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Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut Hardcover – July 15, 2010
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2010: Don't be fooled by the title: Talking to Girls About Duran Duran may sound like a dream come true to all the women who she-bopped through the 80s, but at heart it's the Feminine Mystique that every boy-next-door has been waiting for (and will actually read). It's something like a prequel to Rob Sheffield's first, fantastic memoir, Love Is a Mix Tape, taking its cue this time from a musical decade so addictive and eclectic that, as he notes, "every night in your town, you can find a bar somewhere hosting an Awesome 80s Prom Night." This hilarious and heartfelt collection of coming-of-age vignettes is arguably a much more satisfying way to spend an evening, though, particularly if you have even an ounce of the New Wave obsession that courses through it. Sheffield riffs on the songs that saw him through the rapture and misery and bewilderment of being a guy who wanted to understand girls, gleefully skewering Duran Duran along the way (even as he professes his love for them) and paying tribute to tunes that captured some of his best moments. If you're going to revisit your youth, let Rob Sheffield be your guide. Nothing compares to him. --Anne Bartholomew
Rob Sheffield's Top '80s Summer Cruising SongsReading Talking to Girls About Duran Duran is a nostalgia trip you'll love taking: add Rob Sheffield's exclusive playlist to the mix--featured below, with liner notes--and you'll be ready for some kind of wonderful summer night. You can also sample and download these songs in our custom MP3 playlist.
"Little Red Corvette" (1982) by Prince
This was my get-in-the-zone song the morning of my driver's test. Prince seemed to be promising me that as soon as I had wheels, all sorts of glamorously messed-up ladies would be trying to hop a ride uptown in my love machine. It didn't exactly work out that way, but at least I passed the test and got my license. Thanks, Prince!
"Missing You" (1984) by John Waite
I spent the summer of '84 rolling around Boston in an ice cream truck, selling Bomb Pops and Fudgsicles and Nutty Buddys. And with all due respect to Scarface, I got high on my own supply, which means I spent the summer with one hand on the wheel and another one stuffing my face. I was also listening to the radio 18 hours a day, so I got obsessed with this song. I still get choked up at the "heartbreak overload" part.
"Never Let Me Down Again" (1987) by Depeche Mode
It's weird how bizarre sexual tension fits so well with operating a motor vehicle--you really shouldn't try to drive and feel tragic at the same time, right? But they go hand in hand. No song captures that feeling like this one: just you and your best friend, riding high, leaving the rest of the world eating your dust.
"Is There Something I Should Know?" (1983) by Duran Duran
One summer I worked on a garbage truck on the southeast expressway into Boston, picking up trash on the side of the road: burger wrappers, soda cups, porn mags, the occasional pair of pants. Duran Duran helped get me through it, although I never did figure out what they meant by "You're about as easy as a nuclear war."
"It Takes Two" (1988) by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock
This brings back fond memories of 1988, when "It Takes Two" was pumping out of every car down my street, with the same "Whoop!" "Yeah!" "Whoop!" "Yeah!" James Brown sample rolling on all summer long. Roxanne Shante's "Go On Girl" had the same sample, so by the end of the summer it was hard-wired into my neurons.
"Our Lips Are Sealed" (1980) by The Go-Go's
This song puts anybody in serious danger of a speeding ticket--Gina Schock had to be one of the greatest punk rock drummers who ever banged a gong. I'm sad the Go-Go's had to cancel their farewell tour--but hopefully that just means they'll stick together a little longer.
"Hysteria" (1987) by Def Leppard
This song always reminds me of a cool girl I hung around with in the summer of 1988. She liked setting things on fire, getting both of us thrown out of bars, and Def Leppard. It's funny because this is a classic hair-metal ballad, but with all these glossy keyboards, it sounds like impeccable '80s synth-pop--it could pass for prime New Order or OMD. (Editor's note: Song is available on album only.)
"Left of the Dial" (1985) by The Replacements
It was the summer of '86 when I road-tripped to my first Replacements show, in Providence. Paul Westerberg was standing at the bar before the show, so I stole the Kool butt out of his ashtray and mailed it to a girl I liked in Nova Scotia. She wrote back, "It stinks to high heaven." But I guess that was the kind of stupid romantic gesture only a Replacements fan would make.
"My Prerogative" (1989) by Bobby Brown
Everybody's talking all this stuff about him! Why don't they just let him live! This is a perfectly badass song for prowling the streets, feeling totally invincible. And if the night ends up in the back of a cop car, it makes an excellent soundtrack to kicking out the windows, because that's what Bobby would do.
"Wild in the Streets" (1986) by Bon Jovi
One of the funny things about Jon Le Bon is that his career album, *Slippery When Wet*, is packed with cruising songs as good as "Livin’ on a Prayer." I always think "Wild in the Streets" could have been Bon Jovi's biggest, bonniest and joviest hit, but for some reason they never played it on the radio; it's the one that got away. I also love how Jon yells that nutty "rock me!" during the guitar solo. Someday I pray that Morrissey will cover this--and change it to "Wilde in the Streets." A guy can dream.
From Publishers Weekly
In this tuneful coming-of-age memoir, the glamorous New Wave band Duran Duran presides spiritually over the all-consuming teenage male efforts to comprehend the opposite sex. Music journalist Sheffield (Love Is a Mix Tape) chronicles his passage through the 1980s in a series of chapters in which period groups—from headliners like Roxy Music and Prince to one-hit wonders like Haysi Fantayzee of Shiny Shiny semifame—provides musical accompaniment to his adolescent angst. They are the soundtrack to his fumbling attempts to dance or make passes at girls, to weather a winless stint on the high school wrestling team, to survive a summer job as an ice-cream truck driver. The relationship insights he arrives at—chiefly, the imperative of unquestioning submission to female whims—are no more or less cogent than the song lyrics he gleans them from. The book really shines as a collection of free-form riffs on the glorious foolishness of Reagan-era entertainment—the movie E.T., he writes, was about a sad muppet who thought he was David Bowie—and its weirdly resonant emotional impact. The result is a funny, poignant browse from a wonderful pop-culture evocateur. (July)
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"Talking to girls..." is Rob Sheffield's second book after Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time. I wasn't sure how this book would hold up after "Mix Tape" because the latter story was so absolutely gut-wrenching and beautiful all at once; it had the feel of a completely singular work of art. But I have to say that Sheffield, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, delivers a second time.
This memoir is about growing up in the `80s, and is told through experiences with many different songs from that time. Sheffield gives us a guided tour (with soundtrack) through the everyday life experiences that we can all relate to--crummy jobs, first loves, first music that got us excited. He does this with as much warmth and humor as he did with "Mix Tape". The only place where this book does not hold up in comparison is obvious, because it couldn't possibly. Whereas Mix Tape was a love letter to his wife who so tragically died young, this book does not pack that kind of emotional punch. It's more of a sweet, breezy walk down memory lane. His love for his family and friends is abundantly clear, and the warmth of this book has made me happy since I picked it up.
My only (minor) criticism is that the writing does get a bit uneven in places, and if you are unfamiliar with some of the bands and music described, you will indeed have to google away to get yourself caught up. My MAJOR criticism is that Mr. Sheffield clearly hates Tom Petty...and this is simply unacceptable. And "Shiny Shiny" by Haysi Fantayzee may actually be the worst song ever to grace the airwaves. His love for this song is inexplicable. Nonetheless Sheffield is such an excellent writer that I won't deduct any stars for these somewhat disturbing character flaws.
Bottom line: recommend, most especially for music fans and kids who grew up in the '80s.
Most recent customer reviews
It brought me back to how I felt about Pop/New Wave in High School.