In 1984, a Duran Duran tour was as big as it got: like Adele backed by One Direction, with a dash of debauchery thrown in for good measure. Here, bassist John Taylor and photographer Denis O'Regan talk us through pictures from their photobook about the tour, 'Careless Memories', and reminisce about life on the road.
“That’s the view from the dressing room,” says O'Regan of the manic crowd shot that graces the cover of 'Careless Memories'. Did the attention ever get too much? “I was pretty good with it," says Taylor. "I just rolled with it. I had a fairly low dosage of booze and drugs and other forms of medication that enabled me to maintain this beatific vision."
O'Regan was invited to join the tour as official photographer because Taylor loved his work for NME: “Denis was one of a handful of photographers who had their name on every picture, so he was already a bit of a legend to me the first time we met. I was a bit of a train spotter, so I was able to say things like: ‘Oh, you took that photograph of Johnny Thunders or The Rezillos’. So we clicked."
“At the risk of offending anyone, each of them are very different," says O'Regan "They’re all unique characters, with their own pros and cons from my point of view. Simon really didn’t trust me at the beginning. Simon was very wary, partly because I knew John really well by the time we went on tour, and also because Simon was already reaching the point where he was being stitched up by the press."
Taylor remembers the band taking advantage of O'Regan's presence: “Each of us would want to go solo for photos. We’d be saying: ‘Denis, I see myself at the wheel of a Ferrari.’ When you’re locked into a long tour, you’re not a human being you’re a number. When you can break away and do something independently you jump at it. Of course, pre-selfie, you’d want to take the photographer with you!”
O'Regan says even ordinary car journeys were transformed by the intense adulation the band received at every turn: “I remember driving down the road past these girls and Simon saying: ‘Let’s see what happens.’ He opened the window and they went: ‘Oh my god!’ and one of them just keeled over.”
The tour took its toll on the band, as Taylor recalls: “It was a six month tour and we were done by the time it was over. It was a rocket ride from when the first single came out in Jan '81 until this tour finished in May '84. It was the kind of tour where every week we’d get a call about expanding the tour, because we were just exploding. At some point we went past the point of appreciating it."
Duran Duran were big business in the summer of 1984. Taylor says: "When we got to the end of this tour it was a case of maximising everything. There was a merchandising explosion off the back of this tour. It was a matter of making as much out of what we had.”
Duran Duran fans were a resourceful lot, as O'Regan recalls: “There were strange episodes to do with them appearing in odd places. They would come out from under the table! You’d be in a room for an hour before you realised that there was a girl hiding under the table.”
“If you’ve ever rode a horse and not really been entirely in control of it, that’s what those months felt like," remembers Taylor. "Around me, people like [guitarist] Andy [Taylor] would be going: ‘This is fucking crazy! We’ve got to fucking stop this right now!’ but from the haze it seemed liked fun. I’m really glad that we had the ride and that we all survived it.”
O'Regan remembers Duran Duran becoming another 'British invasion': “They went to America exactly 20 years after The Beatles had done, and they each had individual characters just like The Beatles did. The American press could hang their hat on that. They were called ‘The Fab Five’ on the cover of Rolling Stone.”