Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Air Miles

"A man is not an orange. You can't eat the fruit and throw the peel away."
– Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

John Taylor is stressing me out.

Last week, John answered a question from a fan named Peggy, which had been submitted to Ask Katy. Peggy wondered, “with all the advances in technology, if there are any songs from the early days that the guys were unhappy with the final result and would be interested in re-recording?”

John answered, “Hmm.. Good question Peggy. Do you? That is, are there any of the older recordings you would like to hear re-recorded, with Dom playing guitar I guess, instead of Andy? I think most of the early (pre-Notorious) recordings are pretty darn perfect if I say so myself. Come to think of it, I probably wouldn’t change anything on Notorious or Big Thing either. Everyone knows that Liberty is the least satisfactory of the elpees, but that has nothing to do with technology. Do you know, sometimes I really dislike technology? An excuse for a new coat of paint is all it is sometimes..Em, yes.. I think we’ve always been pretty on time technologically speaking. The early albums were very forward for their time. I cannot imagine them being any different. And please feel free to answer my question…”

My first reaction was amazement that John would even dare to utter such a thing… to re-record previous materials with another guitarist would be blasphemy. I’m pretty sure such an event would throw the earth off its axis, causing it to spin so fast that that we actually would, in fact, fly off.

I then realized that he was being sarcastic, probably taking offense to the question. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. But Peggy wasn’t actually suggesting that things could be done better with another guitarist. I think she was really just inquiring about technology. However, I can see how John could make that leap. As scientists are still unable to create an Artificial Andy, any re-recording would have to be done with a session guitarist, and well, that simply would not do.

And yes, John has made it quite clear lately exactly just how much he hates technology, many times over in just the past few months. I think we’re beginning to understand.

Overall, this response really unsettled me. To me, it seemed a bit more than just the regular grumpiness. It was a continuation of his somber views put forth at the UCLA conference, but even more chilly. With this answer, John had gone from a crotchety old man pining for the album art of yesteryear to an angry young teen, wanting to hide in his room with his “elpees.”

Almost before I could reach for a sweater, the following was posted on

A “Blog” from John
March 11th, 2010


There is not one person staying in this hotel
who would rather not be somewhere else.
At home in bed with a warm wife perhaps,
or watching a son play soccer on a winter field,
or walking the dog along a leafy street &
(waving hello to the neighbours).
Helping daughter with last minute homework or
helping her pick out her wedding dress even or
Quality time with ageing Dad or Mom or both.

Not work though, not here, Anywhere but here.

Why do we have to come so far?
It turned out to be a rumour that the world had grown small,
And whoever said it had no frequent flyer miles.
We think nothing these days, of vast distances
and crossings, of two or three oceans for one nights work.
So here we all are, for one night or maybe two,
roaming the halls at midnight, like jagged Willy Lomans.

At least I got my breakfast in bed. That’s different.
Would not have gotten that at home (unless I was sick.)
which I never am, anymore (I’m over that.)
Endless supplies of coffee on tap,
Heuvos Fritos at a moments notice,
Hmmm.. I guess it’s not so uncomfortable!

The only real hurt is the restless gentle pull that
says ‘Don’t stay, get away,
get home & isolate, turn away.
Pull up the covers and don’t play with others, quick,
before you get found out..’

But that would not be living life,
and I must move forward and not be afraid
of the darkness that lives in my skull anymore.
Meet some people, make some friends,
imitate a human being, that’s how they all do it,
and what could be better than that?
At the All-Star Telecom Conference I could win,
a free cell-phone or a blackberry to call home with,
at least.

Not that it isn’t beautiful. I even have a sea view.
Was a time when that would have been more than enough,
(the mid-nineteenth century perhaps) but now, it just gets in the way..
Perception is everything, I have to keep my mind right,
and get it right with God- keep the channel clear, strong, wide, free-flowing.

I see this as the expression of a deeply depressed man. Duran Duran has been on the road almost non-stop for the past seven years, so “world-weary” would probably be an underestimation. Also, John has a milestone birthday coming up, which can cause the best of us to go into a bit of an Existential tailspin. Even so, this communiqué struck me as being heartbreakingly sad.

I can’t help but wonder what John’s motivation is for delivering this “blog” directly to his fans. Yes, it is couched in beautiful, song-like prose that one can romantically imagine being written late at night on hotel stationary… but I am surprised that such rawness was shared so immediately and broadly, via the dreaded technology. Several days had passed since it was penned, so clearly the desire to share it was well thought out. Is it a plea for help, a desire to be comforted or reassured? Is it a warning of terrible things to come? Perhaps, to quote Arthur Miller once more, “One had the right to write because other people needed news of the inner world, and if they went too long without such news they would go mad with the chaos of their lives.”

Whatever John’s motivation may be, this blog has deeply worried, especially in light of past transgressions. There is some kind of struggle going on in his beautiful mind, and it appears that our champion has named “technology" as his foe. He keeps poking at it with a stick… and now it’s making me moody.

This past weekend, as all of this was weighing heavily upon me, Ask Katy asked for questions to be submitted for a “roundtable” discussion with the band. My question is this:

“The topic of technology seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongue lately, from John's speech at UCLA, to Nick's keynote in Barcelona, even creeping into Ask Katy questions. Perhaps this is a result of technology itself being so pervasive... we can't all hide from the world, listening to elpees in our bedrooms, can we?

John mentioned the "immense power of restriction" that artists once held over their audience, before the days of YouTube and Twitter. Do you, as a band, feel that it is in your best interest to adhere to this sentimental notion, or do you see yourselves adapting to and harnessing technology as a way to promote interaction with fans both new and old? If the answer is the latter, what new technologies are you considering, besides content delivery on mobile phones, to promote what will surely be a groundbreaking new album? Also, since there is such a clear dichotomy within the band on this topic, do you think there is a way to blend the traditional with the modern, resulting in a truly innovative approach to fan interaction and music promotion?”

Whether this question merits an answer from the band remains to be seen, but I am obviously keen to hear what the group has to say. I have a few ideas of my own on the subject, but I will continue to wait patiently in hopes of hearing theirs.

In the meantime, I really hope John can feel better. For whatever it's worth, I will offer this advice: spend less time hating technology and more time using it to get what you want. Follow the instinct that tells you to move forward, to not be afraid.
If perception is everything, then reality, including technology, is what you make it. Find a way to use it to shine light on those dark places in your skull.

Maybe... this process has already started.


  1. Well written, Kitty!! I, for one, would like to see John's answer to that question (and the other members as well). I have had a sense that John has been ... well ... sad of late too. Maybe he just wants to settle down with the family for a bit and write music?

  2. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has seen John as becoming increasingly morose as he nears his 50th birthday...

    It also seems that his thoughts on technology are the polar opposite to Nick's. When one member of the band seems to be more enamoured of the latest tech trend than anything else, while another seems to be actively trying to revert to the way things used to be, it can't be a good thing imo...

    Here's to hoping that Simon and Roger are able to help them find a middle ground.:(

  3. "we can't all hide from the world, listening to elpees in our bedrooms, can we?"
    actually, yes we can.
    nice read, but a bit too analytical, in my opinion.
    in danger of being the one who comes off as john's knightress in shinning armour and whatnot, let me remind you john had a website and was selling music online before most of us really knew what that was all about, he has admitted to succumbing to his blackberry and iPod, he knows both worlds - maybe one could allow him the right to choose the one where he feels more comfortable? just putting the thought out there. it's not about being forward or backward, it's about the music. john is about the music. making it, selling it (whichever way is available) and playing it for us in the flesh. surely you can agree that's ok. technology yes, but just so much!
    his blog did have a lonely, sad tone to it, but let's not get our panties in a twist. make up your minds - one either leaves them alone (and i don't know any duranie who is capable of that), or one receives input with respect and gratitude. not over analysing it, or making it look and sound gloomier than it is. does that help "a deeply depressed man"? maybe he was just tired and sad. and he wrote to us about it. why not react instead with a "hang in there john, so is life; you are more appreciated than you know, count your blessings as we do the one it is for us to know there is a musician and human being out there as great as you".
    spread more love; assume less misery.

  4. Blank, thank you for taking the time to read and leave a thoughtful comment.
    I assure you that I need no reminders about John's solo career and his pioneering work with digital distribution and fan communication. It is not my place, nor that of anyone else, to "allow" John's choices or the places he feels comfortable, and that is certainly not my intent. I am simply expressing the possibility that by embracing technology rather than dismissing it could have a positive effect. I should clarify that I am referring specifically to promotion and sales, which, while not impossible, can be a challenge to do effectively while hiding in one's bedroom.
    I'm not sure how to respond to your "make up your minds" comment, as the main purpose of this blog is to convey my own contemplation of what has been presented by the band (perception is everything, after all). I feel that my analysis was done with respect and gratitude towards John, as shown by my detailed response to his recent comments. I could have reacted with a simple "hang in there," but I'm not one to so lightly brush off the people I care about. I listened to what John said, I thought carefully about his words, and I took the time to craft what I consider to be a helpful response. We all perceive things differently, and if my panties are twisted, it will be of my own choice.

  5. I think John's poem has more to do with his discontentment doing corporate gigs. If I'm not mistaken he has mentioned it before in his blog that he doesn't enjoy playing them.

  6. To me, JT gives the impression of being an open person, and someone that experiences the same kinds of self-worth issues that many of us also suffer from. Put the two together, and you get someone that wants to (perhaps needs to) express themselves; communicate with others. Hence his brilliantly warm and engaging blogs both on the old TTP site, and more recently on

    It's worth remembering that he's just a guy; just because he's achieved fame and fortune, doesn't take away the demons we carry about ourselves. We tend to look up at him (it's true, admit it!), so when he seems to be experiencing a moment of weakness, it seems greater than if it was happening to a friend of ours in 'real life'. Equally, these emotions and human weaknesses are things that feed addiction.

    It's worth remembering that JT is a recovering alcoholic/drug addict, and will be until the day he dies; it's not something that you simply cure in yourself, then move on. It's a process, not perfection (hence the name of his old website); and as one of the former myself, I know that we tend to have problems with emotions sometimes that other people might otherwise deal with. That, or we feel things worse than others. There are four primary things to beware of according to 12-step meetings, which form the acronym HALT: Hunger Anger Loneliness Tired. The point being, that if you're feeling low, you should consider whether you're out of whack with one of these factors; and if so, do something about it. He was probably tired, and also alone, so he was feeling low. Writing the poem was more than likely a way for him to get his feelings out of his head, and onto a piece of paper.

    As for the technology issue, I think you're reading too much into it. I re-read that comment of his based on your post, and I can't see what you can. I think he's just talking about the process (there's that word again), the one that means songs sometimes have to be forged over time, rather than bashed out in one sitting of immense, and deeply satisfying energy. I didn't detect any reference to the current state of DD, just someone saying that sometimes the drawn out nature of recording - rather than writing - songs can be less appealing.

  7. Steve, thank you so much for sharing your insights... this really helps me to understand things better, I think. Thank you :)

  8. In regards to his "sad" blog...did anyone ever think that maybe he is just missing his home? Missing his family? Sure the other men of DD are just as much family as his wife/children but if we were at work ALL the out of a suitcase, feeling the pressure to produce, would you not feel the same? I applaud him for being so honest and HUMAN....

    I'm not even a JT fan....

    As for the technology....I'll leave that one alone and go and sit with John on that topic....

  9. Absolutely... I think it's perfectly clear from the first paragraph that he is missing his family. I don't think anyone would dispute that. Also, I think John's honesty through the years is what has drawn so many people to him.

  10. Kitty for gods sake don't put that energy out there...shhh

  11. I wonder if his comments had anything to do with the 2010 remasters, which have been proven to sound absolutely horrendous.

  12. I wonder if his comments had anything to do with the 2010 remasters, which have been proven to sound absolutely horrendous.