Prince once invited Duran Duran to jam on stage at an aftershow. They said thanks, but no thanks.
That’s according to co-founder and bassist John Taylor, who told the story during a recent phone interview from Los Angeles.
Taylor, 56, said he caught the Purple One twice in one night on the “Purple Rain” tour.
“But I was hardly conscious at the time,” Taylor said. “The first time I really got to see him, we were working on the ‘Notorious’ album with Nile Rodgers. We all went to see him at Wembley Arena (in August 1986). One of his roadies asked us if we’d like to join him for the aftershow. Something told me that wouldn’t be a good idea.”
Still, Taylor and the band went to the late-night concert, watched Eric Clapton join Prince and quickly realized they made the right decision. Prince, Taylor said, worked every inch of the stage, jumping from guitar to drums and back, as Clapton struggled to follow. “(Clapton) didn’t know what to do, or when songs would start or stop. It was a mess,” Taylor said with a laugh.
Taylor and Duran Duran are back in St. Paul this weekend to headline the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night. The band’s occasional collaborator Rodgers opens with his disco group, Chic. (Duran Duran’s keyboard player Nick Rhodes has temporarily left the tour to attend to an “urgent family matter” back home in England. Amanda “MNDR” Warner, a Fargo native and Macalester College graduate, is filling in for him.)
Decades after MTV turned Duran Duran into ’80s teen idols, the band is not only still at it, they’re in the midst of a creative streak that’s seen them make their best music in decades.
The five original members of Duran Duran — Taylor, Rhodes, lead singer Simon Le Bon, guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor — opened the new century by reuniting to create what would become the albums “Astronaut” and “Red Carpet Massacre.” Neither managed to recapture the band’s early spirit and Andy Taylor split for the second time during the making of “Red Carpet Massacre.”
So it came as somewhat of a surprise when Duran Duran released the return-to-form “All You Need Is Now” in 2010. They made it with super producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Adele, “Uptown Funk”), an inspired choice who helped turn it into a hit with fans and critics. Ronson was also on board for the follow-up, last year’s “Paper Gods,” which featured input from Rodgers and producer Mr. Hudson, who has worked with Kanye West and Jay Z.
Here’s what else Taylor had to say about what life’s like in Duran Duran these days.
On making “All You Need Is Now” a hit: “We were in between record deals and had the opportunity to launch it on iTunes. We figured if we could make a successful album launch online, it was a story we could take to a major label. There are so many different ways to approach the release of an album today. It’s quite challenging to get the music to the ears of the people who would be interested.” (The band ended up signing to Warner Bros. for “Paper Gods.”)
On collaborating with Ronson: “Mark is a super lovely guy. He was moved by the band as a kid, we were a formative influence for him. He was very respectful, but equally he had a vision of what he wanted to do with us. He wanted to dig into the sounds of the ‘Rio’ era and make an alternative follow-up to it. Having spent a year in electro world (on ‘Red Carpet Massacre’), we were happy to plug into the vintage keyboards and guitars. That set us up for the new album, too. It’s very much a blend of looking back and contemporary sounds and styles. We were really working hard on the balance between (our past work) and what Duran Duran would do if we were a new band today.”
On playing the new material in concert: “I think even the most casual music fans who go to see Duran Duran wants to hear something new — something new they like. Most of my peer group are stuck in a certain period, but when I hear something new I like, I’m excited by it. I’m still alive. I hope audiences understand this theory that artists have to do new material, that’s what invigorates the presentation of the old hits. Having said that, one of the things the internet has done is bring all music to the present. A lot of people are listening on shuffle, mixing things up in a way that didn’t happen when radio was much more in control. Shuffle brings everything into the present. It’s interesting.”
On touring with Chic: “It’s massive. It’s like a dream show come true for us, a great honor and privilege. It’s like the Stones taking Muddy Waters out on the road. It’s fantastic for the audience, too, as it’s brought so much energy to this tour. (Nile Rodgers) was the one who floated the idea when we were working with him on the new album. We jumped at the chance and it’s been a real win-win. You know, I’m just grateful to still be in the game. We went through some dry years, but we’re actually having a really good time now.”
IF YOU GO
Who: Duran Duran, with Chic
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Xcel Energy Center, 175 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul
Information: 800-745-3000 or xcelenergycenter.com
Courtesy Pioneer Press