Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Book review: Duran Duran's John Taylor, "In the Pleasure Groove"

John Taylor's memoir is available in hardcover and audio formats via U.S. retail outlets today. He is doing several events around the country (see below for details). Book review follows...

My admiration for Duran Duran goes all the way back to junior high school in the early 1980s, right as the British pop band first made strides here in America. I dutifully bought all the cassettes, picture sleeve 45 records and various memorabilia.

I wouldn’t experience Duran Duran live until 1989 though. That’s when the “Big Thing” tour reached LA’s Universal Amphitheatre and the lineup was down to three original members. Since then, I have continued to be a loyal supporter.  

A couple months ago, when news arrived that bassist John Taylor’s new biography “In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran” would arrive in October, I knew it would top my fall reading list.

Then last August, the band’s mammoth “All You Need is Now” arrived in Costa Mesa, Calif. and I had the opportunity to interview Taylor [see elsewhere on this blog]. We briefly touched upon the upcoming book, whetting my appetite even more.

“In the Pleasure Groove” - the second book by a founding Duran member, following Andy Taylor’s “Wild Boy” in 2008 – is a brisk, entertaining page-turner. Written with Tom Sykes, it is divided into three main parts (Analog Youth, Hysteria, Digital Truth), mostly in chronological order and structured as a series of journal-style entries. None of the 74 chapters are more than a few pages long. All have pictures and there is also a 16-page full color center photo spread.  

The prologue describes a moment onstage in Brighton, England with Duran Duran in 1981, chart ascendance in close proximity. Born Nigel John Taylor to a working-class couple (and only child) amid the Birmingham suburb of Hollywood, his story here begins as a preschooler in the mid-‘60s, walking around town with his mother Jean. Father Jack served in WWII, where he was captured by the Germans and interned at Stalag 344.

Taylor describes attending Catholic school, how his mother encouraged a love of music and that seeing Roxy Music on TV for the first time was a flashpoint: “their debut on ‘Top of the Pops’ in August 1972 changed everything for me.” He attended glam rock concerts with future Duran bandmate Nick Bates (nee Rhodes), who he met at age 13.

The rise of the Sex Pistols prompted Taylor to learn guitar; he and Bates formed the punk band Shock Treatment, which later morphed into Duran Duran alongside Steve Dufait (nee Duffy) and Simon Colley.

Enter drummer Roger Taylor, who shared a penchant for disco. “The first time I heard Chic’s song ‘Everybody Dance’ was in a wine bar,” John Taylor writes. “The impact of that song on me was huge because the bass guitar came across as the lead instrument.”

Immersed in the New Wave scene, Duran Duran encountered The Berrow Brothers. They ran local nightclub Rum Runner and would manage the band through its meteoric rise. Guitarist Andy Taylor and new singer Simon Le Bon joined and the fledgling group would perform and work at the club.

Longtime fans will revel in tidbits about fashion choices, initial American gigs (a Holiday Inn in Hicksville, Long Island), Taylor’s frank admissions about cocaine usage, coping with the madness of being teen idols and shooting those exotic and infamous music videos (“Girls on Film,” “Rio”) during the formative days of MTV. 

Having not been a chick magnet in high school, Taylor took full advantage when young girls threw themselves at him on tour. It wasn’t until he neared age 40 that the shallowness of one night stands became apparent. He writes: “There is something about an intimate encounter of that nature with someone you barely know that jars against the spirit.”

Taylor discusses the tension-filled sessions for third album “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” and cracks in the musical relationship with broad strokes, careful not to offend. Side project The Power Station had promise, but when Robert Palmer refused to tour behind it, Taylor says the ensuing U.S tour with Michael Des Barres was “painful” and “a vanity exercise that had run out of steam.”

By the time of Duran’s theme song to “A View to A Kill” and appearance at Live Aid in 1985 – a period where he should have been on top of the world – Taylor writes “alcohol and drugs were beginning to take control not just of decisions and choices I made, but also who I hung out with.” And he doesn’t mince words when describing his appearance in photos taken at the James Bond film’s premiere: “I look a mess. The booze is starting to show.”

Later chapters are devoted to Taylor’s marriage to young TV presenter Amanda de Cadenet and their baby daughter, finally leaving Duran Duran after “The Wedding Album” in the ‘90s, going to rehab in Arizona, relocating to California, a solo career (the supergroup Neurotic Outsiders with ex-Sex Pistols and Guns ‘N Roses musicians), divorce and meeting current wife/Juicy Couture fashion designer Gela Nash.

I found the latter sections about the reunion of the original Fab Five in the early 2000s
and concluding description of 2011’s co-headlining appearance (minus Andy, who left again a few years prior) at the Coachella Festival in Indio, Calif., particularly interesting.

“We have come a long way together to get to this holy place, Coachella, and a lot has changed in the last 30 years,” Taylor writes. “What hasn’t…is the sound of the crowd and the feeling of adrenaline that charges through my body when I hear it.”

Although Taylor doesn’t really dish much dirt about those heady 1980s days, “In the Pleasure Groove” is still a must-read for longtime enthusiasts and fans of the era’s music in general. 


10/16- New York, NY @ Barnes & Noble Citigroup Center (Book Signing)

10/16- New York, NY @ 92Y Tribeca (Book Signing and Interview with Harper’s Bazaar Editor in Chief Glenda Bailey)

10/18- Ridgewood, NJ @ Bookends (Book Signing)

10/21- Los Angeles, CA @ Bass Player Live (Book Signing, Interview and Audience Q&A with book co-author, Tom Sykes)

10/24- Los Angeles, CA @ Book Soup at Cinespace (Book Signing, Interview and Audience Q&A, with book co-author Tom Sykes)

10/25- San Francisco, CA @ San Francisco Art Institue (Book Signing, Interview and Audience Q&A)

10/26- Austin, TX @ The Scottish Rite Theater (Book Signing, Interview and Audience Q&A)

10/29- Toronto, ON, CAN @ Indigo Bookstore (Book Signing, Interview and Audience Q&A)

10/30- Chicago, IL @ City Winery Chicago (Book Signing, Interview and Audience Q&A)

Dutton| October 16, 2012 | $27.95 (Hardcover)| ISBN 978-0525-95800-0

Penguin Audio | $29.95 (limited signed edition) | ISBN 978-1611-76155-9

Also available as an eBook


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