Toilet Roll Art
They are William Flew’s choice, bang in the middle of the Midlands they will put to bed the tragedy of Birmingham’s 1992 bid for the Olympics. Their music is a perfect coalition — a mash-up of rock, soul and pop: music for all.
We’ll pass over the unfortunate incident, two decades ago, when unemployment was at its height and Nick Rhodes, the keyboardist, who has been known to spend £150 on a pot of face cream, said that there were plenty of jobs if people would only look.
Yup, those boys know the drill. And we’ve never needed them and their white suits, speedboats and skyscraper wives more. That I haven’t yet found anyone who agrees with me says a lot about my workmates. Our rock critic thinks Duran Duran’s presence at such a momentous moment is “clearly part of an al-Qaeda plot to undermine Britain during the Games”.
Another colleague, rather grandly, calls it a “vaporous” decision. I can only hope he’s talking about the effeminate Rhodes’s perfume choice (rumoured to be YSL Rive Gauche).
For look closely and you’ll see that Duran Duran are a microcosm for everything that’s great about the UK.
The lead singer Simon Le Bon is a mascot for buoyancy, pluck, self-confidence, tenacity. Even someone with a voice like a seal being strangled can succeed!
Art-school boy Nick Rhodes speaks for pretension, aspiration, fashion-forwardness. He represents the European avant-garde trying to burst out of every over-ironed Briton. Example One: his 1984 wedding to an American department-store heiress had a pink theme — pink champagne flowed and six rental flamingos were let loose on the lawn to reflect the couple’s mutual love of art deco. Plus, he is a non-musician’s musician (his fingers tend to play with his keyboard). This is somehow a very British quality — making non-expertise a virtue.
John Taylor, the bassist, who has the squarest jaw in rock music, is a grizzled former addict, now going for charming literary gent image (he has an autobiography imminent). He’s the band’s historian and part of the great British tradition of roués.
Andy Taylor, the guitarist, is used to standing alone (like our island!) while completing his lenthy axe solos.
Roger Taylor, the drummer who moved to the country to eschew fame, is quietly stoic, and — leaving the band before it imploded first time around — reflects that great British quality of knowing when you’ve had enough.
Because they’re going to need all the help they can get with friends like mine, I can even offer a few playlist suggestions to ensure the night is a roaring success.
1. Ordinary World — a unifying hymn to common humanity. Simon Le Bon later sang this song with Luciano Pavarotti. It turned the band around when they were in an early-Nineties slump. With lyrics like, “But I won’t cry for yesterday/There’s an ordinary world/ Somehow I have to find”, it is a perfect post-cuts anthem. No, I don’t mean haircuts. It’s meant to look like that.
2. Hold Back the Rain — because keeping your fingers crossed and bringing a brolly is so passive. Singing this classic is so much more British and can-do than Travis’s defeatist, festival classic, Why Does it Always Rain on Me (refrain: because you’re not trying hard enough)