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.