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John Taylor: Family, Fame, and Duran Duran
Women love John Taylor. I know; that's like saying kittens are cute and political ads are annoying. The Duran Duran bass player is handsome, charming, funny, and articulate, so what's not to love?
John exhibited all of those qualities at City Winery last night. He was at the West Loop venue to read passages from his new book, "In The Pleasure Groove; Love, Death & Duran Duran". Tickets sold out within ten minutes and the place was packed with women clutching their copies of the book and eagerly awaiting their favorite from the band.
Like many of those women I grew up in the 80s. Duran Duran was part of my teenage sound track. The passage of years was punctuated with "Girls On Film", "Rio" and "Reflex". I first realized how powerful the band's pull was when they parted ways in 1985 to pursue separate projects. My best friend was devastated. She called, crying and bordering on depression. I said, foolishly, "It's only a band." We never spoke again.
In his book John covers what it was like to be on the other side of that adulation, but he starts long before that, "at the beginning, when I was born." The death of his father prompted him to capture his memories of his beloved Birmingham and his formative years and share them, as well as the many stages of his career in the spotlight. His first reading described walking in his suburban neighborhood with his mom, who never did learn to drive. The words were so precise that you could picture the small boy holding his mother's hand as they crossed from one street to the next.
In between readings John was interviewed by Chicago's Mark Bazer, host of the monthly "The Interview Show" at The Hideout. As they sat comfortably in leather chairs on the proscenium stage, the conversation between the rock star and the journalist felt natural. I spoke with Mark a bit after the readings and he said that part of being an interviewer is keeping everything on track. The audience was so rapt and keen on what John had to say that he could have spoken for hours and they would have sat, willingly, absorbing every word. Since they only had an hour and a half, though, Mark had to make sure things moved forward.
As he spoke about the crazy early years of Duran Duran John seemed to lean a bit forward in his chair. He smiled often and frequently, especially when talking about 1982 and "The Year Of Rio". They spent the year recording and touring, and when they arrived in Australia "it was madness. It was like Beatlemania." Then they went to Japan, and "it was madness there, too, with a Japanese accent."
All of this travel and popularity led to alcohol and drugs. John confessed that staying in hotel room after hotel room was lonely so he would do what he could to avoid that feeling. Naturally a bit shy, he didn't feel completely comfortable when he was sober bringing one of the waiting and eager fans back to his room; with alcohol and cocaine he didn't have that problem.
He also candidly spoke about his feelings when his band mates all got married and he watched them "drop off one by one". He called it "buying space for themselves", carving out a place in their lives that wasn't centered around the band. Mark asked him if he then felt that he needed the band more than the others. John paused, tilted his head, pursed his lips, and said "now that's a good question!" He didn't quite answer, but instead told an anecdote about an interviewer who asked him if he was addicted to performing. As a recovering addict, he thought "don't make this something negative, too!"
The evening included a question and answer session with the audience, and John seemed excited to connect, postponing one of the final questions from Mark to talk directly with his fans. After answering several questions from women he said "let's take one from a man." Pause. "Are there any men here?"
John acknowledged that appealing to women was part of their plan. He explained that it wasn't some manager or label that put them in the magazines for teen girls - it was their idea. Obviously it worked.
After the reading John signed every copy of his book, which sold out at the event. The line looped from one end of City Winery and back and wound up the stairs to the second floor. Once he was done my good friend Cara Carriveau and I were escorted back to the green room for a quick photo op. I may have been there to cover the reading for The Local Tourist, but Cara had actually interviewed John on the phone right after his book was released and she was kind enough to include me in her face-to-face meeting with the legend.
Ladies, all I can say is, Sigh.
There are so many more stories, and to read them all look for "In the Pleasure Groove" wherever books are sold.
You can also listen to John's interview with Cara, where he talks about going on tour and realizing on the final cab ride home that he was still living with his parents, embracing his audience on Twitter, the loneliness of being on the road and why he loves Chicago.
Thank you, John, for sharing your stories, your warmth, and your laughter!
Featured photo courtesy of MaryMary @not_contrary