This interview originally appeared on Squidoo.com in the Summer of 2014. Squidoo was acquired in August of 2014 and I wanted this amazing interview to live on. Lori and the book are wonderful. Enjoy – Bonnie
I have to admit that when I first opened my copy of Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s my hands shook a little. This book is no ordinary tale of the New Wave era, Mad World is an in depth journey that takes you into the minds and souls of the artists that defined a generation.
For me (as a fan) it was a powerful journey that not only transported me back to a glorious decade, but gave insight and perspective 30-years-later. There are moments in the book that will have you laughing out loud and wiping back tears.
Co-Authors Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein are the perfect pair…fan and critic, and they drive this book better than a 1984 Fiero.
Lori Majewski (who graciously agreed to an interview with Squidoo) shares some spectacular behind-the-scenes stories about Mad World including my inquiry as to John Taylor’s complete awesomeness (yes, that’s a proper 80’s term). Lori is a self-proclaimed super fan of Duran Duran who’s managed to score the interviews that every Duranie dreamed of. She’s up there with Martha Quinn in my book and a delight to talk to.
The intro of the book is by Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran and the afterword is by Moby, which is a pretty nice New Wave sandwich. The meat of this book will stay on your mind for days after you’re done and you may just find yourself picking upMad World at 3am to reread the juicy parts.
Photos are from Lori Majewski’s personal collection and used with permission from the author. All rights reserved.
BD: This book is trailblazing. A who’s who of New Wave that will have fans weeping with joy (I know I did). As a fan yourself what was the best part of the writing process?
LM: Thank you SO MUCH for the kind words! The best part was definitely the candid, enlightening, one-on-one conversations with the artists. After all, these are the musicians who provided me with the soundtrack to my life! (Which is also why I was nervous before every single interview. I had a stomach ache for almost a year straight. Not kidding!) The challenge was to get them all to really remember and reflect. I was a voracious reader of all things new wave from the early- to mid-80s, but seldom did I get more than a handful of quotes at a time from my idols. And when I did, it was always along the lines of, “Here’s why I’m so great…” Martin Fry says so himself in the book – ABC, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, they all thought they were the best bands in the world back then, and they crowed about it incessantly. It was part of the game. But here they were, 30-plus years later, talking with the benefit of hindsight, and so many of them were pouring their hearts out to us – or treating us like their shrinks. Some were bitter; some were grateful. Some were humble, some were delusional. And because we let them speak at length, monlogue-style, I feel like we really captured the essence of who these artists were – and are. John Taylor of Duran Duran; Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith of Tears For Fears; Vince Clarke of Depeche Mode, Yaz, and Erasure; Andrew and Tim Farriss of INXS – they go deep! I’ve never read interviews with them like this before!
BD: You’re a self-proclaimed obsessive fan of Duran Duran. Were they the first ones on the list when you decided to write this book?
LM: Of course I had to have them in my book! I’m a Duranie, and I’ve known the guys for decades. But objectively, they are, as we say in Mad World, the Rolling Stones of their generation. They have an impressive, influential discography; they’re an incredible live band; they still make strong, experimental records. The last two, 2010’s All You Need is Now and 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre are among their best, I think. As Simon Le Bon told me, they are career musicians, and I don’t think many people back in the 80s would have predicted that Duran would still be at it today. The Thompson Twins’ Alannah Curry is making furniture from roadkill and Joe Leeway is a hypnotherapist – noble pursuits, for sure, but a long way from the music business.
BD: You and Jonathan Bernstein (your co-author) provide pricelessly entertaining intros for each artist. How did the two of you hook up on this project? Was it painful to hear his Five Stages of Duran Duran?
LM: JB and I have been friends for more than 20 years, so I knew exactly what I was getting into – and so did he! We’re the yin to each other’s yang. I’m the breathless fan and he’s the critic, and that’s what our relationship has been like since we met at Spin magazine during the early 90s. We were new wave-loving outcasts in a sea of grunge and indie rock obsessives. But although we share an affinity for the weird and wonderful music of the early 80s, JB and I are very different kinds of fans. I used to wait outside hotels and recording studios to meet my idols; his appreciation doesn’t go beyond listening to the actual record. I still love going to concerts; he barely leaves his house (not an exaggeration). As for his Five Stages of Duran Duran, I love it! He comes around at the end – he is forced to admit that they are the most incredible band to ever grace Planet Earth. Okay, so he doesn’t say it exactly like that. LOL! But seriously, he wanted Nick Rhodes for the foreword almost as much as I did, and he came away liking Simon Le Bon a lot more after he read my interview. He was like, “I hadn’t realized he was such a fan of Patti Smith!”
BD: The groundbreaking aspect of the book is the format. Each chapter starts with an intro, then a discussion, which leads to stories, then the musicians have their turn. It feels very intimate. Was this hard to accomplish? Or did it just flow?
LM: I wasn’t into the idea of JB’s and my separate commentaries in the beginning. I was never a first-person writer; I’d been taught to keep myself out of the writing. But JB bullied me into it, and our agents and editor loved our contrasting points of view, so I had no choice but to fall in line. As for the artists’ interviews, I’m glad that you think they feel intimate! I wanted it to feel like they are talking straight to the readers and telling them the stories of their lives.
BD: The 80’s started (gulp) 34 years ago. Was it hard to track down bands like the Thompson Twins who haven’t been in the spotlight for years?
LM: JB and I have both been entertainment journalists for years, so we had a lot of contacts we could tap. But social media is a major reason this book exists. Most of these artists have websites, Twitter and Facebook accounts. But not all of them! We need people to help us get in touch with Alphaville, Peter Schilling, and Nena for Book Two! And anyone have Jon Moss’ email? Help!
BD: Being from Cleveland, I was thrilled to read more about Devo. They were probably one of the most misunderstood bands of the era, yet they were genius. How did you decide to include them in the book? Was it hard to decide who made the final 35?
LM: JB loves Devo, so he wanted them since day one. And I’m so glad we got Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh – Devo’s one of the best chapters in the book, for sure. It’s really dark in places. I hadn’t realized how subversive their music is. Another Ohio band in Mad World is the Waitresses. They were also a JB choice. They’re quite different from Devo, but both bands have roots in the Kent State shootings. I co-hosted an event with Chris Butler of the Waitresses at Jersey City’s Word bookstore this past weekend, and he talked about how he, Casale and Mothersbaugh – along with a sister of Chrissie Hynde – were all in the same dorm building at Kent. Sadly, they were also all on the quad the day of the shootings. The Waitresses chapter is a much more upbeat read, though. Our mission was to make Mad World an entertaining, eclectic mix of short stories. The problem was, many of them ran longer than we’d anticipated. Our publisher kindly added 50 pages to the book, and it still wasn’t enough! That’s why we’ve been publishing bonus chapters on madworldbook.com.
BD: There’s so much emotion and humor and zaniness wrapped up in the book. How did it feel when you finally finished the last page?
LM: Like I’d run a marathon! Not that I’d ever attempted one, but I’ve heard that it’s quite the endorphin rush. I was euphoric. I’ve been a writer/editor for almost 30 years, and the only thing I can compare it to is when I had my very first magazine piece – it was a paragraph, if I’m honest – published in Sassy. And I’m so glad that I got to do this with one of my best friends. The emotion, humor, and zaniness you mention are a result of the hours JB and I had spent on Skype while writing the intros and commentaries together. We’d reminisce for hours about every song, video, album, band, and we’d laugh so hard sometimes I’d literally almost pee my pants. Try reading the Flock of Seagulls or Echo and the Bunnymen chapters out loud – you’ll see what I mean.
BD: I have to ask, and am dying to know. When does the sequel come out? Will Bryan Ferry get in?
LM: The reception to Mad World has been so enthusiastic – it’s beyond our wildest dreams. It was in its third printing by its third day on sale! Clearly, there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way we do about these songs and bands! So we’re as excited about a sequel as you are, and hopefully we’ll get to do it. We’ve already drawn up our fantasy artists/songs list, and, I swear, it’s as strong as the first volume – these are not also-rans or leftovers from the first book. Maybe your readers could submit a list of your suggestions? As for Bryan Ferry, I’d love to get him to be a part of it, but as a parental figure – which is how we spotlight Nile Rodgers in Mad World. Roxy Music, Bowie, Kraftwerk, and Chic – along with the Sex Pistols and punk – are the godfathers of new wave.
BD: One last question that millions of 40-year-old women are dying to know: Is John Taylor as completely awesome and sexy in person as he is on stage?
LM: Oh god, yes! JT is so well-spoken, so thoughtful, so candid – and he stares into your eyes when he talks to you. I’ve known him for years, but I still fall under his spell when I’m around him. I cringed when I listened back to the tape to transcribe our interview – I stuttered, tripped over words, etc. But such is the power of John Taylor, bless him, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Mad World Update Mad World hits the UK on Sept. 1st, 2014. Are you ready?
From Jonathan Bernstein – Co-Author of Mad World. It was the decade taste forgot. A time of big hair, cellphones the size of shoeboxes and global greed. But the eighties are worth remembering for a more important reason. It was the last golden age of pop. It was a time when artists influenced by Bowie, Kraftwerk, punk and disco ruled the airwaves and the TV screen. It was the time of Duran
Duran, Adam And The Ants, Tears For Fears, Spandau Ballet, Human League, Depeche Mode, New Order and The Smiths. The stories of how these British acts conquered the world are told in the new book Mad World: An Oral History of the New Wave Artists and Songs That defined The 1980s.
Over the course of 36 funny, touching and often revealing chapters, Mad World takes you back to the time when pop was imaginative, ambitious and exciting. Whether you’re a fan of Simple Minds, Soft Cell, Gary Numan, Dexys Midnight Runners, Kim Wilde or even Kajagoogoo, you’ll find something in Mad World to remind you why you fell in love with the eighties and why, all these years later, you still just can’t get enough!