Book Review: In The Pleasure Groove | Love, Death + Duran Duran – John Taylor

Dutton | 2012 | 304 pp.

I was dimly aware the ex-Duran guitarist Andy Taylor had written an autobio several years ago, but did I really want to hear the story of Andy “coke-face” Taylor? I never really liked his guitar playing in the band, truth be told. When John Taylor released this volume a few weeks ago, it seemed like it might have been a more palatable Duran autobio. After all, at least John Taylor’s bass playing was an enjoyable feature of the band for me. I’m sure the tome held lots of drug/rehab stories since the band were not ones to shy away from the more repulsive trappings of rock fame. But I decided that I might want to read it anyway.

My mistake. Though he was the founder of the band, along with Nick Rhodes, that doesn’t mean that he was the ideal person to read an autobio for a look at the Duran story. First of all, it quickly transpires that Taylor is not, shall we say, the brightest bulb in the Duran Duran candelabra. His youth is a tale of poor scholarship and hooking school, as if one couldn’t tell from the 5th grade comprehension level of this book. Really. It stands with Johnny Cash’s “Man In Black: His Own Story In His Own Words” as being the most crudely written autobio I’ve ever read. At least with Cash, I’ve no doubt that its subtitle is absolutely true. What’s Taylor’s excuse? It’s not as though co-writer Tom Sykes wasn’t there. Then again, celeb autobio ghost writers are paid to capture the voice of their subjects. It’s not Syke’s fault that Taylor is such a dim bulb.

The book suffers not only in that it captures the damaged thought processes of its subject, but that the 65 or so chapters are all barely more than three pages long; giving the narrative a choppy, pixilated feel. And of course this book suffers most acutely from Autobiography Time Dialation Effect®. Meaning, that the first half of the book captures the five years of Taylor’s life from the formation of Duran Duran through to the “Rio” album in some depth, and then everything following that gets short shrift, if it merits mention at all. The one benefit of reading this book is that the process of Duran Duran moving from wet-nosed teens to globe straddling superstars is actually well covered here. The feeling of being a member of an arty New Wave band that accidentally became worldwide heartthrobs is the one useful thing that this book has to convey to the reader.

The rest of it is a self-deprecating pity party by a man who can’t be said to have been anything but a boy for the first 40 years of his life. Even now, in a stable marriage and sober, his attitude as rendered on the pages of the book, reflects an immaturity that may be the fault of an artificially extended childhood where he was one of the Lost Boys of Duran Duran. It seems that only now is he walking a path of maturity, but he still  has a lot of catching up to do. His body may be 54 but his mental age seems closer to 24. So in reading this, the overriding sensation that wafts up from the pages is one of “you poor thing.” Sure, Taylor is hard on himself, for the most part. He should be. But that doesn’t mean that in reading this that I didn’t also feel compassion for Taylor. The revelations he experiences at 40 should be well known to any 22 year old.

I can’t say that I was expecting to feel that way after reading this. I was envisioning more about the white-knuckle ride that Duran Duran has been over 32 years, but given the excesses that occupied its subject, it may be that his memories of the experience are compromised. Any readers wanting finely tuned insights into the whys and wherefores of Duran Duran are suggested to await Nick Rhodes inevitable [I hope] autobiography. Rhodes is by far the sharpest cookie in that band and his was the mind that can be said to have brought forth the phenomena that is Duran Duran.

Finally, the other factor of this book that I actually found delightful were the anecdotes involving Power Station vocalist Robert Palmer. I’ve always liked Palmer and found his work intriguing. Taylor was a fan who had many run ins with him before ultimately forming a band with him and Palmer comes across as a fascinating guy with a mind as sharp as his suits*. When Taylor informs him that he’s writing a song for the still unnamed band called “Some Like It Hot,” Palmer retorts “…and some sweat when the heat is on” without missing a beat. Elsewhere, he met Taylor on a flight somewhere and they caught up and discussed how their paths always crossed and how they should keep in touch. Later in the flight, Palmer handed Taylor a scrap of paper with a poem that was the first verse of The Power Station’s “Communication;” a song still yet to be written in the future. I want to learn more about the deceased Palmer, but unfortunately, there are no biographies that I can find.

– 30 –

* Palmer made Mr. Bryan Ferry look like a stumblebum in comparison.

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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4 Responses to Book Review: In The Pleasure Groove | Love, Death + Duran Duran – John Taylor

  1. Tim says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever pay to read a book about the history of DD despite how much I enjoyed their antics in the 1980’s. I did enjoy your review of the book. Your comment about hoping and waiting for a Nick Rhodes bio immediately jogged memories of reading the two Pet Shop Boys books by Chris Heath and the endless ribbing (affectionate I think) they give Mr. Rhodes. I know you’ve given up on the PSB brand but for me the two Chris Heath books offer the most enjoyable fly-on-the-wall take on the music industry in the mid to late 1980’s.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – I didn’t pay either. That’s what libraries are for! I used to have “Literally” but sold it off during the Great Library Purge [to have more room for music, of course]. I still have, and treasure, my copy of Pet Shop Boys “Annually.” Possibly the finest book of its kind! All of my favorite artists should have lovingly crafted coffee-table books on their oeuvre, but barring the 400 page 12″ x 12″ $100 monster in my mind, I’ll take books like “Annually” any day! I suspect that Neil Tennant considers Nick Rhodes a quintessential pop star of the ideal caliber, thus I am inclined to agree with you about the “good natured ribbing” he endures in those pages. NR is Duran Duran to me. Without him, they would have lasted 18 months, and would have been as boring as hell. Please Nick. If you’re reading this, write that book. Not now – give it a dozen years or so, but please get down to it eventually.

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  2. zoo says:

    Nice review. I love any variation of the “not the sharpest knife in drawer” bit to describe a dimwit. I’ll be adding “not the brightest bulb in the candelabra” to my oeuvre.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      zoo – Bless you for using the word oeuvre in the comments! Yeah, it’s a fast read. Look at it this way. 65 chapters of 5-3 pages [mostly 3]. The design leaves the last side of a page before the next chapter blank as an endpaper. The first page [both sides] of each new chapter has a design on the front page and a photo for that chapter on the reverse side. So, the math reveals that a 3 page chapter ultimately takes up six pages. This implies that almost half of the book is not actually writing! The 304 page length is almost half bereft of any copy! Then there’s also a fat 20 page section of color photos. Needless to say, this was a fasssssst read since the book is technically half empty; not unlike its author! I hate being cruel and vicious. Admittedly, I feel for the poor guy… up to a point, but the book is kind of infuriating when I start to analyze it. Just as a book.

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