80s Bands

Rock, Revelry, and Resilience of Duran Duran

Duran Duran’s music and iconic videos rocked the world, but behind the scenes, they were living a glamorous, decadent dream.

In his memoir, “Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran,” Andy Taylor revealed the wild antics. A snippet of the lifestyle: in 1984, bandmates John Taylor and Andy Taylor descended on New York City to craft their next album. Staying at the Carlyle Hotel, they ran up a $450,000 tab while indulging in copious amounts of controlled substances.

For those nostalgic for the ‘80s, Duran Duran’s New York escapades are a window into an era when music was electric, parties never stopped, and rock’n’roll ruled the night.

Rock’n’Roll, MTV, and the Wildest Parties

Duran Duran is now considered a cornerstone of the New Romantic movement. But they burst onto the music scene with their platinum-selling, self-titled debut album 41 years ago. Comprising Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, and Andy Taylor (no relation), the band notched up 100 million album sales and 30 Top 40 hits. 

The band’s rise coincided with the dawn of MTV, and their provocative video for ‘Girls on Film’ catapulted them to superstardom. It even earned them comparisons to the Beatles.

Of course, their musical talents garnered admiration. But Duran Duran was equally notorious for their wild, self-destructive escapades. In John Taylor’s tell-all memoir, “In the Pleasure Groove,” he talked about a life where party enhancers were served on a plate, and it became a daily diet. 

The Sun Exposé

For the youngsters who grew up in working-class Birmingham, it was a sudden change. They began their musical venture at the humble Rum Runner, a local bar eventually managed by two brothers who would later co-manage the band. But as you can already tell, an image of wholesomeness and family-friendliness was not their thing. 

For the first time, the stories were uncovered by a sensational exposé in The UK Sun, featuring insights from Al Beard, a former band minder and Rum Runner bouncer. 

Their concerts were full of frenzied female fans who would quite literally throw themselves at the band. Beard recounted instances where Andy Taylor’s encounters with adoring fans escalated quickly. Model Bebe Buell, who later penned Rebel Soul, shared her protective sentiments towards John Taylor during their encounter at Club Lingerie in LA. She acknowledged the overwhelming attention the young star received:

“He was 20 years old. At that age, you don’t know the difference between somebody wanting a piece and somebody really caring for you.”

Breaking the Band

A few years later, John Taylor and Andy Taylor created a rival pop group, the Power Station, alongside Tony Thompson and Michael Des Barres. The climax of this division came during the 1985 Live Aid concert, where Duran Duran headlined separately from Power Station. This unexpected split left Duran Duran fractured for nearly two decades.

As the band worked on their first live album, Arena, at the Power Station studio in Hell’s Kitchen, John’s substance use escalated. He was surrounded by musical icons like Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan, and the studio became a haven for excess as John immersed himself in a world fueled by dust.

In one hair-raising incident, while filming the video for The Wild Boys, Simon faced a near-death experience. The scene required Le Bon to be strapped to a working windmill partially submerged in a pool. As the blades spun, there was a terrifying malfunction. Fortunately, there were divers on standby as lifeguards, but everyone felt that thrill-seeking, boundary-pushing spirit of the ‘80s music scene.

Resilience and Renewal

The dazzling stardom of Duran Duran had faded by the mid-1990s, and this decade brought failed relationships, unsuccessful recording endeavours, and periods in rehab. John Taylor talked about a sense of regret and self-reproach and acknowledged the opportunities squandered during the ‘80s.

Now, clean, sober, and Rock’n’Roll Hall of Famers, Duran Duran endures. They continue to bring in audiences with their tours and, in 2022, unveiled the concert film A Hollywood High. Their later studio releases, including Future Past, experienced mixed sales, but their 2004 album Astronaut achieved gold status.

Duran Duran’s story is far from over. Although Andy Taylor grapples with stage 4 cancer, his bandmates, clean and sober, have been making triumphant returns to packed audiences. Who knew that after all of this, the members would reaffirm the enduring spirit of a band that refuses to be silenced? As Buell puts it, “I love a comeback from hell.”

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