Wild boys are all set for a new romance
Feb 13 2004
By Gordon Barr, The Evening Chronicle
He had fame and fortune but, in the final part of our exclusive interview, Duran Duran's Andy Taylor reveals to Showbiz Reporter Gordon Barr there was a price to pay.
When budding guitarist Andy Taylor left Tyneside in his late teens with big dreams of becoming a rock star, little could he have known how those dreams were about to come true.
Within a few months he would go from playing social clubs to appearing on Top of the Pops and having his face adorn the walls of girls' bedrooms across the world.
It was Girls On Film which changed the fortunes of Andy and the four other wannabes in Duran Duran.
Their third single, it went top five in Britain and was the first of a string of smashes over a five-year period. Not that Andy was with the band throughout.
He quit in 1985 at the height of their fame, after the excesses of fortune took their toll. But the Cullercoats lad had a good time getting there and he looks back fondly, although with a hint of cynicism, on those successful early days when Duran Duran spearheaded the New Romantics movement.
"The single's a hit all over the world, it was a case of the plan worked, so what's the next stage?" he recalls.
"It was a totally different sound, we wore what people considered to be odd clothes, we wore make-up and we were doing something no-one else had done.
"So not only did we have the action in the charts, we also had this image. In some places, especially in middle America, it was like `you faggots'. You literally had to be careful where you went. But it gave us that whole edge and attracted a huge female audience.
"When we first started out we were more into being an artsy pop band, more like a Roxy Music.
"The evils at EMI saw the teen potential and thought, `righty-o, we can milk this one'. But that wasn't the intention from our point of view.
"It was mainly down to John Taylor - the pin-up boy, and that went nuts."
They travelled the world. No expense was spared on video shoots, and America also succumbed to their charms.
In Britain, songs like Hungry Like The Wolf, Save A Prayer, Rio, Union Of The Snake, New Moon On Monday, Wild Boys and Notorious stormed the charts.
They had two number one singles, Is There Something I Should Know (1983) and The Reflex (1984), while the album Rio became an 80s classic, spending more than two years on the charts.
It was during Duran Duran's heady days that Andy broke the rock star rules and settled down. Tracie Wilson used to cut his hair, but soon the pair realised there was a chemistry between them. And it's a chemistry that has lasted more than two decades. Four children later, and Andy and Tracie, who are now based in Ibiza, are as strong as ever.
"I've been married for 22 years. You meet one person, you follow your instinct, it just works," he reflects.
But despite finding a wife and having kids, the demons of the showbiz world were ever present as Duran Duran conquered the planet. Andy was introduced to drugs; they were nearly his downfall. But he found the strength to quit them, and the band, before it was too late.
"I think the low period is before you leave, when you come to the realisation there is something wrong, and it's not just you," he says.
"The whole thing is starting to go pear-shaped. It's when you finally admit to yourself `I've got a problem', `we've got a problem'.
"From nothing to millions, and trying to retain the self-control, not just in terms of partying and stuff but also how you treat people, how you treat yourself.
"You're a very, very young man given an awful lot of power, and the tendency for human beings is to abuse it. Not just to other people, but to yourself. You can get self-destructive and then you look in the bank and go `huh!'.
"So take a combination of that and the just relentless whipping you get off the record company to keep coming up with it, keep coming up with it. I think if someone had just said, `take six months off', we probably would have been all right. But they want the cash, the record companies, they're b******s like that - keep it going, keep it going.
"And there's a point where you go `you know, I can take this all away from those b******s.' Later down the line you realise how much a con they are and everyone's making more money than you. It's stuff you don't know when you're 18 or 19.
"But then you get better educated on these things and you start to realise that perhaps there are a few things here that are morally completely out of control.
"When I was a kid growing up in Cullercoats, if I'd have ever thought that I'd have done cocaine, I wouldn't have believed it.
"And I'm thinking, `who did give me that?' And then you suddenly realise it's someone who worked for you. And you're thinking `they're trying to control you'.
"And then you sit down and go, `you know, I've got admit this isn't good and I don't want to be in this place'. And you can see the effect it's having on everybody else and the strain it puts on people.
"It's complex but at the same time I think it just gets to the point where you go `sod 'em, I've had enough. And it's not even about music at that point. It's perhaps about the way you've been treated."
Andy's escape from the excesses was to move to Los Angeles. A move which surprised many but which he says saved him.
"I just kept going. When John Lennon left the Beatles he went to LA for a couple of years. So that's what I did, because you can get lost in the haze of celebrity there.
"There are so many people, that you are not going to stand out from the crowd. And if I had gone back to London after leaving the band, home turf would have been much tougher, within the British media. And all the rumours that were flying around about who was messed up, and I didn't even want to do it, to talk about it. I tried to do one or two articles to put the record straight and basically they did stitch-up jobs.
"I got out of the way in LA and Malibu. In 1984 Andy (first son) was born, and my wife was pregnant again in 1987, it was a good place to be out of the way and have a bit of distance and take care of things in that respect. Become a human being again.
"Being out on the west coast there are a lot of people. And I started working with Rod Stewart. And I thought, `there goes the quiet life'. We made a couple of great albums together. It was good as it was his act and I could just hide in the background, it was something he was carrying. And that quite suited me at the time.
"You do come to the realisation that you're never going to do anything as spectacular as you've just done with Duran. You don't expect yourself to do any better than that, but what you have is the experience and contacts that you've got, and the natural thing to do is pick up your instrument and carry on making a living from it, writing, producing and playing and using the skills you've acquired.
"Which is what I did for a number of years and then it got to a point, after 25-odd albums, when I realised I was repeating myself. And that's the time to stop. You're not thinking any further, so pull away from it.
"Jeff Beck stopped playing for four years once. And it does work. You're completely refreshed, you go away and listen to different music, you stop going to the same places, and then get back to it with a fresh head. I've done that a couple of times now. This being the latest. And it does work.
"If you keep going you turn yourself into a machine or someone will turn you into a machine. And there's a dependency element in that as well. If you just keep pumping, pumping, pumping, they get very comfortable with what they're earning off you. And the whole creative proposition gets messed about then, because sometimes you just have to do things because you want to."
And that's why Andy, who had further chart success with the Power Station and once co-owned the Rio wine bar in Whitley Bay, is back with the original `Duranies'.
Last week they played at the Super Bowl, and on Tuesday they play at the Brit Awards and pick up an outstanding contribution to music gong. A new album is in the offing, as is a movie.
Duran Duran are big business again. They've already done a sell-out tour of Japan and supported Robbie Williams in Australia. A 14-date tour of Britain starts in the spring, with a gig at the Arena, Newcastle, on April 22.
"Everyone has a wealth of experience. I think that's what makes the band. We're actually at a point where we are concluding a record deal, so we're here (in New York) doing business. We're a couple of weeks away from wrapping that up with the labels.
"It's a worldwide deal - it's the only type we understand. And it's with a major," says Andy.
"The justification for getting back together, when we all sat down and talked about it, was that we realised we were all still interested in making records.
"And that's how we started, by writing material and making the band up.
"We didn't just want to play stuff we had written in the past, be a tribute band of sorts.
"So we'd just about finished the album and said it's no use just sitting around the studio, we should be getting out there and playing live.
"It was a fairly spontaneous decision to go out and start playing again but we just felt we had to do that. We started in July in Japan. We put some shows up for sale and they sold out in two hours. That was 13,000 tickets. We were shocked, stunned and delighted. We weren't aware there was that demand. It would have been pretentious to think that.
"So we kept putting shows in, club shows, theatre shows, with the intention of taking it to people. Albums are marketing things, there is so much marketing involved and people are wise to it. But playing live, it's just there on the spot.
"With all that momentum, we decided to do four shows in the UK in April, and now we're up to 14. And we're adding more, which we are going to announce after the Brits.
"That was no masterplan, believe me. It's just what happened, and we're actually blown away by it. It's turned the whole thing back into teenage excitement.
"We're playing to the same amount of people as in 1984. If we had said that was possible without a new record, everyone would have just laughed at us. We never thought it was possible. It's them, not us. It's the dedication of people. It was like, `how many tickets were sold?'. It does take a while to get your head round it."
It took Andy a while to get his head round the group winning an MTV lifetime achievement award last year. "The surprise was on us, as usual. We didn't have a clue we were getting an award. We were totally hoodwinked. It was a nice way to get it."
He does know, of course, about the Brit Award. "I think the Brit thing is really cool," says Andy, who is 43 on Monday. "When we played in London in October, that gig was probably the turning point for us. The audience was amazing. There were something like 200,000 applications for it.
"London shows can be difficult, we hadn't played for 20 years. It's home territory. If they're going to treat us like that, we're going to be OK. You've got to keep your roots. Imagine if U2 didn't do any business in Ireland or the Manic Street Preachers couldn't play in Wales. Your roots are really important, and the audience was just so fantastic.
"When you've been doing something for a long time, you have a certain level of expectancy and you try to work things out.
"But we've been getting extra, we've been getting upgrades. Everything that's happened has just put everybody in a different space, it's become exciting again. And when you are a little bit older, you are more content and so you have time to enjoy it.
"We're quite a diverse bunch and I think that's what makes the band work. When you get into it, there are so many things you have to deal with, such a range of issues, when you're putting a tour together, and we're doing a movie now, where we're filming live in India. A full theatrical release is planned. It is a live/docu, with a lot of Indian culture involved in it as well, based around two concerts in Mumbai. But we're also filming stuff in and around the country and we're also filming at Wembley. It's like a Rattle & Hum goes Bollywood.
"We're doing that in May. We're producing the tour, finishing the album. I don't like to sound power crazy, but you have to keep your eye on everything and be sure that what you're selling to people is what it should be, like checking T-shirt samples. I hate selling people rubbish just to make a buck.
"We've always been hands-on. You have to spend a lot of time with a very sober head on. The world's a greedy place and you have a lot of people work for you. It's a very big business and there's a lot of responsibility with it.
"When you stop and pinch yourself and you think back to playing in working men's clubs, and now you're here. Lucky for you, so don't mess up!"
Family is back in Toon
Duran Duran play the Arena, Newcastle, on April 22.
"We'll be having a hoot with the Brown Ale," jokes Andy. "We have a day off afterwards, which is nice, so we can really have a hangover.
"Well planned, that. I thanked my agent tremendously for that. To come up home and play at the Arena is like a dream come true. That's what it's all about. It's what all this is about - making your dreams come true.
"Even when you're 43."
Ticket details on the gig on 0870 707 8000 or by logging on to www.metroradioarena.co.uk
Meanwhile, Andy's eldest son, Andy, is following in his father's footsteps - right here on Tyneside.
"He's in Paul Tucker's (Lighthouse Family) new band. They're recording their first album," says Andy senior.
"Paul lives near me in Spain, and Andy was looking for a gig, and he got the gig playing guitar.
"He's 19, and he had to go back to Newcastle, to get a gig. I was 19 and I had to leave Newcastle. It's weird.
"They're finishing things off in the recording studio. So we have a little family rivalry going on."