The '80s superstars "Reflex" their muscles, reuniting for a new album

By Mark Dagostino
Updated October 13, 2004 04:00 PM
Credit: Scarlet Page/PCP

The hair. The makeup. The girls on film. In the ’80s, Duran Duran was the ultimate crush band for legions of teenage girls (and Princess Di), adored for its racy videos, synth-driven sound and relentless New Romantic foppery. Hearts broke when the group splintered in 1986 – but now it’s time to bring back the eyeliner. The Fab Five, all fortysomething dads, regrouped to play sold-out concerts last year from London to L.A. to Tokyo, and just released the CD Astronaut. (And true to form, they took 3- hours for hair, makeup and styling before this photo shoot.) Singer Simon LeBon, 45, bassist John Taylor, 44, drummer Roger Taylor, 44, guitarist Andy Taylor, 43, and keyboardist Nick Rhodes, 42, talked to PEOPLE about reuniting, raising adolescent kids and regretting fashion faux pas.

Did you ever think you’d reunite?
Andy: When I was 20, I didn’t imagine we’d be here in our 40s with this enthusiasm. And hair.
Roger: And teeth.
John: And enthusiasm for hair products.

So why did you get back together?
Simon: I was on tour with Nick and Warren (Cuccurullo, when Duran Duran was a trio in 2000), and it wasn’t working. I told John how I felt. He said, “Don’t you think it’s time the original five got back together?”
Roger: Once you’re in a band this big, you can never get away from it. Almost every day someone would say, “When’s the band going to get back together?” So we thought, we might as well embrace that.
Simon: Nick was up for it, if it wasn’t a reunion tour. Andy said, “I’m on a beach in Ibiza, but what the hell.”
Andy: You get to a point where you want certain things back in your life.
John: Like fame and sold-out concerts.
Andy: It’s a dirty job, but if we don’t do it, who else could?
Nick: More than anything, we all felt that we had a lot more music to offer. So we literally got into a room together and shut ourselves off to everybody else and plugged in the instruments and played. And it was the sound of Duran Duran.

How does it feel to be back?
Andy: There’s an unwritten understanding you have with certain people musically.
Simon: The five of us got back together (in 2001). For us, that was the real big hit. It was magical. We were all very happy that we felt the same way about each other.
Nick: We realized what incredible chemistry we have. Once we started playing, we were looking at each other thinking, “I wonder why it took this long.”
Andy: Everyone still has the same (influences) and is more or less the same person, and that enabled us to fit together again.
John: Andy said something that stuck with me: “Nobody showed up with a sitar.” It wasn’t like, “This is where I’m at. I think we can make this work!” (They laugh.)
Simon: “My rabbi is here to write the lyrics… .”

What was the first song you played?
John: We didn’t play any old songs. We made new music straight away.
Andy: (Jamming on old hits) would have been very disappointing. Retro tours have been the kiss of death to good bands like the Human League. We wanted to move forward creatively. And everyone still has the same (influences) and is more or less the same person, and that enabled us to fit together again.
Simon: We took one big game room in a big house in France and put in our instruments. I was in the pool (the next) morning, heard music coming from that room, and got out of the pool so quickly. I could hear stuff happening already.
Andy: That’s why we got back together: To get the singer out of the swimming pool.
John: Some stuff we recorded there made it onto the album three years later.
Simon: “Nice,” “Bedroom Toys,” “Taste of Summer,” and some of “What You Want.”

What’s touring like now?
Simon: We used to take (gigs) for granted, but the afterparty was of huge importance. You spent the night trying to get as high as you were onstage. It wore us out. Now the best part is when we get onstage.
Andy: We’ve got a longer show now. And an older set of knees.

How crazy were things the first time around?
Nick: With the chick-o-meter?
Andy: American girls were a little more open-minded.
Nick: I think it’s safe to say that we all had a good time in America.

Roger and Andy, why did you walk away from the band in 1986?
Andy: We had made seven albums between us in four years! It was massive pressure.
Roger: I was burned out. So I lived the country life for a while. I kept horses and chickens.
Nick: Goats? Mules?
Roger: Not quite. Didn’t quite get to goats. No.
John: Pigs? (They laugh.) Did you make your own bacon?
Nick: It’s very Spinal Tap, this is. [IMAGE “2” “left” “std” ]What were your favorite Duran Duran videos?
Simon: Filming “Hungry Like the Wolf” in Sri Lanka (in 1981) was my favorite. I stood in the water taking photographs. It was the last day of peace for four years.
Nick: That was the most disruptive day of my life! I flew economy in a black leather suit. It was so hot. I hadn’t slept for days. Five hours down these dust tracks on a flatbed truck. Leather trousers. No sleep. Then an elephant walks past me. I thought, “I’m hallucinating.'”
Andy: The drugs were working!
Nick: I needed some, I tell you.

Whose idea was the exotic location?
Roger: Our management. The idea was to do it as cheaply as possible, and our manager thought, “Why not do it cheaply in an amazing location?” It was a simple idea, but it was the first time it had been done. It was very low budget, and we all traveled around in this little bus.
Nick: But that’s singularly the most important decision they made.

What about "Rio"?
John: The four of us, not Andy, went on the same vacation.
Roger: It was very Beatles.
Simon: On the Galion Beach.
Nick: In Antigua. We thought, “Ten days off.”
John: But our manager said, “Don’t leave. Andy’s coming – we’re going to make a video out there.”
Roger: Great, we paid for the flights.
Andy: I didn’t pay for mine.
Nick: On those videos, people were more prepared to wing it. They’d go a couple of days before saying, “Simon, run across this bridge and we’ll shoot from here.” Now everything is so storyboarded.

Talk about being ’80s fashion icons.
John: Clothes and music in England in the ’70s were tied together. The Sex Pistols worked with Vivienne Westwood. Nick and I grew up on that. The English have a reputation for sartorial elegance. The bands we went to see as teenagers were (wearing makeup).
Andy: Don’t get me started on Elvis. Elvis dyed his hair at 17.
Roger: Elvis was the first metrosexual. Put that on a T-shirt.
John: We’re conscious of the band’s image. Though we’ve made mistakes in the past.

Like what?
Andy: I don’t think they were mistakes. If you’re the first to do it, whatever it is, it’s not a mistake.
John: Nothing you lose sleep over, considering you’re coming up with a different look for every f—–‘ single.
Nick: I’m glad we never wore the kilts.
Andy: The mullet extensions might have been a bit long.
Nick: But Andy, you did the king mullet better than anybody.
Simon: Black, with white on top. Andy: That’s part of it: “Look at me – I’m a pop star!”

So who’s married and who’s single?
Simon: I’m married with three girls.
John: I have a daughter by my first marriage, and my wife Gela (Nash-Taylor, co-founder of Juicy Couture) has two teens.
Andy: I have four children, and I’ve been married for 22 years.
Roger: I’ve got three kids. I’m in a period of marital transition. (They laugh and applaud.)
Andy: There’s a PR statement!
Nick: Save that for J.Lo. I’m way past that. I’m happily divorced.

Your kids range in age from 8 to 20. They’re as old as the first Durannies.
Roger: What Dad did finally makes sense, you know?
Nick: None of them had ever seen all of us play together before.
Andy: At one of our Wembley Arena shows (last May), nearly all of our kids were running around backstage. Big ones, little ones. It’s the greatest vibe when they’re there.
So you have your kids around instead of huge afterparties?
John: Oh, we still have afterparties, but now the kids come.
Roger: The older ones join in.
Simon: And stay out later than we do.