You kids who have happened upon this blog for reasons I can’t explain: you like that One Direction group, right? You have the dolls and the pillowcases and the skins for your iPhones and whatnot, because there is no better group to have walked the face of the planet, and you want to show your team stripes. Well, back in the 80s, what you call ancient history, the girls were not without their musical idols. They were called Duran Duran, and their fans were loyal to the point of frothing, skin-clawing madness. I would know, I lived in the midst of it. Girls scrawled “Mrs. Simon Le Bon” on their school folders, and held Duranie-themed birthday parties (you haven’t lived until you’ve played Pin the Tail on the Ragged Tiger), and if you didn’t have tickets to their concert at the Jacksonville Coliseum you were basically a loser with absolutely no reason to live.
All through this period of Duran-mania, while classmates drooled over pouting portraits of the three Taylors on the covers of Tiger Beat and 16, I asked my parents for a copy of The Police’s Synchronicity.
I admit it, I wasn’t into Duran Duran. At. All. I didn’t buy any of their albums until long after I married, and even then it was a greatest hits CD, bought used. This doesn’t mean I hated the group – I liked their music, but I didn’t pray the rosary by it. It might explain why I had few friends in middle school. Yet, when I saw John Taylor had published a memoir I decided to give it a look for a number of reasons. I do find I listen more to 80s music these days, not for nostalgia but because many songs remain fresh after time – yes, the Durans included. The “Fab Five” reached the pinnacle of their fame in a time where musicians challenged fans to be more politically conscious and accommodating toward those less fortunate. This was the time of Live Aid and Little Steven’s Sun City protest song. I picked up In the Pleasure Groove and wondered how Taylor and Duran Duran figured into all of that.
So, what do you learn about Duran Duran and Taylor here? Well, Pleasure Groove is pretty much a cut and dry history of the band, prefaced by chapters of Taylor’s middle-class childhood which was defined by his mother’s Catholic piety and a love for music. Taylor makes the group’s rise through the ranks to superstardom seem almost easy – he helped form a band, they worked clubs, they cut a record and made videos, and the girls fell like dominoes. Yes, there are mentions of drugs and sex, and you’d expect to hear some lurid tales. Here, it just sounds…boring. Many of us today may be embarrassed by the 80s, but we definitely weren’t bored then.
As I feared when I picked up this book, Pleasure Groove is for the fans. If you lived by Duran Duran then and now, you’ll appreciate Taylor’s effort to bring you into his personal space. If you’re looking for a typical rock and roll memoir, this might leaving you wanting.
Kathryn Lively is a mystery author and book blogger.