The Rockers Who Keep Coming Back

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The Rockers Who Keep Coming Back
Big In The '80s, Duran Duran Broke Up, Then Reunited - Not Once But Twice, Playing Mohegan Sun Sunday

Courant Rock Critic

March 31 2005

The 1960s hung around for a while, and the '70s are periodically cool again. But the decade that refuses to go away is the '80s.

In fact, the further away we get from synthesizers, poofy hair and greed, the bigger the hold the period seems to exert on our imaginations. For example, it used to be just washed-up hair-metal bands keeping the '80s alive with relentless, embarrassing tours. Then young bands started mining New Wave influences like Duran Duran.

Then Duran Duran itself came back to bask in the reignited glory of its best years. The English synth-pop act even released a new album, last year's "Astronaut," before embarking on a tour that brings it to Mohegan Sun Sunday.

The new album is admirable and all, but with a string of radio - and video - smashes such as "Rio," "Girls on Film" and "Hungry Like the Wolf," did the group really need a new album?

Yes, says Roger Taylor, the drummer, and it took a while to do.

"We were very aware that we had a lot to live up to," he says by phone from Florida early in the band's tour. "This band split at the height of success. We were probably one of the biggest bands in the world when we broke up."

That's true. With their flashy videos, chic (for the time) fashion sense and mega-selling albums, the band members were essentially music royalty for much of the '80s, despite creative tension that prompted a mid-decade hiatus. A comeback at the end of the '80s was as notable for the personnel changes as for the music.

After a 1993 album spawned the hit "Ordinary World," the band went dormant again. Then, in 2001, the drummer began working again with guitarist Andy Taylor and bassist John Taylor, and the trio eventually joined forces with keyboardist Nick Rhodes and singer/heartthrob Simon LeBon.

Roger Taylor says there's still tension but that growing up has helped the group work more effectively together now.

"We're all adults now; we're much more mature people; we tend to give each other more space. And we recognize instantly if someone's becoming uncomfortable," he says. "There's a lot of tension, but it works, and I think that's what makes the band great."

Although Taylor says the idea of playing together again was always in the back of his mind, the reunion wasn't without its difficulties.

"Once you've been in a band like Duran Duran, you're always known not as me but as Roger from Duran Duran," he says. "And I spent quite a lot of my life trying to run away from that. I didn't embrace it."

Not only that, the late '90s nu-metal and bubble-gum era didn't seem like the most verdant time for an '80s warhorse to rise from the grave.

"I must admit, so much time had gone by and so much water had gone under the bridge that I thought the time had passed," Taylor says.

It might have. But in the music industry, time has a way of coming around again, as it did for Duran Duran when bands such as Franz Ferdinand and the Killers started name-checking the group.

"There's a lot of bands, especially in the U.K., that constantly reference us as an influence, and that's been great for us," Taylor says. "The music press, especially in England, try to write us out of history."

It's not just the music press that's fickle. Negotiating its way through the ever-changing landscape of the music business was also a bit of a shock for Duran Duran.

"I think the most difficult thing when we first got back together was the scarcity of enthusiasm and money in the music business," Taylor says. "It took us longer this time to get a record deal than the first time around, and it was hard to find people who were positive about it."

And what about music videos? MTV was in its infancy when Duran Duran's steamy video clips helped build both the channel and the band into pop culture icons. Taylor isn't impressed by many of the videos he sees these days, though.

"I think they've become part of the wallpaper now, haven't they? They're just something you have to have, and when we started, a lot of artists refused to be involved with videos," he says. "It's become very hard to be original now."

That's one thing Duran Duran has always managed to be. Taylor cites house music, Nirvana and hip-hop as influences on the band's later music and declares the members' intention to always keep moving forward.

"We're not stuck in 1984, you know," he says.

Duran Duran performs Sunday at Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville. Juliet opens. Tickets are $45 and $35 for the 7 p.m. show. Information: 860-862-7163.

Courtesy Hartford Courant