Bassist John Taylor on what to expect from Duran Duran at Common People 2016
PUBLISHED: 11:56 11 May 2016 | UPDATED: 11:56 11 May 2016
Southampton sees the return of Common People festival this month with headliners Duran Duran geared up to entertain the crowd. Peter White chats to bassist John Taylor about what revellers can expect
Iconic pop group Duran Duran will be making a welcome return to Southampton at the end of May when they headline this year’s Common People festival. And the band’s founder member John Taylor says it will bring back very happy memories of a previous visit to the city.
Duran Duran were formed in a Birmingham night club back in 1978, and soon became a pop phenomenon, appearing in Southampton several times in the early days. But it is one gig, at what used to be the Gaumont Theatre, now the Mayflower, that John has never forgotten.
In this exclusive interview for Hampshire Life, he said: “I vividly recall us playing at the Gaumont back in November 1981 - it was one of those occasions that I have always remembered. We were in the tour bus outside the venue and I realised the Duran madness was beginning to set it.
“It was dark and gloomy outside, but then hundreds of girls started screaming at us and ‘Duranmania’ started. That was when it dawned on me that we were on an incredible journey. So it is nice to come back to Southampton, not only with those memories, but also with a different story. Over the years we have written a tale, and that is what we will be telling on stage at Common People.”
Their Southampton show is one of only three UK venues where they will play this year. They also play ‘Oxford Common People’ the night before their Southampton date, and appear at the Eden Project Centre in Cornwall later in the summer. But then it’s off to Italy, the west coast of the US, followed by Australia and Japan.
They headlined Bestival on the Isle of Wight last September to coincide with the release of their 14th album, ‘Paper Gods’, which has been a huge success. John, the band’s bass guitarist, said: “We had a fantastic experience at Bestival, and when we were invited to perform at Common People I have to say it was a new one on me, as of course it only started last year. But we haven’t played in the Southampton area for a long time, so it made sense. We have been having a great time out on the road. We are enjoying our music…every day is a blessing, and we are all so looking forward to Common People. It is nice to get out and play some summer shows.”
John admits live appearances still give him the greatest satisfaction, saying: “We work very hard on generating new material, because we don’t want to be an ‘oldies’ band. The pay-off is that when we go out on the road there are half a dozen songs that we can cherry-pick from the new album, which bring energy to the show. But we also appreciate that people who don’t get to see us very often, and especially those who watch us at a festival, want to hear all the hits that we have had over the years, so we work to get the right mix.”
That means the Common People revellers can look forward to Duran blasting out the likes of “Hungry Like the Wolf’, ‘Wild Boys’, ‘Girls on Film’, ‘The Reflex’ and ‘Rio’ to name just a few.
John has been a fan of music all his life, recalling: “I got started when punk rock was a blinding light moment. It was the most important thing for me listening to the Sex Pistols in 1977. There hasn’t been anything like it since. I was 16 when ‘Anarchy in the UK’ came out. I couldn’t play a note but suddenly everyone at school wanted to be in a band, have their haircut, rip their shirts, and put their ties around their hands instead of their necks.
“Everyone wanted to be a punk rocker. The first time I played a guitar in public it was an abomination. I should probably never been allowed to play again, but girls looked at me in a different way after that and that was encouragement enough.
“I started going to see shows at venues like the Gaumont when I was about 13, and was always taken by the magic of the lights going down, and time seemed to stop for a couple of hours. It was the punk rock era and I was seeing all the top bands like the Clash, The Damned and The Buzzcocks. Then suddenly everyone I knew was in a band - it was an escapism, and a very accessible experience.
“I like to think that when people come along to see us at Common People it will be a break from everyday life and politics. We are all drowning in reality, and that is why entertainment becomes more valuable. We have never been a political band because I don’t think people want to pay good money to come to a show and be reminded of what they can watch on television.”
John also believes there has been a big change in Duran’s followers over the past few years, and hopes that trend will continue in Southampton. He explained: “We were last on the road about four years ago, but we have noticed an enormous change in the audience.
“We were always a girls’ band and guys would get just dragged along. But now it seems guys are saying ‘you know what, Duran are all right, and I like that song.’ So after all this time the sound of the crowd has dropped an octave - it has become a roar rather than a shrill!”
So how have Duran managed to maintain their worldwide popularity for so many years? John reckons, “We try to acclimatise to current times, but we also want to be proved right about our roots. So when we can pull something off that sounds like old school Duran but also sounds contemporary then it makes us feel good because we are perfectionists.
“I am sure we will be walking away from Common People saying ‘we got that right but we didn’t get that right’. The audience plays a huge part as does the weather. There are more elements outside your control at festivals and in a way the stakes are higher because if you can really pull it off you are talking about thousands of fan conversions. But we are aware that at festivals there is that fine line.
“It is not so much about playing to our fans but to festival-goers and we try to reach as broad a section of the audience as possible, playing material that is familiar to most of them. But when there is also new music in the act, that invigorates us and gives us energy.”
He continued: “Part of our secret of success is that the band has never broken up. Then you have to imagine things like the image, yourself and your health and the relationship between band members. I grew up as an only child, now it feels like I have three male siblings.
“Relationships are like flowers, they need watering and attending to now and again, because if you’re not careful those relationships will turn on you. And we are still driven by our passion for music in general as well as our own.”
John said: “Music never goes away and it is alive more than ever at the moment. As an artist I am grateful for that because it feels like time has slowed down. I grew up in the 1970s and when the DJ on the radio announced a song from 1964 it seemed like it was from the Middle Ages.
“Music these days spans the ages. You are just as likely to hear Elvis as you are Madonna or the Arctic Monkeys, and you don’t have that reminder of how old the piece of music is. So perhaps the 1980s do not appear so far away but we have been driven not to rest on our laurels. We like the challenge of creating new music.”
Finally, John promised: “Common People is going to be a great experience and we are huge fans of the festival experience, even though it is comparatively new for us. We cut our teeth in the 1980s when festivals were not really a big thing, so it has been a learning curve.
“But we are fortunate that we have written a lot of songs over the last 30 years, and many of them have touched people. There have been giant writers and performers over the years like David Bowie, John Lennon, Marc Bolan, Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger. We are trying to keep that flame burning. We are driven by what we do, and we are grateful, so we want people to come along, enjoy our music and seize the Common People gig moment.”
Get your ticket
Single day tickets for the Saturday or Sunday cost £32.50 for adults, £30.25 for students, £16.50 for 15-17 year olds, £11 for 6-14 year olds and free for under 5s. For weekend tickets it’s £60.25 for adults, £55 for students, £33 for 15-17 year olds, £22 for 6-14 year olds and under 5s go free. You can buy online at southampton.commonpeople.net and follow the links. Camping is not available onsite, but tickets and hotel packages can be booked via the website. There is no designated parking for the festival so please use the park and ride facility or public transport.
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