.
But I don't want to do that. I just want to call that coincidence, really. Because it's shut down, that is, except for him. JT is forgiven, everything, because in my life, he didn't do anything wrong. He played the bass line on "New Religion" and "Come Up and See Me" and "Last Chance on the Stairway". He smiled that tremendous smile.
And in the most kickass way possible, me 40, him 51, he's still bringing it full circle, back to where we started, which was my favorite part anyway.
Disclaimer: My friend Sarah is working with Duran Duran on blogger outreach for this tour. I have a ticket to the show, and have agreed to use the #duransocial hashtag and to write a post about my experience. But as I hope I have made abundantly clear, I would have gone anyway, and shared my appreciation for these guys with you regardless.