Duran Duran's John Taylor revisits Smash Hits years
- 23 September 2012
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
In 1985, Duran Duran were the best group in the world and their bassist John Taylor was most fanciable person and the second most wonderful human being alive (behind Bob Geldof). At least, that was according to that year's Smash Hits readers' poll.
Taylor was the most popular member of the most popular pop band in Britain. They epitomised the glamour and excess of the 1980s and Taylor has detailed his exploits in his autobiography In The Pleasure Groove.
Magazines like Smash Hits and No 1 could not get enough of them - so I dug into the National Pop Magazine Archive (otherwise known as my wife's collection in our cellar) to find questions from old interviews to put to Taylor again now, to see how his answers have changed.
"When I look at some of the interviews I can't believe how arrogant I was," he says.
Q: Do you still consider yourself a young man? If not when did you stop thinking you were? (No 1 magazine, December 1985)
John's answer now: "No, I made a very definite decision a couple of years ago [when he was 50 - ed] that I was now middle aged. And it was actually a really good decision to make, because I'd been feeling like a very tired young man for quite a few years, and making that acknowledgement, suddenly I felt like a very sprightly and hip middle aged guy."
Back in 1985, John said he ceased thinking of himself as in the first flush of youth that year. "That's not to say I consider myself old though. I just feel a more responsible human being," he told the magazine.
Q: Looking back, is there anything you regret doing? (No 1, around late 1985/early '86)
JT: "Not really. Maybe I wished I'd played on Come Undone. I'd gone back to LA. We'd put that album to bed and I said: 'I'm not coming back for one more song.' Maybe it would have been a different song if I'd been there, maybe it wouldn't have been such a great song. But I'm not one for regrets."
Back in the '80s, he said he did not like a couple of videos "where we're mincing about" and the title of their third album Seven and the Ragged Tiger.
Q: What would you be if you weren't a pop star? (Look-In magazine, 1984)
JT: "A graphic artist."
Wrong. The answer he gave to Look-In (the junior TV Times) was: "An idiot!"
Q: Favourite item of clothing? (Look-In again)
JT: "Right now it's a black Balmain jacket."
The 1984 answer was leather trousers. "I almost said leather trousers," he says. "I've got some nice leather trousers. I was looking at some this morning actually. Except now they're not really very appropriate very often."
Q: If you were a domestic appliance, what would it be? (Look-In)
JT: "Oh God… [he groans in agony] A domestic appliance? A toaster."
His original answer was: "A fridge so I could stay cool." He roars with delight at this reminder of his wit: "All right! See, you had to come up with hip one-liners like that all the time."
How do you react to being voted most fanciable person? (Smash Hits, December 1985)
JT: "That's a lot of pressure isn't it?"
His answer to the magazine was: "God! What do I have to do to be taken seriously?" adding, with singer Simon Le Bon in second: "How much did I win by?"
"Yeah, I hated all that popularity contest stuff actually," he says now. "Looking back, that wasn't such a good thing. We all got into that a little bit. Popular for what? I didn't take it seriously… my ego maybe did... In the naivety of the moment it probably did mess me up a bit. It's so meaningless and it will make you lazy and complacent when you should be working to prove your bass playing and your songwriting."
Q: What do you think of the new crop of pop stars? (Smash Hits, April 1989)
JT: "Not a lot. It's so dangerous when you get into 'in my day you had David Bowie and Queen in the pop charts'. Who's like that today? Who's written a song like Bohemian Rhapsody lately, played it themselves and put it at the top of the pop charts? It just doesn't happen any more.
"It's singers with producers, overly simplistic, lacking in soul, because it's all computer driven music that your ears will tire of very quickly. Adele is the exception I suppose."
At the time, Taylor's answer was: "Bros would never have been around if we hadn't been there first. I know that for a fact. They started off playing our songs." On hearing this, the present-day Taylor says of his younger self: "What an idiot."
Q: What makes you cynical? (No 1, December 1985)
JT: "Hypocrisy. People with a God complex who think they know what's best for others. I suppose people who try to control. I'm not terribly cynical actually."
In 1985, Taylor said he disliked lawyers but was not a very cynical person, adding: "I hate hypocrites and I hate it when anything that is artistic is controlled by non-artistic people." Not much change here.
Q: Why are you a tax exile? (Smash Hits Book of Personal Files, November 1986)
JT: "I didn't know I was. The only time we took a year out was '83 and I don't remember planning it in advance. It was just served up for us - this is what we're going to do. We were recording the difficult third album. We did it in the south of France, the Caribbean and finished it off in Sydney. These days I go backwards and forwards between the States and here and it's all the same tax wise."
In the Smash Hits grilling, he was quoted as saying he did not see why, "with a career that may at best last five years", he should give 70% of his earnings to the government. He says now: "I don't have a problem with tax."
The tax aspect aside, did he only expect his career to last for five years? "Back then, definitely," he says. "You couldn't take anything for granted. I still don't, although now I know we've got a legacy that will feed us. I don't think anybody believes they're going to be around for a long time. There's footage of John Lennon saying: 'We're hoping to get 12 months out of it.'"
Q: Are Duran Duran down the dumper? (headline from Smash Hits, 1987)
JT: "Well clearly not."
The original headline was completed by the word: "No!"
Q: Is there a lot of pressure now to become The Biggest again? (No 1, March 1986)
JT: "There was definitely a lot of pressure then. But I stopped thinking in terms of hits a long time ago.
"I've stopped thinking in terms of an end result because I realised I kept comparing [ourselves to] the sales and chart positions we had when we were young. And it seemed like for a long time: 'Oh God we're never gonna top that. It's going to be downhill.'"
Back in 1986, as the band were losing their grip at the top of the charts, the younger Taylor admitted: "Oh yeah. There's so much pressure."
Q: Would you give up being in Duran? (not a pop magazine but the Los Angeles Times, March 1985)
JT: "I did leave actually about 15 years ago. I thought I'd gone for good but it was the friendship that bought me back. I could [leave now] but I love what we get to do together. That stage time is precious and I love putting on stage shows. It's my favourite thing."
In March 1985, Taylor had just released an album with side-project The Power Station. "I'm a star because of Duran," he told the LA Times. "I love being a star. The whole circus aspect of being in Duran is a pain after a while, but it's great being a star, with the girls screaming and the money rolling in. I know it sounds greedy and awful and people will think I'm an egomaniac, but I don't care."
On hearing this answer read back to him, he says: "When I look at some of the interviews, I can't believe how arrogant I was. We all were. You can't help it."