TOKYO (Reuters) - Pop stars Duran Duran, who shot to fame for a string of smash hits and dodgy suits in the 1980s, are officially cool at last.
Once panned for being pretty boys who used enough hairspray to blow a hole in the ozone layer, the British band have become a reference point for many of today’s chart-topping acts, such as indie rockers Arctic Monkeys and American outfit The Killers.
“It’s the greatest form of flattery,” Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor told Reuters in an interview before a sell-out Tokyo show earlier this week.
“Sometimes the music press try to write us out of music history a little bit, so it’s been really cool that bands have actually said we were a good band, and they were good songs and they want to be a little bit like us and take something from Duran Duran.”
While videos of them on yachts wearing silk suits might be painful to watch now, over 100,000 Internet pages are devoted to Duran Duran, who have sold more than 90 million albums.
The band counted the late Princess Diana among their legions of female fans during their 1980s heyday with hits such as “Girls on Film” and “Hungry Like the Wolf.”
However, Duran Duran bristle at the notion they are 80s relics, pointing to a new album made in collaboration with Justin Timberlake and top American producer Timbaland.
“I think people who grew up in the 80s are often going to think of us,” said keyboard player Nick Rhodes. “That was when we started out so it’s inevitable to a degree. We did have quite an impact musically at that time.
“But we’ve always carried on working, throughout the 1990s. In fact (1993 comeback single) ‘Ordinary World’ was, world-wide, the biggest hit we ever had.
“It’s good to think we’ve been around almost 30 years and we’ve put together a new album like ‘Red Carpet Massacre’ which feels very fresh and sharp.”
Rhodes and singer Simon Le Bon are the only two of the original five members to stick with Duran Duran through thick and thin, the band losing the last of its unrelated trio of Taylors with bassist John Taylor’s departure in the late 1990s.
“All the Taylors went missing,” smiled Rhodes. “It was very careless of us. That was a very difficult time without a doubt.”
Although the original five members reformed in 2003, guitarist Andy Taylor has since left again.
“There was only one album we made completely Taylor-free,” continued Rhodes. “It definitely didn’t feel like the essence of Duran Duran anymore.”
It has been a long and often painful catharsis for Duran Duran, with stories of bust-ups, spells in rehab and the occasional boating accident splashed across the tabloids.
“In the 80s our core audience were like 12, 13-year-old girls...very hormonally strung-out teenagers,” said Roger Taylor, who quit the band in 1985 and bought a farm.
“We’d turn up at a hotel and we couldn’t go anywhere because there would be thousands of them outside, glued to the window. We were just kept in our rooms.
“We would get torn apart if we went out. It was a very intense period of time. I just wanted to get away. I bought a farm. I wasn’t really a farmer — that was just a myth.”
A generation on from the frilly-shirted exuberance of 1981 debut “Planet Earth,” the former heart-throbs have lost none of their flair for courting controversy.
The video for the single “Falling Down” — a Britney Spears-inspired portrayal of anorexic-looking models in rehab — was banned for being too raunchy.
Although the musicians are now in their late 40s, Duran Duran concerts regularly sell out in minutes, the crowd mania at this week’s Tokyo show testament to their enduring popularity.
Lifetime achievement awards from the music industry further underline the impact the band have had on popular culture.
“I’m sure when people see us come into the room they see a history,” said Taylor. “I think it’s very important that we keep looking forward. We rarely talk about the early days or listen to the music. It’s bad to get stuck in an era.”