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
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.'
'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.'
'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
'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
'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.
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.'
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.'
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: Rarities Shop
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 2000005