The hip-hop generation embraces an '80s sensation

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The hip-hop generation embraces an '80s sensation
Duran Duran has a new CD and is coming to Pier Six

By Rashod D. Ollison
Sun Pop Music Critic

July 21, 2005

You should see this," he says. "I'm looking out over the Aegean Sea. It's awesome."

That's John Taylor, bassist for Duran Duran. He's calling from his hotel suite in Greece, where the band is scheduled to perform later that night. The other members - lead singer Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor (none of the Taylors are related, by the way) - are unavailable.

The view from his window must be captivating. "Marvelous," he whispers.

In the past nine months or so, Taylor and his band mates have had little time to sit still. Since the October release of the group's comeback album, Astronaut, Duran Duran, which plays Pier Six Wednesday night, has worked tirelessly to make itself relevant in today's much younger, hip-hopped pop world. Back in the early '80s, the British group was one of the first acts to benefit from ubiquitous exposure on MTV. "Rio," "Hungry Like the Wolf," "The Reflex" - the band's undeniably catchy, disco-glossed, synth-heavy pop-rock hits dominated the charts. In their elaborate videos, the guys always looked fly. Loved by the camera, Simon, Nick, Andy, Roger and John were the pin-up glam boys of the '80s.

Still pretty and impeccably styled, the guys are in their 40s now. Twenty-two years have passed since Seven and the Ragged Tiger, Duran Duran's last smash album with the original lineup. Upon release, Astronaut garnered generally positive reviews and made a respectable showing on Billboard's pop album chart, entering at No. 17. The shows - packed mostly with die-hard fans who probably remember exactly where they were the first time they heard "Is There Something I Should Know" on the radio - have been selling out in most places.

"It's been good so far," Taylor says of the reunion. "It's been a challenge. Obviously, we're driven to get back to the place we once were. We're five guys in our 40s working as a team. It's been quite a challenge, really."

Well, the split back in the day wasn't exactly amicable. It was the usual VH1 Behind the Music-type drama: A bunch of guys in their early 20s rocket to superstardom seemingly overnight. Albums sell by the truckloads. Wherever the fellas appear, mobs of screaming, crying girls show up. Egos inflate. Label executives demand more of the same hits. But every guy in the band wants to do something different, alter the formula some way. The infighting becomes frequent, the industry pressures much too much. At the height of its fame, Duran Duran fractures.

About five years ago, after nearly two decades apart, the members reconnected and reconvened in a rented house studio in the south of France.

"It was about clearing any bad blood between us," Taylor says. "We're re-establishing friendships in a way. [The band] has always been the best showcase for our individual talents. When you're a musician, it's not always easy to find that situation. We all took it for granted at first."

Once the guys decided to return to the scene with new material, they thought securing a recording deal would be absolutely painless. After all, the band had sold more than 70 million albums worldwide.

But that bubble was quickly popped.

"It didn't happen like we thought," Taylor says. "We thought that record companies would be lined up around the block to sign us. But it didn't happen like that. They were only interested in the Britneys and the Eminems five years ago when we were looking for a deal. We had to prove ourselves" -Taylor pauses - "which is a good thing."

After playing a few sold-out shows and generating some interest, the band landed a deal with Epic/Sony. For Astronaut, Duran Duran recruited a disparate crew of producers, including Don Gilmore, known for his work with Linkin Park and Avril Lavigne, and Dallas Austin, who's produced Pink and Janet Jackson among others. The result is mostly consistent, with a few lackluster tunes here and there. Overall, the band returned, with energy and confidence, to the sleek, glossy sound that made them hot in the '80s. "The bottom line is that we made an album that we can hold our heads up and say, 'We feel good about this,'" Taylor says. "Now we're ready to make a new one."

Check out Duran Duran at Pier Six, 731 Eastern Ave., Wednesday night at 7:30. Tickets are $38-$58 and are available through Ticketmaster by calling 410-547-SEAT or visiting

Courtesy The Baltimore Sun