Duran Duran's John Taylor: A Wild Boy's Road to Redemption
"I was spiritually dead, so I’ve been brought back." - Duran Duran bassist John Taylor
BY: Corine Gatti
John Taylor, founding member and bassist of the 80s mega British group Duran Duran, came to the end road, it was time to slay his demons.
Fame, drug use, and women aplenty, only catapulted this once shy kid from Birmingham, England towards destruction. Flashing career credentials wouldn’t be an answer, as the band swept Generation X females off their feet with their boyish good looks and fashion. “Planet Earth”, “Rio”, “Hungry Like the Wolf”, “The Reflex”, rocked the charts in both Europe, Japan and on American soil. Selling millions of albums followed while money poured like champagne, but this, too, brought little comfort.
Being a wild boy took its toll.
The only child born of Jack and Jean, Nigel John Taylor, needed to switch gears from self-destruction. It meant staying sober, maturing, and eventually revealing who he really was. In his new memoir, In the Pleasure Groove: Love Death & Duran Duran, Taylor digs into the rawness of his fame, cocaine abuse and finally making peace with his God.
Taylor, 52, is articulate, warm and conversational, not reticent.
“I am definitely of the generation of over sharing. I guess at some point I’ve sort of become comfortable with sharing so much of myself. Having said that, you don’t know what’s not in the book,” Taylor laughs. “In one hand, one has to come to an understanding with oneself. “OK, where am I going go? How far am I willing to go?” I wanted there to be a lot of light in the book. And I feel for the light to be appreciated that there had to be a lot darks.”
“I was born again by sobriety. And I wanted that in there too, [book]. It’s a slow walk up a hill. But it’s better than the alternative. I was going downhill fast.”
After moving to Los Angeles in the early 90s with his first wife actress Amanda de Cadenet and a newborn baby, therapy was his saving grace as Taylor was clinging to solid ground. He asked his therapist to find a therapist in London as he was still with the band. The first therapist he saw spent 10 minutes with him and referred him to another professional in North London. About 15 minutes later, the therapist said "You need to get sober, because if you get sober, you could really be somebody. If you get sober, I can treat you."
Those were magic words.
“I signed up for the cuckoo's nest. And there’s been no looking back for me. There’s not been a day where I’ve been sober where I’ve regretted it.”
Along with a rebirth and rejuvenation of life, making peace with God also came into play. The God that Taylor discovered through sobriety was rooting for him. Taylor was raised Catholic and attended mass every day until he went to Catholic school. But he never felt a deep spiritual connection.
“I never was quite able to wrap my head around to be Catholic, the dogma. In sobriety, I was invited to create a God of my own understanding. I don’t know if I used this analogy in the book… You know that place Build-A-Bear where you can take kids to? And they can kind of build their own bear. Having been raised with a very specific idea, somebody else’s very particular idea what God should be like," he said before his book was launched in the US.
"One of the innovations of the 12-Step Program is that they teach that there’s a greater power. The higher power is the God of our understanding. I quite like the idea that why shouldn’t my God be this? Why shouldn’t my God be that? Once I kind of got this idea about what my God was. Then it was something I could pump air into and float it. Once it’s afloat, I can have faith in it and pray to it. And my whole concept of prayer and spiritually is very vague. I’m like coming back, coming back from the dead as it were. I was spiritually dead, so I’ve been brought back. It wasn’t the first thing I wanted to do, to get on my knees and start praying again. That part has come back to me quite slowly, but now it’s there. I turn my life over to a power greater than myself every day, sometimes more than once a day.”
Publishing a memoir made sense to the father of three and husband of Juicy Couture co-founder Gela Nash-Taylor. Taylor is the most stable he’s ever been, feeling he can reveal a past without hesitation as time allowed objectivity. It also became apparent that penning the autobiography was about honoring his father, who was a POW during the Second World War, an “occupant of the Stalag-344”, a German army prisoner of war camp.
“I lost my dad coming up on three years and when he went, we sold the house that I’d grown up in. I drove away from the old neighborhood never to return. Right away, I remember thinking that I had to memorialize him and them.”
With age comes maturing and the group are even more knitted together, says Taylor who hopes to hit the recording studio with his mates next spring after the band’s hiatus.
It has been a needed respite after the three year “All You Need is Now Tour.”
“I think we are supportive of each other. We rely on each other. I think as we gotten older we’ve come to appreciate each other, much, much, more. Because we realize what we have, how special it is. You can’t make another band member do something he doesn’t want to do. Even if it’s like the three of us feel emphatically that we need to do something and one person is holding out. We don’t make that other person do it because it’s going to bite you in the ***. It’s a constant dialog. It’s a constant negotiation and it’s a constant growing process. As we get older we tend to calcify, we tend to get stuck in our ways when you need to be more malleable.”
For his fans that have been following him for some time, Taylor says the book shouldn’t come as a complete surprise as he desires to have an authentic voice out there, beyond the scope of Duran.
“I think maybe because I’m not the lyricist and I don’t get to express myself in song. My energy is there of course in the structure and the arrangements of the music… Essentially the lyrical presentations of our songs are not representative of my head. I think that after a few years I’ve gotten a little frustrated with that and I wanted to put more of myself out there.”
Are our wild boy celebrities vulnerable? They’re like the rest of us, searching for authenticity, healing and finding a true voice.
John is no different.