A Song That Makes You Sad: “Ordinary World,” Duran Duran (1992)

Task 4 on the “30-Day” (HA!) Music Challenge is to write about a song that makes you sad. It’s mid-week, and I’ve been fighting some form of sinus congestion for three weeks or so, so WHY NOT WALLOW.

How has Duran Duran stayed out of my FFWDing… (or otherwise music-centric) content thus far? Historically, they are my favorite band. I say “historically” because we have had our turbulent times in our 32-ish-year relationship when I am “mad” at them. Such as now, when I’ve solidly disliked their last two studio albums. Sometimes I’m obsessive, listening to every rare cut and B-side I can get my synthesizer-loving little hands on. Other times, I’m content to go weeks or months without hearing frontman Simon Le Bon’s signature wail.

Like every bad fan, the oldies (“Rio” et al.) are typically my favorites, but their 1992 “comeback” single is its own little gem. Also, I’m realizing as I type this, a relative oldie, as it has surpassed the drinking age. From Warren Cuccurullo’s expert guitar picking in the intro — solidifying his place in the band, to some Duranies, as nearly equal to Andy Taylor — to the falsetto-laced harmonies in the fade-out, this is one beautifully crafted piece of music.

And it’s downright sad.

Many reports have stated that this was written five or so years after the death of Simon Le Bon’s close friend. The verses contain some of the head-scratching vagaries for which Le Bon is well known (“Well now pride’s gone out the window, cross the rooftops, run away”) but for the most part, the story is clear. The narrator has lost a loved one, and against all odds, he needs to find his way back to an “ordinary world,” which was Duran Duran’s own name for a concept that would later be referred to as the “new normal.” We all love people, and they go away — through choice or through the realities of mortality — but all we left behind can do is get on with living–

But I won’t cry for yesterday
There’s an ordinary world
Somehow I have to find
And as I try to make my way
To the ordinary world
I will learn to survive

What really gets me are the closing lines of the bridge, which are basically a version of, “Someone’s got it way worse, man. Take a deep breath and move along.” —

Here besides the news
Of holy war and holy need
Ours is just a little sorrowed talk

Every time I’ve seen them do this in concert, I weep like a child. Mostly because I’ve lost loved ones prematurely, but also because Simon — as arrogant, preening, and occasionally loathsome as he is — is still affected by this one (or is an even better actor than he’s previously let on). He’s learned to survive, all right, but it doesn’t mean he can’t miss his friend, especially when singing a song dedicated to his memory.

 

Sting Concert, Old Friendships, and More (In Which I Daydream About Lyrics)

One of my oldest friends, Sendil, had a quick trip to Chicago this weekend, his new lady-friend in tow. Sendil and I go way back – more than two decades – here’s proof!  That’s him, far left, with the Members Only jacket.  Forgivable for 1991.  I’m in the middle, rocking the too-big suede jacket and overly curled mushroom haircut.  Not as forgivable. Nor is the alien/phallic/Halloween-themed-in-September balloon hat rising out of the background.

Oh, the 90s

Here we are, older, wiser, and more attractive (even in workout gear), running the Chicago Gay Pride 5K in June.  (Sendil isn’t gay, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I don’t want to crush his game unnecessarily).

The combination of Sendil’s visit and the main event of the weekend – an amazing, musically progressive Sting concert – got me thinking about the power a songwriter can wield over the object of his or her affection.  Seriously, what lady wouldn’t like to be told that ‘Every little thing [you do] is magic?’

Sendil – always purely a platonic friend – is the only guy to have ever serenaded me. But to be clear, it was at a high-school talent show, I was pulled up on stage with no warning (while wearing a tucked-in flannel and jean skirt, as I recall), and the song directed my way was ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s ‘Good Enough for Now,’ which features such lyrics as:

You’re pretty close to what I’ve always hoped for
That’s why my love for you is fairly strong
And I swear I’m never gonna leave you, darlin’
At least ’til something better comes along

‘Cause you’re sort of everything I ever wanted
You’re not perfect, but I love you anyhow
You’re the woman that I’ve always dreamed of
Well, not really…but you’re good enough for now

Still, it was nice just to be included.

While every girl dreams of being serenaded (like, for real), only the rare and the proud ever reach that utmost pinnacle of rock-and-roll legend: the songwriting muse. Pattie Boyd. Dave Coulier. Pattie BoydWarren Beatty or whoever. Rosanna Arquette. Pattie Boyd. Damn, girl.

Note that the songs written for women are earnest and sweet (save the hints of sarcasm in ‘Wonderful Tonight.’)  ‘You Oughta Know’ and ‘You’re So Vain,’ however? Skew heavily toward the bitterness side of the scale. Ladies be crazy.

Other than perhaps a mean-spirited parody or two in fifth grade, I must say I don’t think a song has ever been written about me.  But here are a few lines I wish had been:

Dizzy, Goo Goo Dolls

You’re cynical and beautiful
You always make a scene
You’re monochrome, delerious
You’re nothing that you seem
I’m drownin’ in your vanity
Your laugh is a disease
You’re dirty and you’re sweet
You know you’re everything to me

This isn’t even that complimentary.  Cynical, vain, unpredictable, potentially misleading.  And yet the stanza wraps with a “you’re everything to me” despite it all.

Rio, Duran Duran

You know you’re something special
And you look like you’re the best 

So she’s confident, right? The titular heroine of the song already knows she is one of many special things but the singer assures her that she is, in fact the best.

Ain’t That Unusual, Goo Goo Dolls

See I’d love to be you 
‘Cause at least then I’d see you 

Yes, another GGD song.  It’s a sickness. Probably because singer/songwriter Johnny Rzeznik and I were BFFs for about nine seconds once:

This line is so gut-wrenchingly pathetic that you just have to laugh. And then cry. And then curl up in the fetal position with a bag of pita chips.

Love Song, The Cure 

Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am fun again

Was Robert Smith ever fun, really? Still a sweet sentiment.

Ladies (and gents), what song lyric do you like to pretend was penned about you?  I’m really hoping here that no one quotes ‘The Purple People Eater.’

Diagnosing Post-Concert Depression (In Which I am Slow to Recover from Evenings of Rock)

Picture this: ears ringing, I walk around in a daze.  I heave sighs and appear surgically attached to my iPhone headphones. It’s evident that I’m suffering from some neurosis, and in this case, I have self -diagnosed it as “post-concert depression.”

It… Is. Horrible.

This phenomenon, which is a subset of post-event depression (that palpable low that follows a vacation or a significant event), is something very acute that I have experienced a rare numbers of time.  And I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

After watching a great gig (particularly one where my seats are as good as the music), I feel wiped out, exhausted, and emotionally wrecked. In fact, I may have flickers of self- recusal where I wonder if I’d be better off not having even attended said concert in the first place.

Is the combination of a during-concert high followed by a staggering low actually worse than the regular status quo? (This is a rhetorical question, by the way, but can be answered by the name of this blog).

Two episodes of PCD linger in my head as the most severe. The first was in March 2005, when I’d finally seen the five original members of Duran Duran (my favorite artist since age 7 or so) perform together. The set list was great, the seats were fantastic, and it was a 20-plus-year-old dream realized.  It won’t be realized again, by the way, as Andy Taylor has once again flown the coop.  (And I sort of don’t blame him).

Duran Duran in 2005

And then … crash. The emotional hangover came pouring over me the next day as I vocalized that these five preening British pop stars had been fixtures in my life longer than anyone, save family members and one or two friends.

Fast forward to the summer of 2009. The band in question was another legacy favorite of mine – The Goo Goo Dolls.  Not only did I get to see them in an intimate setting (800 people or so, and I was front and center – Johnny Rzeznik had a slight problem with chest acne), but I’d won a meet and greet.

A “meet and greet,” to fan-club-dues paying, concert-going veterans, means very little. One has only enough time to shake hands with the band and take a picture. So if there is something you want to say, you’d better be prepared to spit it out elegantly and efficiently.

I was not successful.

Instead of asking them about the mid-90s seed change in their music, inquiring how it felt to have lucked into the success brought upon them by “Name,” or merely thanking them for their creativity and hard work that has brought joy into my life, I stupidly requested a song (“We Are the Normal,” for those keeping score at home).

Yes, it’s my favorite, and yes, it’s an older cut, and no, I’ve never heard it performed live, but it was still a worthless cause on which to use my precious 25 seconds. “I dunno,” Rzeznik smirked. “…I haven’t seen the set list yet.” First of all, he was lying (I’d seen the set list; it was taped to the stage). Second of all, they didn’t even end up playing it.

So I blew my meet and greet. I’d been up-close-and-personal for the entire show and knew I’d never have such an opportunity again. I still hadn’t heard my favorite song live despite a pathetic personal plea. And I’m sure I was dehydrated.

But at least I got a great picture:


After both of these experiences, I loaded up my iPod with B-sides and deep album cuts and got reacquainted with some lesser-known parts of these respective bands’ catalogs. I listened to nothing but these bands for a week or so, and then slowly everything returned to (we-are-the) normal.

I know now, by the way, that I can never meet Duran Duran. They won’t give me the satisfaction I want and so it’s better just to admire them from afar.  And that’s not neurotic – it’s self preservation.