When my friend Andrew (“Durandy”) Golub first told me he was publishing a book showcasing selected posters from his magnificent Duran Duran collection, I thought he was referring to the 24x36-inch posters that covered the cream walls of my bedroom throughout the eighties—any leftover space was taken up by magazine pinups and centerfolds. I thought I had amassed a decent collection of those myself, so I looked forward to seeing what had been missing from my walls all those years.
I soon found out that in Andy’s context, “poster” referred to advertisements and promotional materials for new albums, videos, and concert events around the world. Put another way, those things whose existence I took for granted. It had never occurred to me, for instance, to acquire the promotional posters for the concerts I attended at Nassau Coliseum, Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Jones Beach Theatre, Koko Booth Ampitheatre, and Durham Performing Arts Center, to name a few. It had never occurred to me to acquire promotional posters announcing the release of The Wedding Album hanging in record stores (a name becoming obsolete at the time—stores had switched over to CDs and tape cassettes whose quality matched that of someone using a chainsaw to play a violin), or Arena, or Astronaut or All You Need is Now, or any of their thirteen (soon to be fourteen) albums. Hell, I barely noticed them. Kind of like passing the same coffee shop on your way to work every day and never stopping in, and then finding out how good the coffee is when you finally do.
As Andy teased his loyal followers with snapshots of the book in the printing process, I could already tell we were going to get something special. What I didn’t expect was to encounter the band from an entirely new lens and walk away from it changed. After thirty years, I didn’t think that was possible.
Yesterday, Andy posted this Francis Bacon quote: "Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly." Beautiful Colors: The Posters of Duran Duran is unequivocally one of those books. I was still digesting it when I posted my first two-sentence review a few days ago: “This isn’t a fan book. It’s an art book.” I was still too full, too speechless, to come up with anything else. Having fully digested it now (and ready for a second helping), I can elaborate a bit more.
Perhaps I should start with the superficial and work my way in. This is a bona fide coffee table book, weighing four-to-five pounds, complete with dust jacket, the primary title embossed in red, and a cover image of a wall saturated with Duran Duran posters—an apt metaphor and a glimpse into the lives of those die-hard Duranies who have saturated their lives with all things Duran Duran (see photo below). Between the covers are 260 glossy pages of posters and commentary, with an introduction by keyboardist Nick Rhodes to kick things off.
The book itself is multi-faceted. It is more than a biography of a band’s celebrated career; it is an artistic, romantic, and human narrative.
For starters, Golub, with the assistance of his life partner, Christine Born, has presented a history of Duran Duran in posters—beginning with the very first black, red, and white posters hand-made by bassist John Taylor while he was still in art college—spanning across three decades of lineup changes, logos, hairstyles, fashion, and technology—and ending with the band’s final tour stops in 2012 (one of which just so happened to be a show I attended at Durham Performing Arts Center in North Carolina; I couldn’t help but feel as if I’d just been waved at when I saw the poster from that memorable August night).
The visual history is astounding, especially since it includes posters from all over the world, reminding me that this post-punk Birmingham band is beloved by generations of all races, religions, languages, and lifestyles.
Page after page, poster after poster, we witness the evolution of Duran Duran: new romantics to pin-up pop stars to spin-off bands to a restricted lineup with an identity crisis to a group of musicians with a keen design sense to a reunited, re-charged, reincarnation of our beloved band fully assimilated in the new millennium. Equally impressive is the impeccable detail and wealth of knowledge that accompanies each photo—historical accounts, identification of dates, designers, original locations, and more. Andy has done his homework, and then some. For those Duranies who think they know everything about their favorite band, think again—I was struck by how much I didn’t know, and I was delighted to learn. I was equally mesmerized by images I’d never seen, never knew existed.
Most of all, this book is a work of art about an art form that hides in plain sight, and a band who are artists, stylists, and designers as much as they are musicians. In his introduction, Nick Rhodes says: “To this day, [John Taylor] and I still agonize over images, colour schemes, typefaces, and stylization relating to every aspect of our band’s visual presentation.” In turn, we get to reap the rewards of that agony and, for art/design aficionados, to debate and discuss, analyze and apply them.
The book is priced at $75.00—while this may seem steep, compare it to renowned rock photographer Denis O’Regan’s new book Careless Memories (documenting photos he took during the band’s Sing Blue Silver tour in 1984), which runs anywhere from £250 to £2500. Beautiful Colors tells a different story, from a different perspective, but is of no less value than O’Regan’s narrative when it comes to the fan experience. For some, it might even be richer.
Some might grumble about the shipping costs, especially overseas. And while this is understandable, Andy is committed to finding more feasible solutions. His mission is to bring his book to those who want it, and he is working tirelessly to do so. To know Andy is to know he is passionate, dedicated, and devoted to the collection he’s spent a lifetime nurturing. For him, and those who proudly covet a copy, this book has always been more than a product or a publication. It was a labor of love.
Overall, I argue that Beautiful Colors is a book for the Duran Duran Elite. It is also for design students, pop culture enthusiasts, time capsule historians, and, perhaps most of all, collectors.
Buy it for yourself. Or buy it for the Duranie in your life.
Andrew Golub (a.k.a. “Durandy”) contacted me shortly after my memoir Friends of Mine: Thirty Years in the Life of a Duran Duran Fan was released. We have yet to physically meet in person, but that minor technicality hasn’t stopped us from becoming fast and good friends. He embraced Friends of Mine as an individual yet universal fan experience, and has offered me nothing but praise and support ever since.
I, on the other hand, envy his massive Duran Duran collection from afar.
For those not in the know, Durandy has amassed one of the largest, if not the largest archives of Duran Duran memorabilia in the world. His particular passion is posters (more on that in tomorrow's post).
Collecting wasn’t something I touched on in Friends of Mine. In hindsight, I wish I’d devoted a chapter to it, but I wasn’t sure where or how to fit it in, what the context would be. (Something to consider for a second edition, perhaps?) I am, at best, a collector wannabe. Even during my Duran-Duranged years throughout the eighties, I pressed my nose up against the Duran Duran merchandise glass window. There just weren’t enough pennies in my pocket to buy it all. And what I do own has been lovingly used—posters have multiple staple-holes; album sleeves are worn, faded, frayed; magazines cut up for scrapbooks, notebook collages, and art projects given away as gifts. I don't regret this. (The Velveteen Rabbit was always one of my favorite stories when I was a kid.)
I didn’t have the foresight to see what would have value thirty years down the line. (Ditto with my Smurfs and Star Wars figures collections, regrettably long gone, into the ether along with my childhood.) I didn’t buy the calendars, didn’t get my mitts on every single piece of vinyl or poster. And, most regrettably, somehow missed that Into the Arena board game. Even now, I regret not taking advantage of some of the more recent collectibles: the Christmas baubles, for one (I bought this year’s set, however).
Since writing Friends of Mine, a curious thing has happened: Whereas I expected to need an extended break from all things Duran Duran, I’ve fallen in love with them all over again, and am deriving more joy from them than ever. It’s a more pure joy and pleasure, not one covering up adolescent pain and heartbreak. It’s not helping me cope with life, but rather a celebration of life itself. And it still, always, goes back to the music.
And it’s made me want to be a collector—not an archivist, like Durandy (although I certainly wish I had that kind of drive and passion), but to attain those pieces of memorabilia and merchandise that have value to me. For instance, thanks to eBay and the resurgence of vinyl, I’ve found vinyl editions of The Wedding Album, Thank You, Liberty, and Astronaut (can’t afford Red Carpet Massacre—help a Duranie out?). I got my hands on the board game (used, in decent condition, but not as pristine as I would’ve liked). I’m using these items too (well, the albums and board game, yes. Some of the newer items, like the No Ordinary EP, for instance, I’m keeping intact). I keep bookmarking other things as well—pins, 8 x 10s, vinyl purses, etc.—with the hopes that I’ll hit the big time with my books and not have to be so picky and choosy with my purchases or bidding.
In contrast to serious collectors, what little I have is nowhere near impressive. To me, however it is gold.
When I was a teenager, my bedroom walls (and ceiling) covered in posters and pinups, I dreamed of someday owning a house with a room that would house my collection—I’d re-hang posters, display my pins, set up my turntable and store my vinyl. Then I grew up, and the house never came. My vinyl, posters, and scrapbooks went into storage. I looked back on my teenage dream and thought it was silly.
Until now. Today, I want that room all over again. I think my small, humble, amateur collection deserves it. And perhaps it’s a way to keep the spirit of Duran Duran—the music between us—eternal, while still remaining firmly ensconced in the Now.
What Durandy’s passion, commitment, and ambition for his archive has given me is the desire to put order into my collection. To assess priorities, figure out what I want it to be from here, almost treat it as a work of art. Because it just might be a living sculpture.
Tomorrow I’ll post a review of Durandy’s book Beautiful Colors: The Posters of Duran Duran. Trust me, you won’t want to miss it—the post or the book.
Several weeks ago, I was invited by Amazon Publishing author Anne Charnock to answer some questions about my current work in progress and a little about my writing process. She gave me a set of questions to answer (you can see her answers here). This post is already long overdue, so without further delay...
1) What are you working on?
My loyal readers know I never talk about my works-in-progress! To do so would be akin to constantly opening the oven door while the cookies are baking.
I will say this, however: My NaNoWriMo manuscript is simmering (slightly off from the metaphor above, although we're at least still in the cooking theme). Recently my developmental editor reported that she saw a tweet from an author who bragged about self-publishing his NaNoWriMo novel days after finishing it. We both gasped--the horror! It's not a strategy either of us recommends. Even writers who carefully outline and edit-as-they-go-along need to put their manuscript away fro a bit, or at least give it to beta-readers and editors before uploading it directly to Kindle. My manuscript is nowhere near publication-ready. And I needed to step away from it, to let it simmer for awhile so that when I return to it, I will do so with fresh eyes.
So what am I doing in the meantime? Well, there's always something to work on. Or think about...
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I'm marketed as a chick lit author, and I'm involved with #ChickLitChat on Twitter weekly (or whenever I can). However, I try to stay away from some of the more stereotypical trappings of the genre--pink book covers, cocktails ending in "-tini," and leading men named Chad or Kyle. I prefer to brand myself, and my writing, as "commercial women's fiction" (that said, I'm sometimes surprised by the number of male readers I have, especially of my novel Faking It).
No matter what I write, my goal is not to fit into a particular genre as much as it is to tell a good story with strong characters and rich dialogue. I want to make you laugh, or think, or tear up, but I also want the story and characters to stay with you well beyond THE END.
3) Why do you write what you do?
I always write the novel I want to read. That's my starting and finishing point every time. I don't know of any other way to make it work.
4) How does your writing process work?
Typically I'm what Nathan Bransford calls "an improvisational writer." That is to say, when I write a first draft, I pour everything onto the page, not worrying about whether it's good or bad, knowing I'll get to the shaping and molding and refining and polishing in the revision stage. I may start with a few notes, some snippets of dialogue, a description here and there, but that's all. No outline. Outlining and plotting just don't work for me--however, when I'm well into the revision stage, I may draft an outline to assist me with organization and arrangement, pacing, and making sure the timeline of the story is accurate.
After a first draft is "finished," I set it aside and let it simmer (see above). When I'm ready to look at it again, I print it out, go to a coffeeshop, and start reading, pen in hand. I make all kinds of notes, start crossing things out, filling things in, and ask a lot of questions, as if the manuscript belongs to one of my students or a fellow writer. I especially "talk to the text."
Once that's done, I get into the blood, sweat, and tears of writing: revision. Namely, re-writing, re-reading, repeat. I continue to develop the story, the characters, the style (word choice, etc.), and cut out every word that's not needed. At this point I'll start showing it to people (beta readers) and ask them for their feedback as well.
When I'm ready to called it "finished" again, I send it to my publisher (with fingers crossed). If/when they accept it, the process of re-reading and re-writing starts in all over again with my developmental editor, copyeditors, proofreaders, etc. (The same happens if I self-publish.)
5) What is your latest novel?
Please check out She Has Your Eyes, available for pre-order and scheduled for release on February 11, 2014. It's the continuing story of Faking It (currently on sale for 99 cents on Kindle) and Ordinary World. Of the three, I think She Has Your Eyes is my favorite. I hadn't planned to write a third Andi/David novel, but these things take on a life of their own.
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.