Duran Duran keeps on dancing
by George Varga
Keyboardist Nick Rhodes talks about music past and present, and how his band came close to collaborating with Miles Davis
Duran Duran and Miles Davis?
To some, it might seem almost preposterous to mention the iconic jazz trumpeter and the dance-happy English rock band in the same breath.
Yet, to hear Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes tell it, the two once came close to working together in New York.
“I did meet Miles very briefly and I asked him to play on one of our songs, on our (1986) album ‘Notorious,’ and he was completely up for it,” Rhodes excitedly recalled. “He was going to play on (the song) ‘Skin Trade,’ because we wanted a trumpet solo.”
So what derailed this unlikely collaboration, which could have profoundly boosted Duran Duran’s credibility (or that of any other band)? Blame “Notorious” producer Nile Rodgers, the co-founder of the pioneering disco group Chic.
“I told Niles I’d just met Miles and it would be so great to have him on our record,” Rhodes continued.
“Niles said: ‘I can’t do that.’ It wasn’t that he didn’t like Miles, it’s that he found him rather volatile and because (Miles) was known to carry weapons.”
When Duran Duran plays here Saturday at Harrah’s Rincon Casino, the 33-year-old band will be armed with 14 studio albums worth of material.
The group will also be bolstered by an unexpected surge in its coolness quotient. Credit for this goes both to Duran Duran’s longevity and the fact that the band, which soared to MTV-fueled stardom in the early 1980s, played earlier this year at such tres hip music festivals as Coachella in Indio and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
“We grew up in a very particular time in the 1970s, when music was pretty extraordinary, Rhodes, 49, recalled. “We had glam, punk, disco, all kinds of amazing music. What we didn’t have was the Internet. If I was forming a band now, it would be very driven by the Internet.”
But not, he stressed, by the current craze to achieve instant (if fleeting) fame, sans skill or effort.
“When we started, you didn’t think about being famous,” Rhodes said. “You thought about writing a song, performing and having a career, if you were good enough …. If becoming famous was a byproduct of it, fine, but it wasn’t part of the whole ethos right at the beginning…
"People aren’t spending enough time as a band, learning to play together, coming up with original concepts and trying to change things. What they are trying to be is to be like everybody else, and I find that part of it a little discouraging.”