Wild Boy

My Life in Duran Duran


By Andy Taylor

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Wild Boy is the explosive first inside account of the rise and fall of Duran Duran. The band rose to conquer the globe with a string of unforgettable hits such as “Rio,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and “The Reflex.” With Simon Le Bon as their frontman, they were the defining pop act of the 1980s, but Andy Taylor, the enigmatic lead guitarist, is widely acknowledged to have been their musical driving force.

Then, at the very height of their achievement in 1985, Duran Duran imploded. Now Andy shares the story of what went wrong. With searing honesty, he charts every moment of Duran Duran’s roller-coaster rise from their early days as club musicians through to international superstardom. He captures the glamour and excitement of the band’s epic video shoots and the opulence of their world tours.

He reveals the truth about the allegations of drug abuse and wild hedonism that dogged Duran Duran. Packed with more than twenty-five years worth of rock ‘n’ roll anecdotes, Andy tells of his time in the band The Power Station, and explains why Duran Duran reformed with its original line-up in 2003.

But Wild Boy is also a moving story on a human level, as Andy describes how the pressures of fame took a terrible personal toll on him and his family. Moving from hilarious to harrowing at the turn of a page, Wild Boy is a must-read for anyone who lived through the 1980s, or who cares about music.


The names and identifying characteristics of some incidental characters [persons] in this book have been changed.

Copyright © 2008 by Andrew Taylor
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group, USA
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com.

First eBook Edition: September 2008

ISBN: 978-0-446-54606-5


The North East—1972

FOR most kids, the first day at grammar school is a big occasion. For me, it changed my life forever because it was the day my mother chose to abandon me and my brother. I was eleven years old. When I came home from school on the bus in my brand-new uniform, I discovered that she had just disappeared and taken all her things with her. Everything she owned was gone: her clothes, her ornaments, everything—there wasn't even a note to say good-bye. Nothing was left but a very dark feeling in a place that was supposed to be safe. It was like a heavy guillotine had suddenly come rushing down with great force and sliced everything apart without any explanation as to why I was guilty.

IT would be four very long years before I would see her again, but I didn't cry at the time (that would come a lot later). You see, the way I've always thought about life is that you can either choose to give someone a friendly slap to say, "Hello, stop being such a fucking idiot," or you can just hit them with a bat. If you give them a slap you might wake them up a bit, but if you hit them with a bat you proverbially risk killing them. So no, this wasn't just a little slap, this was from the middle of the bat, the part that hurts the most. The irony was that up until about the age of ten I had enjoyed a relatively normal childhood. But once you've been hit by the bat, life will never be the same . . .

I was born on the sixteenth of February 1961 at Tynemouth Jubilee Infirmary, the first child of Ronnie and Blanche Taylor. My mum and dad had grown up in a small fishing village called Cullercoats, which is just up the coast from Whitley Bay and Newcastle upon Tyne, so it was only natural that they would eventually set up their own marital home in the same village. Three years after I was born my little brother Ronnie arrived, and for a while life must have seemed perfect for my parents. We lived in a beautiful little bay close to the seafront, in a crowded fisherman's terrace that we shared with my dad's family, who were spread out over three or four floors. We lived downstairs, my grandma and grandfather on my father's side of the family lived in the middle, and an aunty and uncle lived on the top floor.

In those days, as everyone got older and began to get on their feet, they moved out and got their own houses, but it wasn't necessarily the case that when you got married you moved out straightaway—you had to work hard and save first, which was the position my parents found themselves in. Our little terrace lay behind the workingmen's club (the CIU) and close to the Fisherman's Institute. We always referred to the CIU affectionately as "the club," because it had been founded in part thanks to my family's efforts. Close by on the bay there was a fish-and-chips shop and an amusement arcade. My earliest memories are of standing on a beer crate in the arcade and playing pinball at the age of five, and I was quite good at it, like a little pinball wizard.

We literally grew up on the beach, and we would have endless games of football on the sand, during which all the kids in the neighborhood would turn out in great numbers. There were no fearful parents with four-by-fours; you just had to be home when your dad said so. There wasn't a hidden cove that we didn't know about or a cave that we hadn't explored. On Guy Fawkes Night we'd build huge fires on the beach and let off fireworks and feast on baked potatoes. In those days there were no health-and-safety experts or prying council officials to order us around, so we were pretty much left to our own devices when it came to creating our own fun. We had our own set of social rules, because people rarely traveled in those days. I think the farthest any of my family had been was a day trip to Blackpool with the club. Life belonged to an earlier age, and it was before the big housing redevelopments of the late sixties and seventies, so we still had an outside toilet, which was next to the coal bunker and the air-raid shelter. It would be freezing and dark if you had to get up in the middle of the night for a number two, so I used to wake my dad up and ask him to stand by the door. Otherwise it was a pee in the pot.

Apart from mining and farming, the only other industry was fishing. My grandfather and all my uncles had boats, so most days I used to get up at 4 or 5 a.m. when they went out to sea. They would come back with fishing pots brimming with lobsters, and we used to kill them in the kitchen. My grandfather was a lifeboat man, and my great-grandfather was on the same boat before him. A loud cannon used to boom in the middle of the night to signal its launch, and the whole family would all get up to gather on the bank while the sons and husbands went off to sea. The explosion was really loud. To a child, it was incredibly exciting to watch the drama unfold. There could be a full-scale gale going down over the North Sea but they would still get up in the night and get the boat out; it was amazing nobody ever died. Most people's lives in our community were linked to the sea in some way. During World War II, most of my dad's family had been in the Royal Navy or the merchant navy. At home we had an old framed photograph of a corrugated-iron bomb shelter that still stood in the backyard. My dad grew up during the war, so he was obsessed with it and spoke about it constantly. We used to joke that he kept the photograph up on the wall just to remind everybody, lest we forget.

Early on, there was no hint of the trouble with my mum that lay ahead. I've still got lots of family photographs that show us all looking normal and happy. Christmas was always a grand affair. We used to do all the traditional different bits and pieces, and all my grandmother's extended family, who lived miles away in a distant rural area, would descend upon us in a big group. So there were always a lot of people around at Christmas, sometimes so many people that I don't actually know where they all managed to sleep. In the summer, all the folks would come over again and our family would spend hours singing together, belting out northern folk songs and all the old classic numbers by Bing Crosby and Jim Reeves, my grandmother's favorite.

The musicians of the family were definitely all on my father's side. My grandmother used to sing a lot in the workingmen's clubs, and one of her brothers was a brilliant trumpet player. Whenever her family came from the countryside to stay with us on the coast, we used to have huge get-togethers that would basically involve drinking and singing while my dad would play some fantastic tunes on the harmonica. We used to go to church a lot, and all the family would come and sing there, too, so music was part of my childhood from the beginning. My cousin Marjorie had bought a copy of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts ClubBand by the Beatles on the day it came out, and she would come round so that we could play it together. Later she gave it to me, and I still have that original copy of Sgt. Pepper from forty-odd years ago with her name on it. We also used to play all the great singles that came out during that period, which were all stacked up in the corner of the room, and I have lots of little memories of my family being together around the record player. We used to play the Beatles, the Hollies, the Kinks, and lots of sixties bands. Around this time I was very excited to discover that my dad had a guitar hidden away in the cupboard, which with hindsight turned out to be a very important find. There was a guitar tuition program on BBC Two at the time called Hold Down a Chord, and I was hooked. I managed to get the instruction book that accompanied the show, and I spent hours practicing until I could play the chords by heart.

SO for a while, we functioned like a normal family. I used to help my mother in the garden doing greenhouse work in order to get the tomato plants to grow and we had lots of rosebushes that needed constant attention. I remember sitting with her, looking at all the blossoms in the trees and listening to the birds sing. But if I'm honest, I was always closer to my father, even back then. I was quite a stroppy kid, and I had a lot of confrontations with my mother because she was obsessive about tidiness and would order me not to go in and out of certain rooms, which I used to hate. She would have her favorite things that I wasn't allowed to touch, and this often led to friction between us. I was always much more comfortable with my grandmother on my dad's side of the family. She was a lovely, kind woman. After my mum's parents passed on while I was quite young, she would become the main matriarch in my life.

A few months before I was due to go to senior school we moved to a new house of our own, a bright little cottage on a corner plot about a mile or two away. My dad worked as a foreman for a building firm, and his speciality was carpentry. He soon put in a new electric fireplace with some timber borrowed from the joiner's shop, and he went on to do the place up. To outsiders everything must have looked idyllic, but secretly my parents' marriage was already in a lot of trouble. They would argue late at night, and sometimes I'd end up trying to break them up. It had been going on since I was about nine, and I was spending more and more time with my grandmother, particularly on weekends—which I guess must have been my old man wanting to get me out of the way because they were fighting so much.

There was a strike in the construction industry that summer, so there was a lot of upheaval because he had to break a picket line in order to get into work. My dad was a Tory, but nearly everybody else in the North East was a Labour voter, so he and my uncle Bob had to arrange to get people into work round the back entrance in a pickup truck, and it could get very violent.

The world was a very different place back then. Breaking a picket line was a big deal, but my father had just bought a house and taken on a big mortgage, and he probably felt he didn't really have any choice. Putting a kid through grammar school wasn't going to be cheap; there might not have been any fees to worry about, but if you factored in all the uniforms and the extra school materials that you needed, along with the cost of numerous school trips and outings, it was much more expensive than comprehensive school, and my dad had to shell out a lot to afford it all.

MONEY had always been tight, so my mother had taken a waitressing job in a club during the evenings to help make ends meet. But in many ways her waitressing job turned out to be the root of all evil, because that was when the trouble began.

The change was almost instant. A few weeks after taking the job, she dyed her hair blond instead of its normal brown color, and she started dressing differently. I remember sitting on a bus with her one particular morning and looking at her outfit.

Bloody hell, your miniskirt is short, I thought to myself.

She would stay out late waiting on tables, and often she would not return until the early hours. It wasn't long before I started seeing my mother do things that I shouldn't have seen her do. The first time was when I was about ten. I wandered back from school one morning, maybe because I'd forgotten something or didn't feel well. It was about ten past nine, and I saw a red car that had suddenly parked outside the house. I don't know why, maybe it was childhood intuition, but I decided to watch instead of going inside. I'd seen men drop her off a couple of times in the past, so maybe there was a part of me that was already suspicious that something unhealthy was going on. Even as a ten-year-old kid you start putting two and two together.

I used to have places all over where I could hide, so I climbed up onto the garage roof. From there I could see the house without being spotted, because it had a brick front that was a little bit higher than the slope of the roof. She came out with a strange man and they were physically all over each other. I had a sick feeling in my stomach, because I just knew it was wrong and I was terrified they'd be spotted.

"What if the neighbors see them?" I whispered to myself.

Then I wondered if perhaps everybody did that sort of thing at a certain age. Maybe they were all at it! I wanted to convince myself that everything would be okay, but deep down I knew that what I had just seen threatened everything that we had, because I understood how hard it had been for my parents to get a mortgage and afford a home together, and I knew this could tear us apart.

I kept things bottled up and hoped it would go away, but soon similar things started to happen again. I couldn't believe it and at first I didn't know what to do, but eventually I plucked up the courage to tell my dad. I thought he wouldn't believe me, so I started keeping a record of what I saw by speaking into a cassette recorder. But when I told my dad it turned out he knew full well what was going on. He tried to explain it to me as best he could and said that things would be all right. It was the reason they'd been having all the arguments at night. I used to stay up late in bed to listen to Radio Luxembourg through a little earpiece and wait to hear what time she would come in. It would get later and later and later. I could hear the car pull up outside, and I would hold my breath and listen with a sick feeling inside as she came into the house. Then my dad would get up and I would hear their arguments. I was completely aware of it all. When you are a kid, you can't sleep when something like that is going on, because it fascinates you as much as it upsets you. Their arguments got worse and worse until sometimes, as I said, I would get out of bed and try to break it up.

I think my dad forgave her several times. They were still trying to make a go of things when we all went off for a family holiday together at Butlins holiday camp near Scarborough before she left. I had passed my 11-plus exams and earned a place at Whitley Bay Grammar School, which was a big step up socially from the local comprehensive school. So as my first day at grammar school approached I was very chuffed and excited, and I certainly had no idea how suddenly my parents' problems would come to a head. My dad saw getting into grammar school as a big achievement, too, and when we went into Newcastle to buy my new uniform it felt as if a whole new life was about to start all over again. I was right about that, although not for the reasons I'd imagined . . .

SHORTLY before my mother left I found a silver ring hidden in the bathroom. I was looking for something else when I discovered it tucked away in the corner of a cabinet. It was a shiny little band, and I assumed it was something that someone had bought for my mother, but I soon had other ideas for it.

I'd left junior school over the summer, but I was in touch with a girl called Claire, and I wanted to pluck up the courage to ask her to be my girlfriend.

"Take the ring and give it to Claire," a little voice said.

I knew it was wrong, but part of me was angry with my mother because the ring was almost certainly a piece of jewelry given to her by a man other than my father. I found a little box and put the ring in it with some cotton wool. But I never got to give it to Claire or go out with her because when my mother discovered it was missing, she summoned me to the bathroom to confront me, and it led to a terrible fight between us.

"How dare you take it?" she raged, after I confessed.

"Why not? You don't care about us," I shouted back.

Soon we were screaming at each other at the tops of our voices as she continued to discipline me for meddling in her stuff. I stepped backward, lost my footing, and suddenly found myself tumbling down the stairs. I landed in a heap at the bottom and hurt my back.

Just then, the front door opened and my dad walked in from work, his tool bag over his shoulder, to discover us amid the mayhem.

"What the hell is happening?" he demanded.

My tumble down the stairs had been an accident, but I think my father harbored suspicions that she'd pushed me. When I was a very small child, I'd fallen over and suffered a cut above my left eye while I was alone with her. The wound had needed eleven stitches and my father gave me the impression that he felt the circumstances in which I'd fallen had never fully been explained.

Eventually we all calmed down and the row diffused, but the tension didn't go away.

MEANWHILE, I knew a couple of other local lads who had won places at grammar school. When our first day arrived, we all got onto the bus together with our kit, each of us with a cap and satchel.

No matter how hard I try, I can't remember what my mother's last words were to me that morning. (Maybe there's a part of me that doesn't want to.) But I do know that I didn't suspect anything. As I recall, she just treated everything normally, making sure I was in my new uniform, that I had all the things I needed, and that I got down to the bus stop on time. One of the other lads knocked for me and we were on our way, full of excitement. The grammar school itself was great; it had a big new sports hall and lots of impressive walkways that were all raised above ground level. There were language labs and cricket fields and almost every facility you could possibly wish for. Even the teachers were fantastic. So coming back on the bus that day as a kid I felt as though I had been given so much.

Then when I got back there was nobody at home, which had never happened before. I didn't even have a key, so at first I went round the back to investigate, but I still couldn't get in.

In a certain sort of way, I think I knew what had happened because there was no electric heater on inside, there was no sound from the telly, and there were no lights on. It wasn't exactly as if a bomb had gone off, but it was so different from what I would have normally encountered at 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon that I knew something was up. Bewildered, I went and phoned my dad at work. He didn't have any idea where my mum had gone, so he told me to go to my aunty's house, which was about a mile away.

What happened next is a bit of a haze, but I must have gone and picked my little brother up from his school on the way because I remember we arrived together. My dad met us at my aunty's place and it was then that we went home and went into the house, all three of us together, and we discovered it was empty and all the suitcases were gone. The missing cases were the first thing I noticed, because that morning they had still been on top of the wardrobe from when we'd been to Butlins. Even the mantelpiece, where she used to have bits and pieces of china, was just bare now. All the little things about which she'd been excessively tidy, and which we'd argued about so much, were gone.

To say my dad didn't take it very well would be an understatement. It was as if life had kicked him in the nuts after he'd worked so hard for everything. We had just had a new kitchen extension built, and he went in there for a bit on his own, just to pull himself together for a little while. My brother and I sat in the living room in silence. I assume my father was in the other room weeping, alone. I don't think my brother really had a clue what was going on because he was only about seven, but later on it would hit him very hard, much harder than it hit me.

My dad came back after he'd composed himself, and he was very calm when he spoke to us.

"Well, what we have to do now is get your gran to come up, because she would want to be here," he told us. His words were practical, not emotional. It was his male Northern dignity that kept him going.

Soon another aunty and an uncle drove up to the house with my nan, and she made some dinner. I'm pretty sure she cooked mince and dumplings, because she always used to make that for my dad when he was miserable, and we tried to put a brave face on things while we ate. All of his family were kind of aware and had come that night to show support, but the next day I knew I would be expected to go to school as if nothing had happened.

"It's my second day at school and I am not missing it," I said.

"You're right, you can't miss it," replied my dad.

It was the timing of everything that hurt the most, because I couldn't believe my mother cared so little for me that she'd chosen to vanish on my first day at school. You feel physically painful when something like that happens to you. My dad knew that I had a good insight into it all, although at the time I was still clinging to the thought that she'd come back after a few days. I think I talked to him about it that night, but we were both very tired and we didn't discuss it in much depth. We didn't need to; I understood. I knew exactly what had gone on, but it was much more difficult for my little brother.

The next morning I got my thruppence for the school bus, and off I went. My father went to work as normal, as well. I guess it was a cultural thing that had been learned during the war: "They might drop bombs on us, but we'll keep going no matter what."

After four or five days went by, I realized my mother wasn't going to return. It was as if she had been swallowed by a black hole. That's when my dad and my grandmother had to explain things to my brother, Ronnie. I somehow managed to find this funny little Off switch that allowed me to cope. I suppose it was a defense mechanism, although I would often run through things in my mind to see if I'd done anything that played a part in her decision to leave us.

"Why did she do it? What did I do? Am I to blame?" I'd ask myself.

Sometimes at night I would also worry about something happening to my dad; then my brother and I would be left on our own with nobody to look out for us. But in a strange way, despite all the pain, I was glad it was finally all over, because it meant we wouldn't have to keep shutting our eyes and pretending it was going to work out with my mother. I know for a fact my father forgave her for her behavior a couple of times, and he just kept saying that maybe things would be all right.

But things were not all right, at least not in that sense. It was eight months before I heard from my mother again. Later on in life, as an adult, I found one of the things I grew to hate about being on the road with a band was being apart from my own children; after seven or eight weeks of not seeing your kids it feels unbearable. So I often wonder how my own mother could have gone so many months without getting in touch. For me it seemed an eternity, because when you are a child the days seem longer and eight months seems like eight years.

You can process a lot at that age without knowing it. Suddenly I was interested in a whole new world filled with girls and guitars and football and all the things boys are crazy about when they're setting off on that whole teenage ride that lies ahead. It's probably no coincidence that the Christmas after my mother left, my dad bought me my first electric guitar. I used to spend every Saturday going up to Newcastle in order to go around all the music shops just looking at the guitars and thinking if only. They were replicas of the ones I'd seen rock stars use, and they cost £19.95. Sometimes the shop owners would let you have a go on them. By now I'd really got to grips with the guitar book, so it was my dream to own one. My dad must have seen this, and maybe he wanted to make things up a bit for the fact that Mum had left us, so he gave me £20 for my Christmas present. We went up to town, and I belted out "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple in the shop while my dad watched and listened. He asked the assistant if I was any good, and I was flattered by the answer.

"Good? He can play better than most of the grown-up blokes who we get in here!" said the shop assistant.

I suppose I'd just passed my first audition. My gran gave me £10 on top of the money I had from my dad, so I managed to get a little amp to go with the guitar, and that Christmas became known in the family as the "Electric Guitar Christmas."

We were obviously still very raw over my mum's departure. I used to discuss it a lot with my dad. He was furious and angry and hurt, but he would talk about it in a controlled way, not in a violent or an aggressive way, and I never saw him react angrily or do anything like throw stuff around the room. In a way I think that helped me, because he could articulate his frustrations and anger and I could relate to that and agree with him. It was as if he was speaking for both of us. I channeled a lot of my own anger into playing guitar. I would really thrash it for hours on end, and I became completely obsessed with it. I must have driven everybody mad with the noise, but my father never said a word. I think he was glad I'd found something I could focus on, and I doubt I would have had that sort of freedom had my mother been around.

IT was inevitable that my parents would divorce, which was something people just didn't do in the early seventies. We grew up watching Coronation Street, a cozy English TV soap opera and people in the fictitious Northern town where it was set just didn't do things like that, it was a complete taboo. Cullercoats was like Coronation Street with fish.

It was difficult at school because I didn't know whom to confide in, but when I did I soon found out that plenty of my mates came from families with similar problems.

But the truth is that by the time my mother contacted us again, I wasn't exactly missing her. Life had improved because there was no more tension. When she finally got in touch, it came in the form of a handwritten letter, which my father showed me one morning out of the blue. I remember being struck by how matter-of-fact the tone of her note was. She simply told us where she was living and said it was our choice if we wished to get in touch. There was no explanation of why she had abandoned us, but what really shocked me was the fact she'd been staying just a few hundred yards away from my grammar school. I wondered whether or not she'd watched me getting off the bus on all those winter mornings, and I questioned how it was that I'd never spotted her myself. She must have seen me coming and going; it would have been impossible not to. I was angry with her, too, for trying to put the responsibility about whether or not to see her again onto my shoulders.

"So I've got a choice now, have I? I don't remember having any choice in the matter last September," I said to myself.


On Sale
Sep 9, 2008
Page Count
336 pages

Andy Taylor

About the Author

Andy Taylor was born in a small fishing village in the North East of England in 1961. He learned to play guitar at the age of eight and as a teenager he toured American airbases in Germany with a cover band, before joining Duran Duran in 1980. In the five years that followed, the band would have ten Top 10 UK hit singles and two #1 hit singles in the U.S. before he left, and have gone on to sell 100 million records worldwide. A hugely accomplished musician, having worked with artists as diverse as Robert Palmer, Rod Stewart, and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, Andy lives with his wife Tracey and their family in Ibiza.

Learn more about this author