Guitarist of a quintessential ’80s British New Wave rock group reflects on the “roller coaster ride” of pop stardom.
In prose brimming with drinking-buddy informality, Taylor begins by summarizing his middle-class upbringing in early-’70s Birmingham and his parents’ doomed marriage. After stints in cover bands, he answered a guitarist-wanted ad in Melody Maker and, still in his teens, became a member of Duran Duran, the “it” band at Birmingham’s notorious Rum Runner club. Swept up in the “New Romantic” movement, the quintet generated immediate industry buzz and quickly acquired fashion-model girlfriends, recreational drug habits and a fat record contract from EMI. Yet Taylor doesn’t fixate too much on the expected sex-and-drugs-related action. Rather, he emphasizes the money they made and the shameless conspicuous consumption they indulged in, including juvenile hijinks at expensive hotels (Taylor ran up a $450,000 bill at one establishment) and outrageous expenditures on food, houses, video shoots, cars and parties. The memoir solidifies Duran Duran’s status as pop music’s poster children for the materialistic Reagan-Thatcher ’80s. Their exotic videos, Anthony Price suits and hooky, synthesizer-heavy songs made them fixtures on the Billboard charts and darlings of the early MTV age. Taylor depicts his band mates as distant and uncommunicative, with financial success eventually leading them all into typically self-destructive behavioral scripts. More engaging are his anecdotes about musicians outside the Duran Duran circle, e.g., Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Robert Palmer and Rod Stewart. Some seriously dramatic interludes eventually creep into his recollections. The band agitated thousands of Buddhist monks on a video shoot in Sri Lanka; they were secondary targets of an IRA bomb threat; and Taylor’s wife twice endured frightening postnatal psychotic breaks.
Barring the intermittently self-important tone and preachy anti-drug caveats, this is an evocative, albeit uneven portrait of the limitless privileges and life-draining pressures of day-to-day life in the rock ’n’ roll touring bubble.