[4 November 2008]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll begin this review by admitting that I am a Duranie. Not just a child of the ‘80s, not simply a recovering groupie, not a former fan of Duran Duran (I don’t believe there is such a creature), but a full-fledged, life-long, just-short-of card-carrying Duranie. I have friends I’ve not seen for decades and that never call at Christmas, who I can nevertheless expect to hear from whenever the band releases something new. Over the past several years, I’ve come to accept Duran Duran is apparently a permanent part of my life, although I don’t think about the band much in my daily life. To be honest, I hardly even listen to the music anymore, but somehow every time there’s news about the band, I’m instantly 12 again. I devour any information with the same early ‘80s, pre-teen fervor that collected picture-disc singles and pull-out pages from issues of Smash Hits magazine.
Obviously, I jumped at the chance to review a new book about the band. Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran is a tell-all type of autobiography from guitarist Andy Taylor. It was written for those of us who grew up watching the groundbreaking videos, buying the imports and remixes and screaming at the concerts. It promises the kind of behind-the-scenes details and nostalgic minutiae only a band member could provide.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Sure, there’s plenty of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but the atmosphere is more allusion than all-access. That’s not to say some of it isn’t enjoyable. Taylor writes with a casual, chummy style that is very humorous and much like catching up on conversation with a familiar friend. He writes chronologically for the most part, occasionally pulling out of the narrative for a “Although, years later …” sort of aside, but even this doesn’t always work in his favor. The chapter in which Duran Duran is to appear at a royal command performance and meet Princess Diana—who at the time considered the band her favorite—contains this telling passage:
“There were so many significant things going on that day that even something as important as meeting my estranged mother didn’t make much of an impression on me.”
Then, instead of detailing the “so many significant things”, Taylor immediately goes on to relate how he took his pet Jack Russell terrier to lunch at the Grosvenor House Hotel and how Simon Le Bon used to complain about the poor quality of the porn in his hotel rooms in order to get the charges removed from the bill. It’s nearly two pages later before he gets back to meeting Princess Diana. This seems to be the biggest problem with Wild Boy. Readers are given the often long and tedious backstory of several events, and many repetitious paragraphs later we realize Taylor has been building up to a payoff that, frustratingly, never occurs. Taylor talks around many of the milestones in the band’s career this way.
There are, of course, some juicy—and frightening—details, like the real story behind John Taylor’s 1984 reportedly minor injury (cocaine and glass from a broken vodka bottle almost caused the bassist to loose his foot), Taylor’s wife, Tracey, suffering through a post-natal psychotic breakdown, the extent of the star power listening in at the studio for the Power Station recording sessions, the true depth of the acrimonious relationship between Taylor and keyboardist Nick Rhodes, and the events leading up to the Duran Duran 25th Anniversary Tour reunion. And there’s a lovely and heartfelt chapter in which Taylor thanks and acknowledges all of the amazing musicians and crew he has worked with over the last 30 years.
Andy Taylor ends Wild Boy with a chapter entitled, “History Repeats: Why I am no Longer in Duran Duran.” It’s a revisit to the old frictions and personal demons he displayed earlier in the book, and his career, and he basically states that being in Duran Duran wasn’t fun anymore so he decided leave for a second time and focus more on his family, leaving his hard-partying rock star lifestyle behind for good. That is, except for the memories chronicled in this book.
Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran does touch on many of things fans and readers want from a rock star’s autobiography—the fun and famous people, the drugs and bad boy behavior, and of course, the requisite retirement to family life in Ibiza—but it’s still missing something, even in the eyes of this fan. Behind the scenes, beneath the make-up and Anthony Price suits, the book lacks a sense of depth. Perhaps this is not Taylor’s fault, perhaps it’s a natural consequence of being in a band that epitomizes the age of video, where the suits and the locales and the haircuts were as important as the music.