Searching for love in the 1980s

Robert Sheffield weaves hilarious tales of unrequited love from his youth in the 1980s throughout the era’s favorite music in “Talking To Girls About Duran Duran.”

Tyler Davis, Writer

Try to imagine a world before the internet and iPhones. A world filled with optimism and really great music. MTV was still in its infantile stage, before all the brain-dead “reality” shows took over. This is the world Robert Sheffield invites readers into. Sheffield was 13 years old in 1980 and as he was changing, so did the world around him.

“Talking To Girls About Duran Duran” is a book of vignettes. They tell the story of one teenager traversing the unknown territory of love and adolescence through the lens of ‘80s pop music. Sheffield was, in most respects, a geek. He spent a lot of time learning from his older sisters who taught him about everything from New Wave to how to dress.

Each chapter of the book is titled after one of Sheffield’s favorite ‘80s pop songs. Somehow, each song correlates to a specific moment, period of time or relationship in his life. Music was so deeply ingrained in his life, that it becomes apparent this coming-of-age story could not be told without it. He goes on monologues about his top favorites. Sheffield calls David Bowie a glam-rock prophet. He outlines his complicated relationship with the impossibly enigmatic Smiths frontman, Morrissey. Like I said, he was a geek.

Sheffield’s tone makes this book near-impossible to put down. Filled to the brim with laugh-out-loud moments, “Talking To Girls About Duran Duran” captures a time that now seems distant.

When Sheffield looks with fondness on the summer MTV came out and talks about rushing home from the school dance to watch the premiere of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” music video so he could return to the dance and do his best MJ impression, it makes me long for a time like this. This was a brighter, more hopeful era in American history. Before 9/11, before the overwhelming pessimism of the 21st century took over the American psyche: when people danced with each other, not on each other. John Hughes movies promised that being different was OK. Feel-good music was king.

“Talking To Girls About Duran Duran” should not be blown off as empty nostalgic swill. His brutal honesty about the difficulties of being a teenager should be deeply relatable to young people everywhere. And as he grows up through the ‘80s, the subject matters mature along with him. He speaks about the loss of his long-time girlfriend and of his current marriage.

This book is the perfect mix of humor, nostalgia and heart. It captures the spirit of the 1980s beautifully, and celebrates music as the life-changing, moment defining art it is.

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