In the summer of 1987, the day before driving to Austin for freshmen orientation at the University of Texas, I went to see Andy Taylor at Fitzgerald's. The former Duran Duran guitarist had done a near-180 in his career, opting for T. Rex-inspired hard rock over the glamorous Britpop of Rio.
After what felt like hours of listening to Robbie Neville's self-titled hit record on the sound system, out stumbled a tiny little man with a low-slung guitar who seemed almost nothing like the guy being chased through jungles and riding yachts in videos I'd seen on MTV.
Clearly drunk off his ass, Taylor was the model of rock and roll with dark sunglasses, ripped jeans and a ballsy backup band that included former Frank Zappa alum Patrick O'Hearn on bass. He tore through a raucous set of original material and a couple of covers, including the "Beast of Burden."
During that Stones cover a girl next to me, clearly a Duran fan writing down every song on a napkin, asked her friend what song that was. Her friend replied, "It's 'Beast of Burden.' You know, by Bette Midler."
Such is no doubt the life of a pop star who really wanted to be a rocker like Taylor, one of three Taylors in Duran Duran alongside Roger and John -- none of whom are related. He tried a hiatus with Power Station featuring John Taylor, powerhouse drummer Tony Thompson (ex-Chic) and Robert Palmer, but it wasn't enough and he ended up bailing on Duran Duran twice, once in the '80s and again after a reunion in the mid-2000s.
In between, Taylor co-wrote hit songs for Rod Stewart's rebound record Out of Order, penned songs for several soundtracks including Miami Vice and American Anthem, sat in on records with artists like Belinda Carlisle, recorded two solo albums and did a ton of coke, which he described in detail in his 2008 tell-all autobiography Wild Boy.
While his pop turn with Duran Duran gave him mega-success and a life of luxury, it was clear early on that his personal musical style rooted in the early-'70s rock of the Rolling Stones, Mott the Hoople and Small Faces was his first love.
In honor of Taylor's birthday today, here are some of his best non-Duran Duran recordings.
Probably his most complete solo songwriting effort from his first solo record Thunder.
One of the songs he co-wrote with Stewart, and one of the more obvious examples of his guitar work on the record.
The opening track from Thunder, complete with classic rock and roll revving motorcycle engine.
From the cheesy '80s gymnast romance American Anthem, Taylor was obviously channeling T. Rex after covering "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" in Power Station.
Speaking of Power Station, songs like "Some Like It Hot" seemed to straddle a line between Duran Duran's pop and the rock Taylor wanted to play. It also showcased his surprisingly formidable chops as a guitarist.
Probably from the same sessions that produced "Take It Easy," this also features Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa, Missing Persons, Jeff Beck) on drums.
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