By Eric J Baker
People say men only think about one thing. Getting laid. This is a common fallacy. Men think about two other things as well:
1. The times we already got laid (go us!).
2. The times we could have gotten laid but blew it.
The second one is the worst. Those are the times Charles Dickens was talking about, opposite the best times (see number 1, above). All men have at least one of those bad times to look back on with regret.
Like when Deidre, for example, the girl you fancied at the cutlery store across from your accounting office, came to tell you she just broke up with her boyfriend Ted and wanted to do something crazy. That very night. Instead of asking, “What time to you get off work,” you gave her a business card for the suicide prevention hotline. You wondered why she didn’t visit you anymore.
Or perhaps the time that Barry, the overpriced-but-talented hairdresser who looks like Pierce Brosnan, offered to give you some trim in his apartment for free, and you said, “That’s all right. I’d feel bad if I got hair all over the place.”
It’s only later – years later – when you’re daydreaming through a Project Runway marathon while eating a bowl of pistachios, that you suddenly sit upright, almost knocking over your $9 bottle of Yellowtail Cabernet Sauvignon (that goes with pistachios, right?), and shout, “Duh!” into an empty room.
Epiphanies are like that.
I can’t say I’m the best at reading amorous clues either. In my rock-n-roll days, cranking out well-rehearsed hard rock tunes for occasionally enthusiastic crowds, it became a lot easier. When a woman says, “Do you want to see my underwear?” before you’ve been formally introduced, you know you aren’t going to be spending a lot of money on dinner and a show.
Ah, but here’s what semi-retired rockers never tell you when they are regaling you with tales of musical decadence: You look at the girl, then you look at your $4,000 Yamaha drum set sitting there, unguarded, which needs to be packed up and driven home straight away because your set is over. You can’t leave it outside because two people were stabbed to death in this same parking lot the last time you played here, and that’s no place to store gear. You wonder what the hell you’d do if something happened to that rig. You’d be rather far up shit creek when it comes to your budding musical career. So you look back at the girl and say, “Of all the women who have offered to show me their underwear, darling, I’ve never wanted to see anyone’s more than yours. But I can’t tonight.”
She looks at the floor a moment, dejected. Then, with a burst of good cheer, she smiles and says, “How about watching me pee, then?”
Despite having cemented her potential as Mrs. Right with this suggestion, your first and only true love is your stupidly expensive instrument. So you go home alone.
My kingdom for a roadie, you say.
Every workaday musician envies the big, famous bands – even ones that suck – if for no reason other than they have roadies to haul all that junk around. You play. You party. That’s it.
And right now I envy music lovers in the UK, because one band that’s the opposite of suck, Duran Duran, is taking their roadies, their expensive gear, and their massive catalog of hits on tour there this spring, starting at the Newcastle Metro Radio Arena on May 18. The group is supporting their new album, All You Need is Now, sans original guitarist Andy Taylor, who apparently hates rampant sex and girls offering to pee and would rather stay home.
Unlike new wave contemporaries Human League, ABC, Culture Club, and so on, who are all dead or in prison (or perhaps simply remembered as cultural artifacts of the particular half-decade they were popular), DD continues to blend radio-friendly, white-funk accessibility with underrated musicianship and deft arrangements that no one else has yet been clever enough to steal and repackage. U2 and the Cure should have been so smart.
I’ll say something now I would have been killed for in the 1980’s: Duran Duran is the sexiest band ever.
No, I haven’t decided to join Killough’s team. I mean sexy in the way that jumping on a grenade to save your mates is romantic or how you can be in love with your guitar.
Duran’s sexiness derives from the mix of fashion and pop, funk and sheen, slick graphics and videos they couldn’t show properly on MTV because the girls weren’t wearing clothes. It was also from Andy Taylor’s aggressive, 12th-fret guitar jabs; John Taylor’s Roxy Music-meets-Chic bass lines, Roger’s ubiquitous 32nd beats on the hi-hat; Simon Le Bon’s lanky swagger; and Nick Rhodes’ shimmering, sliding, Dippin-Dots ice cream keyboard parts. And has there ever been a sexier album jacket design, from front to back, sleeve to liner, than 1982’s Rio?
Flashback to the early 80’s, before I was a badass rocker and just an insecure kid with no identity: On the outside, I was Anonymous Teen, with braces, ribs showing, indecisive hair, and ugly clothes from Sears (sorry, Mom, it’s true. I know you did your best). Inside, I was Nick Rhodes, pop music genius, with pink hair and a shiny Miami vice jacket and matching tie, equally cool – and plausible – on stage or in an art gallery. If we have nothing else in common, I’ll bet me and Nick are equally rubbish at sports.
Boys in Reagan-era, conformist, soccer-jock worshipping central New Jersey circa 1985 did not admit to liking Duran Duran. Especially not if you’re socially awkward. It was enough that girls never noticed me; I didn’t need football players stuffing me in lockers on account of my music taste.
Well, maybe that’s not exactly how it happened. I did let slip to a few classmates – all girls – that I was a fan of the Fab Five. That I had seen them live, in fact.
(For the record, which you are no doubt keeping, I’ve been to scores of shows. Piles. I’ve seen all kinds of metal, including Motorhead, reputed to be the World’s Loudest Band. Duran Duran was louder than them all. I was literally almost deaf for two days after seeing them in 1984. So, if any of our male readers in the UK plan on catching a show on this tour… bring earplugs. Those ladies in the audience might be older now, but I bet they still have a few screams left in them.)
So these female classmates were surprisingly kind to me and quite interested in my views on the subject. One young lady was grateful to learn that John Taylor did not play a bass guitar, like the fish but, rather, a bass guitar like the music word. Some gave me cassettes of B-side songs I didn’t have. When I expressed dismay at not owning a lyric sheet from the first album, one girl hand-wrote the entire thing for me. I said, “You could have typed it,” and she said with a smile, “I wanted to hand write it for you.”
The kindness didn’t end there. I got a part time job at the mall, and the girls at the teen fashion store came to my shop so we could discuss the band. One brought me flowers. When I think back on it, I warmly remember what a swell bunch of girls listened to Dur-
Wait! Stop the Project Runway. Pick up the Yellowtail spilling all over the rug (gotta save the rug). Swallow that pistachio.
Those girls weren’t being nice. They wanted to… I could have lost my… in the ninth grade, instead of…