The other day, Herald de Paris published an interview with Andy Wickett. I had seen a great deal of headlines posted by Duranie friends about this piece of work, but I hadn’t read enough of the article to make comment until today.
As a simple introduction for those who may not recognize the name, Andy Wickett was one of the lead singers of Duran Duran prior to Simon. I know, I know, it is difficult to believe that such a time existed. Last year, Mr. Wickett released (the article calls it a “monumental” release. I’m not sure I’d characterize it quite so strongly, but whatever) demos of songs he recorded with Duran Duran prior to Simon.
Funny thing is, I’ve had those demos for probably at least ten years now. I bought them as a bootleg type of thing online, so last year’s monumental release wasn’t exactly new.
In any case, Andy explains that before Duran Duran, he was in a band called TV Eye. There is a little history between TV Eye and Duran Duran, as they shared the same Cheapside squat for a while – I believe one band was upstairs and the other downstairs (or something like that). At the time, Stephen Duffy was the lead singer for Duran Duran, and at some point, he and Stephen basically switched bands. Andy began singing for Duran Duran and Duffy for TV Eye. According to Wickett, he brought a song with him from TV Eye called “Stevie’s Radio Station”. Duran Duran loved the song, and “Stevie” eventually became “Rio”.
Andy Wickett recalls writing the melody for “Girls on Film” one night, although the lyric that Andy had written it as “Girls IN Film”, which Nick suggested he change. It was recorded as a demo, which Nick and John later touted to EMI and A&M. According to Andy, both companies loved his voice and wanted more songs like Girls on Film.
At this point though, Andy left the band for “personal reasons”. Upon leaving, he wanted payment for “Girls on Film” since he helped write it, and in turn he was offered £600 if he would sign a waiver, ultimately releasing the band from further payment to Mr. Wickett. He signed the document, and later found out from his attorney that he could not fight and/or win a case for royalties against EMI.
If any of this back history interests you, I would steer you towards John Taylor’s brilliant autobiography, In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran. He writes about the band’s entire history, since of course he, along with Nick Rhodes, were the founding members. Best to get the details straight from the person who was there the entire time, I’d say.
However, the point of the article that fascinates me this week, is the claim from Andy that Duran Duran’s managers offered him £10 to give Simon 20 minute lessons – having him sing “Girls on Film”. He comments in the article that he believes he influenced Duran Duran’s vocal style, since the managers paid him to teach Simon how to sing like him. He says they used a lot of his lyric ideas and song titles such as “Sound of Thunder” and “To The Shore”, and that “they” influenced the Durans and Stephen Duffy.
He goes on, citing that DD and their management came to see him perform with Xpertz, a reggae band he’d joined after leaving Duran Duran. The Xpertz had a song at the time named “All The President’s Men”, and on Duran Duran’s next album they had a song titled “El Presidente”. Take that for what you will.
Personally, I hesitate to extol anything as fact from someone whose best memory of being in Duran Duran is “lots of fun white stuff”. I mean, sure – there was a lot of cocaine during the 80s. John Taylor himself may have mentioned that a time or two. But that’s the best memory he could manage? Not the songs? Not even performing?
The truth is, I have a difficult time with Andy Wickett, not that I’ve ever met him. I know fans who have and swear he’s the sweetest. I’m sure that is true. For me, the dilemma is simple: Andy is someone who could have easily profited heavily from some of the band’s earliest songs. He has intimated in the past that he felt the band knowingly cheated him out of money (never mind that he was not coerced into signing his name on a legally binding waiver, but did so willingly). It is troublesome to attribute everything he shares as fact without considering that he just might have an axe to grind. Regardless of whether truth, nonsense or likely somewhere in between, I cannot forget the entanglements of history when I read some of the things he says in interviews.
There are several people who probably feel as though they’ve been screwed by Duran Duran over the years, for one reason or another. That’s the cost of being in a successful band, I suppose. It also means that many people want their share, and are willing to say whatever it may take to make someone think twice about them and their contributions, however distant or prominent they may have been. I’ve personally seen and heard things from various ex-band members over the years about albums as recent as Paper Gods and All You Need is Now that just seem petty, yet the band still maintains some level of professional decorum with those people. It is something that I don’t know that I could do half as well.
I was not around during the days of TV Eye, Cheapside, or even the Rum Runner. I have no idea if what Andy says about giving Simon vocal lessons is really true – but I suppose anything is possible. If I genuinely thought that Simon would answer me seriously, I might ask. The thing is, at this point—it doesn’t even matter. Simon is the lead singer of Duran Duran, while Andy Wickett is marketing his new album, Creatures of Love, by retelling 40-year old anecdotes.