We All Shrine On: On Bob Dylan, Duran Duran, and the Fans Who Love Them the Most

Heroic monuments, pathetic devotions and Bob Dylan in Hebrew: A guide to the ultimate fan sites

Bob Dylan Credit: Fin Costello/Redferns

As the late Nineties spill over into the early Empties, the Internet has become the yellow brick road to the dazzling Emerald City before us, the future where we all sit on the worldwide couch to check the AOL weather report, sell our bodily fluids on eBay and watch Caddyshack on DVD. What a feelin'! Indeed, if you don't mind me going out on a prophetic limb here, I predict that going online will be a fact of daily life forever, or at least until everybody notices how boring it is, whichever comes first.

But what does the Internet mean for rock & roll fans? I'll tell you what it means: kajagoogoo.com. Which isn't the only Kajagoogoo site, just my favorite, as well as the only one to feature images of the band's faces transposed onto the Teletubbies' bodies. I'm not the most computer-literate guy in the world, just another exile @ Main Street, and my adrenal glands aren't hard-wired with enough patience for the click-and-wait drag of online life, But I am a Kajagoogoo fan, and that's why the Internet matters to me. On any given day, I'm statistically more likely to get eaten by a polar bear than to bump into another Kajagoogoo fan, but online I can behold people even more slavishly obsessed with Limahi and the "Too Shy" guys than I am. No matter how obscure or moronic a band is, someone somewhere has a shrine for it on the Web, and that's a beautiful thing.

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For instance, I'm partial to LaFay's John Taylor Pit Stop (lafay.com/jt), where you can double-click your mouse to the thousand faces of Duran Duran's foxy bassist. There's a gallery for the Many Hairstyles of John Taylor, and while it omits some personal faves – where's the tousled wet look from the "Rio" video? the site makes my mouth come alive with juices like wine. Such heroic monuments to pathetic devotion are what the Web is all about. For all the click-here hype of corporate persuasion, the pop thrill of the Web isn't the gathering of useful information – it's surfing down into the maw of fandom at its most ecstatic and unhinged. It's a drug that makes you dream. Remember what your mouse pad said: Feed your head! Feed your head! (By the way, in case you're not hap to my sophisticated Net lingo, "surfing" means sitting on your ass all day changing channels, just because it's a more marketable verb than "grazing.")

Rock stars love to set up official sites, since it's such a classy way to put the squeeze on the faithful. The most famous is davidbowie.com, a graceless shill station inviting you to "join the Internet's coolest community" by sending the Thin White Duke your credit-card number. But unofficial fan sites are always more fun, and there are thousands of Bowie sites out there, almost all of which get the words to "Station to Station" wrong. Since I'm so Bowie's bitch it's not even funny, I feel right at home in shrines like TVC15 and a Cyberspace Oddity. There's a site devoted entirely to creative interpretations of "Heroes" and another that gives Bowie's tarot reading. But my fave is the Velvet Goldmine, where one cracked hacker writes touchingly about her experience meeting the man himself, evoking the grip of Bowie love in all its terror and pleasure. "I haven't had any other Bowie encounters so far," she concludes. "But he did catch some flowers I threw at him in S.E . . . and threw them back in my general direction." Hot tramp, I love you so.

At the Susanna Hoffs Home Page Store, you can purchase the "Eternal Flame" sheet music for only $3.95 (step right up!), while at the Jewel Home Page, you can break your egg yolks to make a :). Bob Dylan has the coolest official site ever, bob-dylan.com, with a lyric database and a generous hoard of otherwise unreleased music, including live slop dating back to the Sixties. But the manic Dylan energy comes through even louder in fan sites like 20 Lbs. of Headlines (nettaxi.com/citizens/scales), Bread Crumb Sins and the Bringing It All Back Homepage. I'm fond of Bob Dylan: Tangled Up in Jews, which chronicles "the Jewish religious/cultural odyssey of Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham v'Rachel Riva, a.k.a. Bob Dylan." It offers a Talmudic exegesis of "Jokerman" and translates "All Along the.Watchtower" into Hebrew, though some fans may prefer Absolutely Cynthia Marie's Bob Dylan Shrine, which has custom-designed Dylan paper dolls.

Fan fiction is a whole world unto itself, mainly the domain of TV fans who write original stories starring characters from Star Trek or The X-Files – often filthy, often menaced by legal departments too dumb to distinguish between copyright infringement and grassroots fan enthusiasm. There isn't nearly enough rock & roll fan fiction yet, but there's the Backstreet Fanfiction Galaxy, and the truly amazing site The Lovely Blue Planet of There, where die-hard Duran Duran girls trade poetry, fiction and porn inspired by the Fab Five. You can also find Hanson fiction sites such as With You in Your Dreams – A Taylor Hanson Story. It's inspiring to see redblooded daughters of the revolution raid their morns' Pat Booth novels for bons mots like, "'Why don't you ever call me Tay?,' Taylor asked as he scooted closer to me on the blue sofa."

U.K. fan-fiction sites get their knickers in a twist over Alex James, the love-crumpet bassist of Blur, but if history teaches us anything, it's that English people have enough problems without trying to make up their own sex fantasies. I haven't found any Dylan porn yet ("His kisses took my lips on a trip aboard his magic swirling ship, as he slowly unrolled the leopardskin pillbox jimmy hat"), but I'm still looking. Fan fiction is Web democracy in action, a perfect illustration of how fan sites can rock. When fan sites try to be impersonal, they're just dull, like the surprisingly lackluster Nine Inch Nails shrines even the really cool ones tend to be too same-y to say anything new about how these fans hear the music. It's much more fun to visit a bona fide freak zone like the Wu-Tang Name Generator, where you type in your name and the generator responds by giving you a brand-new Wu name for your next visit to Shaolin Just call me "Superintendent God-Botherer."

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It figures that Stevie Nicks inspires some of the most cosmic Web worship: If you see her reflection in the blue glowing screen, a download brings it down. The Web is a place for fans to let their freak flags fly, and nobody freaks up the fans quite like Stevie. The Nicks Fix offers breaking news, such as the fact that Phish played an instrumental version of "Landslide" in Providence a couple of months ago. Other burnt offerings at the altar of Rhiannon include Sisters of the Moon: The Magic of Stevie Nicks (hometown.aol.com/WildestHrt/index.html) and That Rock & Roll Gypsy Look!, a useful and erudite guide to Stevie's evolving fashion sense: "During the Rumours tour, Stevie began wearing two different feathered headdresses. They were crocheted caps (one was cream and one was black) with long strands of feathers dangling down her back and mixing with her hair. These headdresses would later reappear in the Bella Donna era." Needless to say, visual links are provided.

You can scoff at the supplicants who worship at these grottoes, offering libations for our John Taylors and our Stevie Nickses, racking up the mouse clicks like so many rosary beads. But being a rock & roll fan is a kind of religious quest, a rapture, suited to the electric-blue loneliness of Net lib We touch the icon to enter the sacre space, genuflecting to reliquaries and ostentatoria that make something splendid out of our most secret desires. In cyberspace, we're all Major Toms, aren't we? We float in a most peculiar way, leaving ground control behind, strung out on heaven's high, hitting an all-time low. Our computer sits back blinking, and our baby's in there somewhere, rotating in the sky. Smiling and waving and looking so fine: I don't think you knew you were in this song. Whatever else it's good for, the Internet opens up a new place for rock & roll fans to articulate the desires that keep us up all night, always crashing in the same car as we drive from site to site, from station to station.

This story is from the March 30th, 2000 issue of Rolling Stone.