The secret of our excess: With a new album out Duran Duran tell all about the highs... and desperate lows
By SPENCER BRIGHT
Exactly 30 years ago, Duran Duran exploded into the charts with their first single, Planet Earth, and became a major force in pop music's New Romantic movement before going on to establish themselves as one of the most successful bands of the 1980s.
They were helped by Princess Diana's admission that they were her favourite – it was said she would boogie in front of her mirror at Kensington Palace listening to Girls On Film on her Sony Walkman.
When she was pictured being introduced to them in 1983 it was hard to make out who was the more starstruck, them or her.
Those three decades have seen the five boys from Birmingham enjoy untold wealth and fame, as well as access to some of the world's most beautiful women, but like true pop stars they have also littered the time since with acrimonious splits and mediocre comebacks, battles with drugs and drink, ill-advised solo projects and many years in the critical wilderness.
Now they have defied the cynics and come up with a critically acclaimed new album All You Need Is Now, produced by the man who helped create Amy Winehouse's sound, Mark Ronson.
For John Taylor and Nick Rhodes, who founded the band in 1978, sitting here talking about what is being hailed as their best work in more than 20 years is something they couldn't have contemplated as Duran Duran reached its Duran Duran have seen it all.
Now, with a new album out, John Taylor and Nick Rhodes tell all about the highs and the desperate lows... and reveal how Simon Le Bon managed to keep hold of Yasmin lowest point at the tail end of the last millennium.
By that point Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes were on their own and sales of their albums and concert tickets were on a downward curve.
Taylor's features are still chiselled, if a little wrinkled, his hair almost upright as if a mild electric current had passed through it, his stomach toned and flat.
But he was well on his way to being burnt out by the time he got to 31, when he married so-called 'wild child' turned TV presenter Amanda de Cadanet, daughter of Le Mans racing driver veteran Alain de Cadanet, by whom he has a beautiful daughter, Atlanta, now 18.
In fact, she is so beautiful she is being tipped as a face of 2011, signed to a leading model agency.
And it's not just physically that she takes after them. There are plenty of pictures of her on the internet having a wild time.
'It's funny,' he says, 'I was looking at her the other day thinking, "You're just a squirming mass of mine and your mother's DNA."
You can see the bits of me with the bits of her wrestling and trying to become something new.
'Simon loves fame, but he would always carve out time for his family'
She's got great style and she plays it, she's out there. You don't have parents like us and not ask questions like, "Why should I go to college? You didn't go to college. Hey, you were dancing on tables when you were 16, so why shouldn't I?"
'Amanda was really smart, and still is. She's amazing. She was 18 when I met her; a girl [he was 30].
'I was part of that party scene when we met. I was trying to hold on to my youth by binding myself to a considerably younger woman,' he says.
'When you're in a young man's business, you're told success is down to the way you look.
You try to slow down that process – we all do to an extent. Pop stars aren't unique in that they like younger women. Any thirty-something guy given the opportunity will take it.'
Nick Rhodes, Duran Duran's keyboard player – the inscrutable opposite to flamboyant bass player Taylor and singer Simon Le Bon – agrees.
Rhodes has had many a beauty on his arm. He jokingly refers to them as MAs – models and actresses – as though he has a qualification in them.
'I like beauty, for sure, and intelligence. Nice combination,' he says. Among them was his wife of eight years, Julie Anne Friedman, a former model with whom he contested custody of their then ten-year-old daughter, Tatjana, now 24, back in 1997.
Nick won the case, and Tatjana still lives with him in his Chelsea home. 'That was somewhat nightmarish, to say the least,' he says.
'I don't think anyone wins. I sort of prevailed, if you like, in that her mum wanted to move to LA and I wanted Tatjana to grow up in England.
'I was deeply saddened that I had to go through that. It was an awful time, but I get along fine with Tatjana's mother now.'
Hits like Hungry Like The Wolf, Girls On Film and The Reflex established Duran's Duran's reputation.
But it was the video for Rio, in the early days of MTV, that set the template for them to be viewed as international playboys. For these young men it was bliss.
'Yes, I've been lucky,' says Taylor, 'but I have to work hard at being happy, it doesn't come naturally to me. I feel extremely guilty. I was raised a Catholic, so maybe it has something to do with that. When the band was so successful so early on, I felt I didn't deserve it. I was embarrassed, waiting for someone to turn the lights on and go, "Ha ha, we're going to take that back now."
'The second half of the Eighties were a real grind. The initial fame had dried up. We weren't pop stars any more, we weren't getting the hit records. Our concerts rarely sold out unless we played smaller venues.
'If it hadn't been for Simon and Nick, I have no idea where I would be today.
'Nick is extremely tenacious. If he has doubts, he never expresses them. And Simon is more philosophical. He might love fame but he doesn't act like he needs it.
'One of the amazing things about Simon that drove us crazy, but I came to appreciate later, was that he would send out emails saying, "I'm not available between blah and blah. My family are going on holiday,"' says Taylor. 'Nick and I would say, "How can you do that? We've got this great opportunity."
'But Simon would just say, "Not interested."
'He'd always carve out time for his family. Not me. I was available to this band every day of every year. But if you want a good, healthy family life, you can't just give them the off-cuts.'
The band split into two parts in the mid-1980s for side-projects.
John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor (none of the Taylors are related) were fed up with the band's direction and teamed up with Robert Palmer to form the more rock-oriented Power Station, while Le Bon and Rhodes created the more experimental Arcadia, with drummer Roger Taylor occasionally working with both bands.
But John Taylor was sinking into an alcohol and cocaine hell. 'I was so miserable. I was under a cloud and I couldn't get out of it,' he recalls.
'Drugs were a part of it. I was so full of shame. I feel good about who I am today, but 15 years ago I had to step away from that life, it was crazy.' He embarked on the 12-step programme, which he still maintains today.
'I shouldn't really be here,' he says, 'I just made it. I've seen much stronger people than me die; Michael Hutchence, Robert Palmer. I wasn't a war horse. I had to find another way to resolve things.'
Did the band ever consider disbanding entirely at their lowest point around 1999, when it was just Rhodes and Le Bon?
'I think the closest we ever got to it was then,' says Rhodes.
'But no, Simon and I never discussed calling it a day. We're survivors. That's what led to the reunion. We knew if we wanted to survive we had to do something radical. This was something we'd talked about for a long time but we didn't know if everyone was up for it.'
By the turn of the millennium, now clean but with his solo career going nowhere, John didn't need much persuading when Rhodes and Le Bon turned up in LA on business and mooted the idea to reform the original line-up.
'It was the most fantastic thing I could have done,' says Taylor. 'I'd stepped away for four or five years and came back as a fan.'
The original five got together to record the following year, but all was not well.
Guitarist Andy Taylor was at loggerheads with the rest of the band, and he left again in 2006. Now Duran Duran are on a creative high and the new album is one of the best of their career. Producer Mark Ronson, a childhood fan, has successfully recreated the energy and sound of their early and best albums and put it into a contemporary setting.
Ronson's favourite Duran Duran member was John Taylor, who he said he wanted to be. 'There's a great story he tells about going to have a haircut as a kid,' says Rhodes.
'He takes a picture out of a magazine and asks them for a John Taylor. It takes half an hour, and then he says to his mum, "Oh no, it's gone wrong. It's a Nick Rhodes."
Ghastly! Can you imagine?'
All You Need Is Now is available now on download. A deluxe CD and vinyl version is released on 22 March.
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