I don’t like thinking about my childhood. When I do, it gives me this sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach. The butterflies start fluttering down there, a little bit of queasiness sets in and I quickly have to force my mind to shift to another course of thought.
And it isn’t because my childhood was terrible or horrific or fraught with tragedy and despair. Quite the contrary. I had probably the best childhood any kid could ever have; tremendously loving and supportive parents, an easy school experience with good grades and little difficulty and wonderful vacations all over the country and into Europe. My childhood was perfect. Which is why thinking about it is so difficult—I miss it so damn much… when life was simpler, stress was non-existent, other than taking tests and wondering if the guy is going to throw a curveball 0-2 or try to sneak a fastball by me, and when everything I could possibly need was right in front of me. As I consider my life now, it makes me miss my childhood that much more.
I began thinking about this last week as I finished reading the autobiography of John Taylor, the bass player for the iconic ‘80s band Duran Duran. We moved to Northridge in 1979 and right around 1982 or 1983 we got cable and the most amazing thing was on our TV set—music videos and, especially, Duran Duran.
When you are 7 years old, you know absolutely nothing about the world. Were there places outside of Northridge? I think I had been on an airplane twice before I was 7, to go to and from Phoenix for a Bat Mitzvah. But other than that, I knew nothing that existed outside of Los Angeles. But Duran Duran, they were something close to mythic.
They were from this exotic place called England and they sang songs that had words that were unidentifiable and shot their videos in the most remote of places, like Sri Lanka. I remember when I saw the video for “Hungry Like the Wolf” that I felt jealous for the little Sri Lankan boy who got to be in the video with the band because he got to meet them—he must have been something pretty special.
I didn’t know about concerts or recording studios; all I knew was that this band from the UK was larger than life. And my parents knew how I felt about the band because for Hanukkah that year that bought my brother and I all of the band’s albums on cassette tapes.
I remember going to the supermarket and buying Teen Beat or some other such rag just to get the lyrics to their songs and learn more about these men amongst men. Compared with all of the other New Wave bands of the time, like Depeche Mode and Flock of Seagulls or The Cure, Duran Duran was different. They weren’t singing songs of depression; they didn’t promote angst or sadness; they didn’t dress all in black and sound like they were whining. They were crisp and clean-cut (although Nick Rhodes, the keyboardist, was weird because he wore lots of makeup) and seemed to be having fun and enjoying themselves in their videos.
When I think about Duran Duran, I think about my own innocence. I think about playing the cassettes over and over again and wondering what the band was doing right at that moment. Were they in Mongolia shooting a video? Were they in Australia on the beach? It seemed incomprehensible that they were average people, just like my parents or my teachers, who simply decided to become rock stars instead of lawyers or doctors. They were exotic and worldly and something out of a storybook, characters who had been conjured by an author’s pen to travel the world and bring joy to millions of little boys and girls.
After I read the book I downloaded all of their albums to my iPod (my how times have changed) and listened nonstop for the next week. Every second in my car I had the music blasting. And each time I had this little sense of queasiness in my stomach; it was a reminder of my childhood, of my innocence, of my lack of sophistication. But it was also a reminder of my parents and their acceptance of my fascination with this band with the double name—this band that, for some reason or other, felt it necessary to take the name of a famous boxer of the time. It was a reminder of a time when things were simpler, when life was simpler, when my whole life was still ahead of me.
Reading the autobiography was a chance to relive my childhood, so to speak. A chance to look inside the mysticism and finally get some answers to why they shot the video in Sri Lanka and what the song and video for “The Wild Boys” was about and what happened that the band broke up. Without the internet or other concept of how to find the answers to these questions, my mind was simply allowed to wander, to further magnify their supernaturalism. But now I finally had some answers.
Whether or not the answers were satisfying or not, it allowed me the opportunity to re-set my mind to that of the 7 year old innocent and recall what it was like to not have a care in the world but only what exactly “The Reflex” was about.
Now that I am older and have kids of my own, one of whom is the same age now as I was when I discovered Duran Duran, I think about my own childhood and I want them to be as fulfilled by their childhood as I was with mine. So if they want to listen to Justin Bieber or One Direction or some other crap like that, I am reticent to turn it off—because my parents didn’t turn it off when I was listening and it fostered my innocence and happiness.
It is so difficult thinking about my childhood, because I miss it so damn much… and I wish I could go back.