I suppose you could say that I’ve made my peace with Duran Duran down the years. If two parties hang around long enough, they tend to develop a shared history that overrides whatever ideological history they might have.
When I was a kid and I was ideological about these matters, Duran Duran were twits on yachts. In their heyday they wore pastel suits and made cheesy videos and girls screamed wherever they went and that was enough for me to dismiss them.
I was prepared to admit they had the odd good song. But that was as far as it went.
As I look back now, less judgmental and rigid, I realise it’s a more complex picture than that. Firstly, who can blame them for the yacht videos and the success? What bunch of young lads from Birmingham wouldn’t embrace massive money and success and supermodels?
Increasingly, when I skim through the old Top of the Pops my Sky box keeps recording, I notice the various bands that seemed like different tribes when we were kids were really all the same.
I look at Echo & the Bunnymen, say, strutting their stuff and I see the same excited disbelief in their young faces as I do on the faces of say, Haircut 100. Of course all these young people wanted success, and to be pop stars.
I have also come to realise that but for a few twists of fate, Duran Duran could have been one of those alternative bands.
They came from a similar musical place to many of their edgier peers, and are actually part of a lineage of art rock that goes back to Bowie and down through Roxy Music, incorporating the futuristic electronica of Kraftwerk and the edgy tradition of European post-industrial cities from Berlin to Sheffield to Manchester.
Last week I went to see Duran Duran play St Anne’s Park in Dublin – mainly, I suppose, because they played on a Sunday, and I’m in favour of anything that happens on a Sunday, which is my weekend.
Going to a gig has a different routine when you are middle-aged. It’s a more civilised affair. First, I went for a run and cleared my head. I stuck on Duran Duran’s greatest hits for the run and I contemplated how when you take the music out of the context of Smash Hits and hysteria and pastel suits, it’s actually quite melancholy music, with atonal sounds and minor keys.
I have come to accept as I get older that while I like joyous music well enough, the music I love is melancholic music, music that mines the beauty hidden in sadness.
And Duran Duran, when you listen without prejudice, actually made fundamentally sad music. There is a wistfulness in much of it. And indeed they got better at it as they got older.
The glorious melancholy probably peaked around the time of the so-called ‘Wedding Album’. ‘Ordinary World’ sends a chill up my spine every time, especially the epic, plaintive guitar riff.
The next step in the civilised process of going to a gig in middle age was a nice meal and a bottle of wine before getting a taxi to as near as we could get to the gig. I personally would have gone earlier to see support act Sinead O’Brien, who is my new current musical obsession, but I knew I was on a loser there. There was no way any of the rest of the party was going to spend more time than necessary in a situation where you might have to queue for toilets and for the bar.
There was a bit of a walk through St Anne’s Park to where the gig was, but there were plenty of toilet blocks en route. They knew their market. When we got into the area where the gig was taking place it was like walking back 30 years.
I would hesitate to think the people at a Duran Duran gig are my tribe, but we were all roughly the same age, and there weren’t too many young people around judging us, so we didn’t feel uncool. We relaxed into an unspoken agreement that, yes, we are all old, but we aren’t really. We’ve still got it.
And indeed Duran Duran helped matters. Because they are models of ageing well. Simon Le Bon, who I always liked because he tended to a pudgy, well-fed, boozy, lived-in face, has kept the weight off and can still wear a pair of white jeans as well as a man half his age. And of course John Taylor was always suave and rakish.
Weirdly, it was their debut single ‘Planet Earth’ that really kicked things on to another level and got a total school disco vibe going. But for me, the stand-out moment was ‘Ordinary World’.
Other people were singing it happily, but I can’t imagine I was the only one who felt tears welling up as the stately beauty of it rang out into the sky. All differences forgotten. We were here. We had survived. And this was part of our shared history.
Obviously then we left before the end to make sure we got a taxi before the crowds came out.