In the mid-eighties, it was next to impossible to avoid Duran Duran. The Birmingham UK-based band was one of the most successful in the world, their cover boy looks making them MTV gods and their New Wave-tinged music and arty lyrics gaining critical praise. However, all was not well behind the glamorous facade, and fans were horrified when lead guitarist Andy Taylor left Duran Duran in 1986. Why would anyone want to leave a band at the height of its fame? Let’s take a look at what led up to Andy’s departure.
The Rise of Duran Duran
Duran Duran began in 1978 at a Birmingham club called the Rum Runner. Guitarist John Taylor (no relation to Andy) and keyboardist Nick Bates, who later changed his last name to Rhodes, were school friends who teamed up with two other classmates to form the band, which they named after a character in the film “Barbarella.” Duran Duran went through several lineup changes before two more unrelated Taylors, drummer Roger and guitarist Andy, joined in 1980. The last member to join what would become the classic Duran Duran lineup was the singer and lyricist Simon Le Bon, also in 1980. John Taylor had switched to bass by this point, and the group began shopping demos while playing gigs in both Birmingham and London, signing with EMI in December 1980.
They released their self-titled debut album in 1981, with the first single “Planet Earth” making an immediate mark. The erotic video for “Girls on Film” also became a sensation in the UK. Although later it became notably censored to be shown on MTV. They released their second album, Rio, in 1982. While Rio quickly became a hit in Europe, it stumbled in the United States because EMI was unsure as to how to promote the group there. When dance remixes from the album became popular with American DJs, EMI had Rio remixed and re-released in the U.S. in November 1982. Combined with artfully shot glamor videos for “Hungry Like the Wolf” and the title track, Rio proved to be Duran Duran’s worldwide breakthrough.
Trouble at the Top
With catchy music, good looks and excellent fashion sense, Duran Duran became massive teen idols, their popularity matched only by the Beatles at its height. Diana, Princess of Wales and Andy Warhol were among the group’s famous fans, and with the release of 1983’s smash album Seven and the Ragged Tiger Duran Duran was selling out stadiums all over the globe. However, the writing and recording of Seven in France and Montserrat were problematic. Feeling pressured by EMI to duplicate the success of Rio, various members fell into substance abuse. Andy Taylor, in particular, was later singled out for abusing cocaine, something to which he later admitted in his 2008 autobiography Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran.
Let’s face it, being in a studio is not like operating a chainsaw so you can get away with it.
He also gained a reputation as a womanizer, although he was the first member of Duran Duran to marry, wedding his longtime girlfriend, Tracey Wilson in 1982.
Drug Use and Side Projects
Tensions increased in Duran Duran during their record-breaking 1983-1984 tour supporting Seven and the Ragged Tiger, with spiraling drug use and disagreements as to the future musical direction of the band. In 1985 John and Andy Taylor joined forces with singer Robert Palmer and Chic drummer Tony Thompson to form the supergroup Power Station. Produced by Thompson’s Chic bandmate Bernard Edwards, their debut album was a success. Andy went on to play on Palmer’s 1985 album Riptide, which was also a significant hit. Duran Duran was continuing to fly high as well, with their theme for the 1985 film A View to a Kill becoming the only song from a James Bond film to reach number one on the U.S. charts.
Andy realized that Duran Duran was breaking apart, with its members living on three continents and rarely speaking to each other. However, in 1985, during an agreed-upon sabbatical, Roger Taylor was the first to officially leave the band, citing exhaustion after four years of continuous recording, touring and media obligations. Burned out but buoyed by the success of his side projects, not to mention planning a solo album, Andy Taylor left Duran Duran as well in 1986.
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Notorious and Controversy
When Andy Taylor left Duran Duran, he did so under a cloud of controversy. The band was recording their fourth studio album Notorious, and they were under the impression that Andy was going to participate. They were unaware that he had signed a separate contract for solo recording. They ultimately resorted to lawsuits to try and get him into the studio to work on the album. As a result of the legal battles, Andy only played on a few tracks of Notorious before his departure. A war of words in the tabloids between Andy and Simon Le Bon ensued afterward. It caused a fracture of both professional and personal relationships within the band that persisted for many years.
The Ultimate Reasons Why Andy Taylor Left Duran Duran
Andy Taylor did enjoy some success as a solo artist and producer. He scored a modest hit with “Take It Easy” from his album Thunder and produced artists such as Rod Stewart and Belinda Carlisle. In 2001, the original members of Duran Duran agreed to reunite to record a new album. But money and creative issues delayed the release of what would become Astronaut. Although it was very successful from a financial standpoint, Andy still battled substance abuse issues. Not to mention dealing with the impending death of his father. He admitted in Wild Boys that “(his) heart wasn’t in it” any longer after his father died. After a second reunion album attempt failed, Andy Taylor left Duran Duran again in 2007.
Duran Duran continues to perform with an altered lineup after Andy Taylor left Duran Duran for the second time. Andy Taylor currently lives on the island of Ibiza with his family and continues to pursue a recording and producing career. His distinctive guitar tone remains a hallmark of Duran Duran’s music. Additionally, his unique contributions to the group will always be remembered.