We continue with our discussion of Andy Taylor’s book this week, focusing on chapters 4, 5 & 6. Like last week, Amanda’s comments are in blue.
R: The chapter opens with a description of how/when Andy met Tracey. I’ve always been curious about the relationships between the band and their significant others. Each of the members are so different, and naturally the relationships they have with the people surrounding them have extremely different dynamics as well. For Andy, Tracey seems to be the person who grounds him, who keeps him whole…and in several places, Andy refers to her as an angel. He clearly has great respect and pride for her, and it’s clear that their relationship has gone the distance at least in part due to his reverence.
Andy comments that “By the time I was twenty, I’d played hundreds, if not thousands, of gigs in different countries, but for the first time I had something worth sharing in life.” (Page 82) I thought this was such a sad statement, as if only by having fame and some money that only THAT was worth sharing…and then later on the same page Andy comments that many girls flocked to the band because “they needed what we had, but Tracey didn’t need any of it.” Indication that at least to some degree, Andy appreciated that Tracey stood on her own two feet and that her relationship to him wasn’t driven out of “need”, but rather out of mutual admiration and respect. I would imagine that this was, and probably still is, a common problem for the band, or any band for that matter.
As we all know, Andy marries Tracey the following year, and as I’m sure many of us could have guessed, there was some discussion as to whether this would affect the fan base. Would fans be upset that Andy was getting married – assuming that “Well, that’s the first one, I wonder how long it’ll be before they’re all gone and married!” As most fans would probably recognize, Andy was never really marketed as “the sex symbol” for the band in the way that perhaps John and Simon were. Each of the band members did have their own role to play though, and I can remember hearing about Andy’s wedding (and seeing pictures) in Tiger Beat magazine. I remember seeing the top hats and the picture of Andy & Tracey – and I can also remember thinking that he was the first one. I guess I did wonder how long it would be before the rest of them were taken, but to be fair – I was not even quite twelve when they got married. It was hardly realistic for me to think ANY of them would A) Notice I existed or B) Wait a good ten to fifteen years for me. So, I got over it all pretty fast. Sure, Roger stayed my favorite for many, many years, through marriage(s), children, divorce (his), remarriage (also his) ….we all need fantasies to get us through the rough times, don’t we? I think for most fans, we recognized the fairy tale for exactly what it was.
A: I noted that this chapter held the first real mentions of significant others. Roger’s girlfriend and later wife, Giovanna, was mentioned before but not in any detail. I found Andy’s courtship with Tracey to be very sweet. As Rhonda mentioned, there was a great deal of admiration and respect there. She definitely seemed to bring stability to Andy. As he stated on page 82, “…she brought stability into my life at a time when I could easily have slipped into a different lifestyle that I would have later regretted.” That’s a big deal. It also seems like when they had a chance to spend time together, they made a point of getting away from the insanity of Duran Duran, such as buying a house more out in the country or riding horses.
R: The other major event discussed in this chapter was the incident in Germany. There was a bar fight leading to a night in the hospital for Roger (who was apparently very, very lucky) and John severely hurting his hand. I have to be honest here. I still don’t really understand what happened that night. I’m not at all sure ANYONE does, and I definitely know I never heard any of this story before this book came out. I just wasn’t aware, even if I should have been by now. The one thing I do know is that this single incident changed the entire dynamic of the band for Andy going forward. I really don’t understand why though. Perhaps it’s that because I am so far removed, I’m not understanding the subtleties, or that because the story feels so disconnected and disjointed that much of the details are being left out. Andy seems to feel badly on one hand that he wasn’t there to help out, but on the other hand, he seems at least partially relieved that he had made the decision to stay in. I can’t honestly blame him – it sounded like a nasty beating even though at this point I still don’t understand why John punched his hand into that light fixture. Perhaps Andy explains it best when he says that John was angry with himself. I don’t think anyone but John truly knows. The one VERY telling comment that Andy makes here that is worth discussing “I think you can forgive anything when someone is suffering, but in my view John had either meant to punch the light, or he’d been so out of control that he’d done it by accident – and either way he needed help.” (Page 93)
If that is in fact the case, that John needed help – why is it that no one, not one single person in that “Band of Brothers” didn’t make the attempt? Lack of maturity? Hindsight? Is this a case of the band failing John? By Andy’s own admittance, nothing was ever done. He says in the last page of this chapter “Did we ever sit down and talk about it? Was there ever any consideration of whether John or anyone else needed any help coping with the intense pressure of constantly being pursued? The answer is no. We were just glad to et off the road. Deep down inside, it was the first time that we realized how fragile we were and how bit the ramifications could be if any of us went off the rails”….”We had to understand that none of us could afford to have a bad day, and from this point on there could be no more days off. Ever.” (Page 98)
Isn’t that the truth? The entire Duraniverse comes to a screeching halt and screaming prevails whenever something goes wrong – and I have to admit, that has got to be daunting. Just recently I had a discussion with Amanda about something I’d noticed at a show, and in turn she shared that she’d noticed a member who doesn’t make the effort to shake hands with fans as he is exiting the stage. Sure, we could label the person as a slight germ-a-phobe, but more likely, he’s watching out for himself. He can’t afford to be sick. None of them can afford to have an off night, as inhumane as that sounds, and this is 2012. Can any of us really imagine the pressure that was on them back in the mid-80’s? Probably not. That alone would have made me want to run screaming for the hills if I were in the band, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
A: I, obviously, took note of this incident as well. I would be curious to read John’s account of this event, Roger’s account of it, and everyone else who was there. It isn’t that I don’t believe Andy or his speculation about why John punched the light fixture but, like Rhonda, I feel like there is a lot more to this story and only with everyone’s perspectives would we begin to understand. Then again, I know that things happen so quickly in traumatic events that it is hard to figure out what happened and why. Clearly, though, Andy thought it was a big deal. He wrote on page 93, “I think that some of what occurred that night got bottled up inside John and Roger, and it may have had a bearing on how things unfolded in the future.” Would John agree with that? Would Roger? Like Andy, I would have a hard time imagining that it wouldn’t. After all, it sounds like Roger was attacked and, maybe, literally, for no reason. That can definitely affect you. John’s reaction seems to be quite extreme. I would have a hard time thinking that his scars were mental and emotional as well as physical. Now, the fact that they didn’t talk about what happened I think is probably the most significant. If that is the case, I bet they weren’t talking about much. That’s huge as communication is key when working together and, in their case, they were not only working together but living together and going through an intense experience together.
R: Andy also discusses Nick’s relationship with Julie Anne. As an outsider, it appears to me from the onset that Julie Anne never quite made headway, especially not with Andy, but perhaps with anyone in the band – that’s not really proven by Andy’s writing – but it’s definitely intimated in what he says. Why is that? Andy makes sure to point out that Julie Anne is not British, but in fact American. How much do you think this played into how they treated her as an outsider? “But as for Julie Anne, I remembered something that Paul Berrow had told us before we’d left for the States. ‘Ooh, when those bloody American birds get hold of you, you won’t catch your breath,’ he warned. ‘Different set of values.'”
As an American fan, those are harsh words to overlook. I’m really not sure what was meant – and given that I was barely a teenager at that point, I really couldn’t even guess. Any ideas??
A: Wow. I, too, took note of Andy’s reaction to Julie Anne. He described her as “very pushy because of her social standing”. Was this a case of American vs. Brit? Was it a case of class differences? Was it is a case of perception that rules did not imply equally to everyone as Andy was upset that Julie Anne was allowed to travel with the band while he sent Tracey back home?
R: This chapter is all about the videos. I know I’m not the only Duran fan that is fairly well-read on the videos at this point, but even so – it’s interesting to get Andy’s point of view. Naturally when we’re thinking of DD videos, not only does Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf come up, but also Girls on Film. Easily serving as the most “shocking” video in the band’s repertoire, it also did exactly what the band’s management had hoped – it got the band noticed! One thing that Andy does say, that frankly I take issue with only because I live here in the US – is that the video encountered no problems with the audiences here in the United States. Curiously, I never saw the video unless it was the very watered down version or I was watching it from the video album that the band put out. Granted, I was young at the time and not a club-goer, but even so – the US was not really known for open sexual imagery on regular TV, and certainly not in the 80’s. But, the main point is of course that the video was a brilliant marketing tool…
“And some people will do ANYTHING to sell records.” 🙂
The relationship between Andy and especially Paul Berrows seems to be called into question several times during the course of the reading so far. One such scene takes place on page 114 of this chapter when they are filming in Sri Lanka. Andy describes how Paul wants to build something on the island – Andy mentions a temple (hopefully in jest?!?) and how he wouldn’t want to build anything with the guy. Simon, on the other hand is far more sympathetic to Paul’s desires, saying that he’s just eccentric and creative. Andy of course feels that being creative and eccentric is the job of the band. I don’t think it’s any surprise to fans that Simon was closer to the Berrows brothers than Andy, and that it becomes Andy and Nick (by Andy’s account) later in the book that begin to question just how much profit is due the Berrows brothers.
A: I, too, noticed some negative statements towards the Berrows. For example, on page 101, he stated, “…even though the Berrows helped, I still believe we would have found everything without them.” Thus, in Andy’s mind, they didn’t do as much as they think or as much as others might think. Fascinating. Obviously, as an outsider, I have no way of knowing.
R: Say what one will about Andy’s tone and sense of negativity – he also has moments of proper perspective that I rarely see or hear from other band members thus far. “Along the way along the roads, children would spill in front of the vehicle and stop us, offering us watermelons….we soon cottoned on to the fact that what they wanted from us most of all were any Biro pens or pencils that we had with us…I remember thinking: How long will that last them and where will they get another one from?” (Page 115) Truly.
One comment that Andy makes that I really do identify and believe comes when he surmises the experience the band had with videos in general at the end of the chapter. “It helped us to connect with our audience a bit like the way the Internet helps new bands to do the same today.” (Page 121) Back in MY day (as I settle back into my rocking chair, here), videos were all we had. Other than seeing the band in the occasional interview in a magazine or watching a video – we had no other way to know what was going on with them. I can remember being surprised as to whatever color Nick’s hair was next (or Simon’s or even John’s for that matter), or whatever fashion choices they’d made. I think I expected ALL of their videos to be like the Sri Lankan videos, and I always wondered what exotic locale they’d take us to see next. Never did I dream that one day I’d trade tweets with them online, or “meet” thousands of other fans on Facebook. Who knew?!?
A: I enjoyed reading about the videos that I have seen thousands of times. I like hearing about things that I never knew before like how Simon got hurt during Rio or that the video director for Union of the Snake focused on this idea of lizards. I also like reading about the irony of filming these beautiful videos of Save a Prayer and Lonely in Your Nightmare in a poverty-stricken country on the verge of civil unrest or the idea of Girls on Film showing the band putting on hairspray and makeup. That said, at times, I struggled to place events in proper order as there wasn’t real chronological order given even with the videos. For example, Is There Something I Should Know was talked about before Save a Prayer.
R: I don’t know how many fans out there had ever heard the tale of the IRA planning to assassinate Prince Charles on the night of July 20, 1983 – but I’d never heard that story prior to this book. To be honest, it STILL sounds a bit James Bond to me, not that I don’t believe it – just that it seems like such a crazy plan. That’s just how far removed the US really can be sometimes though. As a citizen here, I’ve always felt very safe – up until 9/11 of course. I think we’re incredibly lucky that we’ve not had more happen here to keep us on our guard, to be honest, and I, like millions of other Americans, grew up taking my safety for granted. That’s why the IRA story sounds so Bond-like to me.
A: I noted that, according to Andy, the band had technical problems during this important show. I immediately thought about Live Aid and wondered if Duran struggles during big, important gigs like this or if it is just that they show the cracks, the rifts, the problems with the band. Something to ponder…
R: During this same period of time, the band was in the process of recording Seven and the Ragged Tiger – the last of the albums that the band would record as the original five, and most certainly the toughest for them to record, by the band’s own accounts. So much goes on during this recording, and it’s impossible to ignore the influences that any of it had on the success of the album. Nick and Andy begin to question just how much the Berrows brothers were taking from the band. They want to talk to them about it, but Simon is becoming closer with them. Roger is non-confrontational and according to Andy – John buries his head in the sand. I’m not sure if that characterization(s) is/are fair, but the point is that this too, creates a rift. Andy and Nick have their own problems, coming to a head over Julie Anne. How does this translate into the record?
A: I am interested in what Andy decides to include and what he doesn’t here in this chapter. I can definitely understand his inclusion of the fighting with Nick, regarding Julie Anne, whom he really didn’t (doesn’t?) trust. Obviously, that is important to the story of Duran and important to his story. He also includes a story about Simon and John competing over this Miss UK who was there. Why put that in the book? Did this competition affect Simon and John’s relationship? Did it affect the band? Maybe it did and maybe I will see the connection later. Until then, I have to wonder. The same question can be asked about the story about Nick getting sick or John crashing his car. I guess the point there is that they were all harming themselves with the intensity of their lives, but it still makes me slightly uncomfortable.
Next week, we’ll discuss chapters seven through eleven – read up!
– A & R