REVIEW: IN THE PLEASURE GROOVE: LOVE, DEATH AND DURAN DURAN BY JOHN TAYLOR
The tales are faithfully retold from the protagonist’s perspective and not without wit and candour
Sunday September 16,2012
By Anthony Reynolds
WHAT do you think of when you think of Duran Duran’s John Taylor? Frilly white shirts and burgundy hair?
Cartoony videos full of yachts, champagne, coloured suits and semi-naked glamour girls? Snogging to Rio at school discos? Someone who, in the words of fictional model Derek Zoolander, was “really, really ridiculously good looking”?
As far as your average pub quiz contestant goes, John Taylor is an amalgamation of all of the above.
Almost everyone in Britain over 39 knows the story of Duran Duran and the gang of Le Bon, Rhodes and the Taylors. What you may not know is that Taylor was also addicted to cocaine and alcohol. Throughout it all, his childhood, the worldwide adoration, the addiction, the number ones, the Bond theme, the marriages, the rehab, Taylor was and remains a seemingly exceedingly likeable and decent chap.
Born in 1960 and raised a single Catholic child in a working class suburb of Birmingham (albeit one named Hollywood), Taylor writes a wonderfully evocative account of his youth and this particular part of Britain during the Sixties and Seventies.
Almost everyone in Britain over 39 knows the story of Duran Duran and the gang of Le Bon, Rhodes and the Taylors. What you may not know is that Taylor was also addicted to cocaine and alcohol
The son of a religious housewife and a soldier who suffered three years in a German prisoner of war camp, Nigel, as he was then known, maps out a magical and dreamlike upbringing; but the pre and post-Duran segments about family are most affecting.
In recounting his childhood and his close, yet typically English, emotionally stilted relationship with his parents Taylor gives a touching poignancy that, while tinted by nostalgia, is neither syrupy nor sentimental. It makes the battalions of groupies, the Kilimanjaro of cocaine and the sell-out gigs seem shallow by comparison.
It is only in writing about the Big Star years that Taylor seems to falter.
Nevertheless, the tales are faithfully retold from the protagonist’s perspective and not without wit and candour.
Speaking of his first year as a sex symbol in 1982 he quips: “I would have had to have taken a hell of a stand, both morally and ethically, not to get laid an awful lot that year.”
We also learn that self destructive tendencies aside, Taylor has barely a malicious bone in his long-limbed body.
He is unfailingly gracious about everyone he has ever met or worked with, from Chic through David Bowie to Robert Palmer, including each of his bandmates in between.
In The Pleasure Groove is not as literary in its aspirations as Alex James’s Bit of a Blur but it is an easy and engaging read written with style, insight and, above all, charm. In the mid-Nineties, shortly after hitting the bottom in his drug and alcohol abuse, Taylor sought professional help. A counsellor told him: “If you got sober you could really be somebody.”
He did and he is: John Taylor, bassist supreme, recovering addict, sometime pop god, and a father three times over who has quietly and inconspicuously become one of our greatest living Englishmen.