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Duran, Again

The pretty boys return from the '80s, and insist they've never been away

But if Duran Duran was really the first band to break the video barrier in a big way, it was a barrier that threatened to trap them as the '80s came to a close. As Nick Rhodes noted early on, "we suffered from having that kind of image. We have always put music before image, but people [in the U.S.] didn't know us well enough to know that. That flamboyant image made people suspicious of us. It put an air of doubt about us."

That it did, and even if the rock critics began to mellow about Duran, with once dismissive Rolling Stone noting in its Album Guide that the Duran singles from the early to mid-'80s actually stood up well as pop product, if not always art, and The Encyclopedia of Rock, Pop and Soul giving Duran Duran a lengthy and respectful entry, the broader audience grew more fickle, moving on to whatever was the next big thing. The band itself split apart -- into solo projects such as Power Station and Arcadia -- and came back together again minus its drummer and guitarist, added another guitarist, and began flailing about. "We were really looking for another style then," Taylor remembers. "Notorious was kind of a white, blue-eyed soul kind of thing, and then we made a kind of synthesizer record called Big Thing, and Liberty was an attempt to get back to a poppy sort of sound. Truth is, it wasn't until we started writing [the 1993 release] Duran Duran that the band really found itself again."

By that time, not a lot of people were paying attention, though Duran Duran had respectable sales. Taylor, however, doesn't seem to mind much that he and his bandmates have moved well down from the top of the popular pack. "It doesn't really bother me that we're no longer the star of the moment," he said while preparing to pack up and head for the States to push Thank You. "How can you be? I don't know anybody who's been that for all their lives. I'm more than happy where I'm at now. We're producing more music than we've ever produced, we've got a lot of things going on. I mean, it's over 15 years now. How many bands can say they've stayed together that long, and are still able to do whatever they want? We just like to play. And there are some people out there who still just like to listen."

Duran Duran plays sometime Sunday afternoon, May 28, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion as part of the 104 KRBE Audio Bar-B-Q. With Adam Ant, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Water Lillies, Prodigy, Blues Traveler, Pete Droge, Letters to Cleo and Bee Stung Lips. Tickets are $35 and $20. Call 629-3700 for info.

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