Wisest of his contemporaries

"I was doing a job I didn't like anymore," explains John Taylor from a cell phone in Boston-freeway transit, currently on tour with his new act, Terroristen. "I just thought there's got to be something else out there for me."

The former Duran Duran bassist and heartthrob in-residence threw caution, and his career, to the wind three years back, ending a near 20-year alliance of varying chart success and quite possibly his creative livelihood.

"It was quite a long period of time -- there would be moments of sweetness and moments of sourness," he continues. "It would be kind of trite to try and detail the decline."

There's little doubting the impact of Duran Duran on the '80s pop spectrum. Nary a sentence about the period goes unuttered without some snide or reverent mention. It was 1978 in Birmingham, England, when friends Nick Rhodes (soon-to-be keyboardist) and John Taylor decided to teach themselves music and make themselves an image of the Roxy Music/David Bowie/Chic hybrid they so meticulously studied. Quickly becoming a five piece, with singer Simon LeBon, guitarist Andy Taylor, and drummer Roger Taylor rounding out the bill, the band hit quickly in the U.K. with space-age anthems like "Planet Earth" and "Girls on Film."

Several tours of the U.S. proved futile in the beginning, but once the second album and era definer, "Rio," splashed out, the band began to scale the inexplicable heights of their megalomaniacal heyday -- videos, cocaine, image, and rock & roll.

Predictably, the explosion took its toll on the five lads preening beneath it, causing a well-documented series of rifts and splinter groups through the middle of the decade. Still, the band trudged on, winding out the '80s with decreasing success, a battered roster (Andy and Roger departed) and loss of critical dignity. A momentary resurgence in 1992 with a self-titled reintroduction and two top-five singles ("Ordinary World" and "Come Undone"), pushed the band straight to the center of the premature '80s revival and back on the road.

But during the recording of Duran Duran's last record, "Medazzaland," something finally broke in Taylor. "Getting sober made a big difference to me," he explains. "I was drinking because I was compromising."

So at a rather humble gathering of Duran hangers-on in L.A. called DuranCon '96, Taylor made a surprise appearance, performed a few acoustic renditions, and announced his departure to a room of teary eyes and blithering woe.

"I wanted it to be dramatic," he laughs.

Already working the spin-off set with the universally panned supergroup Neurotic Outsiders (featuring former members of the Sex Pistols and Guns 'N Roses), Taylor knew where he was going. But it wasn't going to be with this band, either.

"It was a great experience," says Taylor. "It was like being in the greatest punk rock movie of all time. It was a dose of hardcore reality."

That reality pulled him away when "creative disagreements" began to overpower the actual process -- meetings about album covers, talks of tours. The same thing happened last year when the Robert Palmer-fronted Power Station attempted reformation. "They started to talk about a year on the road, and I was out the door."

These days, Taylor comes off as the wisest of his contemporaries, if only for not putting so much trust in seemingly dated idea of the rock star metaphor. He's begun his own Internet record label, B5, assembled a new band and taken to pounding the pavement. He's become somewhat of a maverick in the music industry, leaving a career of inflated successes behind, in search of some more personal means of art and promotion.

"I've come to this point by process of elimination," he says. "With this band, I wanted us to be able to play anything that I want to play, and do it well."

But he's still surprisingly willing to discuss the whole Duran Duran phenomenon. Most recently, he completed an extensive interview session with VH-1's sensational series, "Behind The Music."

"It was about an hour into the interview that I realized that "Behind The Music" meant everything but the music," he details. "I started talking about how I put my hand through a plate glass window, and they got all excited, asking if they could get a picture of my hand!"

And while a quiet bitterness prevails, he still entertains the notion of a Storytellers-style reunion with his former bandmates in the future, a la fellow new-wavers Culture Club (who are currently experiencing a huge, if not tense, resurgence in their native England). But he's quick to remind of the disparity between the two situations, just the same.

"People have had 10 years to miss Culture Club," he quips. "We never went away."


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