John Taylor, Duran Duran’s co-founder, takes the reader on a wild ride through his life. From the eighties through today, from Rio to All You Need is Now, John writes about the music, the parties, and the MTV videos that made millions swoon.
With Duran Duran, John Taylor has created some of the greatest music of our time. From the disco dazzle of debut single ‘Planet Earth’ right up to their latest number one album, All You Need is Now, Duran Duran has always had the power to sweep the world onto its feet.
It’s been a ride – and for John in particular, the ride has been wild, thrilling... and dangerous. Now, for the first time, he tells his incredible story. A tale of dreams fulfilled, lessons learned and demons conquered.
A shy only child, Nigel John Taylor wasn’t an obvious candidate for pop stardom and frenzied girl panic. But when he ditched his first name and picked up a bass guitar, everything changed. John Formed Duran Duran with his friend Nick Rhodes in the summer of 1978, and they were soon joined by Roger Taylor, then Andy Taylor and finally Simon Le Bon. Together they were an immediate, massive global success story, their pictures on millions of walls, every single a worldwide hit.
In his frank, compelling autobiography, John recounts the highs –hanging out with icons like Bowie, Warhol and even James Bond; dating Vogue models and driving fast cars – all the while playing hard with the band he loved. But there were tough battles ahead – troubles that brought him to the brink of self-destruction – before turning his life around.
Told with humor, honesty and hard-won wisdom, and packed with exclusive pictures, In the Pleasure Groove is a fascinating, irresistible portrait of a man who danced into the fire... and came through the other side.
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JOHN TAYLOR is the bassist and cofounder with Nick Rhodes of the British rock band Duran Duran, with a career spanning three decades. In 1999 John married Gela Nash, cofounder of Juicy Couture.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Today, I am comfortable to admit that I was a little unnerved when John Taylor formed a band before I had left school. You see, we met when I was ten years old and he was twelve—both only children, living in the Hollywood hood, we swiftly adopted each other as brothers, so I always imagined we would do this together. Fortunately for me, his first group, Shock Treatment, didn’t last for more than a season. The Assassins followed briefly, and then Dada, despite such a gloriously pretentious name, were rapidly destined for obscurity in the post-punk Birmingham music scene. I remain personally grateful for John’s early setbacks.
In 1978, through immaculate correction, everything fell into place: we reverted to our original plan and set off on a mission to realize our childhood dreams. Fueled by the power of unbridled naïveté and ambition, we formed Duran Duran version 1.0. From this time onward, we were aboard a one-way, nonstop roller coaster, which traveled exceedingly fast.
I don’t often reflect upon the past because we are always too busy trying to invent our future, but it does seem strange, if I look over my shoulder for a moment, that somehow we went from being a couple of kids who loved music and went to endless concerts together, to creating a band that has shaped our lives in entirely unforeseen ways.
You must all be wondering what will be revealed in the pages ahead. I certainly know that John has a plentiful supply of captivating tales to tell . . .
I admire John’s determination and tenacity. When we played our first show, he designed and printed the posters. We couldn’t afford fancy lighting, so we projected his school geography field-trip slides over the stage. We have always tried to find a way to make things work. Practicality has served us well. Little has changed; I know today that if John and I have a vision, we can rely upon each other to make it happen.
I could tell you a lot of secrets about John: I was there to witness his first girlfriend, his first concert, and the first time he picked up a bass guitar. We figured it all out together—we made music, made mistakes, made some friends and lost a few, too, learning to deflect scandals in newspapers when they sold their stories; but we always found our way. You will see what John chooses to unravel from the exquisitely frivolous to the profound. Perhaps he’ll mention the time when he had just acquired the second of his three Aston Martins, and invited me out for a quick spin around London. Being a nondriver and easily susceptible to luxury, I willingly accepted the invitation. He picked me up and we glided smoothly into the late afternoon; but our trip soon came to an abrupt standstill, directly in front of Harrods, when the car broke down during rush hour. John looked at me and calmly announced, “It’s stalled for some reason, we’ll have to get out and push . . .” This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but, needless to say, there were no other options readily available. A line of cars was building up behind us, and exasperated drivers were sounding their horns, which of course focused more attention on John and me, as we sheepishly climbed out of the car, trying not to look conspicuous with our newfound fame and brightly colored hair. Soon a small crowd had gathered, and startled onlookers began to ask for autographs, as we tried to maneuver the car out of traffic. We were shaken but not stirred. Maybe John has forgotten this incident, or more likely chosen to omit it, because there are many more significant episodes for him to recollect. It particularly resonated for me at the time, however, because in that snapshot I recognized just how much our lives had changed over twenty-four months.
Although we have both been on the same trajectory with Duran Duran for more than three decades, it is the choices we have faced and decisions we made in our personal lives that set the course for our individual pathways. It would be hard to find five people in the same band who have lived such diverse lifestyles in parallel. I have seen John at the top of the mountain. We had number one records, sold-out tours, and performed to audiences who screamed so loud we couldn’t hear what we were playing. He got the cars, he got the girls, and always received sackfuls more fan mail than anyone else in the band. Each of us reacted and adapted differently to our circumstances. John burned very bright, and then spiraled out of control in a spectacular fashion. It is no secret that he has struggled with addiction. We first noticed signs early on, but never grasped that things were getting serious. We all lived in a bubble of chaos, moving from limo to plane to hotel room to venue, then back to the hotel. So when someone didn’t go to bed all night, or surface until the following evening, it was not particularly unusual. Somehow we managed to keep functioning as a band. It never occurred to me how close to the edge John had gone, until the late nineties, when he announced to us that he needed to take action to confront his problems. Simon and I were shocked. We had no idea that he was still haunted by drugs and alcohol, because although John can be an open book, he also has the capacity to be private and guarded.
In 1996, as a consequence of John’s decision to change his life, he and I had a difficult phone call, during which he told me that he was leaving the band. I was numb, and although I had been feeling his presence slowly waning, with increasingly extended trips to LA, for me, it did not seem like the right time to give in. His mind was made up. He wanted to go, which left us with no remaining Taylors—an unthinkable predicament for Duran Duran! In the aftermath, I wrote a lyric for a song called “Buried in the Sand” about our conversation, but it didn’t change the fact that things now felt completely different. John left a gaping hole in the personality and sound of the band; we lost our focus and a crucial part of our identity. Simon and I missed him terribly.
After this, John and I continued to drift further apart. We had precious little contact for a couple of years, which seemed so alien, having spent virtually every day together since our childhood. Then, a few scenes later, like most Hollywood productions, just when you think it’s all over, something dramatic happens to save the universe: the Reunion. John came striding back into town, triumphantly flanked by the other missing Taylors. I will leave him to paint the scene, but suffice to say, our time apart made us better appreciate the chemistry we have together. John can be fragile and sensitive, yet equally strong and determined. He turned around his addictions and now concentrates his energy on helping others with similar issues. John is the real deal. I have known him longer than any of my other friends. There is no one I would have rather shared this journey with. He’s also my favorite bass player.
Finally, I should confess that I have not yet read this book, only resisting the temptation thus far, because I, too, hope one day to deliver my version of the events we encountered along the way, and I don’t want to borrow what I don’t remember.
I am inordinately curious to hear John’s perspective, and to understand how he saw everything. What he thought. How he felt. What he went through. And ultimately what became important. I know for John, that writing his autobiography was a process of catharsis, involving many hours on the couch, laying bare character flaws, trawling through transcendent memories, and reliving painful experiences. I am sure his story is heartfelt and delivered with candor and panache, which is John’s style.
Enjoy the ride, but be warned, it may get a little bumpy at times.
To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward.
—Margaret Fairless Barber
But I won’t cry for yesterday, there’s an ordinary world Somewhere I have to find And as I try to make my way to the ordinary world I will learn to survive
—Duran Duran, “Ordinary World”
Crisis = Opportunity
Brighton, June 29, 1981
It’s a Monday night at the Brighton Dome, two weeks before our third single, “Girls on Film,” is due out. It’s a week after my twenty-first birthday. The lights go down and “Tel Aviv” strikes up. We have chosen the haunting, Middle Eastern–inspired instrumental track from our new album to function as a curtain-raiser, to let the audience know the show is about to begin.
But something strange is happening. None of us can hear the music. What is going on out there? The sound of an audience. Getting louder. Larger. Chanting.
And then, out onto the stage, behind the safety curtain we go. A frisson of fear. We look to each other with nervous glances. Faces are made. “Is that for real?”
We plug in; bass working, drums beating, keyboards and guitars in tune.
“Tel Aviv” reaches its coda. Here we go.
And the curtain rises on our new life.
The power of our instruments, amplified and magnified by PA stacks that reach to the roof, is no match for the overwhelming force of teenage sexual energy that comes surging at us in unstoppable waves from the auditorium.
The power of it is palpable. I can feel it take control of my arms, my legs, my fingers, for the duration of the opening song. It is unrelenting, waves of it crashing onstage.
There is no way we can be heard, but that doesn’t matter. No one is listening to us anyway. They have come to hear themselves. To be heard. And what they have to say is this: “Take me, ME! I am the one for you! John! Simon! Nick! Andy! Roger!”
As our first song grinds to a hiccupping halt, we turn to each other for support. But the next song has already somehow begun without us. We are not in control anymore. Seats are smashed. Clothes torn. Stretcher cases. Breakdowns. It is a scene out of Bosch. Every female teenager in Britain is having her own teenage crisis, simultaneously as one, right now, vaguely in time to our music. The frenzy is contagious. We are the catalyst for their explosions, one by one, by the thousands.
We have become idols, icons. Subjects of worship.
1 Hey Jude
I am four years old. Confident and shy. Hair blonder than it would be in my teen years. In shorts and sandals, a young prince of the neighborhood, the south Birmingham suburb of Hollywood. How perfect. Ten o’clock in the morning on any given weekday in 1964, and I have stepped down off the porch and wait, kicking at the grooved concrete driveway, watching as Mom pulls the front door closed, locks it up, and puts the key in her handbag; she puts the handbag in the shopping bag, and off we go. Left off the drive and up the hill that is the street on which we live, Simon Road. Our house is number 34, one up from where the road ends.
We walk together along the pavement, counting down: 32, 30, 28. On the left side of the street are all the even-numbered semidetached houses, single buildings designed to function as two separate homes (ours is twinned with number 36). Across the street, the odd-numbered houses are detached, each building a single dwelling, all much larger than ours, and so are the back gardens, which are long and tree-filled and bordered at the bottom by a stream. The driveways are slicker too, with space for more than one car.
Later on, when I started to become a little status-aware, I would ask my parents, “Why didn’t you pay the extra six hundred quid that would have got us a stream at the back?”
I hold Mom’s hand, remembering the Beatles song that is so often on the radio, as the incline gets steeper. We reach the crest of the hill, where Simon Road meets Douglas Road, and turn right.
We pass a twelve-foot-high holly bush, the only evidence I have found that suggests where the estate got its name. We march on, crossing Hollywood Lane in front of Gay Hill Golf Club, an establishment that will assume mythical proportions in my imagination as a venue for wife-swapping parties, not that anyone in my family ever set foot in the place. There was no truth in the rumor.
Cars flash by, at twenty or even thirty miles an hour. We make it to Highter’s Heath Lane, another main artery of the neighborhood, which must be taken if you’re visiting the old Birmingham of grans and aunts and uncles, recreational parks and bowling greens. It gets traversed a lot by the Taylor family at weekends. It must also be used by mother and son if we are to reach our destination today—St. Jude’s parish church.
All this walking. We’ve been doing it together for as long as I can remember. Mom doesn’t drive and never will. At first, I’d be in my pushchair, but now that I’m old enough, we walk side by side, which must have come as a relief to Mom. There’s no complaining from me, it just is and ever shall be. Amen.
She’s sweating now in her woolen skirt and raincoat, keen to get there. We walk past the Esso filling station where, in 1970, I will complete my set of commemorative soccer World Cup coins. One last left turn and we are on the paved forecourt, upon which sits, in breeze-block splendor, St. Jude’s parish church.
I would go to many beautiful, awe-inspiring churches when I was older— St. Patrick’s on Fifth Avenue, St. Peter’s in Rome, Notre-Dame de Paris— but St. Jude’s on Glenavon Road was the most pragmatic people’s church anywhere in the First World. Built in the post–World War II years, St. Jude’s was intended as a temporary structure, not meant to last more than a few years. It’s coming up on twenty now and yawning with cold air and aching joints. Single story, with windows every six feet along its length, and a roof of corrugated iron.
Its crude purity enhanced the idea the St. Jude’s faithful had about being the chosen ones. Why else would we gather together in this cold, ugly place unless it was an absolute certainty that we would benefit from it?
Father Cassidy’s great fund-raising scheme of the seventies eventually resulted in a new St. Jude’s church. This was no small achievement. None of the congregants could be considered rich or even well-off. Everyone had to count their pennies. Getting the money to build a new church from his parishioners took a great deal of persuading.
Fortunately, he had God on his side.
A communal sense of readiness sends us through the small lobby where, on raw wooden tables, literature is offered; some for sale, some for free. Textbooks, Bibles, songbooks, and other merchandise, including rosaries, crucifixes, and pendants of St. Jude (the patron saint of hopeless cases, really).
On into the nave, where there is a smell of sweat and yesterday’s incense. It’s usually cool in here, sometimes warm but never hot. A tall redheaded man plays a rickety-looking organ, quietly piping sweet music that is barely there. Eno would call it ambient. Candles burn lazily with a holy scent.
On the strike of eleven the service begins. The priest enters smartly, followed by a pair of young men in white robes—the priest’s team, his posse— one of whom swings ...
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