Writers Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum's well received new book, I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, is out now, and Duran Duran is among a handful of artists spotlighted. The DD VIP Fan Community scored an written interview with Rob for the site, chatting about the book. the band and his thoughts on the history of MTV. It was so good, we decided to put an excerpt here. [Members of the fan community can read more in the Exclusives portion of the site]:
What was your inspiration for the book?
The music business today is shriveled and boring. As Simon said to me sadly, “Nobody’s got any money to make videos now.” In retrospect, the ‘80s was the last great boom in the music business: video budgets were huge, and so were hairstyles and egos. I wanted to memorialize the golden era of music videos, which started with MTV’s launch in 1981 and ended in 1992, when “The Real World” debuted and the network began to abandon music videos. If you look at the comments section of any great video on YouTube, you see people posting, “Bring back videos!” and “I wish MTV still played videos!” This book is for those people.
You interviewed Nick, Simon and John for the book. What was your impression of them?
All three spent an ample amount of time talking to me, and were generous with their recollections and opinions. (Each has also asked for a copy of the book, as did Roger Taylor.) They have a unique perspective, because Duran helped make MTV a success, but (unlike, say, a-Ha) they’re still around and thriving long after MTV quit playing videos. Simon admitted that being called a “video band” after Rio was “quite annoying,” and John said, “The success of the Rio videos drove us crazy! The phrase ‘video band’ would set us off.” They were witty, concise, insightful, and had both a proud and a self-effacing sense of their place in music history.
They also had some great one-liners: “MTV made bad haircuts look really cool for a while” (Simon) and “At some point, the M in MTV changed from Music to Money (Nick).”
But their wit is only one reason why Duran Duran has a central role in “I Want My MTV.” For instance, there are only two chapters that focus on a single video: the first one is "Girls On Film," because it was the first time (but hardly the last time) a band explicitly used sexuality in a video. The second one is Billy Squier's "Rock Me Tonite," which was so bad -- it's almost universally considered THE WORST MUSIC VIDEO OF ALL TIME -- that Squier blames it for ruining his career. Squier told me, "I think MTV had a negative effect on music," though he admitted, "There are instances where it worked quite well. I mean, I’m sure Duran Duran was happy with it, you know?"
That happens a lot in the book -- even when I'm not quoting Nick, Simon, or John, other people are constantly mentioning Duran Duran as the exemplary video band of the '80s. Here’s a partial list of people in the book who talk about Duran: Lenny Kravitz, Jonathan Elias (a musician who wrote the MTV “Moon Landing” theme and also produced Big Thing), Lol Crème and Kevin Godley (co-directors of “Girls On Film”), Martin Fry of ABC, Boy George, directors Russell Mulcahy and Paula Greif, Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue, Debbie Gibson, and Cindy Crawford.
Also, Simon specifies which band members had romances with women in their videos, and Nick names his least favorite Duran video, but if you want to know, you’ll have to read the book.
What type of feedback have you gotten about the book.
The reviews have been fantastic. Can I quote from a few? Would that be too immodest? Oh, who cares.
“I couldn’t put it down. I read it from start to finish. This is the best book I’ve ever read on how the music business really works.” That’s what Bob Lefsetz wrote in The Lefsetz Letter.
Playboy called it “smart and decadently entertaining.” The National described it as “rip-roaring and hilarious.” The Daily News also called it “hilarious.” Publishers Weekly wrote, “The sheer entertainment value within these pages is priceless.” And Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the massive bestseller Eat Pray Love, wrote, “This is such a big, wild joyride of book, made to be read with glee and nostalgia and marvel. It's also a thoughtful and astonishingly well-researched historical document, but mostly it's just a total gas. It's all in here, folks! Girls in cages! TV executives on blow! Dudes in eyeliner! Chicks with guitars! Pyrotechnics, consumerism, fame, destruction and shamelessness!” Okay, I’ll stop there.
No, wait, one more: A USA Today columnist wrote, “One of my favorite books of the year. Hilarious, with behind-the-scenes dirt on hundreds of videos. I guarantee you’ll have a tough time putting it down.” If you buy the book and don’t like it, ask USA Today for a refund.
If someone was to play you in the movie version of the book, who would it be?
You’re not running a photo of me, so I’ll pick John Taylor to play me.
You can purchase "I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution" by clicking here