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Wednesday September 4, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday September 4, 2013 MYT 8:03:54 AM
by giulia rhodes
John Taylor and his wife Gela Nash. -- EPA / Soren Andersson
The bass guitarist and co-founder of 1980s pop rock band talks about his mum and dad, and the demands of a blended family.
BEING an only child was both blissful and frustrating. I still don’t share my toys very well. Growing up in a triangle with two loving parents was a tremendous privilege, but I didn’t develop that tough skin you get from having to fight for attention. There were a lot of rude awakenings. On my first day at school, they parked the craziest kids next to me – I was stunned.
My father was of a generation whose wartime experiences left them with untreated post-traumatic stress disorder. He didn’t talk about it until he was in his 80s, but it was always present. He was a prisoner of war for three years. Then, at the end of the war, he was put on a 500-mile forced march. Hundreds died. Finally, they ran into the advancing allies and it was over. He was 25. All he would say was that he had it easy compared to Uncle George, who was a prisoner in Japan.
Dad was tightly buckled up, not expressive with his feelings, but he was such a sweet guy. He showed love by making himself useful. He could line curtains, put up shelves – he loved a project.
As a child, interests often come out of the desire to be close to a parent, and we spent hours bonding over Airfix kits. When I got my first electric guitar, I wasn’t happy with the look of it, so he found me some ermine white (paint), left over from his second beloved Ford Cortina, and helped me spray it.
Mum was a music fan. There was never a sense it was something we could do – no instruments or lessons – but she loved to put the radio on and sing along. After my parents died, I found a beautiful little notebook from the late 40s in which she had painstakingly handwritten the words to about 50 popular songs.
My parents grew up on the same working-class Birmingham street. Their generation didn’t have today’s high expectations of relationships and life. Dad knew my mum’s brothers and they planned it together. They were a good match. They wanted work, someone to share their life with, their own home and a child. They got that and they were extraordinarily grateful.
Dad adored my mother. He was a good-looking guy and after Mum died in 1988, (my second wife) Gela and I thought we’d be able to set him up with someone. Whenever we brought it up, he would just say nobody could follow Jean, she was perfection. He taught me a lot about love.
When my daughter (Atlanta, 21) and stepchildren (Travis, 24, and Zoe, 22) were going through school, we got to know teachers, did PTA meetings, soccer coaching. My parents were so different. I wouldn’t go to school for days on end and they never heard about it. If there was a letter home, I would forge their signatures. I just wanted to spend all day reading the NME and hanging out in record stores.
My parents took huge pleasure in my career. They had no ambition for themselves but had so much confidence in me. Becoming the biggest Duran Duran fan gave Mum a new lease of life. When we played Madison Square Gardens in 1984, we flew all the band’s parents out. They went up the Empire State building and to Disney World and stayed in a five-star hotel. Mum had never left the country. They took those memories to the grave.
Fans were always turning up at the house. My parents loved it. I still have people telling me they went to Simon Road one afternoon in 1983 and Mum gave them tea and biscuits and Dad drove them to the station. One Christmas, I went home to find four sacks of fan mail. They were so proud, but I was so off my head and angry and confused that I just lost it. They were bewildered by my behaviour.
Witnessing Atlanta’s birth (with first wife Amanda de Cadenet) could not have been more perfect. I loved spending time with her, but once I separated from her mother, I knew there was a certain quality of parenting she would never get. As a nuclear unit, you can do so much – good cop, bad cop, interchangeable parenting. I have a lot of friends who have been through breakups. I often think whatever you have to do to stay together, just try.
My wife, my ex-wife and I all do the best we can, but it is uphill. It sounds such a gentle word, but blending families is a huge challenge. It puts demands on all the children. It is still a work in progress. There is never a point in parenting where you think that everything is sorted, but I wouldn’t want there to be. I want to interact. I don’t want them not to need me anymore.
In my 30s, I was struggling to evolve into a responsible adult male. I had a hard time shaking off the hysteria of fans and pop stardom and slotting into family life. I kind of did, but then you don’t count on the drugs and the alcohol. I was out of control.
Being sober when my mother passed away was the most profound experience of my life. I wasn’t disappearing or sliding down the sofa. I was entirely present and could be a rock for my father.
You never stop missing your parents, but I am so grateful that getting clean gave me perspective on the important relationships and they both knew how much I loved them.
At the time I met Gela (1996), I needed someone who loved me just for me. She didn’t know anything about the band. I wasn’t the ex-pinup, so the emotions were very clear for us both. — Guardian News & Media
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Lifestyle, Family, parenting, John Taylor, Duran Duran, parents, children, mother, father
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