Before Depeche Mode, I loved Duran Duran. If Depeche Mode is my musical Omega, then Duran Duran was the Alpha. The only collection that rivals my Depeche Mode one is the one I have of Duran Duran. I was only 12 when my friends and I began the obsession, and it lasted for most of my years in junior high. I’ve also said in a previous post that I’ve learned nothing about style from Depeche Mode (see post here), but the exact opposite is true for Duran Duran: I learned that it was okay to be flamboyant, but to do it with taste and class. Imagine my excitement when I found out that bassist and co-founder, John Taylor was married to Gela Nash, half of the creative genius behind Juicy Couture!
When I bought this shirt, I simply thought that someone at Juicy Couture really liked Duran Duran (I Don’t Want Your Love is a song from the Big Thing album). I wore this shirt to the Red Carpet Massacre concert.
I recently picked up a couple of copies of In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death & Duran Duran by John Taylor. The reason I have two is because I ordered the hard copy hoping for a chance to meet John Taylor during another book signing (I missed the one in Los Angeles last October). When I ordered the hard copy, I got so eager to read it that I couldn’t wait and I downloaded the eBook immediately (ah, technology these days). Once I started reading the book, I found myself hooked. Looking back from my forties, I realized just how little I knew about Duran Duran and their actual beginnings when I was in my early teens. I also realized that my love for Duran Duran was mostly due to aesthetics: extremely pretty boys with very catchy tunes.
Part of my Duran Duran ticket stub collection (sadly, I’m missing three).
I read In The Pleasure Groove with eyes wide open, and yet all of the nostalgic feelings came flooding back, along with tons of new insight into John’s life and the highs and lows of being in one of the most successful bands of their time. I’ve read reviews that some people felt that it was slow getting through all of John’s early years, from a young lad in school named Nigel, to right when Duran Duran had started their rise in the very early 80’s. He came from such humble beginnings as an only child from a Catholic family who lived in a suburb in Birmingham and grew up wearing glasses, to becoming a pop star and teen idol, adored by thousands of girls (and I knew several of them personally, including myself). But I felt those chapters were important as they were written because it provided great insight into why John fell into addiction.
I am trying to live away from home, live on the road, live out of suitcases and tour buses and hotel rooms and not die of loneliness.
I missed home.
I missed Mom and Dad.
I didn’t know that then. It’s taken me years and many therapist-dollars to figure it out. In my self-centered fear and loneliness, I just cracked. I never gave one thought to the consequences.
– From the chapter “Coffin Sex”
My t-shirt from the capsule collection by Punk Masters (by Patty Palazzo, who also designed the cover for In The Pleasure Groove). This is one of my favorite t-shirts in my collection.
In between chapters, I would think about what I was doing during each of the periods of time described in the book. I would recall where I was in my fandom in accordance to where John was in Duran Duran’s history. I realized how naive I was and imagined how it would feel to be where John was. What was I doing in 1984 when I saw Duran Duran in concert to support the Seven and the Ragged Tiger album? I was living at home, going to school, and hanging out with my friends. Could I even imagine going from the safe confines of anonymity in my little comfortable suburban haven to hundreds of girls jumping on my car beating the windows in, chasing me down the road and sitting outside my house? Even worse, once you are used to the adulation and the constant affirmation that you are someone important, what happens once it starts to fade, how do you feel then? It’s an emotional roller coaster, and John lacked the skills for coping with the feelings that came with the ebbs and flows of stardom. His coping mechanism came in the form of drugs and alcohol because he didn’t know how to do it any other way. I truly empathise with John and his journey because I felt like I was there for part of the way, no matter how remote. As I was photographing my memorabilia for this post, I tripped back and forth back into my teen years, wishing that I could have gone to meet John at his signing in Los Angeles so that I could tell him how real this book felt to me. As I write this, I’m finishing up Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, and even though I’m enjoying reading the book from Peter Hook’s point of view, it doesn’t affect me as much as In the Pleasure Groove did because I was aware of the events that happened in Duran Duran’s history. I would feel the same way if Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode wrote something similar.
My only criticism would be that I wish the end didn’t seem so hurried. I was happy with the pacing of the book in achieving why John lived his life the way he did in the celebrity of being a part of Duran Duran. But I felt like everything after he met Gela was a bit rushed to get to the conclusion of the book. I felt a bit short-changed because my sister and I went to one of the first reunion concerts back in 2003 at the Orange County Fair, prior to Astronaut being released, and I was a bit surprised that there was no mention of those concerts. We got to hear Reach Out For the Sunrise live before it was on Astronaut, and then saw two shows on that tour as well (one with my sister and one with my mom). Andy was still a part of the band during that time, and I felt I was left hanging with the explanation that he left due to “differences”. The last time I saw Duran Duran was during their Red Carpet Massacre tour, on my birthday on May 8, 2008. I hope that isn’t the last time I see them live.
Maybe the end was written the way it was because there really isn’t an end yet. John Taylor and the boys are still writing their history as we speak, still playing live, still writing songs, still being Duran Duran. Whatever stage you are in your Duran Duran fandom, In The Pleasure Groove is a must read. I highly recommend listening to their albums while reading this book because you will be instantly transported directly back in time.
Thank you endlessly to my cousin Regi for scoring me this fantastic autographed poster when she met Duran Duran during the Astronaut tour.
(All photos are of items from my personal collection)