Wild boys, part two
Duran Duran take on gay lovers, the new Fab Five and even bedroom toys. Notorious, indeed!
by Larry Ferber, HX.
Once a band reaches iconic status, it can expect its title to be challenged. Duran Duran are no exception. "Someone told us one day that five queens had stolen our moniker," recalls keyboardist Nick Rhodes, pointing out that Duran Duran had been lovingly dubbed The Fab Five some 20 years before Queer Eye's gay guys televised their first makeover. "So we were proper cross with them - right, we'll getcha." Although Duran Duran have been making albums steadily since their eponymous 1981 debut, the band's original Fab Five lineup - vocalist Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor, guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor - have not worked together since 1985. Yet the Duran Duran we came to know and love during the '80s have returned full force with Astronaut (Epic), an irresistibly catchy disc containing all their trademark pop goodness. "It's got energy, grooves, it's uplifting, optimistic," offers man-of-many-haircuts Rhodes. "It's funky, it's edgy and, boy, has it got a great package."
As Duran Duran's 20th anniversary approached, a reunion tour seemed apt and inquiring phone calls were placed. "It took 24 hours before everybody had agreed in principle that they wanted to do it," Rhodes recalls. "The next stage was getting in a room and looking at each other over a table and discussing how." Minutes into this meeting, they were talking about more than just a tour: "We were discussing how we were going to make a record," Rhodes continues.
Self-financing this effort, the band rented a house in San Tropez, shipped down a hefty load of gear and holed up by 2001, pumping out some 35 songs, a dozen of which make up Astronaut.
The infectiously danceable, driving single "(Reach Up for the) Sunrise" is already familiar to queer ears thanks to Jason Nevins' club-ready remix on the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy soundtrack. Of course, Rhodes was joking about a potential catfight. Besides, the Queer Eye's Fab Five wouldn't dare lay a hand on Duran Duran. "Because we're already perfect," Rhodes says. "That's absolutely true - that's what one of them said. Somebody accused us when I was in New York of being wholly responsible for metrosexuality. And I asked, 'Is that an accusation or a compliment?' We're all for male grooming, honey."
Astronaut's titular track is a fun, spacey number about going "out there" as far as you can go, while also celebrating the band's love of sci-fi. (In fact, the band is named after a missing scientist in the 1968 film Barbarella. "I always saw myself as Barbarella's Pygar, the flying angel," LeBon muses, "carrying Jane Fonda around in my arms.") "Finest Hour," which takes its name from a Winston Churchill WWII speech, is about holding on to your identity. Most playful is surely "Bedroom Toys," a slinky, tingly, seductive number that includes a chorus of I saw the bedroom toys / now I'm crawling / I've learned to improvise / You want it, you got it, now what you gonna do with it? This was one of the first songs the band wrote once reunited, and it apparently contains a personal resonance for at least one of Duran Duran's members. "Nick, oh God, yes, he does have a lot of bedroom toys," LeBon cracks, "Unfortunately he keeps running out of batteries."
"Bedroom toys are essential," Rhodes responds. "A blindfold is a bedroom toy. It might be the tie I was wearing that eve. It didn't have a battery in it, my tie, but I'm all for any kind of toys."
Sexuality is one topic the band members have no hang-ups discussing. And on a serious same-sex note, they fully support queer rights and are happy to speak out for gay marriage. "To deny marriage to any couple in love suggests that gay relationships are not valid and relationships only exist for financial benefits and children," LeBon says. "I think that's wrong. It's very unfair and you should use your vote as powerfully as you can in the upcoming election. I would do anything in my power to change the [U.S. presidential] administration. I believe you've got [a president] who's not really capable of leading, without any real consciousness of what's going on. And it's frightening for the rest of the world as well."
Adds Rhodes: "It's absurd in this day and age that anyone should try and take away civil rights from any group of people. It's absolutely ridiculous. I think people should be allowed to get married if they want. It's an institution that's worked appallingly for straight people, so I don't see why gay people shouldn't have some of that!"
This gay-friendly attitude - not to mention their fabulous fashion style - have opened LeBon and Rhodes to sexual rumors and tabloid scandals, which tickle them more than anything. "Marc Almond once said I was a male prostitute - I thought that was fantastic," LeBon laughs. "I could make a lot of extra money doing that."
Game for more frivolous speculation, when asked whom they would actually choose to have a gay affair with, LeBon ponders for a moment and replies, "It'd probably be with someone quite macho, quite manly, because I'm a big guy myself, you see. I don't see myself having a poodle so to speak. I'd be quite well with Russell Crowe and Antonio Banderas. Yeah. Antonio because I'm blonde and he's dark."
As for Rhodes? "Maybe Captain Scarlet, the puppet. He's a Thunderbird. Fantastic outfit."
Astronaut (Epic) is in stores now.