In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran By John Taylor, Sphere, £18.99
February 1978: Nigel Taylor, who is 17, and his best friend, Nick Bates, who is 15, are in Barbarella’s nightclub in Birmingham to see Blondie. Taylor, an only child, has been dreaming of rock stardom ever since he and Bates bonded over Bowie, Mick Ronson and Roxy Music. He’d already been in a couple of local bands, but the band he would form with Bates would be different from the “three-chord angry noise” that prevailed at the time. “We aspired to something else, something fresh. Multimedia, fashion, dance, art. We wanted it all in the mix.”
They named their new band Duran Duran after Milo O’Shea’s character in Barbarella, and changed their own names to John Taylor and Nick Rhodes. Roger Taylor came on board on drums, followed by Andy Taylor on guitar. With the arrival of Simon Le Bon, their posh London singer, everything came together like a well-cut designer outfit.
With their hits Planet Earth and Girls on Film, Duran Duran created the perfect pop cocktail for the times, and were quick to attract the nascent MTV generation, who were also aspiring to something fresh.
Duran were the antithesis of the leftie rock bands of the time, shamelessly celebrating a platinum-card lifestyle. Hits such as Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf epitomised the new “loadsamoney” attitude, and Taylor – a bass-playing pop star at 21 – eagerly bought into it.
He hung out with film stars, pop legends and British royalty, made exotic videos for MTV in Sri Lanka and Antigua, was greeted by screaming fans around the world, and had his pick of catwalk models and his choice of designer drugs. He dated the rock chick Bebe Buell (mother of Liv Tyler, the actor), and was married to the wild child Amanda de Cadenet. Champagne, cocaine and amphetamines were on tap; rehab was on the cards.
By the time the band played Live Aid in 1985, however, the wheels were starting to come off the Duran wagon, and the world was already moving on. Although it had all come so easily for them in their early career, Duran had to work hard over the next 25 years to stay in the game. Their doggedness has paid off: in recent years the band have enjoyed a creative and commercial resurgence, and Taylor has found stability in his personal life. And whatever you think about their music, one thing is apparent from reading this book: it sure sounded like lots of fun being in Duran Duran.
Sailing – Philosophy for Everyone: Catching the Drift of Why We Sail
Edited by Patrick Goold
You seldom get what you expect when you put to sea in a small boat. But not everything unexpected is unpleasant. Finding yourself under the bowl of the stars, the sails stretched out before you, foaming wake sizzling past as you and your craft glide downwind, your thoughts can turn positively ethereal.
Those same thoughts are likely to capsize when, only 24 hours later, you sit saturated and gloom-smothered, and going nowhere, against a headwind and a foul tide.
In an attempt to capture the range of such philosophical pondering, Patrick Goold has put together a collection of essays by various authors, entitled Sailing: Philosophy for Everyone. It endeavours to explore the deeper reasons and reasoning behind why we sail and what thoughts the sea can evoke within us when we do.
It is separated into four sections, each of which deals with a different form of philosophy generated by those who have spent time among the waves, everything from Zen to metaphysics. And while there are morsels here to enjoy and savour, there is a problem: with such a variety of themes, context and styles, not all of it can appeal to everyone.
With philosophy being so much a part of so much writing by sailors, from Joshua Slocum to Ellen MacArthur, and indeed our own Bill King, who died last September, aged 102, one wonders about the value of producing a book of essays that puts the philosophy before the sailing.
By the time I reached Hilaire Belloc’s little gem of an essay The Channel, at the end of the collection, I had been ambushed and battered so often by the big stick of mundanity that I was sore and bruised.