I was never a ‘Duranie’ whilst growing up. If anyone were to have worn that label in our household it was most definitely my brother, a year my senior. Whilst he was a fan of their music, he was never a banner waving devotee, I think that was left more to the female fans back in the day, the screaming armies of teenage girls who would pack themselves tightly at the front of every gig, waiting for hours and hours for the band to make their entrance and then faint instantly the moment they clapped eyes on the object of their desire.
My brother’s interest, if I recall correctly, being the total computer nerd he was at that age, was peaked when they released the ‘Wild Boys’ video in 1984 and he was absolutely fascinated by the animatronic head that growled and snarled it’s way throughout the lavish, big budget Mad Max-esque video.
But by the time Duran Duran and their assembly of the fab five had hit global mainstream popularity, I had developed the necessary hormones, wants, needs and desires to become utterly infatuated with another and I had already entirely devoted myself to David Bowie.
From the early age of eleven (1983) I had declared my undying love for David Bowie and it had not ebbed in the slightest in the years that followed.
Under this incredibly powerful spell and with my obsessive delusion that I might one day marry him, I perceived any time that I spent idolising away from the altar of my chosen one to be a complete disloyalty to him.
Not even with the numerous other delightful peacocks that found their way onto my TV set via Top of the Pops each week strutting their stuff with words of love and promises of excitement slipping from their tongues, could I be distracted or tempted to stray.
I was a devout and faithful follower, worshipping only at the church of Bowie.
For that reason, I never allowed myself to be a super fan of any other of the popular bands or solo artists of the eighties, not Wham, not Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet, not Madonna, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston. I liked their music enough, I could listen to it, I would learn the words and sing along and I could appreciate them for being the current trends and idols of my peers, but I was never a devoted ‘fan’ and therefore I did not truly invest my time and interest into learning every fact and snippet of information that one could successfully glean from Smash Hits.
In my naïve, thirteen-year-old mind in 1985, I was genuinely, truly betrothed to David Bowie, during that more dapper period long after his wild Ziggy Stardust successes of the seventies that had been fully appreciated by my parents generation but never experienced first hand by myself. After that came the Thin White Duke which evolved into his next look that surrounded the brilliant ‘Let’s Dance’ album of 1983 and the Serious Moonlight tour, with a totally new eighties sound and a softer, more approachable image, it was not sufficient to draw the attentions of the teeny-bopper brigade who mostly already looked at him as an ‘old man’, well he was nearly forty I guess but I was utterly captivated.
I never had a problem with an older man myself and I thought he was just absolutely divine, with his bleach blonde locks that would flop over his striking two-tone eyes, his predilection for a snappy suit and his dulcet tones as he sang to me, ‘Wild is the Wind’ or ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ , men just didn’t get any more beautiful as far as I was concerned, but to my friends I was way out of touch, thus my adulation of Bowie would be a long and lonely one, whilst my friends naturally gravitated to the more current and youthful chart toppers. I didn’t care a jot, of course, in my adolescent brain this simply meant that at least within the circles I moved in, I ‘had him all to myself’.
It would be a long time before people my age would truly appreciate Bowie’s absolute genius, for most perhaps sometime into their mid-twenties or thirties when they had acquired more varied tastes in music and started to delve into their parents record collections or perhaps not even until the great Starman himself had shuffled off this mortal coil and they ventured into his back catalogue out of curiosity.
For me though, it was Bowie for breakfast, Bowie for lunch and Bowie for dinner all accompanied with an extra side dish of Bowie and at the end of each and every day, I would round up another full day of devotion with a rather lengthy and obsessive night time ritual of kissing every single one of my hundred+ posters and pictures of him that adorned my bedroom walls, not even the tiniest scraps cut from newspapers were missed out.
Any part of my brain that was not already reserved for the constant slog of school work and the masses of homework we were given, was given over to the legend (and at that time, my prospective future husband) that was David Bowie.
My knowledge extended from the rudimentary facts known by every Bowie fan:
that he was born David Robert Jones at 40 Stansfield Road, Brixton on a cold January 8th in 1947, that his favourite foods were once listed as chicken noodle soup, shepherds pie and angel cake (though I daresay that his tastes changed over the years), that his extraordinary looking and by now famously different eyes were the result of a fight at school which resulted in his left pupil being permanently dilated which gave his eye the look of being brown and black versus his very blue right eye, that his love of Japanese theatre and mime inspired many of his seventies outlandish looks, that he had a half brother called Terry who had spent his life in and out of mental institutions before finally committing suicide and that this family psychosis was channeled into a great many of Bowie’s works including his Aladdin Sane album (a lad insane)
right through to the downright bizarre:
the fact that whilst staying as a guest of Aga Khan the IV on the isle of Patmos that he spent most of his time collecting sea sponges, that he still owned a plastic saxophone given to him by his parents when he was just nine years old, that he once spent the entire duration of a party in a wardrobe with Mick Jagger, no doubt dropping some illegal substances and getting up to who knows what, etcetera etcetera, this list of trivia I had consumed and committed to memory, that I can still recall with absolute clarity today, just went on and on. Somewhat pointless and trivial facts about a person that I would never meet but facts that I still felt necessary to possess and hold on to, to reserve a special place in my memory when sometimes I can’t even remember what address I lived at during some period of my life.
Anyway, I digress. The reason for this rather lengthy preamble is to firmly establish that ‘back in the day’ my mind was evidently elsewhere and other than the undeniably handsome face of John Taylor and his finely chiseled chin and cheekbones that were straight off of a Michelangelo marble statue, I knew absolutely nothing else about the world famous Duran Duran bass player.
For instance, I in no way appreciated that he was a founding member of the band and utterly instrumental and by that I mean absolutely key to both the musical influence and the bands stratospheric success. I thought, perhaps like so many other people ignorant of his immense contributions to Duran Duran, that he was merely a very pretty face that was chosen to play bass (a reasonably easy instrument to learn I am reliably informed) and thus I assumed he was Duran Duran’s version of Andrew Ridgley, a prop, eye-candy and just along for the colossal ride. The fact that he almost always appeared as one of the main interviewees or was photographed individually on as many front page covers as the whole band itself, again I just gave credit to the fact that he was the best looking member, perhaps the cheeky, outgoing one that came across better in interviews and whilst I fully appreciate that each and every band member had their own hoard of adoring fans, it was evident – even to me with my eye completely off the ball – that he was the one that the majority of the girls went bat-shit crazy for. Simon Le Bon was the lead singer and therefore the ‘main man’ but I saw John Taylor as the alluring ‘pretty face’ of Duran Duran and I guess that image just stuck over the years in the archives of my mind, since I never spent any time researching it for it to be disproven.
I think it’s quite possible that even my Mum, knew more about John Taylor than I did.
However, having recently completed reading his biography ‘In The Pleasure Groove’ in less than twenty-four hours, I realise now how absolutely wrong all of my preconceptions were. Seriously, how could I have never known any of the genuine facts about him before, what particular rock had I been hiding under?
I know I joked at the end of my last blog about becoming a book reviewer, that genuinely was not my true intention but it’s just that when it’s cold, and my husband is working away, I quite often do little more than simply curl up with a book and in the absence of any other distraction, realistically, what else could I write about?
So, you see, it could quite plausibly become the case that during the long winter months, my blog naturally takes the shape of a review of the tales or works of other more successful writers, be they good or bad.
As I think I have already amply conveyed to you, I came to this book as a complete John Taylor philistine. No appreciation whatsoever for his half a century of considerable achievements, his huge contribution to the music industry and his tireless hard work.
Even the cover of the book made me curl my nose up in some considerable disdain; the title ‘In the Pleasure Groove’ conjured up so many images of hot, sweaty, pelvic thrusts and one night stands to my otherwise uninformed mind, the lurid red of the book jacket and the slightly arrogant cover picture of a non-smiling, ageing but still indisputably good looking John Taylor and finally his name in a bold font in capital letters, twice as large as that of the title font. It all looked rather like the trashy biography I was fully expecting to read. I settled in for a literary ride I firmly anticipated to rank somewhere close to Katie Price’s 2004 ‘autobiography’: ‘Being Jordan’.
I had, in fact, initially purchased the book for my husband.
My husband was never a particularly ardent Duran Duran fan either, he too was primarily from the Bowie camp thanks to his fathers influence (another Jones born in that cold January of 1947), but like me, he recalled various songs from his teens that he had enjoyed and in a fit of nostalgia had recently downloaded Duran Duran’s Greatest Hits on iTunes and we were giving that a lot of airtime on our various recent long car journeys; I remember being a little surprised at just how brilliant the band were musically. I certainly didn’t recall them having such tremendous and tight musicianship or writing such fantastic, catchy songs that were still fresh and current almost four decades later, but here I was listening to ‘TUNE’ after ‘TUNE’ and somehow recalling all the lyrics, Planet Earth, Girls on Film, Hungry Like The Wolf, Save a Prayer, Rio, Is There Something I Should Know, Union of the Snake, New Moon on Monday, The Reflex, Wild Boys, A View to a Kill, Notorious, Skin Trade. I guess my brother’s repeated playing of their records had clearly entered my subconscious and there it all was, just waiting to be rediscovered decades later.
In addition to our recent acquisition of their greatest hits, my husband had been physically likened to John Taylor on numerous occasions in his youth, he also grew up in Leicester (not a million miles away from Birmingham), he dabbled at playing keyboards in a band at school where they played a few early Duran Duran numbers (my husband is 8 years younger than John Taylor so was in his mid teens when Duran Duran hit the scene big) and in 2016, my husband lost his father to a very brief but totally undefeatable battle with cancer (tragically, game set and match in just five short weeks from diagnosis to final departure).
Somehow a few months back, whether it was via a link on Facebook or some other click-bait, I had found myself watching a clip of a 2012 ‘Loose Women’ interview with a then fifty-two year old John Taylor, talking about his autobiography and I felt there were enough similarities for me to order the book for my husband on the understanding that it would undoubtedly provide a good nostalgic read for him and, touching on the subject of John’s loss of his own father, perhaps also something of a cathartic release.
The reason I establish early on that neither of us were particular fans is because it would be easy for a misty-eyed fan of yester-year to gush about John’s book, to wax lyrical about how wonderful he was and still is, to marvel at his talents by the truckload, his unwavering ambition, his honesty, his insight and his fantastic good looks that have developed from youthful chiseled and smoldering Adonis into wise, intelligent and lived-in beauty. Without question he is and always has been incredibly striking….but as I have now discovered, he is so much more than that particular heritage of his.
So yes, it would have been perfectly conceivable and perhaps even utterly expected for a diehard fan to have given the book a glowing review, but for me to do so would never have been a foregone conclusion.
I’ll start by saying that personally, I enjoyed it so much, I would have been happy for the book to have been two or three times longer and to have included much more detail. I presume the reason it was not, he did not want it to be merely an almanac of every single major gig or event of Duran Duran and his other musical projects over the years and neither did he want it to be a ‘reveal all’ or a ‘dish the dirt’. He was utterly respectful with regards the privacy of all of the band members and any other celebrities he mentioned, he held the same level of respect for those he is no longer in touch with or on good terms with, as those who are still daily in his life and considered part of his family. He had nothing sour to say about his ex-wife Amanda de Cadanet. He shared a few gentle anecdotes about his celebrity pals, but nothing too personal, only about his own experiences did he open up but nothing like the ‘explosive no holds barred exposé’ that it was introduced as being and I agree, having now read it, that I think he remained very discreet. It wasn’t about the ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock n Roll’ per se it was moreover about his personal struggle and development throughout it all.
For this I have full admiration for him. Not just talented and gorgeous to boot, but genuinely kind and with real humility.
A far cry from the arrogant peacock I had rather assumed him to be.
I read with interest the early chapters about his childhood and realised that before all of the fame, he could easily have been my brother or my husband when they were growing up (whom, over the years I have discovered are startlingly very similar, basically, I married a version of my brother!) with their airfix models and their slightly nerdy and inquiring minds as to how things worked, taking things apart just to rebuild them again. Their shy awkwardness about their own place in this often confusing world.
If indeed John Taylor personally penned the majority of this prose himself, then I am even more in awe of his astonishing and seemingly endless creative talents. Just as Sting once commented to John that he wished he had written ‘Ordinary World’ there are many wonderfully descriptive pieces in this book that I wish I had the proficiency to write.
Having read his autobiography from cover to cover I found myself searching for old video archives and interviews and on watching a 1984 interview with a then twenty-three year old JT, I was struck by how eloquent, driven and ambitious this young man had been. How hard he had worked to get the band off the ground, how determined he had been that they would succeed not just as a five minute wonder but to continue on through the decades. These were not just the retrospective words, reflections and contemplations of a fifty-two year old man who had learned his mistakes, confronted his demons and come out the other side with a best selling autobiography.
It is true that ambition and confidence can often be mistaken for sheer arrogance and probably never more so when wrapped up in such a youthful package that is so very pleasing to the eye, as John Taylor evidently was back in the eighties.
No wonder I had grown up thinking he was an arrogant arse when the media that surrounded him wanted to continually portray him in that light. Some drop-dead gorgeous upstart that needed to be brought down a peg or two.
What it is it that they say? Build up your idols so that you can burn them down. Something like that…
Yes, there were parties, drugs, alcohol, limousines, a string of girlfriends or simply one night stands. He certainly lived the life of a ‘rock star’ but behind every sensational and sometimes salacious tabloid front page headline there was also a very gifted and hard working human being, somewhat exploited and clearly in need of an intervention.
If ‘then’ was ‘now’, it would have been recognised much earlier that he needed help and support for his addictions and coping with the fame-game but back then he was just a young, enviably good looking sex symbol, who enjoyed a drink, enjoyed the frequently available feel-good factor of ‘Charlie’, enjoyed his pick of the bunch from the hoards of beautiful, adoring young women that would literally throw themselves at him and as such was fair game to the press whenever he stumbled out of a club, looking a little worse for wear and they wanted to air their bitterness and resentment at his good fortune and I daresay, the general public would simply wonder what this person, who had been afforded every opportunity in life, had any reason to complain about.
Life should indeed be perfect …… and therein lies the problem, when life should be perfect and yet still, it isn’t, that is when you have to realise that there is a fundamental problem at the very core of it.
I realised, and not for the first time, how easy it is to overlook or simply dismiss the very real problems being experienced by a fellow human being, just because they are famous, successful and thus you perceive them to ‘have it all’. What could they possibly have to grumble about?
I won’t go into any further detail about the book itself but if it has piqued your interest then you just need to find a copy and read it for yourself.
I for one was not disappointed.
Nigel John Taylor, a marvelously talented individual and a thoroughly nice chap as it goes.
If being delighted by this hardback book was not reward enough, a real additional bonus point to having ordered it in book form rather than as an e-book or audiobook, was that on receiving it I discovered that it had been signed by John Taylor himself.
Not bad for my £2.99 investment from a second-hand book dealer on Amazon marketplace.
I should have felt bad about having received such an unexpected bonus
- JT will not see any of that money by way of royalties (though I’m quite certain that he genuinely does not need the proceeds of my £2,99 investment)
- I had not even purchased the book for myself as a true devotee
The reason I don’t feel bad is because having read it, I genuinely am a fan now, a true convert and I just feel thrilled to have had my mind changed, it doesn’t happen very often I can tell you and my husband can certainly attest to that!
Also to own, well, half-own, as I do have to remember that it was actually for my husband that I purchased this book, something that JT has touched is quite special.
Like almost everything else he touched in his life…it became pure gold
or to steal a quote from the man himself ‘a very satisfying shade of yellow’.
The Virtual Recluse
P.S, My brother visited our home in France in August this year with his wife and daughter. This book was ordered just before they left the UK and as such I had it shipped to their address for my sister-in-law to bring over in her luggage (along with a few other items that she had purchased for me, namely Tandoori and Madras spices). Upon their arrival, the book was unpacked and passed to me, at which I gave it a cursory glance before placing it on the coffee table in preparation to give to my husband when he returned from work the following day to join us. Within minutes it was in the hands of my brother and throughout his ten day stay, whenever he found himself with a moment to spare I would often discover him sat at the dining table with this book, quietly reading a chapter or two. I don’t recall how far through it he got before he had to return to the UK, thus, I have ordered another copy and had it sent to my brother’s address, this time for him to keep.
Big Bro – I hope you manage to find the time and the peace and the quiet to enjoy it right through to the end. Lil Sis xx
*You know you’re something special and you look like you’re the best – excerpt from Rio lyrics, Duran Duran , 1982.