Friday, May 8, 2020

Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran by Andy Taylor

Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I saw my first Duran Duran video in the early '80s, and that was it, I was hooked. I was a superfan and a failed recruiter for my new-found obsession, but one getting no respect, no pay, and no takers. I would not shut up about them. It's low-key embarrassing now the way I went on, but I thought they were the best thing in the world, ever. It started when I was 12 or so; I didn't have a lot to compare it to.

They were the first band I found on my own (rather than one I caught wind of from older siblings), and an excitement and adoration blazed into my brain like lightning. I can't remember exactly when I first heard about them, which is shocking given how major they were to me for a few years, but it was sometime between 1982 and 1984. It was a newfangled music video that grabbed me, and I was captivated instantly. I never tired of watching those five young, gorgeous guys in beautiful locations, dressed to kill and belting out cool songs. I was entranced, enthralled, in love.

To be honest, I really only had eyes for Simon Le Bon, the singer, but when you had all five together their collective look was fire. And they all dressed with what to me was a very cool, attention-grabbing style the likes of which I'd never seen before.

I would've turned into a shrieking wreck if I'd seen them in concert in the '80s, but I had to settle for waiting until around 2005 to catch them live, which I did for nostalgia's sake. I actually got to meet the band and get a picture, but it wasn't earth-shattering. If I could've gifted that experience to myself 20 years earlier, someone would've had to shoot me to calm me down. And I would've gladly taken a bullet if it got me a front-row ticket to The Fab Five.

So of course I wanted to read a book by their guitarist, Andy Taylor, or anyone in the band, really (I have bassist John Taylor's book, too, waiting patiently for a go). Andy was always the band member who seemed to least fit into the group in my mind, and I guess that was true because these days the other four are carrying on without him.

Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran came out in 2008, which just goes to show how much my lust for all things Duran has cooled over the decades. Had it come out in 1988, I would've been hovering outside the bookstore when they opened on the first day. Had it dropped in 1984, I would've camped outside overnight (in theory; no way my parents would've let me). I would've been alone on the pavement if I had, 'cause as big as this band was at the time, it seemed like everyone I knew in the small Southern town we'd recently moved to thought my fandom was silly. I was lonely in my nightmare, so to speak.

But as time cools all jets, I didn't pick up a copy until 2020. And I can tell you with confidence that if you are not now and never were a fan of Duran Duran, you can give it a pass. But if you were a kid in the '80s who acted like a damn fool over this band, you'll find it mildly interesting. If you bought insipid teen mags back in the day because the bouncing baby Brits were on the cover, only to discover the interview inside offered nothing more scintillating than their favorite colors, then I think you'll get a little more bang for your buck with Wild Boy.

The simple yet at times slightly stilted writing makes for an uncomplicated read. It was interesting to finally get an explanation of why various members left and returned over the years, why Roger left for a while, and why Andy finally legged it himself, never to return (as yet). Although the details on that last one involved a bit of this and that, and misunderstandings, and ... well, I couldn't explain the exact reasons for the breakup if I tried. Read the book, and you'll understand for the brief time you can hang onto all the muddle.

Reading about Andy's childhood was rather interesting, from the experience of his mother leaving the family, to what it was like in a working-class home in England of the 1960s (spoiler alert: they had an outhouse). I also enjoyed getting the scoop on how he started in music and how he wound up joining Duran Duran.

However, all in all Andy doesn't come off as the nicest chap in the world, if you're paying close attention – you'll notice times he downplays or fails to elaborate on details that may have revealed he wasn't always the greatest guy. For instance, he wrote about behaving very badly while drunk on a tour bus, going on a "really aggressive rant" while "there were children around." He was on the bus with his family. The children were his children. But he skirts responsibility for blowing up in front of his kids by rather generically referring to children being in the vicinity (the behavior would've been bad in front of any children, but the fact is he avoided stating that he acted this way in front of his own children, which must have been upsetting to them). There are other little things here and there in the book where Andy doesn't come off sounding so great, things he throws out casually with no further discussion or even seeming to realize they make him look a bit shit.

In fact, from how Andy tells it, you get the idea most of the guys had serious asshole tendencies (expect for Roger, who remains nearly as elusive in this book as he has throughout his career). Of course, that picture is painted from Andy's remembrances, and given he left the band and felt screwed over or hurt about a few things from the start, it's hard to say how accurate that portrayal is (though I could easily believe these guys weren't a bunch of perfect sweethearts). It's interesting, as a formerly obsessed fan, to pore over it all either way.

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