Duran Duran 35th Anniversary: Birmingham DJ’s Memories of the Band’s Early Days

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He was there at the beginning as new frontman Simon Le Bon took his place in the Birmingham band which would soon conquer the world.

Now former city DJ Graham Jenkins has recalled his memories of Duran Duran’s early days in this, the group’s 35th anniversary.

Graham, now 53, used to spin discs at Broad Street’s Rum Runner club, the venue where it all began for the band.

“I knew Nick Rhodes and John Taylor from school – we all grew up together in Hollywood,” he said.

“Nick got the New Romantic night going at the Rum Runner, but there wasn’t that much new music coming through.

“It was mostly made up of Bowie and Roxy Music, and old glam music.

“Blitz Club in London was just kicking off and ours was a bit of an importation of that decadent kind of party night.

“Duran Duran’s formative members were Nick and John and they started recruiting in the early 80s.

“They were ‘together’ in 1978, but not fully together. Then the band members we all know started joining, and they used to practise up in the loft space at the Rum Runner.

“Their material evolved over quite a long time.

“As their band practices became more demanding, John gave me a ring. I was just doing normal pub DJ-ing.

“I started doing the nights at the Rum Runner in 1980, at the point where the fully-formed Duran Duran had gone in the studio and were recording their first material.”

Graham juggled his DJ-ing with a job at British Gas in Solihull – sometimes forgetfully wearing eyeliner at work.

“The nights at the Rum Runner went from strength to strength,” he said.

“The walls were covered in mirror tiles, and there was a unisex make-up area.

“It was unusual to have such a busy popular night on a Tuesday in Birmingham, and it was extended to Fridays as well.

“I used to meet up with John regularly at Rockers Records shop in Hurst Street.

“We would audition all of the new stuff that was coming out, and choose the playlist together there every Friday.”

By this stage, Le Bon, Andy Taylor (‘fantastic guitarist’, Graham opined) and Roger Taylor (‘great drummer’) had leapt onto the Duran rollercoaster.

“I can remember the very early, nervous days that Simon had with them – it’s funny when you look back,” said Graham.

“He had a very distinctive voice.

“If you listened to them in rehearsal they were more rocky, rather than synthesiser-led. That’s what carried them, I think.

“They played in a big warehouse loft – you can imagine a big empty space with the rubbish that places like that accumulate over the years.

“To have somewhere like that where you could practise and spend every waking minute in, that’s what bands need.

“That’s where the magic happened. They were of the moment.

“But they had a perfect formula which was very pop hit-oriented, and I think they could have moulded themselves to any era because the songs were there.”

Graham quit the club in late-1980 after falling out with band svengali Paul Berrow, who asked him to play Duran’s debut single Planet Earth several times.

“I had a bit of an artistic difference – if I was his age then, I would have acknowledged that promoting the song was a commercially sensible thing to do.

“But when you’re a young, impressionable 20-year-old, being told to play Planet Earth more than twice a night seemed a bit over the top.”

Graham spent two years at Villa and Wolves star Andy Gray’s city centre club, Holy City Zoo, in Water Street, which wanted to catch the New Romantic bug.

He encountered stars like Midge Ure, Boy George, and, in 1981, Soft Cell’s Marc Almond.

“He came in with this white-label 12-inch single – it was Tainted Love, the track of the moment.

“He wrote all over it for me. He sat there at the booth doodling on the record.”

Graham later ditched the music scene to run a successful gas utility business.

Now he and his wife Clare, 55, run Henry Tudor House in Shrewsbury, having spent £1 million converting a pub into a classy restaurant.

On the second floor, in the roof space of the Grade I listed building, is a recently-fitted live music room.

Music runs in the blood, too, as Graham’s son Sam, 20, readies himself for a slot there with his funk-rock band New School Futures on June 19.

“The top floor we run as a passion,” said Graham, who admitted he had lost contact with the Duran Duran boys.

“I’ve had more fun in the last six months doing this than at any time in the last ten years in the gas industry.”

Courtesy Birmingham Mail. Click here to see more photos of band