By Heidi Stevens
Tribune staff reporter
Published November 16, 2003
Somewhere in my parents' basement sits a cardboard box filled with cassette tapes of my interviews with Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes. Nick talking about his favorite movies. Nick discussing his boyhood. Nick laying out his plans for the future, which I was pretty sure included me.
OK, I wasn't really interviewing Nick, per se. But in 1984, my friend Tina played a very convincing stand-in, and I was a fierce interrogator, asking all the tough questions, such as "I love you and I love all your music and I love all the lyrics and I love all your videos and I love every magazine
that has ever printed any picture of you and I just love, love, love you and I think you should do more shows in Chicago."
Nick was by far my favorite (Tina's too), but heck, we were crazy about the whole band. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard they were reuniting for a 25th anniversary tour. And I'm clearly not alone.
Duran Duran -- purveyors of steamy, stylish music videos, archetypes of '80s fashion and frivolity and the objects of many a teenage girl's affection --was dubbed "The Fab Five" by Rolling Stone magazine in 1984 (decades before those "Queer Eye" fellas hijacked the term). That year, the band had its first No. 1 hit in the U.S. with "The Reflex" and released its single "Union of the Snake" to much acclaim. Simon LeBon, Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor (none related) split up in 1985 after recording four albums together. A couple of failed spinoff groups later, an abbreviated Duran Duran, made up of LeBon, Rhodes and John Taylor, continued to tour and record together through 2000, producing some respectable albums, but never quite capturing the magic of their '80s heyday.
Shows have been selling out in minutes. Celebrities -- including Nicolas Cage, Beck and Gwen Stefani in Los Angeles, and Moby, The Donnas and Debbie Harry in New York -- have been spotted rocking out to the band's dance-pop tunes.
Now it's our turn. Duran Duran is scheduled to play three shows at the House of Blues, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and the prospect of a Fab Five reunion was enough to sell out all three shows in less than 5 minutes.
Rhodes (the real one this time -- dreams do come true), the band's keyboardist, chatted with us recently about the tour, the '80s and his own brand of philosophy.
Q. Whose idea was it to reunite?
A. It's sort of always been something that was on the menu. We all said, never say never. But it actually reached a point where we finished an album that cycle and we decided to part company with Hollywood Records, which I think I can say was not our greatest experience. Simon and I were in L.A. and we went over to see John. [John] said "If we're going to do it, it's now or never."
Q. Where were Roger and Andy?
A. Roger was in London. He said: "If everyone is up for it, we should meet." Andy got in a little later. Some months later we all met up in London, looked at each other around the table, argued, wrote some songs to see if we still had the right kind of chemistry. Andy had done a bunch of production work, a couple of albums of his own. Roger had been doing some dance music. We went into the studio and starting writing and that turned out extremely well. And so from that point we realized it was viable.
Q. When you performed at the Roxy this summer, the place was crawling with stars, you got great reviews from critics. Same with New York a month later. You had to add a third show here in Chicago. Were you surprised by such positive responses?
A. You never expect that, but we were thrilled. There's a nice pattern developing and we're very pleased that audiences want to come see us. The shows have been so exciting. This is the first time a lot of people have seen this lineup, or at least since 1984. That in itself has been a real buzz.
Q. What's different now?
A. It's a very different energy. We're very much a band that's fully functional because all five of us write together. Andy is definitely edgier than Warren [Cuccurullo], in more of a rock sense. That's juxtaposed against my keyboards and Roger and John's grooves, and that's still very much what we sound like. When we said, "Let's play an old song" for the first time, we played "Hungry Like The Wolf," and it sounded just like the record. That's just the noise we make, and it's nice to know it's still intact.
Q. Who are you into now, musically?
A. All kinds of things. I like a lot of hip-hop stuff. I just got the Outkast album, which I like very much. Goldfrapp -- I really, really love Goldfrapp. They're one of the most creative, interesting bands to come out in long, long time. I like The Rapture. A lot of stuff.
Q. Do any of those groups influence your music?
A. I don't think directly, but we soak things up, and we all listen to a lot of music, so the record sounds like a contemporary version of the old Duran Duran. We sound like we should sound now. Rock and groove crossover, stuff with electronica, it all fits in with what's going in.
Q. Do you ever watch "I Love the 80s" on VH1?
Q. Duran Duran is featured pretty prominently.
A. I think of the '80s with a great fondness. We had some impact in that decade, so I think it's natural we would be mentioned. A lot of great stuff came out of the '80s: Us, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Madonna.
Q. Do you look back on anything from that era and go "Oh, god. That's so embarrassing"?
A. Oh, there's always an odd haircut knocking around, isn't there? But creatively, as far as recording, absolutely not. We had great quality control because there were so many of us. There's always been someone to tap on your shoulder and say, "That's really not working."
Q. Do you ever get tired of John always being referred to as the best looking one?
A. Well, we just have to tolerate that he's better looking than the rest of us. I think John's always going to have a certain amount of female admirers.
Q. Speaking of which, is your audience a lot older now?
A. They're younger than ever before. Bizarrely, what's happened is a lot of kids who weren't even born [in Duran Duran's heyday] are curious as to what it is. I guess a lot of other bands have cited us as influences and we're getting a lot of really young kids coming to check us out, obviously mixed with older people, too.
Q. Last thing. What is a Union of the Snake?
A. It's taken from kundalini, an ancient Eastern philosophy about a dormant snake that rises up through the body and gives you energy.
Q. How do you spell that?
A. I have no idea. You'll have to go stick it in google.
Note to readers: A google search for "dormant snake philosophy" uncovered the Web site www.hmt.com/kundalini/, which offers the following lesson: "In the classical literature of hatha yoga, kundalini is described as a coiled serpent at the base of the spine. The image of coiling, like a spring, conveys the sense of untapped potential energy."
Did you love the '80s?
1. Which two members founded Duran Duran in 1978 in Birmingham, England?
2. Duran Duran's "Greatest" DVD, featuring music videos and interviews with the band was released Nov. 4. What was the name of the 1984 music video documentary about the band's 1984 world tour?
3. Simon LeBon quotes Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" in what video?
4. What were the names of the splinter groups the band members formed in 1985?
5. The line "I sold the Renoir and the TV set" appears in which song?
6. How did Simon LeBon almost get killed in 1986?
7. Which band member had a solo hit with the theme from the 1986 movie "9 1/2 Weeks"?
8. What did the band change its name to in 1988 when the members consisted of Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and John Taylor?
9. Warren Cuccurullo, 1993 addition to the band, was the guitarist for which other '80s band?
10. Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Connelly made a brief appearance in which Duran Duran video?
1. Nick Rhodes and John Taylor
2. "Sing Blue Silver"
4. Power Station and Arcadia
5. "The Reflex"
6. A yachting accident
7. John Taylor
9. Missing Persons
10. "Union of the Snake"
1985 was the last time all five members of Duran Duran performed together.
What else made entertainment news that year?
Kansas City Royals beat St. Louis Cardinals, 4-3
Super Bowl XIX
San Francisco 49ers over Miami Dolphins, 38-16
Best play, "Biloxi Blues"
Best picture "Amadeus"
Drama, "Amadeus" Comedy, "Romancing the Stone"
MTV Video of the Year
"The Boys of Summer," Don Henley
"No Jacket Required," Phil Collins
Drama, "Cagney & Lacey"
Comedy, "The Cosby Show"
Totally Awesome `80s (St. Martin's Griffin Press); www.80s.com;
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