Last Saturday night was supposed to be a victory lap for the band Duran Duran. After all, the historical antipathy of Rolling Stone to their music was pretty well known, and when they were nominated and were voted in, I was a more than a little surprised. After all, the failures and peccadilloes of the RRHOF is something that we can all argue about over for hours when the topic comes up. Obviously, the time was deemed right, and the necessary votes happened for the Fab Five to join their heroes David Bowie and Roxy Music in the hallowed Hall.
What always intrigues me was in seeing which members of the various lineups got the official induction invitation. I was pleased to see that both original guitarist Andy Taylor, who helped to launch the band, as well as Warren Cuccurullo, who replaced him and helped to keep the band hitbound and relevant after the departure of Taylor, were rightly included for induction.
There was speculation as to which guitarist [neither of them are in the current lineup] would possibly be included in the show, but no one could have predicted that neither would be there, nor the heartbreaking reason why Andy Taylor in particular could not attend. Until the moment that Simon LeBon stepped up to the dais to read Andy Taylor’s letter revealing that he has stage four prostate cancer, and that an unexpected setback precluded his ability to travel for the show.
Taylor was probably the weird element X that proved instrumental in giving the band of would-be dandies and aesthetes the tether to Rock Music that was necessary for them to catalyze their oft-mentioned brief to unite the disparate vibes of Chic and the Sex Pistols within the same band. The interplay between Taylor and band founder Nick Rhodes was undoubtedly fraught with conflict, but for the first four years the push and pull of the crunchy Rock riffs that Taylor added to the mix meant that songs like “Planet Earth” and “Careless Memory” rose above the attempts of the band to step into JAPAN’s shoes elsewhere on that album. And it formed the essence of their individuality.
In 1984, when Duran Duran split into two factions at the height of their fame, I can’t recall any other time that a mega-popular band had done this. We had the delicate and obscure Arcadia album on one hand, and the brash and rocking group The Power Station on the other one! Andy Taylor found bass player John Taylor willing to join him in forming a quick and dirty band with favorite singer Robert Palmer and Chic drummer Tony Thompson. The Power Station showed that near-metal riffs and gated drums could form an aesthetic unto itself and the resulting success gave Robert Palmer a second wind in his career that was larger than his first in America!
The band had famously toured in 1986 without Robert Palmer, who was busy with his next solo album, so they got Michael DesBarres of Silverhead to front as lead singer. I actually had tickets for their Tampa appearance as my friend Jayne was an even bigger Spandau Ballet fan than I was, and they were opening for the tour. But Steve Norman broke his leg and that ended that. We skipped trucking to Tampa to see a Palmer-free Power Station, but there was a single time I ever saw Andy Taylor play live and it was with The Power Station in 1997 on their tour for the second album they would record, “Living In Fear.” It was a hot show with tunes from both Power Station albums as well as a few Robert Palmer hits added to the mix, and that time it was John Taylor who was the odd man out. Fortunately, it was also the single time I’ve seen the talented Guy Pratt play bass live, so there was that.
After first forming The Power Station, Taylor decided to bow out of the “Notorious” sessions midway and he left Duran Duran in 1986 until that fateful point in 2004 when the original band reunited for the “Astronaut” album. There was a big tour behind that album, but the sessions for the proposed follow up album, “Reportage” were notoriously [no pun intended] fractious and led to Taylor once again leaving the band with the resulting tapes locked away. Afterward, Duran Duran had to start from scratch on a follow up and made the incredibly divisive “Red Carpet Massacre” album in response.
Since his second departure from Duran Duran, I’ve not kept up with his dealings, but with the induction ceremony happening last week, I had looked forward to the possibility that Andy would be included, as the founding member ideally should in such events. But Rock politics can be exceedingly ugly and vicious, and that’s not always a given. While it was heartening to see that his absence wasn’t due to friction and power plays, the painful reality was that Andy seems to be getting his house in order after four years on what Nile Rodgers calls “Planet C.” Wisely, he’s decided to get rid of any negativity in his life during this trying time.
Taylor’s letter he sent to the band to be read at their RRHOF induction has been posted in full on duranduran.com and it is good reading. We could all learn some lessons from his current perspective and hopefully without the impetus of stage four cancer breathing down the backs of our necks. We wish all the best to Andy Taylor as he, his friends, and his family deal with his current situation that denied him what should have been a victory lap for his contributions to the formation and career of Duran Duran. But we are happy that he’s persisted this far to savor the nomination and induction, as many aren’t that lucky.