01 June 2019

why I want to give John Taylor a big hug

I am not sure where to put this. I’ve got Music in Notes but that’s a lyrics analysis site, TGTF is dormant, and this doesn’t feel like the right place, either. But it’s what I have for tonight and this was good enough for my last missive in December. If it was good enough then, why not now?

Yesterday afternoon, I received Duran Duran bassist John Taylor’s 2012 autobiography in the post. After I clocked off from work, I sat down to devour it. More like sprinted through my first read of it and stayed up late to get through it. I am sure I missed stuff and will be rereading this more than a few times. John was my favorite member of Duran Duran when I became a Duranie at age 19. My turning into one occurred, quite oddly, many, many years after their New Romantic days and as a result of hearing a snatch of song from a VH1 documentary.

Before their reunion of the Fab Five in the early Noughties, it wasn’t easy nor fashionable for a teen to be a Duranie. We were tolerated by those who had “been there” in the ‘80s when the band were blowing up the charts, but just barely. I guess some of the old-timers just didn’t like us underfoot. I was lucky to have found some friends, some of whom are still friends of mine (no pun intended) today. I won’t go into that further here. I’ve got the bones for most of that chapter for my memoirs, and you’ll just have to wait for it.

I had avoided getting the audiobook to JT’s autobiography because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to get through it, that I would find it too weird to have him talking “to me.” He was someone who I had at first idolized superficially. If you’re a straight woman and you don’t have some kind of reaction to photos of him (that smile!), I think something is wrong with you, ha. By the time I became a Duranie, he’d already left the band to toil away in other projects, family life, and sobriety. While time went seemed to move all too quickly during my obsession with Duran Duran, as I finished up my first degree and was heading for my second, I felt lucky enough to have been along for the ride while John experimented with his solo career and expressed himself in a way that he couldn’t as part of Duran Duran.

Over the years I used to think, or perhaps I had trained my brain to think, that the reason I was completely intrigued by what John Taylor was doing outside of Duran was simply because of his prior connection to the band and how I felt about him in it. But what has become increasingly in focus in the last few years is a part-subliminal message that seemed either specifically meant for me or meant for many others, with the purpose of healing. There are lots of heated discussions among Duranies, but there is one thing that we can all agree on. We are forever grateful that our “bass god” got help for his internal demons and is alive today. And if there is ever one takeaway you get from me, it’s that it’s my firm belief that we’re here, in this life, for as long as we’re meant to be.

Trust the Process. That was the name of John’s web site after leaving Duran and the title of a song off his debut solo record ‘Feelings Are Good and Other Lies.’ I can’t find it now because the site has been wiped since Duran Duran reunited, but I recall an interview or some kind of press release where he explained why he named the site Trust the Process. (I hope I’m remembering this correctly; if I am not, it sure feels like this is how it was meant to be conveyed.) It was a personal mantra meant to keep him on the road of sobriety, a reminder that even when he felt he couldn’t cope without drugs or alcohol, if he could will himself to stay on course, he could get through it. All would be okay.

Trust the process” has been the code phrase that I use with my close Duranie friends when life is giving one of us a right bollocking and all seems lost. We’ve all been there. Three simple words that have floated through texts, emails, and phone calls of support. Sometimes I’ve had to repeat it to myself, silently, out loud, or even sometimes scream it.

one of his solo pop songs only known within the JT fandom, sadly

As I started reading the first few chapters of In the Pleasure Groove, I was blown away by how many times I laughed loudly, muttered “bugger” under my breath, or felt I was going to cry to a story John related from his childhood. I know you’re asking, what on earth would a boy who grew up in a suburb of Birmingham in the ‘60s have in common with a girl reared in a suburb of Washington, DC, 20 years later? We got glasses at the same age and were shamed at school for them. (JT is famously known to have truly bad eyesight – over 10 diopters – as do I. Lucky for him, he was able to get LASIK.) We both suffered from terrible social anxiety as children and never felt like we fit in. Both our fathers were notoriously, painfully reticent, mostly standing still emotionally, like statues from a bygone era. Like John, I essentially grew up like an only child, as a friend reminded me recently on a trip to Scotland. Our parents put up with musical obsessions and coped with our ridiculous schemes.

We both knew on an intellectual level that we were loved by our parents but...something was amiss in both of our childhoods. In the book, John doesn’t come to the conclusion that I did with my own upbringing: when either or both parents don’t come to terms with the emotional trauma from their own lives, they unknowingly pass it on to their children. It wasn’t until 4 years ago that I found the psychological term for what had happened to me. Through therapy, I’m still trying to assess and work on undoing the damage.

I had surmised long ago that all the alcohol and drugs he consumed and constantly so were to make up for a major void in his life, but I hadn’t guessed correctly what exactly that was. It sounds counterintuitive but as he explains in his book, drinking and binging himself into oblivion temporarily erased any lack of confidence or doubts he had about not being good enough to occupy this this larger than life idolized persona whose handsome face was splashed across all the teenybopper magazines and hung on teenage girls’ walls. It pained me then, at the start of my love of Duran Duran, to know he’d been through addiction and suffered so much, but I had trouble understanding why he did it. I never occurred to me that the vicious cycle of shame and lack of self-esteem went hand in hand with the substance abuse.

After experiencing this book, I have never felt closer to John as I do tonight. Perhaps he was meant to be this influence on me all along, his handsomeness and his bass playing the “hooks” to get me interested in him long enough to stick around and pay attention. It just didn’t crystallize into what was meant to be until I had read his autobiography and considered the connection.

I wish I could reach out and give him a big hug. I want to tell him that I was sorry for what happened to him and that I understood because I had gone through my own harrowing emotional experience, even though in my life, it played out entirely differently. I want to thank him for being so honest about how he finally found salvation and how he deals with things day by day. He has transcended what it means to be a rock star. We Duranies all knew he was more than the media ever gave Duran Duran credit for when they wrote the band off in the ‘80s. By telling his story, John has offered the hope that recovery is possible. We all cope in our own ways when we’re damaged. As that quote goes, we’re all works in progress. Just that some of us do a better job at “fake it ‘til you make it.

NB: I know that some Duranies are upset that John didn’t thank Duran Duran’s original guitarist Andy Taylor (no relation) at the end of his book. They interpret this as a major intentional slight. The way I see it, it’s quite possible that as part of John’s continuing sobriety, he couldn’t bring himself to thank the bandmate with whom he had gotten so wasted so many times in Duran Duran’s early days. He doesn’t say it – John is ever diplomatic in the book – but seriously, once you understood your problems, figured out a reasonable solution, and were on the road to a better life, would you thank your former enablers? I know I wouldn’t. Perhaps one day the two of them will sit down over coffee, talk it over, and mend fences before it’s too late. But I’m not holding my breath.