Tag Archives: 80s

In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran – Audiobook Review

I just completed the audio version of In The Pleasure Groove: Love Death and Duran Duran, narrated by John Taylor, bassist and co-founder of Duran Duran.

In The Pleasure GrooveThe band have long been one of my favorites. In fact, the very first record I ever bought with my own money was Seven And The Ragged Tiger. On cassette, of course.

Duran Duran Rocks

I’ve been into Duran Duran’s music since I was 10 years old, because I like the sound: exotic, upbeat, futuristic, yet with an undeniable groove. It was an older female cousin who turned me onto them and I noticed that girls really liked the band – “those guys must be doing something right,” I thought, and I’ve been following their career and enjoying their music ever since the early ’80s.

John Taylor of Duran Duran

John Taylor of Duran Duran in the ’80s, living the dream. Photo: New York Times

Of course I’m biased as a fan and music lover, but I’ll still say this book was great overall. The initial description of Taylor’s upbringing and childhood seemed long at first, but it’s a relevant setting of context for the ensuing fame story, as we watch this lad from Birmingham navigate punk and disco into new wave and rock, all as a bassist and band member with artistic vision, along with those of his band mates who soon become heartthrobs, almost to their detriment.

Duran Duran Still Rocking

The guys are still at it, recording and touring to this day. Here they are at Coachella in 2011 performing their very first single, “Planet Earth,” and obviously enjoying the thrill. Taylor ends the book with a description of this very moment:

It’s an outdoor festival, so tour manager Craig will not get to give his usual cue to take the house lights down. Tonight, that’s one of God’s jobs. And what a job of it he’s doing. A glittering bauble of sunlight fights to stay above the horizon. A full moon appears – a late-coming VIP that takes a seat above the lighting gantry at 11 o’clock high. Nature presents for us a better light show than any human could ever have created.

My heart is pounding. There’s no better time than this, when I’m about to take stage and the future belongs to me. This is what the moment feels like as I walk out onto the stage one more time. Roger’s drums kick in. An eight-bar count and I’m in with him, the galloping groove that started it all for me. Thirty thousand California kids, eyes and teeth smiling, cameras and cell phones popping, a million tiny seductions all at once. And the music never sounded better.

I would recommend the book to anyone with a passing interest in what it’s like to be a working-class kid who falls in love with music, reaches the height of fame because of it, and handles the aftermath (good and bad) with grace.

What do you think? Ever read a book by a rock star? What were your impressions? Is there any music favorites from your youth the carryover to today? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Mixtapes were great. Cassettes? Not so much.

Grandpa Cassette

Grandpa Cassette” by Zack Finfrock aka Splashed Ink, Los Angeles, CA. Available at Threadless.com

Have you ever toiled at a crappy job only to reminisce years later and think, “you know, that was a pretty fun time?” Our brains have a cognitive bias toward hanging on to the positive and letting go of the negative. And that’s what I believe has been happening with the ever-growing number of modern references to cassette tapes.

Amid all the nostalgia I see these days for mix tapes or the cassette format in general, I’m decidedly glad do be done with tapes now and forever. I do not miss the “good old days” of how music used to be consumed. Here’s why:

Tapes sucked.

There’s no denying the absolute fact that cassette tape quality was capricious at best, and crappy at its core. Even the concept of the “best sounding tape” sounds like an oxymoron. Is it live or is it Memorex? Are you kidding me? It’s definitely Memorex.

Peter Murphy of Bauhaus in a UK Memorex cassette commercial

The chief redeeming quality about cassettes was that they were very easy to copy, so that made sharing and compiling music very straightforward. Mixtapes were something I enjoyed in a sublimated sort of way, since their inherent transience belied their crappy quality. Because, of course, the price for the whole endeavor was progressively eroding quality through generations of copies. But hey – it was still cheaper than actually purchasing new music. And even that never quite felt right – spending good money to hear music in cassette form? It’s like part of the deal was that you understood you were getting ripped off.

Dig the irony of the company who came to dominate mp3 players getting its start thanks to cassettes. Image by Ethan Hein via Flickr.

Dig the irony of the company who came to dominate mp3 players getting its start thanks to cassettes. Image by Ethan Hein via Flickr.

CDs were a welcome end to all this, but even then, record stores and record companies grossly inflated the prices. Why? Because tapes sucked so badly that consumers were willing to pay a premium for everlasting quality. I see CDs as a bleak transition period, followed finally by the now-developed world of mp3s, bringing us to where we are today. I did away with all my CDs in 2002, going full-on digital from that day forward and have never looked back – I even had a Rio before an iPod. And while they do have some memory-biased charm, and despite my years of close interaction with them, I am happy to leave cassettes in the past.

What do you think? Did you ever spend a lot of time with cassettes? Do you have fond memories of doing so? When is the last time you touched a cassette? Have you gone completely to digital music? Let us hear from you in the comments.

A Snapshot in Time: the Kodak Disc Camera

Kodak 4000 Disc Camera by Capt. Kodak

Kodak 4000 Disc Camera by Capt. Kodak

On hearing of Kodak’s bankruptcy recently, I’m nostalgic, as I’m sure many of us are. I easily remember the excitement of discovering photography for the first time as a child and seeing the Kodak logo everywhere, from film, to cameras, to the envelopes my prints were mailed back to me in (remember “sending off” or “dropping off” your film?). This is best summarized for me now by remembering Kodak’s Disc camera.

What’s a Kodak Disc?

For their time, the Kodak Disc cameras were very innovative. It could easily slide in your pocket, came with a built-in flash, and even the film was compact. Sure the picture quality wasn’t great, but for the ease of use and relative affordability, it was a decent experience. Snapshots of life as a kid for me came through the lens of this camera, and I’m intrigued by the parallels of our gadget-obsessed consumer society. I still have prints from my Disc camera, and as I record HD video with my phone today, I wonder what 20 years from now will make us regard even this activity as primitive.

Says Capt. Kodak:

Manufactured from 1982 to 1989 by Eastman Kodak Co. When introduced, they made a big splash—in less than 10 years, they were gone. They featured a 15 exposure flat “disc” of film using new film technology to get acceptable images from it 8x10mm negative size. Some of this film technology was later introduced into the 35mm line of films making them even sharper and producing better images on a bigger negative. Ironically, that improvement and Kodak’s own introduction of inexpensive 35mm cameras may have led to the Disc camera’s demise.

iPhone Ancestor?

iPhone Ancestry

iPhone decal, Disc style

Back when I rocked the iPhone 4 bumper, my swag was enhanced by this awesome Kodak Disc iPhone skin. The symbolic convergence of technology and art through photography on so many levels with this simple decal is so poignant to me. Though no longer available from this manufacturer (another similarity with the actual camera), I truly appreciate how this is a tribute to digital ancestry in consumer electronics and photography. Like the gadget that inspired it, this decal goes along with you in your pocket, attached to your camera that also makes phone calls, sends SMS messages, surfs the Internet, is your GPS, Yellow Pages, day planner, entertainment hub… um, while fun, the Disc didn’t do all that.

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Sure, I love my iPhone and applications like Hipstamatic for their high-quality and instant gratification. Yet it’s so interesting to me how nostalgia in the form of apps like Hipstamatic or digital photo booths is enjoying popularity now. And the Disc’s portability and ease of use can’t help but come to mind these days when I’m whipping out the iPhone for some snapshots with a retro-camera app.

I also love the ease and fun of social networks like Instagram and management tools like Flickr for making sharing our snapshots so easy and ubiquitous. In fact, I fully credit Instagram for reigniting my own interest in photography these days — which happen to be directly traceable to the days when I was posing my Star Wars action figures for some action shots with my trusty Kodak Disc.

What do you think? Are you sad to see Kodak’s demise? Did you or anyone you know ever work for Kodak? Do you use any Kodak products today (paper, digital, etc.) What lessons are there to be gained by the fall of a once-great innovating company? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Photo Credit: Kodak 4000 Disc Camera, by Capt. Kodak