Sunday, January 27, 2008

Underappreciated ’80s: Andy Taylor

You might think I’m crazy for focusing my first “Underappreciated ’80s” post on a member of Duran Duran.

But hear me out.

Back in the day, a Metallica-loving, guitar-playing, head-banging friend of mine shocked me by praising an Andy Taylor album. I nearly crapped my pants. Sure, Duran Duran had some catchy pop songs … but aside from a few good chords in “Rio,” little suggested that the phrase “guitar rock” belonged in the same sentence with any band member’s name.

Despite my misgivings, I followed his advice and grabbed that album—which turns out to be a hidden treasure of ’80s rock.

Let’s go back a step.

Andy Taylor had shown a glimpse of his axe chops when he joined Robert Palmer, Tony Thompson, and (unrelated) Duran Duran bandmate John Taylor in 1985 to form The Power Station, which scored hits like “Get It On (Bang a Gong)” and “Some Like It Hot.”

He then hooked up with ex-Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones to hit the charts with “Take It Easy.” This fun if formulaic song remains the best thing about the mind-numbing movie American Anthem, unless you count the “acting” by star Janet Jones—who, in turn, remains best known for marrying hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and moving him from his native Canada to the United States.

Canadians surely hate Taylor simply because of this association. They should nevertheless give his 1987 solo album, Thunder, a listen before dismissing him entirely.

It starts with “I Might Lie,” a driving guitar attack the likes of which you’ve never heard, and couldn’t expect, from Duran Duran. Taylor and Steve Jones—who plays on each song, co-produced the album, and co-wrote all but one track—follow this with some impressive tracks that show Taylor’s range. “Don’t Let Me Die Young,” “Thunder,” and “Tremblin’” join with the opening track to make you wonder why Duran Duran restrained Taylor’s musical abilities for so long.

Taylor wins you over not with flash (although a few of his solos are quite good) but instead with great melody playing and good rock sense. Although unfortunate synthesizer bits taint several songs—after all, this was the ’80s—even these moments can’t keep the album from standing up remarkably well over time.

I wish I could say the same for Janet Jones’ movies.


At January 28, 2008 12:25 AM, Blogger Barbara replied to my musings ...

Wow, you opened my eyes to Andy! Great post.

At January 28, 2008 7:54 AM, Blogger HoldBackTheRain replied to my musings ...

He also did an album of covers after that called "Dangerous" which had a fantastic version of "Feel Like Makin' Love" and other goodies. It is too bad his solo career didn't go very far because he has a lot of talent...

He's keeping busy these days making more music at his studio in Ibiza. Here's the MySpace Page:

Great blog! Thanks for posting!

Laura =)

At January 28, 2008 9:42 AM, Blogger Beth replied to my musings ...

Andy Taylor never got the props he deserved because we were introduced to him through a bubblegummish band. But he is an amazing guitarist, isn't he? Good post, Mr. Amulet.

At January 28, 2008 10:12 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Barbara: It's one of the best unknown CDs from the '80s. Hence the kickoff for the Underappreciated '80s series!

HBTR: Thanks for stopping by. I haven't yet heard the Dangerous album, but I'm curious.

Beth: I certainly wouldn't have listened if someone with credibility hadn't introduced it.

-- david

At January 28, 2008 11:39 AM, Blogger Wonder Boy replied to my musings ...

I'm gonna track it down right now. Thanks for the tip...

At January 28, 2008 5:03 PM, Blogger Janet replied to my musings ...

What about Andrew Ridgeley or John Oates? Second bananas all need their day in the sun, too!

At January 28, 2008 5:05 PM, Anonymous Animal replied to my musings ...

Well said, Thunder was a good album. By the way, you might want to change your mind on Duran Duran as well, there's plenty of good stuff on the Rio album and their other ones as well. Underappreciated 80s? Well Duran is a prime example.

At January 28, 2008 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous replied to my musings ...

I don't think Janet is really that well reveared north of the 49. She helps represent all that took Wayne away from us. Many of us like watching her fail as an actress. Oh heck, it was big news when she was connected and accused of betting on sporting events through an illegal bookmaking operation.

More than anything else, we just feel bad for Wayne "Great at Hockey, Horrible at Acting" Gretzky.

At January 29, 2008 6:10 AM, Blogger An80sNut replied to my musings ...

If you were to start a series of posts on overlooked 80s artists (which you have), you couldn't have started with a better example. Andy's guitar-work (heck, even the vocals surprised me) on Thunder gave a lot of fans the shock they needed as to what talents had been muted in Duran Duran production.

I believe that it has to be pure hell for a talented guitarist to have keyboards sailing over your instrument and rare moments to solo. This and the style change on Red Carpet Massacre had to be the second breaking point. Thunder remains a testament to melodic rock and bears repeated listenings.

At January 29, 2008 7:07 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

WB: If you do pick it up, let me know what you think.

Janet: Oates may get his day in the Underappreciated '80s series, but I doubt Ridgeley will. He got more than his share of appreciation for his contribution.

Animal: Note that I didn't say anything bad about DD--just that the band was more pop-oriented than guitar rock-focused like this album. I'll listen to both, but it depends on my mood.

WIGSF: Thanks for confirming my suspicions about Canadian feelings toward Janet! That betting scandal just added to it, I'm sure.

Martin: Well said. There are many other examples from the decade, but this one stood out for me. Thanks for the thumbs up.

-- david

At January 29, 2008 10:30 AM, Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen replied to my musings ...

Funny you mention Duran Duran. Two members of the band are going to be at our local radio station to be interviewed this week.

Small world, huh?

At January 29, 2008 11:29 AM, Blogger Nessa replied to my musings ...

I'm not a music critic, but I see you are. I just listen to whatever happens to be on. I know, I'm a poor excuse for a human being.

At January 29, 2008 12:25 PM, Blogger DirkStar replied to my musings ...

I think I'll just take your word on this one...

Duran Duran?

No, I just can't bring myself to think about it...

At January 29, 2008 1:47 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Stacy: What a coincidence. It's almost as if I have a psychic link to your local radio station. Almost.

Nessa: There's nothing to apologize for in that.

Dirk: Imagine my shock when my metalhead buddy recommended it!

-- david

At January 29, 2008 4:30 PM, Blogger BeckEye replied to my musings ...

I should kill you. Reasons:

A. "Take It Easy" will be in my head all day.

B. You've stolen a possible great choice for my "Forgotten Classic Video of the Week" and I can't believe I didn't think of it before.

C. I'll be wondering what Mitch whats-his-nuts has been up to since the Olympics. And now I must Google him, even though I can't remember his name. I guess it's on to the IMDB. See how much work you're causing me!!?

By the way, I love Duran Duran, and you can tell '80s Nut that there were no "muted" talents in that band. Harrrumph. I'm not talking to him now.

At January 30, 2008 3:21 PM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

I totally agree with your opinion. His cover album was good, too. I actually was surprised at how many songs Duran Duran had and how many I actually like. As for forgotten 80's artists who never got their due, there's always Spandau Ballet and ABC, mix in some Level 42, also. As for one of my favorite bands who've languished in relative obscurity, try The Alarm. Sorry if my typing or sentence structure is off, I'm on some heavy narcotic meds right n ow.

At January 30, 2008 5:34 PM, Blogger Robot Dancers replied to my musings ...

I thought that said Jane jackson's movies and I was like "C'mon! You didn't like Poetic Justice?!"

Haha.. I couldn't even type that with a straight face.

At January 31, 2008 6:55 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Beckeye: Damn me--I'm so mean, doing that to you ... certainly putting '80s gymnasts on your brain is cruel. will you forgive me?

Mike: Only the Fates know what will appear on Underappreciated '80s. I hope you're feeling better soon.

RD: Wow. I hadn't thought of the possible connection to Janet (Miss Jackson if you're nasty).

-- david

At January 31, 2008 5:26 PM, Blogger Paige replied to my musings ...

Hey Guys!

Just wanted to let you know about another band you may like if you're feeling in the Duran Duran mood… they’re called Red Vein, and they’re from the UK! I heard them on the radio here in LA the other day, and went right to their myspace to look ‘em up ( They remind me of some cool mixture of Duran Duran, New Order, Clear Static and Tears for Fears. You should really check them out!

~ Paige

At January 31, 2008 10:49 PM, Blogger angel, jr. replied to my musings ...

You lost me at Duran Duran...but I will try and check out Andy Taylor's music.

At February 01, 2008 10:07 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Paige: Never heard of 'em. But now I'll have to give it a listen ...

Angel: I know what you mean--that's where I was, too.

-- david

At February 04, 2008 8:35 PM, Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. replied to my musings ...

amazingly I've never heard this, but I was won over to Andy with Power Station

At February 04, 2008 8:48 PM, Blogger Rocky replied to my musings ...

This rocks! I love 80s tunes, so much so that instead of Saturday morning cartoons, I watch We Are The 80s videos on VH1 Classic for 2-5 hours. Always a blast from the past. I hope to see many more posts like this, nice piece.

At February 05, 2008 12:25 PM, Blogger cube replied to my musings ...

At first I thought you were talking Mayberry ;-)

Actually I love 80's music. So much of it is superior to some of the crap we hear now.

At February 06, 2008 10:43 AM, Blogger On My Watch replied to my musings ...

Cool. I liked Duran Duran and Power Station...and even liked Arcadia. (gasp!)

At February 06, 2008 12:21 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Ray: That's how I first separated him in my head from those other Taylors.

Rocky: Good to see you back. I'm glad you'll appreciate (I hope) my frequent Underappreciated '80s posts.

Cube: No, this one is purely musical. And much of the '80s music was crap too ... but it was FUN crap.

OMW: I thought about writing up Arcadia, too. Maybe a future installment.

-- david

At August 05, 2008 1:35 PM, Blogger vayne1 replied to my musings ...

Does anyone know where I can find "Dangerous""? It's asking for up to $70 for a copy.


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