Duran Duran Are Back

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Duran Duran are back / ICBIRMINGHAM

Duran Duran returned to Birmingham this weekend and will come back again on April 25 to play at the NEC. What's On magazine talks with Roger Taylor about where it all started and where the music industry is going.....

Broad Street has come a long way since the early 80s – but then again so have Duran Duran.

The five-piece who made their name at the infamous Rum Runner club in Birmingham return to the city where it all started nearly 25 years ago; this time it’s not the ‘intimacy’ of the dingy Broad Street club but three sell-out nights at the NEC Arena, a venue the original line-up last played in 1983, at the height of the band’s fame that saw them have two UK No1 singles (Is There Something I Should Know and The Reflex) and amazingly just one chart-topping album (Seven And The Ragged Tiger):

“It was a great time, Birmingham was great around then, a lot of different music scenes going on,” Roger Taylor remembers.

“You could go and see Judas Priest one night and Kraftwerk the next; we used to go to the Town Hall and they used to have loads of gigs on and just everyone played there.

“The Rum Runner was just great, it was a really wild place, a lot of different kinds of music being played, great shows, though it was a pretty dingy place!

“That was a big influence on us actually, the amount of music we could consume,” he adds.

“We were very lucky to grow up in a city that had so much diverse music available, and I think that really had an influence on our sound.”

Please, please tell me now - what were they on about?

That sound saw Duran Duran become one of the biggest bands of the 80s – not just at home but in Europe and America – one of the few bands since The Beatles to have cracked the States.

“You had Depeche Mode after us, but you have to scratch your head a bit to think of many more,” says Roger.

“Now Coldplay are making in-roads, and The Darkness are doing pretty well over there.

“I think we did graft very hard, that’s one of the things about coming from the Midlands, you’re brought up with a real work ethic,” says the drummer who formed Duran Duran with Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Andy Taylor – both strangely no relation.

“We worked and worked, playing little dingy 500 seaters in Middle America when we could have been doing arenas in Europe; we did coast to coast for months and that kind of built up a real fanbase over there, then the MTV thing kicked in which took us to another level – it just all came together at the right time.”

After leaving the band in 1985 with guitarist Andy Taylor, Roger admits he never imagined there’d be a second bite at the cherry, but it came, in September 2000:

“John called me out of the blue and said: ‘what do you think about getting the original band back together again?’” says Roger.

“I said ‘what, like for a charity gig?’ ‘No to do an album and get the band’s career back on track again’; I said ‘well I’ll have to think about it and call you back’ and I kind of thought about it for 24 hours, called back and said yeah, why not?

Duran Duran - A brief history

“My first emotion was surprise ’cos I really thought the time had gone,” he admits.

“My second one was I didn’t want to spoil something that was left in a very good shape – when the original five split up the band’s career was at an absolute peak, and I was worried about coming back and spoiling that, having like a half-bake reunion.

“But then I got excited ’cos we had a very short career really, and I thought maybe there’s something more we can give to this.”

That ‘something more’ is a mammoth UK tour (with seats scarcer than a Villa away win), dates in the US and a new (as yet untitled) album due out later this year, with the announcement of a major record deal due any day now.

“It’s not just a rehash of the old band just doing a one-off money-grabbing tour,” the drummer points out.

“We’re looking at this as a long-term career.”

“I think we were genuinely taken aback,” he says of the reaction to the reunion.

“We didn't know what the interest was going to be; I think we very tentatively put a show on sale in Japan and somebody said: ‘okay we’ve booked you into a 8,000 seater arena’ we said: ‘are you sure about this, after all this time?’ – and it sold out within two hours.

“We thought ‘wow this could be successful’ and it just rolled on from there – I didn’t know if we going to sell 1,000 tickets or 10,000.”

With a new Greatest Hits album doing very nicely thank you, 120,000 tickets sold for their UK tour, Lifetime Achievement honours at both the Q Awards and this year’s Brits and everyone from the Dandy Warhols to Scissor Sisters citing them as an influence, Duran Duran are in danger of coming back and carrying on where they left off:

“We’re all still the same group of guys with the same personalities, so in that respect it’s very familiar,” says Roger.

“It’s very different too; the fans are different, the music business has changed a lot – I think back in the 80s there was a lot of competition, a lot of bands, a lot of creativity, everybody was writing their own songs.

“Now it’s a much faster-moving music scene; it’s not the kind of stuff I would listen to but the way I look at it, if it’s getting some kid off the supermarket checkout and into the music business it’s doing some good.

“I always think of Robbie Williams,” says Roger.

“He came from a manufactured pop band at the end of the day, and look where he is now – I don’t think it’s where you start, it’s where your career goes to that’s important."