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"It's a Monday night at the Brighton Dome, 2 weeks before our third single 'Girls On Film' is due out. It's a week after my 21st birthday. The lights go down and 'Tel Aviv' strikes up. 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. Screaming. And then, out on to the stage, behind the safety curtain we go. We look to each other with nervous glances. Faces are made, 'Is that for real?' And the curtain rises on our new life..."
And so begins the rise to fame of one of the UK's best known bass players, Duran Duran star John Taylor.
Born in 1960 in a working class suburb of Birmingham, Nigel John Taylor was an only child. Raised a Catholic, his mother took him to church several times a week and his father, a former soldier who had suffered three years in a German prisoner of war camp, worked hard to provide for his family.
In his autobiography ' In The Pleasure Groove, Love Death & Duran Duran' John charts his rise to fame. From his childhood and on through his teens, John writes an evocative account of his youth and family life growing up in Birmingham during the 60's and 70's.
John describes being thought of as nerdy Nigel and being laughed at ( hence the decsion to become known by his middle name John ) and not being interested in school and sports etc, John began spending more time hanging around town, browsing the music and fashion shops instead of being at school.
He recalls getting his first guitar and his first band 'Shock Treatment' and athough knowing after their first performance they weren't very good, he couldn't wait to perform again.
I had been wanting to read this autobiography after having read and enjoyed Andy Taylor's autobiography a couple of years back. I was interested to hear John's perspective on life in Duran Duran and their rise to fame.
It was the end of 1980 when Duran Duran first came on my radar, when aged just 12, but a big music fan, I went to see Hazel O'Connor perform at Newcastle City Hall. Duran Duran were the unknown support act, but I enjoyed them as much as Hazel and felt I was witnessing a band who were going to make it big. Therefore it didn't surprise me when shortly afterwards they released their debut single 'Planet Earth' and it entered the charts. Duran Duran were on their way to fame and fortune.
John's book contains 409 pages and is a personal and often moving account of his life. Personal in that he doesn't hold back when writing about his drug abuse issues and moving when he recalls his childhood, his parents coping with his fame and the person he became and then later on, their deaths. Throughout his life, John's parents remained living in his childhood home on Simon Road. I can recall reading interviews and articles back in the early 80's stating how John's Mum and Dad would take tea and biscuits out to the screaming girls who would gather outside their house and John also recalls those days in this book. It made for interesting reading how John describes the sanctuary of his bedroom at home with his parents, even when Duran Duran had made it big, his childhood bedroom was a place of escape and solitude, a reminder of normality in a world of glitz and glamour and screaming girls where John at times was struggling to cope and spiralling out of control.
John paints an often sad picture of someone who suddenly has it all, as what he had craved has finally happened and yet he cannot cope. Behind the bright lights and fame is a depressed young man who needs drugs to function. It is an honest account and John is not looking for sympathy here, he simply provides a stark and often poignant account of life in one of the world's biggest bands back in the 80's.
John takes you on a journey through Duran Duran history, from their humble beginnings in Birmingham, to the stardom they achieved worldwide. From album releases to videos, concerts, Live Aid etc John describes the highs and lows and the problems they encountered along the way, whilst describing his drug use and own personal struggles.
One thing which stuck with me in particular was reading his account of when he badly injured his hand whilst on tour out of the UK. I can recall back then I had a ticket to see the band on their UK leg of the tour and the papers were reporting that John had injured his hand and was unable to play bass and it was unsure if the UK gigs would go ahead as dates may have to be cancelled. Some papers reported he had been involved in a fight protecting a band member, but I also recall that drug use was mentioned. This seemed to be quickly hushed up as I recall and young fans like myself didn't want to believe this was true. Indeed the story we were led (and wanted) to believe was that John had been injured through no fault of his own whilst trying to stop a bar fight, so it was interesting to read here that John had actually been out of his mind on drugs and punched a glass light fitting in his hotel room, causing him to injure his hand and require stitches.
John also recalls his spell in rehab, relationships, marriages and his children, as well as his side-project The Power Station. He comes across as a thoroughly likeable guy and one thing which stands out is that he doesn't say anything nasty about anyone.
He recounts the break ups and reunions of the band without any bitterness and doesn't dish any dirt on any band members either former or present. He writes about good times with Andy Taylor and how he felt closest to him, although I noticed Andy Taylor is not included in his acknowledgements at the end of the book. Therefore it would appear that the second time Andy left the band it was not exactly as amicable with John as it was the first time.
I particulary enjoyed reading about the reunion of the original line up and subsequent album and tour and one thing which stands out a mile is how maturity and experience helps you cope. It's that 'if you could put an old head on young shoulders' scenario here as with Duran Duran age and experience have taught them well and John thankfully these days is in a much better place and more content with life. I thought it was touching how he states he envied Simon Le Bon being able to separate the band and family life, enjoying a long happy marriage and children, as John struggled for a long time before turning his life around.
I didn't want to compare John's autobiography to Andy Taylor's but I couldn't help it and overall I felt that Andy's was a slightly better read. John glossed over one or two things I would rather have read more about, but apart from that it was a compelling read and it brought a lump to my throat when I read his account of the days leading up to the death of his father. For years his Dad had remained quiet about his time as a prisoner of war but 50 years on he finally speaks to John about a particular incident which I found deeply moving. John had to find out for himself that his Dad was one of the 12,000 occupants of Stalag 344 involved in the Lamsdorf death march that took place at the end of the war, where they were force-marched over 500 miles in the cold winter months. Hid dad would never talk about it, but there is a moment they share which is really touching and a lesson learned which John thanks him for.
Overall, Love Death & Duran Duran is a story of dreams fulfilled, lessons learned and demons conquered. If you are or were a fan of Duran Duran I would recommend you read it.