A View to a Thrill
PENNYLANE By Rebecca C. Rodriguez
Wednesday, April 16 2008 (www.philstar.com)
If the ’70s had glam rock, the ’80s had the New Romantics, pre-Smiths era. This movement somewhere between punk and new wave had Brit bands like Spandau Ballet, Ultravox and Duran Duran dressed in androgynous, puffy frilled shirts; wore tons of makeup; and eventually became heartthrobs, thanks to their pin-up quality good looks.
Perhaps, one of the bands that ruled the ’80s is Duran Duran, which got their name from the villain from sci-fi flick Barbarella. Inspired by David Bowie, Roxy Music and disco, the band purveyed a pop-funk sound that can be described as “Sex Pistols meets chic.”
Famous for their fantasy videos like Rio and Girls On Film and screaming fans called Durannies, the band had a reputation that was built on the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of sex, drugs, supermodels, yachts and “not a lot else,” according to Q magazine. Maybe I was too young to appreciate them while growing up. But now my life just ebbed and flowed with emotions when I realized what the hot fuss is all about.
Being in the music business with a lot of hits and misses, Duran Duran underwent line-up changes. At one point, the band boasted Warren Cuccurullo, Frank Zappa’s guitar player and part-time porn star. Plus, they traded ruffles for tailored suits, let go of the eyeliner (except for Nick Rhodes who is adored by Cecile Van Straten), married supermodels and worked with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake for “Red Carpet Massacre” album. Now, they are touring the world before going on a summer holiday.
The cool thing is that Manila was one of their concert stops again as they performed at Araneta Coliseum last Thursday. Thanks to MTV, I was able to interview the band up close and personal with other members of the press at Edsa Shangri-La’s Heat restaurant.
Dressed in a blue and green-checkered shirt and black jeans, lead singer Simon Le Bon had the appeal of a young Malcolm McDowell from A Clockwork Orange. While bassist John Taylor, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor donned all-black outfits like rock stars, indeed.
So, here goes my quickie interview with Duran Duran.
The Philippine STAR: You can’t think of the ’80s without thinking about Duran Duran. You were so big then and again, now. But what happened to the band in between?
John Taylor: Um, grunge happened. An awful lot happened. With water under the bridge, we are still lucky to be around.
Simon Le Bon: You said you can’t think of the ’80s without thinking about Duran Duran but you can think about Duran Duran without thinking of the ’80s. We had the ’90s with No Ordinary World, Come Undone and Sunrise. We just keep going and it’s such a big thing for us.
For your album “Red Carpet Massacre,” you used Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, how did they change your sound and approach?
JT: He changed it a lot. Timbaland came first. He was the producer whose work we all liked. We went into the studio with him in New York and he never worked with a band before like with a guitarist, keyboard and drummer. It was a learning process for him and us. It was a fantastic and challenging experience. We started this record without Andy but with Timbaland and knew that our sound would be different. It was like a gift from heaven.
Which artists would you like to work with in the future?
SLB: It might be fun working with Kanye West. We are chatting with Mark Ronson because we’re all fans of his. The Arctic Monkeys are going to do a remix of Skin Divers.
A side note: During the interview, I felt like a teenybopper as John was pulling my interview notes and touching my charm bracelet. I even told my boyfriend that John’s the best bass player in the world (uh, next to him).
At the concert, there was a huge backdrop of buildings showing skyscrapers with violet lights. Duran Duran opened with The Valley and Hungry Like The Wolf with the crowd waving their hands in the air and dancing to the beats like there’s no tomorrow.
Simon wore a posh-looking suit with gray long sleeves and a tie. He later removed his blazer. John was in a black and silver jacket and futuristic-looking sneakers. Nick Rhodes’ black suit matched perfectly with his blonde hair and eyeliner, of course. Roger was wearing all black, as usual. The band had a backup singer, guitar player and saxophonist.
When the guys played Falling Down, co-written by Justin Timberlake, I could really imagine JT singing it. Sometimes, we all ask this: Why has the sky turned gray/ Hard to my face and cold on my shoulder/ And why has my life gone astray/ Scarred by disgrace, I know that it’s over.
But Le Bon said, “There were times when the ground was taken from my feet. I learned to let go of pride and not be scared to ask for help.” Oh, Nick Rhodes did a great job with the keyboard bit, making it sound modern, veering away from synths.
Everyone was waiting for his or her favorite songs to be played. Mine was Ordinary World because I heard it during the grunge era and I really loved the wedding video with the bride wearing a top hat.
Le Bon explained, “In the world, governments use fear. The worst thing that could happen to people is fear. We are the generation to say enough is enough. I’d like to dedicate this song to this belief.” This song was such a solemn experience and the vibe of being one never felt any better.
For almost two hours and 20 songs, Duran Duran rocked the Big Dome. During Reflex, the crowd was singing ta-na-nas and of course, everyone went gaga with Wild Boys. Then, John Taylor showered the audience with his mineral water. And for the encore, the band sang Rio. Remember that sun-drenched video at the beach with hot babes?
After three decades, and since I am old enough to know better, the secret to Duran Duran’s longevity is this: “being progressive, keeping everything fresh, staying connected with your instruments, writing songs and staying flexible,” as John and Simon advised.
Nick Rhodes, who partied with pop artist Andy Warhol in 1986 in New York, will never forget the advice Mick Jagger gave him: “Don’t take it for granted. Put your band back together.”
So, expect Duran Duran to follow the path of the Rolling Stones, touring until the morning after — because wild boys then and beautiful old men now always shine, anyway.
* * *