Monday, November 10, 2014

The Art of "Careless Memories"

I would buy it for the art of black and white photography alone.

That is if I could afford the $1,588 US price tag. I'm still scratching my head over that one.

I am writing of Careless Memories, a limited edition book of the photography of Denis O'Reagan and his documentation of Duran Duran's 1984 World Tour. Let me tell you, even if I was not a devout fan (which I of course am) I would still consider this an important collection of art. It chronicles the birth of rock n roll's first truly multimedia band.

"But no!" you cry. "Their ascendancy to radio and MTV power absolutely destroyed the era of musicians miming against static backgrounds for their videos or playing 'concerts' where they sat on stools and strummed acoustic guitars while possibly looking up at the audience every so often."

You're right. They absolutely did. And I couldn't be happier.

It was time for a change. As the 21st Century drew nearer, there was finally a band that combined art, music, fashion, and video together onto an incredibly expansive canvas. All of this presented by artists who embraced androgyny, rendering Duran Duran a band for boys and for girls...and anyone else in between. This is an especially salient point that is often overlooked (among others) by the fact that the band had and continues to have such a devoted female following. This sonic and visual assault came across the Pond and was greeted by slinky young girls, awakening hoydens, and the odd male who just loved post-punk (such as yours truly). In many ways, burgeoning sexual identity was formed amid the spectacle.

The link at the top has an interview with keyboardist Nick Rhodes, the man I've always thought of as the band's artistic center. I've copy and pasted here a few of the points that really stuck with me;

Q: You genuinely embraced technology.

NR: Yes, we’ve always loved it. And ever since, we’ve tried to find innovative new technologies to use for our music, our visuals, our shows…it’s one of the things that really still excites us.

Q: What was most striking about that time?

NR: If you look at our contemporaries, The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, U2, Prince, Madonna…everybody sounded entirely unique. It was all about individuality. And to me now, it seems everybody sort of wants to be the same. Back then we would have been horrified if we’d seen someone wearing the same jacket as us…or even the same t-shirt.

The Denis O'Reagan book documents all of that happening during the halcyon days of that 1984 tour. It also shows the chaos, the joys, and yes, the excess, of a band on tour during that decade. But I have never seen such an occurrence documented in this way. I remember seeing several of these photographs from their paperback photography book, Sing Blue Silver, as a teenager in the 1980s and was amazed by it then. I still am now. Never before and never since have I seen a band's time on the road captured with such artistry. The lighting, the angles, the black and white noir-ish compositions, it's all unique.

Speaking of unique, the article also mentions the band's film from that time, Arena. That one's so whack-a-doo that it will take a post in and of itself to do it justice.

If you can afford the price tag, Careless Memories would look great on any coffee table.

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