Book Discussion-In the Pleasure Groove (Introduction-Chapter 6)

Welcome to the first post of the Daily Duranie Book Club!  Like any good book club, I hope you are enjoying a good cup of coffee or latte, a fine glass of wine or whatever your beverage of choice.  Likewise, this book club should find you with a sweet treat or fine food.  The mood is one of relaxation with calm, thoughtful responses.  As this is a book club, of sorts, the format will be a little different than what we did with Andy’s book.  This will be much less summary (even though I really want to summarize!!) and more of a discussion (I hope!).  Thus, I will be presenting discussion questions.  I will respond to the questions and it is possible that Rhonda will, too.  Then, I hope that all of you will respond via comments.  Likewise, if you would like to add a discussion question(s) of your own, you are more than welcome to!  Goodness knows that there are a ton more questions that can be discussed!

Title, Introduction and Brighton 29 July 1981:
What was your reaction to the very first picture of John Taylor being mobbed by fans?  Was this the right picture to include right away? Do you think it is the most defining moment of his life?  Most important?  
I wasn’t surprised that a photo of John being surrounded by fans was included.  After all, it is an image that pops up into most people’s minds when they think of John Taylor.  That said, when I saw it, I hoped that the book dived deeper or beyond fame and fans as there is much more to John’s life.

Does John describe what a Duran Duran show is like?  Was that description only valid at the height of their popularity?  
I found his description to be fairly accurate, even now.  While we all might not be saying “take me”, I think there is “an overwhelming force” of energy, at least from the hardcore fans when the show goes well and the band does their part.

What is your reaction to the line, “They have come to hear themselves.  To be heard.”?
This line really stood out for me as someone who studies fandom.  In many ways, I absolutely agree with this line.  Fandom really is about the FANS and not about the idol(s).  When fans get together, they are the ones who make the noise and can make more noise than, in this case, the band–both literally and figuratively.  I also think that fans come together to be heard in the sense that they want to share the love of their idol(s) with each other.  They/we want to be a part of something and that is a story, in itself.

Part 1:  Analogue Youth
Chapter 1:  Hey Jude:
What did you make of the title?
When I first read the chapter, I kept expecting John to make a reference to the Beatles.  He didn’t.  Yes, obviously, it is the name of his church but he didn’t just say the title of his church.  He used the Beatles song.
Then, he explains how Jude is the patron saint of hopeless cases.  I thought that was interesting and I wondered if he thought this fit with his life.

What influence do you think his physical environment had on him?
I took note that he lived in a basic house that shared a wall with another, what in America we would call a duplex.  Then, he attended church in a very basic building.  I wonder if this didn’t affect him by wanting some spice, something different, in terms of aesthetics, fashion, art, etc.  Did he feel it necessary to creative because creativity seemed to be lacking in his physical environment?  I think it is possible.

Chapter 2:  Jack, Jean and Nigel:
What affect did John’s dad’s experience as a Prisoner-of-War during World War II and his method of dealing with it affect John?
Obviously, there are some experiences that are so meaningful and profound that they remain forever with someone and most war experiences fit that description.  Being a POW is probably even more intense and even more profound.  History often does live on in people’s lives.  That said, as was the time, John’s dad didn’t talk about it, which definitely could have taught John that one does not/should not talk about upsetting situations.  I wonder if we will see John withhold how he is feeling as his story progresses.

Did John’s childhood home seem familiar to you or very different?
I could totally relate to his parents’ story of courtship, marriage and home.  My parents met and married a decade later than John’s in a different country.  Yet, my childhood home was a small one in a suburb and my parents, too, had the working class life.

Chapter 3:  Sounds for the Suburbs:
How did John’s mother’s focus on church and the radio affect John?
I took note that John’s mother did not make friends easily and that she sought her socializing at church.  She also sought entertainment or company with the radio, including the Beatles.  I think you can see how John could have learned that music done as a group could provide an escape from loneliness because it seemed to with his mother.

Chapter 4:  The Catholic Cavent:
What was your reaction to John’s story about when he first got glasses?
When I hear stories such as his, I always wonder if any child who had an experience like his comes out without that bothering him/her.  It reminded me about how important those early school experiences are and how much damage can be done even with the best of intentions.

What was your reaction to John description of the Catholic Church? 
Obviously, religion is an intensely personal subject and one that is difficult to talk about in a way that remains respectful but it makes up much of this chapter and John’s early life.  Clearly, John questioned what he was being taught and found the message of his church at that time to be scary.  When I read this chapter, I immediately thought about my father who also attended the Catholic Church frequently as a child and who attended a Catholic elementary school.  Like John, he also questioned the teachings.

Chapter 5:  A Hollywood Education:
What did John really learn from his dad?
It seems to me that John learned that a number of things from his dad.  In this chapter, we find out that John’s dad taught him not only about the world but also that there is a lot more to living than just the little bubble of Hollywood, church and school.  Obviously, the idea of travel is a seed that is planted here.  I loved how John’s dad used to quiz him on geography.  My dad used to quiz me and my siblings at the dinner table about a variety of topics, but mostly state and local geography and other social sciences.

Chapter 6:  In Between and Out of Sight:
John mentions how he wanted to avoid being first and avoid being last, how he wanted to hide in the middle.  Do you see that play out in his life and role in Duran?
I think many people saw John at the forefront in Duran since he got so much attention from fans, from the media, etc.  Yet, I don’t think that was his goal.  I never heard him say that he wanted to be the frontman.  That would have put him first.  He didn’t become the drummer either so he couldn’t hide behind the drum kit. It seems to me that he did attempt to put himself in the middle in the band, even if that isn’t how it worked out.

Were you surprised by John’s military model making, especially in light of John’s dad’s experience in war?
I have to admit that I was.  Yet, after hearing John describe this as a method to seek his father’s approval, I think I understand it more.  He knew his dad was in the war and saw him as a hero.  Thus, wouldn’t he approve of John idolizing other military men?  A kid would probably think so.  I think the interesting thing here is that it shows John’s intensity over whatever he did/does.

Any other final thoughts?
It seems to me that these first chapters provided pieces to the puzzle that is John Taylor.  Obviously, he experienced love and safety within his home and family life.  He learned that one can experience joy from traveling and knowing the world.  Yet, he also learned that one shouldn’t talk about trauma and that an escape to loneliness is through joining a group and through music.  Embarrassment and judgement seemed to be emotions that he truly wished to avoid so he began to seek out being lost in the middle.  Intensity also seems to be rewarded.  He saw his dad focus on cars and John, in turn, focused on military models.  The next section seems to talk about how this intensity switched to music as he entered adolescence.  Next week, we will read Chapters 7-11.

-A   

10 thoughts on “Book Discussion-In the Pleasure Groove (Introduction-Chapter 6)”

  1. Title/Intro/Brighton: I have to admit that I grin a bit when I think of this as the opener to the book. I do believe it was a defining moment for John in many ways. It was probably at the point where one life was left completely behind for the beginning of another, and for at least his story within Duran Duran – it seemed appropriate.

    As for John's description of a show – it is probably fairly accurate, at least for the diehard fans amongst us. I don't know that the frenzied atmosphere carries throughout a venue as much as it probably did for that Brighton show (or the ones that followed in the 80's), but for those of us at or near the front? The 80's live on!

    I LOVED that line about the fans coming to be heard. Isn't that the truth? It is just another example of how much John really GETS what it means to be a fan, and I was genuinely surprised that he understands it quite that much. (Of course as the book goes on I continue to be surprised in the oddest moments!) We really do make the noise. 😀

    Hey Jude:

    I have to admit that because of my Catholic teaching and upbringing from my grandmother, I kind of expected what the chapter would be about, and I find myself continuing to think about St. Jude, the patron Saint of hopeless cases.

    I thought it was funny that John eventually asked his parents why they didn't spend the extra 600 quid to get a house with the stream in the back… I'm sure something similar came out of my mouth as a kid, although in my case it had more to do with having a backyard swimming pool like so many of my friends. In Southern California, growing up with a pool (and I'm talking just a plain old rectangular or kidney shaped pool) in the backyard meant you were just a bit more up the ladder than those of us who “suffered” with green grass. I think that John is so much more into the aesthetic than I ever was, he probably took far more notice than I ever would have done at his age. I think that John showed natural aptitude in this area, and that's evident by the amount of time he spends pouring over his Airfix models, making them exact. Even his dad has that same urge keeping his automobiles up and in perfect running order.

    John Jean & Nigel:

    I am sure that his father's lack of communication rubbed off on John. Men simply just did not discuss things back then, and I have no doubt that seeing his father bottle everything up inside did it's work on John. Kids grow up not questioning things like that – and culturally I think that was just “the way”.

    John's home could have been my own, as I explained in one of my blogs from last week. The house I grew up in was 3 bedrooms, two tiny bathrooms, just shy of 1200 square feet, although it was a single-family home and not a duplex. I don't know much about my parents courtship, only that we didn't have a lot when I was growing up, and yet in hindsight – it seemed like just enough – although I can remember being afraid to ask my parents for anything out of the ordinary so that I didn't have to hear my dad respond “I don't have the money!” in his very deep, very booming voice.

    TBC

    -R

  2. Sounds for the Suburbs:

    John's mom sounds a lot like most stay-at-home moms I know, we get our entertainment from the TV, the radio, music…the internet… It makes sense that my kids are so wired in, as I certainly am. I'm sure it was the same for John. When you grow up around music, it does rub off on you.

    The Catholic Caveat:

    Sometimes teachers have the best of intentions and it just comes out wrong. That seems to have been the case with John. I would have been mortified if asked to stand up and show off ANYTHING – I was a pretty shy kid.

    Funny. My thoughts on John's Catholic upbringing are completely different from yours, Amanda. I think he has fond memories in many ways – because it was such an important part of what he knew and was as a child. Those memories are comforting. I think that while sure, as he grew up he began to question all the meanings (which is natural and normal, and yet I totally agree with John when he says that we're taught not to question because to do so -ESPECIALLY before Vatican II took place -means you're saying you don't have faith. This isn't really as MUCH of the case these days. As someone who has taught Religious Ed, we genuinely want the kids to question things, but there are some things we end up telling the kids they simply have to accept on faith alone. That's a tough concept for a 40-year old, much less a seven-year old.) the rituality of the church was still a comfort. It's the dichotomy of the Catholic Church for many of us raised that way.

    A Hollywood Education:

    I think John learned that there is life beyond Hollywood purely from his dad. I loved the story of his father putting pictures up from a calendar around his room, expanding his horizons. That's beautiful.

    In Between and Out of Sight:

    I have to say that I understand John's feelings about just wanting to be in the middle and not stand out. I felt that way many times growing up – it's interesting though that he didn't seek out his parental approval through doing well in school the way that kids do in the US. Perhaps there wasn't the emphasis placed on education for him that there was for me or other kids I knew. I know there was no emphasis placed on it all for my dad, and as a result he just didn't bother. (Funny how he made up for that with me and my sister. We would have never made it had we brought home grades less than B's.) I think though that kids DO seek out approval in whatever ways they think will impress their families most, and for John it was these models. His dad showed an interest, and that was all John needed for encouragement. It seemed to be the one area that he could get some much wanted attention from his father so I'm not surprised that he held onto that for dear life.

    -R

  3. I think John's Catholic upbringing was comforting to him but he didn't mention much in this chapter to conclude that. Instead, he summarized it this way, “It can be a scary and confusing world to grow up in.” (Page 21)

    -A

  4. Perhaps, but I also think that if you read between the lines of everything else he wrote in that chapter, it's VERY easy to see it's a comfort to him. I sort of think you're looking for the negative here.

    -R

  5. I might be. Can you point out what you are referencing? I also wonder if you aren't looking at elements of his Catholic faith that I'm not looking at. For example, I am referencing this idea that if you question, you don't have faith and if you don't have faith, then you will suffer the consequences. I am speaking of the teaching whereas you might be referring to ceremony, or togetherness or other elements.

    -A

  6. I did not get the sense that he connected to the spiritual message of his catholic upbringing… but there was def a sense of comfort to being Catholic. Personally, I couldn't relate to it, as my parents never went to Church and I was not an only child. Interesting how a child at the centre of his parents universe did not desire to be the front man!

    Interesting crossover to my other fandom… Tolkien!

    Love the discussion. Good to think a little longer as I devoured the book in 2 days.

  7. I finished the book in a matter of hours when I downloaded it – as though I were scarfing down fast food from McDonalds! This time around, I'm listening to it in the car as I sit in traffic to pick my oldest up from school in the afternoons, so it's kind of like I'm savoring a fine meal from a fancy restaurant. Funny how both can serve the need, but in completely different ways.

    I think you describe it exactly as both Amanda and I see it (we chatted via email about this subject). It's not that he necessarily connected to the spiritual message, it's that he enjoyed the comfort of belonging to a group.

    Fascinating. An ongoing theme in his life, I believe.

    -R

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