Duran Duran's Andy Taylor reveals how close the band came to self-destruction
Music video is in its infancy, and the band we are about to see is at the forefront of both.
Duran Duran played the Edinburgh Playhouse that night. But we could never have known, even then, in the early days of 'Planet Earth' and 'Girls on Film', that our supposedly clean-living poster-boys were on a collision course that would leave two band members with dangerous drug habits, one with crippling agoraphobia and one on the brink of death due to his thrill-seeking.
"I wish I'd never done cocaine," says Andy Taylor now. The guitarist was offered the drug as the band were getting their first taste of success and adulation at Birmingham's Rum Runner club. "I was in a great mood that night," he recalls in his memoir, Wild Boy, "but cocaine certainly didn't figure in my plans."
But he was hooked from that first hit. "They say the first time you do cocaine it is so intense that you'll never experience the same thing again, and it's true. You just go bang, and you're immediately overcome with a tidal wave of euphoria and a feeling of overwhelming confidence."
The high was to last six years. Hit followed hit, glamorous video shoot, followed rock star riot (they once trashed the Hyatt House Hotel on Sunset Strip, putting shampoo in the fountain and throwing cream cakes at guests from the roof). "We'd spend 10,000 on hotel bills for a weekend, go out shopping for clothes, just lots and lots of clothes, on Fifth Avenue. There would be cases of Cristal for parties – none of that was unusual."
But he admits there was already a time-bomb ticking inside him. And though drugs would eventually land bass guitarist John Taylor in rehab, Andy says, "I always maintained that I didn't need to go into rehab, I just needed to go home to my wife."
The first of the Duran boys to get married, he is still with Tracey after 26 years. She has been the anchor that probably prevented Taylor slipping over the edge; the sanity he returned to after all the crazy parties, the arguments on tour, the drugs and the drunken bust-ups. In one incident, the band members were attacked with baseball bats in a Munich bar while having a drink with Roxy Music. Drummer Roger Taylor and a security guard were left seriously injured, while John gashed his hand back at the hotel as he lashed out at a light fitting in anger. With their drummer and bass player out of action, and fearing further violence, they decided to flee Germany the following day. "We had to cancel the rest of our dates until we could find someone to stand in for John," says Taylor. "We managed to play down the scale of it in the media. Today, it would have been a huge international incident."
These days, he's clean of cocaine, though he still enjoys a drink (he had some legendary sessions while recording with Rod Stewart after leaving Duran Duran for the first time, in 1986). In fact, some of his most embarrassing moments have been while under the influence. "My trousers fell down at a bus stop when I was drunk once," he laughs. "Then I fell in the bushes and woke up a few hours later."
Born in 1961 and brought up in the north-east of England, in the fishing village of Cullercoats, Andy Taylor's earliest memory is finding a guitar in his father's wardrobe. "I have very, very early memories of music," he says, "and listening to seven-inch singles. In the 1960s, you used to stack the singles on top of one another in that old record player."
His first musical mentor was a man called Dave Black. "He was a neighbour of mine who was an incredible guitar player," Taylor recalls. "He took Mick Ronson's place in the Spiders from Mars, and he lived just across the road from me. For a few months, he used to give me rudimentary guitar lessons. He was such a cool guy, and he taught me the secrets of guitar-playing. They were the most valuable lessons I learned in my life."
However, family life came crashing down one otherwise unremarkable afternoon in 1972, when Taylor returned home from his first day of secondary school to find his mother had simply walked out, abandoning him, his father Ronnie and his younger brother. "Everything she owned had gone: her clothes, her ornaments, everything – there wasn't even a note to say goodbye." He didn't see her for four years, and despite a brief meeting in 1983, at a charity concert in front of Princess Diana – "one of our most atrocious gigs ever" – they haven't been in touch for more than 30 years. As a result, he formed a strong bond with both his father and his grandmother.
"She was very proud of me," he says, "even with the mistakes I made as a young man and some of my more excessive behaviour. She said, 'It's nothing more than what your grandad got up to.'"
Ronnie died in 2005, following a second battle with cancer, and Taylor still struggles with the loss. "I'm not very good at coping with grief," he says. "My father dying was the most awful thing to deal with. It was inevitable – people do pass on – but I don't deal with grief very well. I was very depressed and low when he died."
Despite all this, however, he knows his life has been blessed. "I've been married for 26 years, I have a full head of hair. I've had some bad times, sure, but even if I have a bad few months and I don't work, I'm lucky enough in that it doesn't affect me. Even if I'm off my rocker for a bit, I can survive. So, really, really low? Not compared to what I've seen some people go through."
A career best, he says, was playing in Camden when Duran Duran first got back together again, in 2003. "It was probably the least money we ever performed for, and the greatest gig."
But that euphoria did not last. By 2006, the cracks had again begun to show, with arguments about management, money and musical direction. Plus, Taylor was still grieving for his father. He walked out for a second time, and is keen to set the record straight. "People have wrongly assumed that I didn't want to be in the band, but the opposite is true," he says now. "I always wanted to be in a band, but Duran Duran had ceased to function as a band.
"The life we led took its toll on each of us in one way or another. John ended up in rehab; Roger had his battle with exhaustion; Nick (Rhodes] got locked into what must have been a troubled marriage; and even Simon (Le Bon] nearly killed himself on a yacht."
Life is less frenetic these days. And while he still spends a lot of time on the road, he always tries to get back to his Ibiza home at weekends. "I like to stop, tidy things up on the Saturday, then on Sunday do absolutely bugger all. It's easy to say, 'Go travelling, go here and there,' but weekends are the bit that allow you to prepare, and I hate to intrude on them. When you're on the road, it doesn't always work like that, but I always try to get home on Sundays and see the family."
He and Tracey have four children. "The greatest moment of your life is when that first little head pops out," he says. "And it's the most sobering moment. It's the first time you realise what it's all about; that's what you're here for. Every one of those memories is indelible."
There was a time when the couple thought they would have to be content with just one child, as Tracey suffered from terrifying episodes of post-natal psychosis following Andrew's birth. "I went upstairs and found her standing at the open window with little Andrew in her arms," recalls Taylor. "I spoke to her softly but there was no reaction from her. She didn't seem to know what she was doing."
He managed to coax her back into the bedroom and took the child from her, but she had another attack later and went missing in New York. She was found wandering the streets aimlessly, having been mugged. She was unharmed, but the couple were told the psychosis could recur if she became pregnant again.
Thankfully, they went on to have another three children without any further crises, and the family continues to be his greatest challenge. "Parenting is the most difficult thing in the world," he confesses. "I'm not one for regrets; I don't like sympathy and feeling sorry for myself. But I think sometimes when you make mistakes and decisions about your kids, you slap yourself."
So, is he happy with the way things have turned out, this 1980s pop idol who is still starry enough to wear his sunglasses indoors (an affectation that started as an excellent way to conceal a hangover, I suspect)? "What do you leave behind you?" he asks. "Your family? Your work?
"I've got every award under the sun, but who's going to come to my funeral; what's going to be on my headstone? 'He was all right, Andy, he didn't stitch everyone up.'
"I've been to a lot of family funerals lately, and the feeling for those people is fairly simple: I loved them. Certainly, I think your work is something you'd like to be remembered for. And other than that just the hope that none of your kids turns into Jack the Ripper." r
Wild Boy: My Life In Duran Duran (Orion, 18.99), by Andy Taylor, is out now
andy taylor on...
"In 1982, shortly after Lennon had died, if a Beatle walked into your studio it felt like God himself had just arrived. We were in awe."
"His death hit Simon
"Geri was very bubbly and excited, and I really wanted to meet her because she seemed like a really ballsy chick, more like Boss Spice."
"Meeting your heroes doesn't always live up to expectations. Bowie was very opinionated and quite odd to talk to."
"What a sweet man. You'd never guess he was so fascinated by Aleister Crowley."
"I wasn't much of a fan at the time (of Live Aid]. I thought he was a gobby Irish singer whose band hadn't achieved much."
"Everyone was saying Tony sounded like Sinatra, but to me his voice just sounded corny."
Yasmin Le Bon (below)
"Simon won't mind me telling you that she's the one with the balls in the Le Bon household."
"The last time I saw him: at 3am with a gin and tonic in his hand and a twinkle in his eye."
"They make an incredible sound for one large eyebrow."
"My decision to stay teetotal lasted until I started hanging out with Rod."
1978John Taylor and Nick Rhodes form the band, named after a character in the movie Barbarella, starring Jane Fonda (below). Stephen Duffy is their original lead singer.
1979Duffy bows out, respondents to a newspaper ad and friends-of-friends complete the line-up, and the band begins rehearsals at the Rum Runner club in Birmingham.
1981'Planet Earth' reaches number 12 in the charts, but it is the band's third release, 'Girls on Film', that really gets them noticed. It reaches number five, largely thanks to the controversial video, directed by Godley and Creme, being banned in the UK.
1982'Rio' is released, and Duran Duran tour the States supporting Blondie (right).
1983The band become tax exiles but return to the UK to play a charity concert in front of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. It was later revealed that the event was an IRA target – but the bomb plot was thwarted.
1984The Sun newspaper exposes the band's cocaine habits, destroying their clean-living image. They perform on the Band Aid single 'Do They Know It's Christmas?'.
1985John Taylor and Andy Taylor leave to form Power Station with Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson.
While competing in the Fastnet race, Simon Le Bon's boat Drum capsizes off Falmouth (right) and he is trapped under water for 40 minutes.
1986The band are nominated for a Golden Globe award for 'A View to a Kill', the theme from the eponymous James Bond film. It remains the only ever Bond song to reach number one in the US charts.
Drummer Roger Taylor retires to the countryside, suffering from exhaustion and agoraphobia.
1988Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor are replaced in the band by Sterling Campbell and Warren Cuccurullo respectively.
1993The band receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
1998The original line-up play a set at the Princess Diana tribute concert.
2001Duran Duran reform with the original five members – Andy Taylor, Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, Roger Taylor and John Taylor – and they tour to a rapturous reception from fans.
2003Duran Duran are honoured with lifetime achievement awards by the Brits (left) and MTV.
2006Andy Taylor leaves the band again.
2007The band perform in front of Prince William, Prince Harry and a crowd of 63,000 at the Concert for Diana, marking ten years since the princess's death.