Nigel John Taylor grew up as a shy only child in working class Birmingham, England. It was the 1960s. His father harbored deep, dark secrets from World War II and poured his heart into working on his car. His mother, who couldn’t drive at all, walked her bespectacled lad to church five days a week. That self-same lad was not a jock, not cool and not sure about what he wanted to be when he grew up.
Then the seventies came. When Nigel saw British pop band Roxy Music on television, it was his moon landing. By the end of that decade, he had a best friend named Nick Bates (later Nick Rhodes) who shared his love of music and dream of starting a band. Together they would form Duran Duran, a pop-funk-new wave quintet named after the villain in the futuristic 1968 film “Barbarella.” The band — consisting of keyboardist Rhodes, frontman Simon Le Bon, drummer Roger Taylor, guitarist Andy Taylor and bassist Nigel (who was going by the more rock-n-roll “John” by then) — became the biggest band of the 1980s. Their music was catchy, their videos were decadent, their looks were pin-up boy fabulous.
They made a lot of teenaged girls scream.
I was one of those girls.
Taylor’s much-anticipated memoir In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran came out this Tuesday and I finished it in less than a day. The story, co-written with freelance writer Tom Sykes, is an engaging look at Taylor’s extraordinarily blessed life, which was rooted in the Catholic Church, then the pop music and new wave fashion of the 1970s before rock-n-roll superstardom took him on a wild ride around the globe. In some respects, the story is a conventional “nothing could have prepared me for this” tale, one full of screaming teens rifling through his trash, lines of coke snorted through rolled-up $100 bills, more apartments than he could afford and eventual disillusionment with the business aspects of the band that made him a such a fixture on MTV in the early 1980s. But in other respects, it’s a wonderful look at Taylor’s life, the musical and fashion influences that shaped Duran Duran, the creative opportunities that unfolded because of Duran’s success (i.e. the Bond theme “A View To A Kill,” side projects such as Arcadia and Power Station and involvement in Bob Geldof’s Live Aid), and Taylor’s rocky journey away from addiction. His is a redemptive story, which ends with a stronger and better Duran Duran and a healthier, more grounded Taylor who is able to balance the demands of fame and family life.
“The music never sounded better,” he writes.
And Taylor’s book couldn’t have been a better read.
To close, here’s Duran Duran’s Hyde Park performance from the London Olympics. What better way to show off J.T.’s bass magic than “Rio”: