Duran Duran's John Taylor Finds His (and Our) Pleasure Groove
It took us almost 30 years to make it upstairs to Duran Duran bassist John Taylor's hotel room, fulfilling a dream that started as a tweenage fantasy. A few hours before last night's sold-out appearance at the Art Institute, Taylor indulged a former president of her junior high school Duran Duran Fan Club (1984-1986) at the St. Regis San Francisco to speak about his new memoir, In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death & Duran Duran.
Tamara Palmer Groove merchant: John Taylor in San Francisco.
Taylor had been asked for years to write a book, as his former bandmate Andy Taylor did in 2008 with Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran. When lead singer Simon Le Bon had voice problems that forced the postponing of a few months' worth of shows last year, he saw his window to take on the project. But rather than a whole book about the band, Pleasure Groove is a three-act narrative, of which Duran Duran is only one piece of the puzzle.
Duran Duran is the hook to draw in potential readers. But Taylor's frank discussion of both his upbringing (in a British suburb called Hollywood in Birmingham) and the drug addiction that came along with the band reaching such dizzying heights of pop stardom is what keeps the pages turning. Writer Tom Sykes helped Taylor realize this project, but Taylor did not sit passively by just to be interviewed and ghosted, as many stars do when putting together an "autobiography." He wrote much of the meat of the story himself, so it really feels like his own words. He likens Sykes' strong role to that of a music producer.
"We set up our computers side by side, and we'd pass notes back and forth," he says of Sykes' involvement. "It was like All the President's Men!" He stands up, animated, and begins to act out a dramatic scene, then describes Sykes tasking him with finding the right words for it. "It was really a lot of fun."
He admits that some elements were massaged a little bit from memory, and nothing that would potentially upset his bandmates made the final cut.
"We took liberties, we invented dialogue, what might we have said here. That was fun. It's funny, there are a lot of fact checkers out there. I was born Nigel, that's my first name, and around 1977-78, I decided I was going to change my name. And one of the reasons was that Monty Python's Flying Circus had this sketch called 'the Great Twits of History.' And the way I remembered it, all the twits were named Nigel, and the following day at school was the worst day ever. And so I put that in the book, and somebody wrote to me and said, 'Well, actually, in the Twits sketch, the winner's name was Eric, and Nigel came third.' It's like, come on, that's how I remembered it. It's more of an impression. But I'm not very detail-oriented, I must say. But I think you get the sense of the ride."
Some people can be sticklers, but attention to detail in the excessive Eighties shouldn't be expected, and can detract from creatively describing those moments of disconnected reality. Perfectly factual or not, Taylor captures the thrill of the ride in his new book -- both in its heart-racing flips and stomach-aching lows.