Book Discussion–In the Pleasure Groove (Chapters 22-27)

Today’s book club discussion focuses on Chapters 22-27.  This section of John Taylor’s autobiography ends the first part, Analogue Youth.  During this part, the band’s career really gets going with recording the first album, getting their look together, filming the video for Planet Earth and doing their first headlining tour.  Like previous book clubs, I will give discussion questions for each chapter.  I then welcome each of you to answer the questions like I will.  Also, if you have other questions you would like us all to discuss, feel free to post those as well!

Chapter 22:  Taylor, Taylor, Taylor, Rhodes, LeBon:
Were you surprised by how John described their decision to split the earnings equally?  For those of you who read Andy’s book, does this fit with what he described?
A – I had heard and read that the band decided to split the earnings equally and this was shown by giving equal credit to everything that they did.  John did not indicate that this belief and action changed during the reunion.  In fact, he said that this decision to split earning equally is the “reason” they were still together today.  Having read Andy’s book, this made me think.  Andy indicated that when they got back together, he and Roger were no longer getting an equal amount and that this bothered him.  According to what Andy wrote, this is because the rest of the guys were around so much more than Roger and Andy was.  This leads me to wonder what the truth is.  Do they split the earnings equally over things that they all worked on?  For example, would the earnings for Astronaut be split equally among the five?  What about RCM?  Would that be split 4 ways equally?  Of course, this really isn’t any of my business.  I’m just curious because the two books don’t seem to be saying the same thing. 
R – This could easily be because John simply decided not to discuss the financial terms of the reunion. I don’t know that the books really aren’t saying the same thing as much as it is that John didn’t discuss it (which I have to admire because it’s none of our business) and Andy did.  Now…I think much can be said and pondered over why Andy chose to talk about it and John did not, but I’ll leave that for another time.  

John mentioned that the band, at this point, made a decision regarding the cut the Berrows would receive.  He mentioned that this became a problem later, but he thought it was cool because this allowed them to focus on what they needed to focus on.  Reactions?
A – I wondered about this during the last book club when their managers asked them to get rid of Jeff Thomas as the singer.  As someone who knows about Duran history, I know that Duran eventually breaks with this management team.  As a fan looking from the outside, it seems to me that the Berrows did a ton of good for the band.  After all, they did get a ton of commercial success when they were the managers.  Thus, I guess part of me wonders if they could have done something to make sure that this working relationship lasted.
R – I think this is an area where we really only know the tip of the iceberg. From what I’ve read over the years, I think the band split from them for a multitude of reasons – and while sure, they did achieve their greatest commercial success while the Berrows brothers were their managers, I think I’ve come to believe that had more to do with the timing, meaning I am not at all sure that if they’d gone on with them that the same success (or similar) would still be achieved.  The industry changed, videos became less important, Andy & Roger left (later John as well…), and we (their fans) grew up.  I think some credit should certainly be allotted to the Berrows brothers, but overall…the band changed just as much as their relationship with their management did, you know?

Chapter 23:  Bidding Wars:
Do you think the band would have made it without the Berrows?
A – I know.  What a question!?!  I couldn’t help but to think it as soon John talked about how they bought the band’s way as a support act for Hazel O’Connor.  What if they didn’t go on that tour?  Will the labels have seen them?  Maybe.  Maybe it would have taken a lot longer.  Here’s what I couldn’t help but to think.  How fortunate they were to find the Berrows and how lucky that the Berrows had money and were as committed as the band was.  While I absolutely believe that Duran is the best band out there and I definitely believe that the band was extremely motivated, determined, focused and talented.  That said, I’m grateful that they had the support, financially, to ensure that their musical talents and their fine qualities were able to get through. I’m sure that not every talented, focused band is as lucky.
R – I’m glad we never have to know. 😀  My feeling is that this band was incredibly lucky.  Some might say that luck has nothing to do with it – and to those people I say that they know absolutely nothing about the music industry.  Let’s put it this way: there are plenty of unemployed “expert” musicians…and still plenty more that are waiters and waitresses, that have the greatest managers and are just waiting for that big break to come their way.  That isn’t to say that the Berrows didn’t know what they were doing, and that the band wasn’t talented, I’m just saying that the magic combination of all of those things put together is what really made it all work for a time.  Thank goodness!!

Chapter 24:  Divine Diplomacy:
Thoughts about how John described the song, Planet Earth?
A – First, I have to say that I love the fact that he described this song in such detail since it is my favorite song.  That said, I don’t know if I ever thought about Planet Earth as a “celebration of youth, the possibility of youth, about feeling good to be alive”.  I admit that I do feel good to be alive when I hear the song and I could see that it connects with being alive since obviously it refers to “life”.  Even though, they wrote it when they were young and played it to young people, it seems to me that it is a song that we all can relate to, no matter our (old) age!
R – I never really thought about what Planet Earth meant to the band.  (So odd to be writing that here, but it’s true!)  I don’t know that I think of it being a celebration of youth before…but definitely one of being “alive”.  I think that’s one reason why I love hearing the song live, and that’s why for me it’s one of those songs that when it’s left off of a set list – I miss it.  

Were you surprised that John struggled after he finished recording his parts to the first album?
A – Part of me wasn’t surprised that John was struggling, but I would have figured that it would have been in the studio when Colin (where would the band have been without him!) asked him to do more, play better, etc.  John himself said that he could no longer hide out of sight.  Yet, when he explained that he didn’t know how to be on his own, that he had been a “pampered poodle” at home, I understood why he might have had a hard time then.  I think most of us can relate to these growing pains even if we can’t relate to making an album, partying all night, etc.
R – John seemed to be one of those kids that always did better when he had plenty to do.  Idle time should have been avoided.  I remember back to when I first moved to college (I lived in the dorms at Cal State Fullerton – not a year I think back on very fondly, I might add!), I struggled SO MUCH with being on my own.  I would come back to the dorm after school and not have a single thing to do.  No one to really chat with (my roommates and I were on opposing schedules much of the time), and aside from studying – I really had nothing to do, and because I was alone – I didn’t feel very motivated to study, either. Depression set in very quickly and I would go home as often as possible on the weekends. I did my best studying at home. I was the oldest in my family, first to leave the nest, and to be completely honest I think I was forced out of the nest before I was really ready. Something for me to keep in mind for *my* oldest, now that I think about it.  So yes, I could definitely relate to what John was saying here, even though my life was significantly different!  

Chapter 25:  Divine Decadence:
John mentioned that his family would be going with him on his journey.  Is this a fair statement?
A – Clearly, John became the famous person.  Yet, his parents had to deal with the press, the fans, etc.  I suspect that none of them really understood what their lives were going to be like as 1980 ended and 1981 started.
R – As a parent of someone who has been “the star” on stage before – let me just say he couldn’t have been more right if he tried. My daughter hasn’t even gotten to a point where she’s recognized beyond our local area (thank God. I have resisted getting her an agent and so forth simply because I want her to have a regular childhood and enjoy being a KID before she has to be a grownup in a very grownup industry filled with immaturity.) and yet as her mom – it’s constant.  Just taking her where ever she needs to be has been enough.  I can’t even IMAGINE what it must have been like for John’s family.  It’s probably one of those moments where you’re standing there watching people scream for your kid and thinking “You know he can’t clean his room on his own, right?  You do recognize that up until the time he was 16 I had to remind him to shower or brush his own teeth, yes?”  You know, I have to say that I have a great respect for ALL of their family members.  What a life. As much as it might have seemed fun on the outside, I’ll bet it was crazy beyond measure, too.

Chapter 26:  Manic Panic:
Did you know about the “Duranie rock on” message in that night version of Planet Earth?
A – I did and it has always made me smile.  This is part of the reason why I can never hate the term.  🙂
R – I have heard SO many different stories behind that message over the years.  I think this might have been the first time I read a confirmation that it really did come from the band.  

Chapter 27:  Perfect Pop:
Why do you think John put the story of him losing his contant lense in concert in the book?
A – At first, when I read this, I really wondered why John included this.  It seemed like not a big deal.  Yet, he did mention that he worried about this every show.  Every show.  He played a lot of shows.  I think the key here is that it caused him some anxiety.  Interestingly enough, having time on his hands seemed to be problematic for him as well.  Did that extra time cause anxiety, too?  Obviously, he filled up that extra time with drinking and doing drugs and going out at night.
R – I think this is definitely a sign of the type of anxiety he had going on, and I also believe John equated this sort of thing with a feeling of failure, and he was definitely afraid to fail.  

Final Thoughts:
A – Do you know what struck me about these chapters?  The majority of the content of these chapters is really the band’s story versus John’s.  Yes, the band was the biggest thing in John’s life, especially at that time, but I’m struck by how little he talked about how he was feeling at that time.  At times, he would mention something specific to himself or how he was feeling but I wanted to know more.  Was he on cloud nine?  Did he worry?  He often responded to events through the collective.  This is different to the earlier chapters, which were really more about John.  Is this an example of how hard it must have been to separate one’s identity from the band’s?
R – I think that in much of this, one has to truly read between the lines in order to get any kind of grasp onto what John might have been going through on a personal level, and I agree – I think it’s because during this period of his life, it is difficult to distinguish himself from “John Taylor of Duran Duran”, and it might also be due to the fact he has little memory of how he was really feeling.  I hate saying that because I feel like I’m slamming John – and that’s not my point.  He himself has said that in writing the book there were things he just didn’t remember, and if he was self-medicating during this time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t have a clear memory of how he felt, because that’s exactly what he was trying to avoid, you know?

Next week, we will discuss chapters 28-32, which basically covers the year, 1981.  Read then come and discuss!  🙂

-A & R

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