Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Book Review: "Talking to Girls About Duran Duran" by Rob Sheffield

Summary from the publisher: Growing up in the eighties, you were surrounded by mysteries. These were the years of MTV and John Hughes movies, the era of big dreams and bigger shoulder pads. Like any teenage geek, Rob Sheffield spent the decade searching for true love and maybe a cooler haircut. Talking to Girls About Duran Duran is his tale of stumbling into adulthood with a killer soundtrack. Inept flirtations. Dumb crushes. Deplorable fashion choices. Girls, every last one of whom was madly in love with the bassist of Duran Duran.

In his first book, the national bestseller Love Is a Mix Tape, Sheffield shared a heartbreaking true story of love and grief. With Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, he returns with a smart, funny, and emotionally pitch-perfect trip through the music and memories of the eighties. As a confused teenager stranded in the suburbs, mowing lawns, and playing video games, Rob had a lot to learn about women, love, music, and himself. But he was sure his radio had all the answers, whether he was driving an ice cream truck through Boston to "Purple Rain," slam dancing to The Replacements, or pondering the implications of Madonna lyrics.
From Bowie to Bobby Brown, from hair metal to hip-hop, he loved them all.

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran is a journey through pop culture of an American adolescence that will remind you of your first crush, first car, and first kiss. But it's not just a book about music. This is a book about moments in time, and the way we obsess over them through the years. Every song is a snapshot of a moment that helps form the rest of your life. Whenever you grew up, and whatever your teenage obsessions, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran brings those moments to life.

I am a child of the 80s. But seeing as how I was born IN the 80s and therefore lived most of my time in the decade as a small child, I was never really into the music scene of the 80s. As I've gotten older, I have come to recognize, respect and grown to love many of the different styles of music of that time period. I won't tell you what songs or bands I like because you'll probably laugh but something about the music of the era always sounds haunting and sad to me. It feels like it was a time period of lost love and struggle, which probably was true due to the politics and news events going on then.

I'm going to really show my lack of musical culture by telling you that I only know one Duran Duran song and that's only because it was the title song of a James Bond movie: "A View to a Kill." Still though, reading about Sheffield's love for the band in this book helped me to get the know the band and their music better. I loved how music was such a huge part of his life and how he uses songs to define the events that happened while he was growing up. Some chapters are more about the bands and his reactions to it, others just serve as a segue to a memorable event in Sheffield's life that he fondly remembers. I love his relationship with his sisters. It's so heartwarming to hear a guy talk about how much he loves, respects and gets advice from the women in his family.

I will admit, I am partial to one chapter. As you know I am a HUGE Beatles fan so of course I loved the chapter on Paul McCartney. True, he disses him a little but it's nothing I haven't heard before so it didn't bother me. But it's written in a way that both hard core Beatles fans and just Macca/Wings fans won't really get offended because it's obviously that he had an impact on Sheffield or else he wouldn't be included in this book. I also really liked the chapter on New Kids on the Block because most purists of 80s music would have never dreamed of putting them with other bands mentioned here. NKOTB were the Backstreet Boys and Nsync of the 80s and I loved them and so great to see them mentioned here.

Even if you don't know many of the bands or songs mentioned in this book (and I'll admit I didn't), I really think that you will enjoy this book. It's about music yes, but it's also about love, growing up and just experiencing life when you're a young adult. I think what also does make the book stand out is that the bands that are mentioned are fairly well known, they aren't hipster, underground bands that only the really cool people knew about. This is a wonderfully fun and funny memoir that will bring back nostalgia to a lot and also introduce a new generation to the music of that time era. I need to go back and read Sheffield's previous book because now that I've discovered him, I love his writing. And it's also made me tune into the 80s station on Pandora more frequently as currently I have "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears stuck in my head. HIGHLY recommended.

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield is published by Dutton (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher


  1. I'm also a child of the 80s, and, like you, was a child so I don't remember much of the music scene...unless Sharon, Lois, and Bram count. I've heard such great things about this one and need to pick it up. It sounds a bit like Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and CocoaPuffs, which I loved. Thanks for the review!

  2. Ha! I am a child of the 60's!!!! So I do not only know but LOVE Duran Duran!! I have seen them in concert a few times. And have drooled over Simon Lebon.
    Thanks for the great review!

    P.S. Also love Tears for Fears!!!! Awesome group.

  3. This has been on my radar for a while because I loved Duran, Duran and didn't realize this covered all kinds of music from the 80's. Thanks for your review.


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