Talking to Girls About Duran Duran

You ever have someone try and turn you on to something that just doesn’t quite fit you, but you can still tell it’s really, really awesome?  Even if you don’t enjoy it as much as you probably ought to?  You know, like The Dave Matthews Band, or imported stinky cheeses, or anal sex.

Yeah.  So I just read Talking to Girls About Duran Duran.  That’s kinda how I feel about the book.  It’s good.  Very good!  It’s just…well…I think I lack the balls to appreciate it fully.

I mean, based on the cover, it screams, “ELLY!  Let’s unite in a fiery blaze of literary passion!”  On paper, Rob Sheffield, music journalist turned memoir-ist, is my dream platonic straight male best friend.   He loved the 80’s.  I loved the 80’s, too!

If you were famous in the 80’s, you will never not be famous.  (In theoretical physics, this principle is formally known as the Justine Bateman Constant.)

And he’s happy to make snarky, disparaging comments about the musicians of that era. (Not that I’d ever make snarky, disparaging comments about musicians.  *coughrodstewartcough*

There are times in a man’s life that can only be described as “times in a man’s life.”  The first time he experiences A Flock of Seagulls is one of them.

…and yet.  As much as I enjoyed his snark, I just couldn’t quite fall in love with him the way I wanted to.  I hate it when that happens.

But the giggles?  The giggles were pretty epic.

To simplify brutally, there were really only two kinds of movies in the ’80’s:

  1. Movies in which Judd Nelson might conceivably pump his fist while crossing the football field.
  2. Movies in which Mickey Rourke sweats a lot and symbolizes something.

Here’s the premise for the book: young Sheffield is convinced that if he understood why girls loved Duran Duran so much, he would understand everything about them.  The girls that is.  Not Duran Duran.  They really weren’t that complicated.

…maybe girls would scream for me the way they screamed for DD if only i modeled my life on Simon Le Bon, and borrowed his lipliner, and spiced my conversation with lines like “My mouth is alive with juices like wine.”  It might take years of monastic devotion.  I might have to go to exotic locales and have sex with actual wolves.

Normally, I fall madly in love with anyone who loves music as much as I do.  And when someone uses a line like, “David Bowie ended life as I knew it one Sunday morning, entering my life the way a true prophet should- over a bowl of Fruity Pebbles,” I should want to instantly share joint custody of a unicorn with them.  But then Sheffield would use lines like, “She was a pheromone parfait in a pencil skirt, always rocking a severe bob of red hair and glasses that she could have used as a shiv.”  And yes, I know that’s a beautifully written sentence, but somehow I found those sentiments harder, colder…distracting even.  I wanted more gushing over Morrisey and stirrup pants.

Dufmanno and Tom G., I thought of you two quite often while reading the book.  Sheffield was also raised Catholic – super duper Catholic – which normally makes me a little uncomfortable being a wanton heathen and all that.  But his take on religion is pretty amusing:

It’s like Lou Reed said to Lester Bangs about drugs: “I make no bones about the fact that I take amphetamines.  Any sane person would any chance they get.  But I’m not in favor of legalization, because I don’t want all these idiots going around grinding their teeth at me.”  That’s basically how I feel about religion.  It’s a drug I abuse, but I don’t want to see it on the street.

My favorite chapter by far was the chapter on Hall & Oates.  Holy Mother of Massengil how I love that band.  So does Sheffield.

Is there a word in the language more beautiful than “Oates”?  Say it loud, and his music is playing.  Say it soft and it’s almost like praying.

I loved the book most when Sheffield was madly in love with the music.  That’s when I love people most, too, so go figure.  I can’t lie though, there were definitely moments I found myself skimming distractedly through the pages.  Maybe because I’m neither Catholic nor a dude?  Or maybe because I’d never heard of Haysi Fantayzee?  But I’d still recommend it.  Especially to dudes.  Catholic dudes that love music.  So, Tom G. read this book.


  1. Gee, I wish the 80s weren’t one long blur for me. I missed a lot of great music, I’m sure. But I became a Eurythmics fan in the mid-90s, long after their 80s heyday. Does that provide any redemption?

  2. HOLY CRAP! Has this guy been stealing my material? And here I thought I was SOOOOO Unique. Pfft!

    I should have trademarked “early 80’s geeky teenage angst with a cool soundtrack” when I had the chance. Although, come to think of it, John Cusack might have beat me to it.


    WTF do I do now? Back to writing Victorian novels and making references to LiLo’s crotch, I guess.

    PS – I LOVE YOU!

  3. Since I wore a fedora and grey Capezio shoes through most of my Duran Duran phase I understand where he was at writing this book. Except the guy in my high school who we talked about Duran Duran with was openly gay if you can believe that.
    My heart was never fully beating during this time frame due to the sudden and unexpected disbanding of the holy trinity (sting, stewart, andy)so I was busy working my way through Elizabeth Kubler Ross stages of death and dying. I got stuck in “denial” for thirty years.
    Go figure.

  4. Please review all books. You write like a rock critic would and I like that. If I could write like Lester Bangs, I’d be fucking great (That was a brilliant pun. Must record).

  5. You see the essential component missing for you when you read the book was that you were most likely not wearing parachute pants and making that swish, swish, swish noise as you paced around the room trying to fall in love.

    Try it again. You never know.

  6. I saw A Flock of Seagulls when they opened for The Police in 1984. There were those who ran, who ran so far away….

  7. I have these same experience every time I find a book I just know I’ll love so much I’ll want to hump the gay author until he switches teams!

    Sadly, it never happens and the restraining order from David Sedaris remains.


  8. Okay, I am going to whisper this, so no one kills me:

    You know Chuck Palahniuk (yea, the dude who wrote fight club)? I read his book Invisible Monsters and SO wanted to love it.

    Bad luck.

    I just felt…uncomfortable and glad when it was over.

    I may try Vapid’s method though. Surely parachute pants improve any experience?

    – B x

    1. You can’t really say “uncomfortable and glad when it was over” and think I won’t make a crack about the sex. Ok fine I’ll do it quietly behind my hand. Just this once.

  9. You know the best-kept secret about Crumbs on Wash Street? They play 80s music all day long… meet you there whenever. And I agree with Eric. You need to do way more book reviews.

  10. “Watch out boys, she’ll chew you up.”

    God I love that band.
    They’re on my workout mix. THAT’S how good they are.

  11. He is pretty funny. But you know what? Maybe it just wasn’t the right time. Maybe you have to approach this book later. If you are like me, you never will. Read it and done. It just wasn’t your time together. Time to move on. Does Chelsea Handler have another one out yet? Or perhaps Charlie Sheen will publish something soon

  12. This is completely fascinating to me since I spent all of the 80s being pregnant, nursing in the middle of the night to televangelists, sending kids to preschool and then to school, and stepping on Legos in my bare feet. I wasn’t aware we had the 80s, actually.

  13. I love the Oates quote! That did make me giggle. But Duran Duran, meh, not my thing. And I do love me some ’80s.

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