I spent the evening of October 26th at Austin, Texas’ Scottish Rite Theatre, a historic site that manages to be grand yet intimate. Nearly every seat in the house was packed. To my right, a group of 10 women in their thirties squealed like animals while passing around a picture of Duran Duran bassist John Taylor, who would be taking the stage within the next few minutes. Yes, it was a speaking engagement and book signing to celebrate the release of Taylor’s memoir In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death & Duran Duran. As its title suggests, this book is as much about life as it is about John Taylor’s days with the band. And for me, the evening of October 26th was as much about reflecting on creativity and the passage of time as it was about seeing one of my childhood idols in person.
As a woman in my ’30s, you can bet that I’ve revisited the bands of my youth on more than one occasion. You know that feeling you get when someone you loved as a kid begins to perform, and it’s clear that life for that individual is about reliving the same one or two accomplishments every year with the same group of fans? This was not one of those nights.
Let’s start with the obvious–John Taylor can entertain a room. Funny, honest, and clearly in a place where he has engaged in some serious self-reflection, this is an artist who knows how to share details without over-sharing, how to make a joke without being obvious, and how to write a book that is dynamic rather than sensational. And another thing–this guy has aged well. Maybe it’s those British genes or that tall frame. Or an innate sense of style and a good head of hair. If this is what 52 looks like, I no longer have any reservations about aging.
Over the course of the evening, Taylor discussed many topics that would make the most die-hard of fans swoon, including the importance of music in his childhood home, the way his band mates became his brothers, and what happened to those Anthony Price suits he used to wear (their unfortunate placement next to a stack of to-be-donated clothing resulted in their untimely departure from his home)!
So what about the book? Um…read it! There are passages that detail early ’80s pop culture, from the fashion of Vivienne Westwood to the return of glamour. There are passages that celebrate key points in Duran Duran history, such as Taylor’s first meeting with lead singer Simon Le Bon (“The poetry had arrived,” Taylor writes). Then there are the undeniably fun tidbits–like the list of tracks that keyboardist Nick Rhodes would play when he DJ’d in the very early ’80s, from “The Model” by Kraftwerk to Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” There’s even a chapter that chronicles how Taylor met his wife Gela, Co-Creative Director of Juicy Couture. In fact, it’s this wonderful juxtaposition of cultural history and personal detail that makes In The Pleasure Groove so compelling.
Which brings me back to the book signing. Don’t get me wrong: I was super-excited to be there. But I didn’t realize just what I’d signed on for. Sure, I knew I was in the mood to be nostalgic. Yes, I figured there would be something cool about sitting there listening to the musings of someone who had inspired me creatively as a kid. I couldn’t wait to take part in this evening of music history. But in a way, I think I’d assumed the event would make me feel like a washed up fan who had entered the world of adulthood without accomplishing all of her creative aspirations. One of those “time is ticking away” wake-up calls.
Instead, I witnessed the artistic journey of a man who found fame at a young age but continued to evolve as a person. An artist who struggled with addiction but came out of the fog to experience life’s riches, from family to musical fulfillment to a new-found career as a writer and public speaker. An individual who made a decision to live, learn and stay relevant. How completely encouraging and refreshing.