My earliest memory of Duran Duran was watching the music video for The Reflex on television on a Saturday evening when I was seven. And so began my love affair with Duran Duran. My sister had a copy of their live album ‘Arena’ on vinyl, and I would spend hours looking at the album artwork, and I recall thinking that it was rather odd that three of the members of the band all had the last name Taylor, yet they were not related. Fast-forward to 2003, and I finally got to see them live in their first ever performance in New Zealand, a somewhat insulting slot as the opening act for fellow Brit Robbie Williams. This was also the tour that marked the reunion of the five original members of Duran Duran, almost twenty years after their last tour together.
Born and raised in the North East of England, Andy Taylor began playing the guitar in at the age of 11. At 19, Taylor travelled to Birmingham, where he met future fellow bandmates Nick Rhodes and John Taylor (no relation). After various vocalists and guitarists came and went, Andy Taylor and vocalist Simon Le Bon joined the band, followed by drummer Roger Taylor (again, no relation).
Duran Duran found their fame at the centre of the new romantic scene of the early 1980s, where punk and electronica genres fused, and a new dance club culture emerged, where the sound was arguably as important as the fashion. However, Duran Duran quickly distanced themselves from other New Romantic bands with Andy Taylor’s distinctive rock guitar sound. Their first single, “Planet Earth” was released in 1980, and was quickly followed by their self-titled debut album in 1981. Their second album, ‘Rio’ was released the following year. The band capitalized on their rapid ascent to fame and released three albums within three years. The band also became renowned for their energetic live shows which incorporated the latest video technologies, selling out stadiums across the US and UK.
After the release of their third full length album, ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’ the band went on hiatus. During this time Andy Taylor and John Taylor went on to form side-project The Power Station (while Le Bon and Rhodes recorded as Arcadia, subsequently releasing the superb ‘So Red The Rose’). Touted as one of the first “super groups,” The Power Station also featured the late Robert Palmer and the late Tony Thompson (of Chic fame), released their debut self-titled album in 1985. The album boasted three Top 40 singles – “Get It On (Bang a Gong),” “Some Like It Hot,” and “Communication.” Interestingly, The Power Station went on to record a second album, the little heard of ‘Living In Fear’ in 1996. However, John Taylor departed before the album was recorded to enter rehab, and his replacement, Bernard Edwards, who was also producing the album, died of pneumonia before the album was released.
Andy Taylor’s involvement in The Power Station marked the beginning of the end of his involvement with Duran Duran. He commented “I don’t think any of us could have known at the time that this little venture would lead to the breakup of Duran Duran, but it did or at least it exposed the cracks in the pavement.” At the time the members of Duran Duran were barely speaking to each other, and were scattered around the globe. The band did not reform until 1986; this was the dawn of Duran Duran v2.0, as both Andy and Roger Taylor departed the band, leaving Le Bon, Rhodes and John Taylor as the only original members to contribute to Duran Duran’s fourth studio album ‘Notorious’ in 1986.
After his departure, Taylor began working on solo material, contributing tracks to film and television series, including the second season of “Miami Vice.” Taylor’s debut album ‘Thunder’ was released in 1987. Despite achieving some commercial success in the US, the album failed to make waves in Taylor’s native Britain. Taylor released a second solo album, ‘Dangerous’ in 1990, which was comprised entirely of cover versions. Tracks included “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Lola,” “Feel Like Making Love,” and “Mustang Sally.” The album was met with mediocre reviews, and was not available in the US until it was released on iTunes in 2010.
The original line-up of Duran Duran reformed in 2001, the first time they had played together since 1985. A new album ‘Astronaut’ was released in 2004, and saw the band return to their “classic” sound, with Taylor’s guitar solos returning to the fore. However, the “happy” reunion proved to be relatively short-lived. 2006 marked the second (and final) departure of Taylor from Duran Duran, with the band stating on their website that an “unworkable gulf” had formed between Taylor and the other members of the band. He was subsequently replaced by guitarist Dom Brown, who continues to record and tour with Duran Duran today.
Taylor penned a tell-all autobiography “Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran” in 2008, which chronicled his early years, rise to fame, and the tumultuous relationships within the band.
It is interesting to note that Duran Duran have been around since 1978; Andy Taylor was only a member of the band for approximately 11 of these years. Yet Taylor’s influence and contribution to the development of the band’s sound was essential. In retrospect my interest in the band’s new material post-Andy Taylor has continued to wane with each album. Duran Duran are due to release a new album in 2015. Rumor has it that the notorious Lindsay Lohan and her sister Ali have contributed vocals to one of the tracks. I can’t help but wonder what Andy Taylor would make of that.