Against the Odds

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Duran Duran wasn't expected to make an album, 'so we feel like we're winning,' says guitarist Andy Taylor

Duran Duran was the biggest pop band in the world in 1983, packing stadiums and ruling MTV. Mark Goodman, who was a VJ on MTV back then, witnessed the screaming gaggles who swarmed Duran Duran concerts.

"It was like the Beatles in a way, because there were tons of young girls," says Goodman, who's now a DJ on Sirius satellite radio.

Two decades later, the British band has reunited its original five members, recorded an album, "Astronaut" (their best, according to Goodman), and set out on tour with the old hits, "Hungry Like the Wolf," "The Reflex," "Girls on Film" and "Rio."

"It's our first real, big-production tour in 21 years in the states," says guitarist Andy Taylor. Playing new Duran music in concert "makes you realize you've still got a heartbeat and your blood flows," he says.

Taylor, as it turns out, is just fine with the advancing ages of groupies. They no longer have "the feverish thing, the determination of a younger girl."

Taylor, 44, says this in an English compound of swaggering humility, which in tone sounds not unlike the effervescent rock star character Billy Mack in the movie "Love Actually."

"Our audience is a little bit older. I mean, come on," Taylor says. "In a way, it's quite nice not to have to deal with too much of that. You don't get the barrage at the hotel ... If you play in a city, going out and walking down the street the next day is OK now."

Taylor himself has a son who is older than many Duran Duran fans were when the group came to fame.

"I keep saying to him, `You're turning 21 this year.' That does put it in perspective for you."

Taylor himself dipped in and out of Duran Duran over the years. In 1985, he joined singer Robert Palmer, the late drummer Tony Thompson, fellow Duran Duran member and bassist John Taylor, and the late producer Bernard Edwards to form the Power Station, which notched a big hit in "Some Like It Hot."

This small world of musician friends shrank in 2003 when Palmer died. Taylor was home in England watching the sun sizzle the sea when he got the call.

"I'd only seen him six weeks earlier. We'd been playing in Tokyo. It was the first shows" after Duran had reunited.

Palmer saw Duran play in Tokyo. Taylor played onstage at Palmer's concert.

"And then we went out and did what we normally do. And then the sun came up. It's kind of like if someone wrote a script for the last weekend with a good friend. And then six weeks later, he did an Elvis."

Taylor points out the bulk of the players in Power Station are dead.

"When you've lived the same lifestyle, and kind of been with them 20 years, hanging out with these guys, and they drop dead of things like cancer and heart attacks, it's a ... reality check. That's it. It's so final, death, unfortunately."

Taylor thinks of his circle friends as a "musical table."

"There's not a great many people at the table, and there's some big empty chairs. And you know you're never gonna be young enough to fill them," he says.

Losing them hurts both personally and creatively, he says.

In the meantime, Rod Stewart, another musician Taylor used to work with, is alive and well. Stewart has been selling millions of albums and concert tickets with the release of three albums full of such standards as "Stardust" and "I'm in the Mood for Love."

"Rod'll always find a way to make a buck," Taylor says. "I mean, you know, he's carpeting the way to Vegas. But God bless him if he's reinvented himself to the tune of a few million albums. It's difficult for him to make a rock album, I guess. The (Rolling) Stones kind of gave up, and they just make albums to hang on the wall."

Taylor doesn't think Stewart is being disingenuous in his love for American standards, or even Woody Guthrie folk tunes.

"He's massive on that (style of music). That's his era," Taylor says. "Those types of songs that are alien to me are big in Rod's sort of repertoire, when he was younger," he says.

The reunited Duran Duran has not had as much success. Few people expected the band to be on the radio again, but Duran was spun on adult Top 40 stations last year.

"They said it couldn't be done, so whatever we've got is a hell of a lot further forward than we, or anyone, expected us to get," Taylor says. "They said it couldn't be done: `Absolutely won't happen, won't even get an album together, won't get a hit, they'll kill each other on the road.'

"We may have killed each other, but we got on the road, and got it together. So we feel like we're winning."

Courtesy Las Vegas Review Journal