Book Review

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran

By - Mar 6th, 2011 04:00 am
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Known for his best-selling memoir, Love is a Mix Tape, music journalist Rob Sheffield is back with Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut (Dutton Adult, $25.95). Talking to Girls About Duran Duran is hardly a pick-up manual. Instead, it is a bittersweet look back at the author’s youth and the music that shaped it.

Divided up into 20-odd chapters named for songs, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran starts off with the Go-Gos’ “Our Lips Are Sealed” and ends with Duran Duran’s “All She Wants Is.” Sheffield, despite being the only brother among bossy sisters, couldn’t quite figure out the fairer sex. That’s where music came in. Sheffield claims, “…something in the music keeps promising that if I could only finally figure out Duran Duran, I would finally understand women, and maybe even understand love.”

Adolescence is never a smooth ride, and Sheffield stumbles through the 1980s confused and inept at everything from flirting to sports. He uses the pop hits of the day to describe emotions and feelings he thought only he experienced. He also thought if he could talk to his female classmates about Duran Duran that maybe they’d see him in a romantic light and he’d no longer be the “nice guy” that all the girls liked just as a friend.

Sadly, he was rarely successful.

But Sheffield doesn’t just use music to discuss girls. Music is also the backdrop to his failure as a high school wrestler, driving an ice cream truck one summer, the Roman Catholicism of his youth, and being the grandson of a wizened Irish immigrant. His sisters suffer in vain to make him “cooler,” and Sheffield fantasizes about becoming the only male member of the Go-Gos.

Unlike many male music journalists, Sheffield is no rock snob. He name checks such mainstream music-makers as Hall and Oates, Culture Club and Madonna. He even admits to attending a Debbie Gibson concert.

It’s also music that consoles him years later after the loss of his young wife, Renee. And it’s karaoake that helps him get through the grief of being a widower. For Sheffield, singing was easier than talking, and karaoke also had a way of summing up the cheesiness of over-produced 1980s synth pop.

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran is funny and touching, and you don’t have to remember when MTV actually showed videos instead of the shenanigans of Snookie and The Situation to appreciate it.  If you’ve ever been a confused adolescent, and if music has been a huge part of your life, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran is a page-turning soundtrack.

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