By Deborah Wilker
City & Shore Magazine
Amid the usual questions about enduring for 35 years and reinventing its classic New Wave sound, Duran Duran has been getting quite a bit of this too, “How the heck did Lindsay Lohan end up on your new record?”
“It is probably the most-asked question lately,” says Roger Taylor, the band’s drummer during the height of its ’80s fame, and again from 2001 onward. “We recorded a song for [the album] Paper Gods called Danceophobia that required a spoken part. Originally we thought maybe we would do something like Vincent Price on Thriller.”
But then lead singer Simon Le Bon, who is Lohan’s friend, said “What about Lindsay?” and the song took a different, now well-received, turn.
“She was perfect for the part,” says Taylor, “she’s a Hollywood actress! We never use people just because of who they are. They have to deliver – and she did.”
If Taylor sounds a bit like a film producer, well of course he does. Duran Duran – as well known for its synth-pop hits as the cinematic videos that accompanied them – was the first to apply full-fledged Hollywood production to MTV videos.
“There was so much packaging in the ’80s,” says Taylor, calling from London. “But I think our songs have stood the test of time, and that there’s an appreciation now.”
When he reflects on that colorful era he acknowledges the band’s debt to David Bowie.
“I can’t imagine there’d be Duran Duran without him,” Taylor says quietly. “He was such an influence.”
It was Bowie’s lessons of reinvention that resonated most deeply. “He taught us that you don’t have to keep making the same record over and over.”
When the band headlines SunFest April 27 as part of a new 35-date U.S. tour, fans will indeed hear classics such as Hungry Like The Wolf, The Reflex, Rio and Girls on Film – hits that accounted for more than 70 million records sold over their long career.
But there will also be newer material, some of it created with artists such as Janelle Monae, producer Mark Ronson and old pal Nile Rodgers, whose band Chic will co-headline some of the tour dates.
Taylor is particularly appreciative that the band – and his bandmates from the classic line-up – are still at work at all. Duran Duran’s stratospheric rise led to the inevitable excesses 30 years ago, and then, in Taylor’s case, a desire to step away completely from fame’s demands.
When he withdrew into country life in 1986, his bandmates understood – for awhile. In 2001 Le Bon, along with keys-man Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor (who left the band for good in 2006), coaxed him back.
“In the end I thought, I’m gonna embrace this and make it part of my life again – and it’s been fantastic,” he says. “There are so many bands that have broken up or somebody got strung up on drugs or somebody died. But how fortunate was I that there was still a band to come back to?”
The guys, all in their 50s now, agree that today it’s more about shared ambition than anything else. They took their time making Paper Gods and have only the loosest timetable for the future. All that’s for sure, Taylor says, is they don’t discuss retiring.
“We have a lot more respect for each other than maybe we had in the early days,” he says of his bandmates. “I think that kinda comes with growing up, doesn’t it? It was a major loss when Andy left, but it kind of pulled us together. The four of us have really wanted to keep this thing going.”