‘Hungry’ for a second wave of fame

John-Taylor-photo-by-Jae-Ha-Kim

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
November 17, 2003

“Destroyed by MTV, I hate to bite the hand that feeds me.”

        “Too Much Information” by Duran Duran

Twenty years after rising to fame on MTV — and 13 years after the same station refused to give the musicians tickets to its annual awards show — the original five members of Duran Duran are back with a vengeance.

Their national club tour, which includes three shows starting tonight at the House of Blues, is a sellout.

This reunion tour is sure to make longtime fans happy. But for nonbelievers, it may be making them wonder why Duran, and why now?

Though the band was written off from the beginning of their career as a group of bubbleheaded pretty boys, the fact remains Duran Duran had a string of memorable original hits that helped define ’80s music. “Girls on Film,” “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Rio” are as hummable today as they were back then.

“The strangest thing for us is we’ve actually been getting good press about this tour, which is a first,” says bassist John Taylor. “We were never a critics’ band. We were always a people’s band. We may not be the best there is, but we incorporate the values people want from live music.

“I remember reading a review of someone who was out of fashion and they said it was like entering a time warp. It’s like that for us, but in the best possible way. I see now why the original lineup had the power it had. Back then it was because we were all cute. Now it’s because we have a history and a real desire to be onstage together.”

After Duran splintered — with Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor (no relation) forming Power Station with Robert Palmer, and singer Simon LeBon and keyboardist Nick Rhodes heading up Arcadia — it seemed like the point of no return for the group. Drummer Roger Taylor (again no relation) already had quit to lead a “normal” life back in England.

They pursued solo careers. They got married and had children. And then they inevitably began discussing the possibility of a reunion.

“We’ve been playing live shows since June, but have been in the process of getting back together for two years,” Taylor says. “We’ve been writing songs, but it wasn’t until we made the decision to go back onstage and perform that attention was shifted back on us. Honestly, it was a little unexpected.”

At this year’s MTV Music Awards show, the cable music channel asked Duran Duran to present an award. The band members didn’t realize the network was going to surprise them with that year’s lifetime achievement award.

“We had no idea they were going to give us anything. When we flew to New York to present the award, we did some press beforehand and some of the reporters were asking, ‘Aren’t you guys mad? They’ve never given you an award.’ We were like, ‘Dude, we can’t go there.’

“When we were waiting to go out onstage, we saw five little moon men [trophies] in a row and I said we should all walk out holding one. I was just kidding. Thank God we didn’t.”

Music aside, Taylor has kept himself busy as the unofficial, unpaid consultant for Juicy Couture’s men’s line. His wife, Gela, is Juicy’s co-founder. And though he won rave reviews for his role as an aging rock star in Allison Anders’ “Sugar Town,” Taylor says he has no strong desire to act again.

“Right now it’s all about Duran Duran,” he says. “I know I never would’ve gotten those roles if I hadn’t been in the group. I’m just concentrating on doing the best I can regardless of what it is.”

Each time we make comparisons, I only compare up. You learn about personal best that way. I like to run. I’ve come to it really late in life and have had to realize that I can’t compare myself to some 17-year-old kid that never gets tired. I’m my own story and have to set my own goals.”

As for his goal today?

“We’re just enjoying being on the comeback trail,” Taylor says. “It’s f—— great!”

***

Still alive and kicking

Culture Club 
After a love affair with his Culture Club drummer, Boy George has teamed up with Rosie O’Donnell…for the Broadway show “Taboo.” Though not nearly as popular as he was during his ’80s heyday, Boy George has been prolific over the years and has proven himself as an author, actor and, of course, singer.
Bananarama 
The cutest trio of the ’80s didn’t play their own instruments, could barely sing and wore ragamuffin clothes, but they were the It girl band of their era. Songs like “Really Saying Something,” “Cruel Summer” and “Venus” made them stars. It all went downhill after they got serious and Siobhan Fahey married Eurythmics guy Dave Stewart.
Spandau Ballet 
Led by the brothers Kemp–Martin and Gary–this suave band had a string of lush hits, including “True” with it’s memorable “ah ha ha ha ah ah ah ha” intro. When the new wave movement ended, they had about as much chance of getting work as Haircut 100. But the Kemps kept their fingers in show biz with well received film roles, most notably 1990’s “The Krays.”
Thompson Twins 
The trio included two men, one woman and no twins. Once a huge act that’s concerts regularly sold out at enormodomes, they were last seen on one of those “Where are they now?” specials. Apparently, the nucleus of Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie are living and still making music in New Zealand.
Kajagoogoo 
Kajagoogoo were to Duran what the Monkees were to the Beatles. Cute, wispy and unthreatening, they never followed up on the strength of their breakthrough hit “Too Shy,” which was produced by Duran’s Nick Rhodes. Lead singer Limahl went solo soon after achieving teen idoldom and that was pretty much the end of the band, and Limahl’s solo career.

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