Today, I am comfortable to admit that I was a little unnerved when John Taylor formed a band before I had left school. You see, we met when I was ten years old and he was twelve—both only children, living in the Hollywood hood, we swiftly adopted each other as brothers, so I always imagined we would do this together. Fortunately for me, his first group, Shock Treatment, didn’t last for more than a season. The Assassins followed briefly, and then Dada, despite such a gloriously pretentious name, were rapidly destined for obscurity in the post-punk Birmingham music scene. I remain personally grateful for John’s early setbacks.
In 1978, through immaculate correction, everything fell into place: we reverted to our original plan and set off on a mission to realize our childhood dreams. Fueled by the power of unbridled naïveté and ambition, we formed Duran Duran version 1.0. From this time onward, we were aboard a one-way, nonstop roller coaster, which traveled exceedingly fast.
I don’t often reflect upon the past because we are always too busy trying to invent our future, but it does seem strange, if I look over my shoulder for a moment, that somehow we went from being a couple of kids who loved music and went to endless concerts together, to creating a band that has shaped our lives in entirely unforeseen ways.
You must all be wondering what will be revealed in the pages ahead. I certainly know that John has a plentiful supply of captivating tales to tell …
I admire John’s determination and tenacity. When we played our first show, he designed and printed the posters. We couldn’t afford fancy lighting, so we projected his school geography field-trip slides over the stage. We have always tried to find a way to make things work. Practicality has served us well. Little has changed; I know today that if John and I have a vision, we can rely upon each other to make it happen.
I could tell you a lot of secrets about John: I was there to witness his first girlfriend, his first concert, and the first time he picked up a bass guitar. We figured it all out together—we made music, made mistakes, made some friends and lost a few, too, learning to deflect scandals in newspapers when they sold their stories; but we always found our way. You will see what John chooses to unravel from the exquisitely frivolous to the profound. Perhaps he’ll mention the time when he had just acquired the second of his three Aston Martins, and invited me out for a quick spin around London. Being a nondriver and easily susceptible to luxury, I willingly accepted the invitation. He picked me up and we glided smoothly into the late afternoon; but our trip soon came to an abrupt standstill, directly in front of Harrods, when the car broke down during rush hour. John looked at me and calmly announced, “It’s stalled for some reason, we’ll have to get out and push …” This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but, needless to say, there were no other options readily available. A line of cars was building up behind us, and exasperated drivers were sounding their horns, which of course focused more attention on John and me, as we sheepishly climbed out of the car, trying not to look conspicuous with our newfound fame and brightly colored hair. Soon a small crowd had gathered, and startled onlookers began to ask for autographs, as we tried to maneuver the car out of traffic. We were shaken but not stirred. Maybe John has forgotten this incident, or more likely chosen to omit it, because there are many more significant episodes for him to recollect. It particularly resonated for me at the time, however, because in that snapshot I recognized just how much our lives had changed over twenty-four months.
Although we have both been on the same trajectory with Duran Duran for more than three decades, it is the choices we have faced and decisions we made in our personal lives that set the course for our individual pathways. It would be hard to find five people in the same band who have lived such diverse lifestyles in parallel. I have seen John at the top of the mountain. We had number one records, sold-out tours, and performed to audiences who screamed so loud we couldn’t hear what we were playing. He got the cars, he got the girls, and always received sackfuls more fan mail than anyone else in the band. Each of us reacted and adapted differently to our circumstances. John burned very bright, and then spiraled out of control in a spectacular fashion. It is no secret that he has struggled with addiction. We first noticed signs early on, but never grasped that things were getting serious. We all lived in a bubble of chaos, moving from limo to plane to hotel room to venue, then back to the hotel. So when someone didn’t go to bed all night, or surface until the following evening, it was not particularly unusual. Somehow we managed to keep functioning as a band. It never occurred to me how close to the edge John had gone, until the late nineties, when he announced to us that he needed to take action to confront his problems. Simon and I were shocked. We had no idea that he was still haunted by drugs and alcohol, because although John can be an open book, he also has the capacity to be private and guarded.
In 1996, as a consequence of John’s decision to change his life, he and I had a difficult phone call, during which he told me that he was leaving the band. I was numb, and although I had been feeling his presence slowly waning, with increasingly extended trips to LA, for me, it did not seem like the right time to give in. His mind was made up. He wanted to go, which left us with no remaining Taylors—an unthinkable predicament for Duran Duran! In the aftermath, I wrote a lyric for a song called “Buried in the Sand” about our conversation, but it didn’t change the fact that things now felt completely different. John left a gaping hole in the personality and sound of the band; we lost our focus and a crucial part of our identity. Simon and I missed him terribly.
After this, John and I continued to drift further apart. We had precious little contact for a couple of years, which seemed so alien, having spent virtually every day together since our childhood. Then, a few scenes later, like most Hollywood productions, just when you think it’s all over, something dramatic happens to save the universe: the Reunion. John came striding back into town, triumphantly flanked by the other missing Taylors. I will leave him to paint the scene, but suffice to say, our time apart made us better appreciate the chemistry we have together. John can be fragile and sensitive, yet equally strong and determined. He turned around his addictions and now concentrates his energy on helping others with similar issues. John is the real deal. I have known him longer than any of my other friends. There is no one I would have rather shared this journey with. He’s also my favorite bass player.
Finally, I should confess that I have not yet read this book, only resisting the temptation thus far, because I, too, hope one day to deliver my version of the events we encountered along the way, and I don’t want to borrow what I don’t remember.
I am inordinately curious to hear John’s perspective, and to understand how he saw everything. What he thought. How he felt. What he went through. And ultimately what became important. I know for John, that writing his autobiography was a process of catharsis, involving many hours on the couch, laying bare character flaws, trawling through transcendent memories, and reliving painful experiences. I am sure his story is heartfelt and delivered with candor and panache, which is John’s style.
Enjoy the ride, but be warned, it may get a little bumpy at times.