The QT

Friday 14 June 2024
14/06/2024

Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor reborn

Forty years ago a hot young thing from North Tyneside was Hungry Like The Wolf as Duran Duran topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2024 Andy Taylor only has an appetite for cementing his legacy.
  • Coming clean about my cancer has given me a second chance
  • Performing Stairway To Heaven with Robert Plant was mind boggling
  • Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction is career-cementing
Andy Taylor thrilling a hometown crowd on Tyneside. Credit: Crest Photography

As Simon Le Bon prepared to accept the greatest honour in Duran Duran’s storied career, in front of a 12,000-strong live audience and millions more across the globe, he didn’t look like a man overcome by joy. Overwhelmed by emotion, maybe. Where there should have been a beaming smile and an aura of blissful pride, a furrowed brow and deepening frown revealed the true gravity of a situation few could have imagined. 

Moments earlier Le Bon had capped a celebratory three-song set at the Microsoft Theater, in downtown Los Angeles, with a blistering rendition of Duran Duran’s Ordinary World. Introduced by Hollywood royalty Robert Downey Jr., the band was back in town to accept their long-awaited induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame — a glittering black tie event in November 2022 featuring an eclectic bill including Eurythmics, Lionel Ritchie, Eminem and Dolly Parton.

A defining moment in Duran Duran’s history, and recognition of their talents as unique purveyors of era-defining early 80s pop, this was meant to be an evening of wild celebration in the company of the original Wild Boys. So why the long face, Simon?

Rewind 48 hours and the news that every band member had feared, finally filtered through. Relayed by friend and sometime collaborator Merck Mercuriadis, the founder and figurehead of the multi-billion dollar Hipgnosis Songs Fund, some hard truths were laid bare and a new plan of action invoked. Despite promises to the contrary and the stratospheric level of expectation amongst traditionalist ‘Duranies’ — the name bestowed upon the band’s longest-serving and most loyal fans — former guitarist Andy Taylor would not be joining his friends on stage for the first time since 2006. A long dreamed of reunion of the ‘classic’ line-up would no longer be happening. Instead, Le Bon would address the issue publicly, for the first time, as part of Duran Duran’s acceptance speech at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. 

Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon speaks to the media following the band’s 2022 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame induction

By the time the applause had dampened and the one-time poster boy for Smash Hits Magazine had composed himself, it was possible to hear a pin drop inside the vacuous Microsoft Theater. By now, of course, the cat was out of the bag. Andy wasn’t there alongside namesakes John and Roger. But where on earth was the flamboyant Geordie, wearing those trademark shades?

Simon unfurled a letter from his jacket pocket and began reading a statement that would prove to be as powerful as it was poignant. “This is an open letter from Andy,” he explained, before reading: “What an absolute honour it is to be nominated, let alone be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. There’s nothing that comes close to such recognition.

“You can dream about what happened to us but to experience it, on one’s own terms, as mates, was beyond incredible.

“Just over four years ago I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer. Many families have experienced the slow burn of this disease and of course we are no different, so I speak from the perspective of a family man but also with profound humility to the band, the greatest fans a group could have and [in relation to] this exceptional accolade.

“I’m truly sorry and massively disappointed that I couldn’t make it. Let there be no doubt I was stoked about the whole thing and even bought a new guitar with the essential whammy! I’m so very proud of these four brothers. I’m amazed at their durability and I’m overjoyed at accepting this award. I’m sure as hell glad I’m around to see the day. All my love. AT.”

Andy puts the finishing touches to critically acclaimed 2023 solo album Man’s A Wolf To Man

Back on the beautiful Spanish island of Ibiza, comfortable and conversational within the confines of his favourite ‘home from home’, Andy recalls the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony with a fondness that’s bittersweet at best. Had it not been for an adverse reaction to the experimental drugs he’d been taking to stem the spread of his cancer, just days before he was due to fly to California, he would have been stood alongside his former band mates enjoying a glass of wine and the adulation of an appreciative crowd rather than housebound and in pain reflecting on a terrible, untimely setback. 

“Simon and Yasmin [Le Bon] came out here to pass on my award just after the ceremony in LA,” explained Andy, who began a fresh round of groundbreaking cancer treatment in London last summer after finally going public with his four-year fight against the disease. “It was lovely to see them both. Didn’t he do well reading out my letter? John [Taylor] was going to do the honours but Simon insisted. He held it together but I know it wasn’t easy for any of them. If there’s a positive to come out of this whole situation it’s that we’re all closer than ever before. I even contributed to their latest album…and I loved it!”

Andy first quit Duran Duran with the Grammy award winners at the height of their fame, having headlined the US leg of Live Aid, in Philadelphia, and recorded one of their biggest hits in the shape of James Bond theme tune A View To A Kill. Behind the scenes various band members were battling drug and alcohol addictions and those dreaded ‘creative differences’ had come to the fore. Andy and John went on to form rock and soul unit The Power Station with Robert Palmer, while Simon and Nick Rhodes introduced the avant-garde Arcadia to the world.

The classic Power Station line-up featuring, from left, Tony Thompson, John Taylor, Robert Palmer and Andy. Credit: Brian Aris

Duran Duran regrouped after recruiting Warren Cuccurullo on lead guitar but it wasn’t until 2001 that Andy returned to the fold for a second spell. Five years later he was gone again: disillusioned and finally done with the band he first joined in 1980 after jumping on a train from Newcastle to Birmingham to answer an advert placed in music magazine Melody Maker. Fast forward four decades and Andy’s keen to make up for lost time — although he points to close friend and Power Station frontman Palmer, rather than his well-documented spells with Duran Duran, as the inspiration for a legacy-cementing approach to the twilight of a colourful career.

“When Robert passed away suddenly I was heartbroken,” explained Andy, who performed lead guitar on Palmer’s US number one hit Addicted To Love. “He was a great friend and a good man and he had so much more to give. What I quickly realised was that Robert never really had his affairs in order prior to passing away [in 2003]. His music was owned by different people, his unreleased work was lost and there was no opportunity to truly celebrate his life and career. Robert’s legacy is far richer than people realise but he left us before he was able to ensure that legacy would live on.”

Andy may still be writing and producing new material in his 60s — latest album Man’s A Wolf To Man was released via BMG to critical acclaim last year — but documenting his past has become just as  important as  looking to the future. “The new music gives me something to aim for but I don’t want to make the same mistake as Robert,” he added. “It’s time to get my ducks in a row because if I don’t then who will? I’ve been given a second chance and who knows how long I can keep fighting this cancer? Right now, I’m in a good place mentally and physically and my induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame gave me fresh inspiration and energy. It focused my attention on ensuring my life’s work isn’t forgotten.”

Man’s A Wolf To Man lyric video

Taylor — a descendant of one of the three founding families of Cullercoats — has laid the foundation for a new documentary charting his remarkable rise from wide-eyed wannabe to bona fide 80s icon and beyond. The 62-year-old is keen to inject a fresh dose of honesty into his critically acclaimed 2008 autobiography Wild Boy: My Life In Duran Duran, with an updated version a real possibility. In addition, Taylor is keen to showcase the best of his live canon with a new solo tour on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Health permitting, that’s the plan,” he added, sipping coffee by the side of the pool and looking out across a near deserted Ibizan valley. “Prior to the pandemic I was due to play a small gig at the Cullercoats Crescent Club before taking the show elsewhere. I was so looking forward to getting back to my roots, surrounded by friends and family, and getting back on stage.

“I did manage to put on a Rock N Raise event, in aid of the Graham Wylie Foundation, Teenage Cancer Trust and Newcastle’s Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy, in the autumn of 2021 and that really got the juices flowing.

“However, 2022 turned out to be a challenging year for so many reasons and you know what they say about best laid plans and all that! I’d put everything into finishing off my new album and joining Simon and the guys at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. When I didn’t achieve either it was a huge blow, mentally and physically.”

Reef at Victorious Festival 2021, Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK. Aug 28 2021. Credit: Charlie Raven

Taylor’s pride at being inducted will always be tempered by the fact that he couldn’t crash his own party. A group of friends even agreed to front up $300,000 to charter the medically equipped private jet needed to fly Andy from Ibiza to LA and back. He told his pals to forget it. “I wanted to be back to my best on that stage and not a shadow of my former self,” he added. “It was an amazing gesture by a group of people who I love and respect but I made the right decision in the end.

“It was such an accolade for the band and for me personally. As a guitarist it means so much when I look at the inductees I’ve joined — people like Chuck Berry! That’s the bit that really makes me feel worthy of the recognition.

“It shines a light on all of the other work that I’ve done over the years and as a musician and songwriter that’s what means the most. It’s not an award thing for me. It’s that recognition. It’s cementing the legacy.

“I’ve been in Madame Tussaud’s but this is the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame! As a musician I know where I’d rather be.”

Taylor would always choose to be on stage and that’s exactly where he ended up again last October — alongside legendary Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant. When the two performed Stairway To Heaven in front of an intimate audience, paying top dollar to raise funds for charity, the incendiary collaboration went viral.

Robert Plant (left) and Andy Taylor performing Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven

“I wanted to give back to the people who’ve turned my health around,” he said. “I’m told the nuclear treatment — my description— I’ve been receiving for the past six months might give me another five years and it wasn’t too long ago that I was receiving end-of-life, palliative care. I needed to do something and there was an opportunity to raise money for The Cancer Awareness Trust.

“I made a few calls and the charity’s fundraising team did the rest. Robert reached out and said ‘what do I need to do?’ People close to him have battled cancer and he wanted to get involved. It was great to reconnect — albeit in unique circumstances.

“I was told by the Grammy Museum that it was the first time Robert had performed Stairway To Heaven in almost 16 years. He’d never sung it solo. What a voice. If doing something like that doesn’t encourage you to reassess your goals then what will? It’s made me even more determined to get back out there and play live music. If I hadn’t missed the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame event then I might never have gone public with my cancer diagnosis. I might never have been offered the opportunity of groundbreaking treatment and I would never have got to perform Stairway To Heaven with Robert Plant. I’m a great believer in fate and I’ve been given a second chance. I’m in no mood to waste that chance.”

@SimonTheQT

In 2022/23 the Community Foundation supported charitable organisations across North East England with grants totalling £7.9m

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