Almost exactly a year ago, Duran Duran were in Los Angeles preparing for their performance at the 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, where they’d be celebrating their long-overdue induction. The performance would be their first in 16 years with original guitarist Andy Taylor, who left the band for the second time during the 2006 recording of the never-released Duran album Reportage.
But then, just one day before rehearsals and three days before the Rock Hall ceremony, Duran Duran were blindsided by the news that Taylor would not be joining them all after — due to his stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer, which he’d kept secret after being considered, as Taylor reveals to Yahoo Entertainment, “terminal for five years.”
“We’d kept it just sort of within the family and a few sort of friends and stuff. We kept it really kind of quiet. … And then I realized I’d have to go public with it,” Taylor explains. “I guess I call it ‘Duran denial.’ We always had that thing of just plowing through with good strength of character. So, I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ll get all the arrangements.’ But then you really start having a word with yourself and think, ‘Well, f***.’ I was on a lot of different drugs, and it’d happened to me a few times when I was playing festivals with [British rock band] Reef and I’d get this dizziness and have to stop and hold onto something. I’m the kind of person that won’t quit until I’m absolutely on my knees, but I realized, ‘I’m going to f*** this up for everybody else.’ So, I thought it was best to leave them to it, because they were on the road and were in good shape.”
The announcement of Taylor’s illness, read by grave-faced lead singer Simon Le Bon during the band’s acceptance speech at the start of the Hall ceremony on Nov. 5, 2022, cast a pall on the rest of what should have been one of the greatest nights of both Duran Duran and Taylor’s lives. Le Bon even later stated in the Rock Hall press room at L.A.’s Microsoft Theater that Taylor was “not going to be around for very long.” The guitarist, 62, tells Yahoo Entertainment that at the time, he had been “classified as palliative, end-of-life care.”
But now, a newly healthy Taylor will be performing live for the first time in two years, on Oct. 21, at the Cancer Awareness Trust’s “An Evening with Andy Taylor & Special Guests” gala at Soho Farmhouse in the U.K.’s Cotswolds; among the special guests joining him to celebrate his living legacy will be Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, Wham!’s Andrew Ridgeley, and X Factor star Ella Henderson. And ironically, Taylor’s triumphant return to the live stage — and his miraculous return from the brink of death — can all be traced back to that bittersweet Rock Hall night.
“Missing the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame brought me an intervention. I guess that’s the best way to describe it,” says Taylor. “That’s when [Cancer Awareness Trust founder] Sir Chris Evans and his team got in touch with me and said, ‘Let us take a look. There’s a lot we may be able to do for you.’”
Evans and CAT informed Taylor about a cutting-edge but unfortunately little-known targeted cancer treatment called Lutetium-177, an intravenously administered nuclear medicine which Taylor — who just received his third “blast” a few weeks ago — explains, “sees the cancer cells, but it doesn’t see the healthy cells. So, it literally can only pick up on the cancer. … And unlike chemotherapy, the quality of life you get from this is staggering. Like, wow. It can add three to five years to your life — and I’m going for the five, because they think I can make that. I am still terminal, because there’s nothing curative for [stage 4 prostate cancer]. But I’ve beat the odds with this treatment.”
Adds Taylor, “There a lot of things the public aren’t aware of in terms of treatments.’ And I certainly wasn’t. If I’d have had more knowledge, I’d have been on Lutetium years ago.” Now CAT is developing a website called the Cancer Platform, which will do for millions what Evans and the charity did for Taylor, making it quick and easy for cancer patients to access information about treatment options.
Taylor missing out on Duran Duran’s Rock Hall induction led to another unexpectedly happy and seemingly against-all-odds development, when Le Bon traveled to Taylor’s home in Ibiza to hand-deliver Taylor’s Hall trophy. During his visit, Le Bon invited Taylor to collaborate on Duran Duran’s upcoming Halloween-themed album, Danse Macabre, and Taylor ended up playing on the new Nile Rodgers-produced original “Black Moonlight” and spooky remakes of two Duran classics, “Night Boat” and “Secret Oktober.” The Danse Macabre sessions marked the band’s first recordings with Taylor since the aborted Reportage album 17 years ago.
Reportage was shelved after Duran Duran began working with then of-the-moment producers Timbaland and Justin Timberlake and shifted from Reportage’s indie-rock, guitar-driven direction to what eventually became 2007’s more electronic Red Carpet Massacre. “There was a lot of guitar on [Reportage], and that was the point,” says Taylor. “It sort of got nearly finished. There was a couple of things [that went wrong]. One, don’t forget at the time there was f***ing Dick Cheney’s war going on, and we were a bit older, so there was one track we wrote called ‘Criminals in the Capitol’ that was sort of a pompous English piss-take. We’d never really done anything like it before, and that to me was the point — that it was different, that it challenged the audience and ourselves. It was f***ing brilliant! But Sony [Duran Duran’s record label at the time] was like, ‘You can’t do that!’ Ironically, I think we’d been invited to the White House for a visit a couple of weeks earlier or something. But that really got to me. I was like, What the f***? Really?
“And then some bright spark came up with the idea of Timberlake,” Taylor continues, getting fired up. “The guy makes some great records, but he’s not in our world. Has he ever even seen a f***ing guitar? What the f***’s going on here? And then we got up to seven writers. You just get to ‘how many f***s have I got to give?’ when stuff like that happens.”
Taylor — who quit Duran Duran for the first time in 1986 to pursue a solo/session musician career, then rejoined the band in 2001 and released the reunion album Astronaut with them in 2003 — insists “there was never any active feuding ever going on” when he recalls his second exit from the group. “But I only know one way that this band works when I’ve been a part of it, and that’s the five of us writing everything, recording everything. And if we need assistance, then we need creative welfare. Some people say, ‘Oh, but you’re just trying to make a modern record.’ Well, most modern records suck! If they want to do it some other way… Look, I love Mark Ronson, but I can write f***ing chords coming out my ears, melodies coming out of my ears, solos coming out my ears. But oh, right — I’ve gotten ‘old,’ so it’s time for some young buck to take over. You don’t get the best out of the band that way. The five of us is the only relationship I know with the band. It’s only when the five of us are equal that there’s an equitable spirit and input. That’s when it works. When there’s not, it doesn’t.”
In 2021, Duran Duran bassist John Taylor described Reportage to Yahoo Entertainment as “us attempting to write a modern alternative-rock record,” and said when Timbaland and Timberlake were brought into the mix, “That was the point where really Andy sort of separated himself from the group. I’ll always regret that in a way.” However, now that Andy is in more robust health and playing again with Duran Duran in some capacity, Andy says, “Anything is possible. … You never know what’s going to happen.” Original Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor, in a separate 2023 interview for an upcoming Yahoo Entertainment story on Danse Macabre, has even revealed that the band has “definitely made a decision to go back and work on those Reportage songs with Andy and get that released, because there’s some really great stuff on there. It’s a really great album in the making, so we’ll definitely go back and finish it off.” But Andy, who has “not “listened to Reportage for a long time, I’ve got to admit,” expresses resistance about possibly revisiting the project.
“It’s been talked about… but for me, to make a Duran Duran album and make it great, you have to really get invested in it, otherwise it’s just finishing something that’s been on the shelf. My own experience with the band is at its fullest. And to take that record and make it into a great record would mean we’d have to really talk about it and figure out how we were going to do it. You can’t just pull it out and go, ‘OK, let’s finish this.’ Everyone would have to move back and we’d have to make more space for me, so we could all have the input and final say on things. And they haven’t done that with me for a f***ing long time. We have to become five again. Like most things in life, it will take a bit of negotiation!
“But that’s the magic of when a band like Duran works, if you’re prepared to do it and keep doing it and go to the edge with each other,” Andy continues. “We were always very good at not falling off the edge, but we were great at going right to it. And if we got that back, I know I’ve got no fear. I’ve faced right down the barrel of that dogshit. I’m pretty fearless as it goes these days.”
In the meantime, Andy is proud of his legacy with Duran Duran, saying he’d “love to just go out and play the first two albums in their entirety as one show, because for what I would call the ‘longtail’ fans, those two albums are like brother and sister, aren’t they?” And he’s proud to be in the Rock Hall with his on/off bandmates, noting, “If you look at the guitarist list and see it starts with Chuck Berry, it’s like, ‘OK, you’re on the list, Andy.’ That later-in-life recognition for the five of us is like, ‘Oh, actually those guys were pretty good! They played on all their own records! They wrote all their own stuff!’ Eventually all the criticism because people just hate you for being so pretty and famous goes away. That’s happened with Rick Astley. It’s happened with Kylie Minogue. If you hang around long enough, people start to get it.”
Whatever happens next, Andy will be celebrating hanging around for much longer than maybe even he expected on Oct. 21 at CAT’s “An Evening with Andy Taylor & Special Guests”; information about tickets, performers, and the event’s fine art auction featuring artworks by Banksy and Picasso can be found at theconcertplatform.org.
“So, that’s the other side of it,” says Taylor, who recently released his first solo album in more than 30 years, Man’s a Wolf to Man, which he recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic while secretly battling cancer. Grinning at his bleeding guitar-fingers as he wraps his Yahoo Entertainment interview so he can return to rehearsals for the CAT event, he says, “You have to really fill your glass half-full every day, and not half-empty. And doing music like this really adds to my cellular vibe.”
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
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Duran Duran talk ‘Rio,’ the ‘exotic, erotic’ album that ‘put us on the map — and kept us there’
The Alarm’s Mike Peters opens up about album he wrote in cancer ward: “I thought, ‘This is it. … I’m probably not getting out of here.'”
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