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    Duran Duran (2005) | Enlarge

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    DURAN DURAN have survived drink, drugs and show-business marriages. Back on the road and in the charts after 20 years, they tell the secrets of their excess and all about those girls, girls, girls

    Duran Duran, reborn for 2005, are nothing if not courageous. In their mid-40s an age at which most of us cast round for laurels on which to rest these preening 1980s pop stars are returning to the fray. On Monday 31st Jan, their new single, What Happens Tomorrow, is released. Earlier in the same month, the band played its new songs live for the first time in London for Top Of The Pops before heading off to tour Japan and America. Breathes lead singer Simon Le Bon:

      'The crowd went bananas, they sang along to nearly everything. They loved it.'

    Few bands, of course, bestride a decade quite like Duran Duran. In the early 1980s, their eye-catching style frilly shirts, bouffant hairstyles and a love affair with blusher, plus sweeping anthems such as Rio, View To A Kill and Hungry Like The Wolf won hearts across the globe. Their debut album reached number three in the UK charts, selling 2.5 million copies, and Princess Diana declared them her favourite band. After a 15-year-split, the original line-up reformed in 2001 and returned to the charts last September with their single Reach Up For The Sunrise, which went to number five in the charts.

    But, some 20 years on, is the world really ready for the return of Duran Duran? Says Simon:

      'It doesn't really make any difference. Whether they are or not, here we come. That's how we did it in the first place: we didn't think what's right for now, we did what we wanted to. We love music. That's the only thing that's important to us.'

    First time around, other things seemed to matter, too. The joy of Duran Duran Simon plus Nick Rhodes, Roger Taylor, Andy Taylor and John Taylor (all unrelated) was their love of 1980s excess. With their famously raunchy videos, their lives also seemed a hedonistic whirlwind of cars, yachts and substance abuse not forgetting girls, girls, girls.

    If they were, says John, it was hardly surprising.

      'We were a bunch of 20-year-old kids, out of suburban Newcastle, Birmingham and north London. We chose to go out with models and drive fast cars in our spare time. What's so strange about that? If you're 20 and someone writes you a cheque for 32 million, do you give it to Barnardo's? We worked bloody hard, and I don't feel we made any big mistakes.'

    What about the clothes. Surely there were some slip-ups there? John concedes:

      'Don't design any of your stage clothes yourself. That's a mistake I've made more than once. Don't go on stage resembling a chocolate soldier.'

    And the knickerbockers?

      'I've never worn a pair of those in my life,' John retorts. 'Maybe Simon did. But you have to come up with a new look constantly. You can't wear Burton suits in every video.'

    Asserts Nick, the most flamboyant of the band:

      'I think we created some pretty powerful imagery. You have to remember that there weren't any stylists then. It was just us hanging out, going shopping, getting ready and doing a photo shoot. We weren't afraid of experimenting. We represented our times pretty well it's just that they went out of style in a very public way.'

    As the 1980s backlash began, Duran Duran lso fell dramatically ^H from grace, symbolic of a decade most wanted to forget. They had, in any case, problems of their own. By the mid-1980s, the 'fab five' were drifting apart. Roger was the first to leave the band, in 1985, and the group fractured into two. John joined Andy in Power Station, while Simon, Roger and Nick formed Arcadia. There were other problems, too. John has spoken of an era in which 'cocaine was given to me on a plate', and by the early 1990s he was battling cocaine and alcohol addiction. He acknowledges:

      'I've had to do much more work than anyone else to escape from that. I haven't drunk for many years.'

    How did he extricate himself from his addictions?

      'It's a process. Constant vigilance is one of the keys, once you recognise yourself as someone particularly susceptible.'

    Roger recalls:

      'Everybody reacted differently. My parents always brought me up to be very anti-drugs, and that protected me. I tried to keep a level head on it.'

    Simon, too, knew enough to be on his guard.

      'I grew up in Pinner in Middlesex, and there were more drugs about there in the late 1970s than I ever saw in the music industry. It was speed and heroin alley. I knew about it, I'd seen it. I'm not an addictive person; I don't tend to lose control in that way. Being a singer, it's very difficult to do your job if you're doing something that's going to fuck your voice up. Cocaine decays your vocal cords. Anyone who gets into heroin either wants to have an affair with death or is just plain stupid. Smoking dope turns me into a cabbage. I was well prepared by personal experience for those things.'

    Gradually, Duran Duran's members needed to assert their individuality; even, perhaps, to settle down. Andy was the first to marry, in 1982. Fittingly, given Duran Duran's pen- chant for hair gel, he married the band's hairdresser, Tracey Wilson, and reassessed his priorities:

      'You learn to say no. I've always looked down at the brink and said, "I don't want to go there". For me, what's important are family, music, football. If someone tries to change that order, I put it back.'

    He and Tracey have four children: Andrew, 20, Georgie, 17, Bethany, 13, and Isabelle, eight.

    Roger, who married dancer Giovanna Cantone in 1984, has three children, James, 17, Elea, 13, and Elliot, ten. and, after a stint as a farmer, now lives in London. But it is Simon, partly for his heart-throb looks, partly for his beautiful and high-profile wife, whose marriage has long hogged the headlines. According to band legend, he first spotted Yasmin Parvaneh in a models' catalogue, made enquiries and asked her out. The pair married in 1985 and have been together ever since. How have they made their relationship last in a business notorious for wrecking marriages? Simon responds:

      'Separation is a big pressure. It can make you grow apart, or make you appreciate your time together so much more. It's happened that way with Yasmin and me. The fact that she works as well means she hasn't been sitting around waiting for me. With us, it's the real thing. It's real love. That's the biggest thing. And we want to make it work. You've got to compromise and be strong. Sometimes it does hurt. Sometimes you do feel, "What am I doing here?" That streak of individuality jumps out, especially with two strong people. We have lots of fights and lots of make-ups.'

    Yasmin, he says, only half joking, would make a great manager for the band.

      'There's lots of bullshit in bands, and Yasmin always takes my side. Sometimes I have to say, "No Yasmin, that's just how it works". She's very assertive and driven and totally believes in us.

    Simon speaks fondly of his daughters. Amber, 15, Saffron, 14 and Tallulah, ten.

      'They love music Saffron is the R&B queen. Amber likes rock, and Tallulah, she's pop.'

    Does he see himself in them?

      'I'd like to, because they're really great people. They're neither stupid nor rebellious; they're assertive and smart. I've got a lot more admiration for my children than I do for myself at their age.'

    John also has a daughter, Atlanta, 12, from his marriage to Amanda de Cadenet, and is now married to Gela Nash, co-founder of fashion label Juicy Couture.

    Says Nick Rhodes:

      "There's a lot of kids around now backstage, though they're more interested in who come to the shows, such as Gwen Stefani >and Justin Timberlake, than in us.'

    He has a daughter, Tatjana, 18, from his marriage to American heiress Julie Anne Friedman, but is now dating actress Meredith Ostrom.

    Competing with pop stars a quarter century their junior, it is hard not to feel sympathy for Duran Duran: scanning the mirror for the latest wrinkle or, heaven forbid, a bald patch. Their new record deal was accompanied by stories that, as part of it, they had to embark on a crash diet. Isn't it tempting, I ask John, to simply act their age, scrap the diet and relax into their waistbands?

      'We have a responsibility to not get too out of shape, the same way Tom Cruise or Tony Blair do. We're all quite vain. It's not like we went to seed while we weren't working together. I did start using a blowdryer again after 15 years. And hair dye? You've kind of got to do it. I still bleach my hair.'

    The others agree. Slobbing out, notes Nick acerbically, is not part of his vocabulary.

    Still one has to ask why, after periodic attempts to reform in the 1990s, these 1980s warhorses are returning to the fray. It is not, they emphasise, for the money; after writing all their songs themselves, royalties keep rolling in. This, after all, is a band who, over 26 years, have achieved 70 million record sales, nine gold records, six platinum, and three multi-platinum awards. Nor is their popularity in doubt. In 2003, a series of grassroots tours reaffirmed their status as one of Britain's most successful bands. Tickets for the show at the Roxy Club on Sunset Boulevard sold out in three minutes to Hollywood gliteratti including Nicolas Cage, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. A London gig became the fastest-selling concert of 2003, with 2,000 tickets selling in four minutes.

    Unlike other bands who fell apart amid squabbles and acrimony, Duran Duran split on friendly terms. There are no harsh words to be taken back; reforming has been easy. Says Roger:

      'To go back to the people you spent possibly the best times of your life with, and make it work again, is special. We feel very sentimental about each other.'

    Ahead of them lies the example of the Rolling Stones: still rocking in their 60s. Declares Simon:

      'I wanna have number one hits and I wanna fill stadiums. And to play great shows, because it's glorious.'

    Fans from first time around are waiting with bated breath. If Duran Duran can put the clock back so, it seems, can we. And what, in truth, could be more glorious than that?

    Duran Duran play Birmingham City Football Club, St Andrews Ground, on May 28, visit www.getlive.co.uk and www.gigsandtours.com. The single What Happens Tomorrow is released on Monday, 30th Jan

    - Source: Daily Mail, 29th Jan 20000005

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