I was recently shopping in a mass market retail chain [Target] and when queuing to pay, my gaze stopped upon the souvenir Life Magazine special edition. There they were, as bold as life; the Fab Five original lineup of Double Duran™ [a nod of the cap to J.J. Jackson, R.I.P.] each heavily laden with metrosexual hair care products as depicted at the height of their pomp. I’d place the photo session at fall 1982 at the latest. Duranies would have a better grasp of such things, perhaps. I’m just a fan. But at that moment, I knew for certain that I had crossed over to the elderly demographic.
Normally the checkout of such a large retailer is where People Magazine, supermarket tabloids, and snack items you might need right now await the less discriminatory shoppers; neck deep in a rushing torrent of capitalism in the zone where nothing you ever came to the store to buy resides. Yep. It was Duran Duran on a Life Magazine special edition. We are getting old.
Who buys magazines anymore? The elderly. Magazines cost around $10 each now! Who can afford them? Anyone under the age of 55 obtains all of their information from the internet, or some form thereof. For those reading this in cultures thousands of miles from America, let me paint a picture. Life Magazine is a standard of American magazine publishing. It has been publishing intermittently for over 135 years. At the height of its of popularity, millions of Americans read Life Magazine every week.
As the Seventies dawned, the market for mass market weeklies began to break down and atomize into magazines with a narrower demographic focus. It stopped publication in 1972. It renewed publishing as a monthly starting in 1978 and continued publishing monthly issues until throwing in the towel in the year 2000. Since then they publish only special editions. But Life has still been publishing for over half of America’s lifespan. It’s that kind of publishing bedrock.
Throughout my lifespan, I’ve seen Life’s demographic become older and older. Though Reader’s Digest’s demographic was always older than Life Magazine’s! I actually wasn’t aware that the Life monthly stopped publication until I was researching this post! But I was certainly aware of the parade of special editions that I would see peripherally when shopping for groceries. Here’s a brief sample of some recent editions.
So that selection gives an idea of what sorts of topics seniors might like to read about when shopping for groceries. The BIG War [II] was a perennial topic I’d see on books and magazines growing up, but I suspect with every veteran now dust, that the days are numbered for the viability of that nostalgia. We can clearly see that The Beatles are at least as big as Jesus, but it’s your guess if they were ultimately bigger or not. Royals? Does any American under the age of 70 really care? Look at the “100 People Who Changed The World.” Fewer than half of those photos were in color! [Jesus was hand-tinted…]
So that now brings us to Duran Duran. Who are all at least 60 years of age, so I guess they have earned their place in line honestly. But it’s still jarring to see a phenomenon as ephemeral as a New Romantic band being marketed on this mass market level [especially in a country where there was no New Romantic movement] and assumed to hold the same commercial standard as Elvis and The Beatles. When 41 years ago, they were seen as the antidote to examples of mass culture Rock Hegemony like those two.
I tend to think of Duran Duran as a cult band who got lucky, but that sentiment dates from the era when The Rolling Stones were long in tooth at 20 years of fame…not the 60 they can count forty years later! In 1982 bands that reached 20 years of history were counted on the fingers of one hand. Now it’s as common as dirt underfoot and yes, Duran Duran have also notched over into the 40-years-and-over club, which includes such Monastic faves as Simple Minds, Shriekback, and OMD. Yes, even the mighty Shrieks, who have never troubled the fever dreams of John Hughes [though Michael Mann was another matter…] released the “Sexthinkone” 12″ 40 years ago this year.
It’s all a bit much. I’d like to have a lie down now, but I’ve got to earn my crust so I’ll leave you now with the sobering realization that not only are Duran Duran in the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, but also the checkout line of your local grocery store. And their target audience is on statin drugs and blood thinners. The Cult With No Name is now that ubiquitous.