DURAN DURAN INTERVIEW WORCESTER
PUBLISHED: 00:18 31 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:35 20 February 2013
Duran Duran's first album in 13 years stormed to the top of the download charts within an hour of being released.
The original - New romantics
Duran Durans first album in 13 years stormed to the top of the download charts within an hour of being released, a sign that one of the biggest bands of the 80s hasnt lost its magic.The bands drummer, Roger Taylor, talks to Richard Aldhous about growing up in the Midlands.
By his own admission, the Birmingham that legendary drummer Roger Taylor grew up in is no longer. The streets where, back in the 1970s, he and his Duran Duran band-mates would slink around for artistic inspiration have been regenerated and revived; while nightclub venues which prompted the creation of one of the most influential bands of a generation are now razed to the ground. That said, there is one familiar landmark a temple that has remained sacred even in an era where the popstars of yesteryear are, ironically, the footballers of today.
I think of Birmingham now and my first thought is always Aston Villa FC, Taylor says. I think supporting a football team always gives you a hold on an area, even many years after youve moved away. Villa have always done that for me, theyve always been at the forefront of my childhood memories.
Not that such a passion was evident from his first few visits to Villa Park.
I hated it, he laughs. Wed be there every other week, my dad and I. It was terracing back then, and wed position ourselves behind the goal me sat on one of the crush barriers, him just behind me. It was always freezing cold and I used to wish the time away, desperate to get back home!
The fact that, some 40 years on, Taylor is fiercely passionate about the Villains suggests that something clicked. Indeed, given that his formative teenage years were also filled with a musical energy that was to produce arguably the finest new wave/new romantic band of them all, Birmingham can count Duran Duran as possibly its finest export.
You hear, all the time, artists talking about music as a release from the place in which they grew up an escape route but Birmingham was just the opposite for us. We only really moved away when we signed our first record deal and, just as it is now, that meant you had to be in London.
But Birmingham offered tremendous inspiration for me. The club I used to go to all the time was called Barbarellas, in the city centre and run by local entertainment legend Eddie Fewtrell. This was the place that actually provided the name for the band the mad scientist in the 1960s French film Barbarella being called Dr Durand Durand.
And it was a great venue. I went there for the first time when I was 17. I was in with a small group, we were all passionate about our music, and it wasnt a day too soon when we finally made it past the door staff. Barbarellas was where all the local punk bands would come through I saw everybody from Blondie to The Clash and The Jam. During that period, Birmingham was a great place to be, with so much emerging talent. People used to call it a city of music, and they were spot on.
After a few failed incarnations of Duran Duran, the line-up of members we recognise today came together by chance at a party in 1979. The appeal of a young, energetic, innovative band in an era looking for some uplifting melodies spoke for itself.
It was at a club called the Rum Runner that Duran Duran scored their first residency, Taylor continues. The venue, which in style terms was moving on from the punk sound, was in Broad Street, but was demolished in the 1980s to make way for the Hyatt Hotel. They were playing things like New York disco, electronic music, Bowie, and Roxy Music.
Looking back though, there were so many poseurs in that place! Sometimes you got the feeling that they were thinking, Okay, theres a band playing here, but were infinitely more important than them, even though were dancing to their tunes! The gigs werent exactly on fire when we started and you had to really prove yourself quickly as a band. I wouldnt say the crowd were unforgiving, but they could be brutally honest!
Nevertheless, prove themselves they did. Within two years of playing their first gig at the Rum Runner in front of around 30 people, Duran Duran were taking to the stage at New Yorks Madison Square Garden. At the age of 22, Taylor was playing drums for one of the biggest bands in the world.
It was a crazy time, he reflects. I think we got used to fame very quickly, but we were just a group of lads from Birmingham. In America, people would ask you where you were from. When you told them, theyd often respond Birmingham? Wheres that? Is it near Manchester or Liverpool?
But I think thats an overriding quality of the place. It is the second city, but its unassuming and personable at the same time. Maybe its not the place for music culture that it once was, but for social culture, it has everything.
Duran Durans success was only ever going to escalate. As well as selling 80 million records worldwide, the band was also responsible for transforming the music video from a gimmicky marketing tool into one of the music industrys most valued assets.
The five-piece crept through periods of hiatus, during which Taylor explored new musical avenues, not least in the DJ booths of some of Londons most upfront clubs. But coming back together in 2008 for a year-long world tour, Duran Duran have once again blown away audiences, rediscovering songwriting inspiration in releasing their 13th studio album All You Need Is Now.
In 2011 it will be 30 years since we released our first album, and those types of milestones do make you cast an eye back to where it all began. I certainly miss the clubs of old and the backstreet record shops, but were in a different era of music now. Despite all the changes, for Duran Duran to still be in peoples thoughts makes us feel very special indeed.
Roger now lives in London with his wife Gisella Bernales, and his three children, but ventures back regularly to visit family who live on the outskirts of the city.
It feels good to get back to Birmingham, even though I dont head into the centre much I get lost in the one-way system for a start! But people from this area have a brand of humour and humility that Ive not found anywhere else in the world thats very special and something that we should be proud of.
Duran Durans new album, All You Need Is Now, is in the shops from February (already available to download); www.duranduran.com
Duran Durans Midlands roots
Simon Le Bon (vocals) was born in Bushey, Hertfordshire, attended Birmingham University.
Nick Rhodes (keyboard) was born in Moseley, and attended Woodrush High School in Hollywood.
John Taylor (bass guitar) grew up in Hollywood, Birmingham, and attended Abbey High School in Redditch, then Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham City University).