Talking to Girls About Duran Duran (book review)

Talking to girls about Duran Duran – One Young Man’s Quest For True Love and a Cooler Haircut – Rob Sheffield (Dutton) book review

What first drew me to this book was it’s title and the cover art – an old-school cassette tape unraveling.  After I read the book flap, I was even more intrigued.  The author was only a year older than myself….so generally the same age….and almost all the artists in the table of contents I recognized.  I had to give it a read.

The title of the book, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, came from the author’s rather astute conclusion that girls liked Duran Duran, AND being the hormonal adolescent teenage boy he was, he wanted to talk to girls.  So….if he learned how to talk to girls ABOUT Duran Duran….he could ultimately talk to girls. Brilliant.  SO…having been a “girl” of that era, I had to see what he had to say.

Rob Sheffield is a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, and an admitted music lover, so this book comes out of a passion, and a place of “feeling”:  how the song made him feel…..what it meant to him then and now….how it spoke to him.  Music is empowering…..and therapeutic.  And boy is this guy FUNNY.  I found myself laughing out loud at some of his one-liners.

The book is divided into 25 chapters each with the title of an 80’s group and one of their songs.  I could TOTALLY relate to what he was saying in several chapters.  He talked about Kenny Rogers’ “Rules of Life” (“you got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em…..”).  My mom played A LOT of Kenny Rogers (that and Neil Diamond….the soundtrack to my childhood) so I totally “got” what he was saying.  Another example, David Bowie….made me think of my friend, Dawn, who was big into Bowie in the early 80’s.  And,speaking of this chapter, one of Mr. Sheffield’s best one-liners:  David Bowie was nicknamed “The thin white Duke.”  Rob names himself “The thin white Douche.”  I think milk came out of my nose with that one.

So, why the 80’s?  Wasn’t that “the lamest music era” ever?  Well, for one, it did encompass the author’s formative years – from teens to adult.  But, even though some say it was bad, the music, the fashion, and “fer sure” and “awesome” verbage is remembered even by those NOT alive in the 1980’s.  There are “Awesome 80’s” proms attended by we 40-somethings, gnarly dance songs played at weddings.  And, as the author notes, nearly national days of mourning when Patrick Swayze and Michael Jackson passed away.  This music IS a part of who we are.

What I liked best about this book was, believe it or not, it gave me validation.  He states that guys and girls listen to music differently.  Girls like music if it’s got a good beat…..something catchy they can dance to.  Guys like to debate the finer parts of the song with their friends……”which is better, London Calling or Sandinista?  Who had a cooler name Joe Strummer or Tony Crimes?”  Anyone can ask my husband, Tony, about a group and one of their songs.  He can tell you the album it was on, how well it did on the charts, etc.  He will sit with his friend, Jay, and evaluate the vinyl version of a song vs. the CD version.  Which sounds warmer?  Did you hear how they cut out the first two beats of the guitar solo?  Being a girl….I can tell you whether or not I liked the song.  Half the time I have no clue who sang it and I don’t care.  And, guess what?  I’m OK!  I thought maybe something was wrong with me because I couldn’t identify song AND artist.  Now I know it’s because I’m a girl. Yeah me!

Overall, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran was a fun, light read – insightful and entertaining.  Each chapter is a short story in itself.  You can read it anywhere (if you don’t mind people looking at you when you are laughing out loud).  I haven’t yet read his first book “Love is a Mix Tape,” but that will be next on my list.  –Kendra Peters

Kendra is the lovely wife of Tony Peters, who runs this site.  She is commended for her patience with his crazy passion for music and his latest web endeavor.