In Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, Prince’s “Purple Rain” gets no more ink than Haysi Fantayzee’s “Shiny Shiny,” and that is part of the book’s charm. Rob Sheffield’s coming-of-age memoir, his follow-up to Love Is a Mix Tape, ponders the good, the bad, and the ugly of ’80s music, as experienced by one sheltered altar boy in the Boston suburbs who used pop culture to figure out his way in the world. Sheffield is full of fond nostalgia for the geek he was, admitting that even at 16, he was shocked to read an interview with Hall and Oates, at the peak of their “Maneater” fame, implying that the singers were not virgins.
While he writes tenderly about family and friends, particularly his three sisters, the musicians he’s never met are credited with as prominent a role in raising him. He is indebted to A Flock of Seagulls, at his first rock concert, for giving him “the sensation of dissolving into a crowd” and blames the Smiths’ Morrissey for providing him “with excellent reasons to keep hiding in my room where I belonged.” But, as the title suggests, Duran Duran were Sheffield’s spiritual guides throughout the decade, mostly because females adored them. “I loved how fiercely girls loved DD, and how fearless DD were in the face of so much girl worship,” he muses. “I was pretty sure I had a lot to learn from these guys.” As the ’80s came to a close, the Fab Five were teasing Sheffield with “All She Wants Is,” a song that, sadly, didn’t reveal the secrets promised in its title.