Feuding? No way. Simon’s picking up my cancer bill: Andy Taylor speaks out | Music | Entertainment

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Andy Taylor at home in Ibiza

Andy Taylor at home in Ibiza (Image: )

As the headstrong guitarist in one of the biggest pop groups in the world, Andy Taylor walked out on Duran Duran twice. But their bond remains so strong they’ve paid for the cancer treatment helping him defy the odds and return to a pain-free life.

Taylor has been living with stage four prostate cancer since 2018.

His diagnosis is terminal. But the man with a hand in chart smashes such as Rio, Planet Earth and Hungry Like The Wolf has enjoyed remarkable benefits from pioneering private treatment in London.

Speaking to the Daily Express, Taylor reveals: “I don’t have any pain. The medicine is working and I’m asymptomatic. I’ve still got a way to go, but I’m pretty free of it all. If I had pain, I’d know about it, but I don’t need the painkillers I used to have to take. My balance is better too.”

The treatment he is having was developed in Germany and involves the intravenous administration of radioactive chemicals.

It was pioneered by Christopher Evans, a Welsh scientist and biotech entrepreneur, and isn’t available on the NHS.

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Simon LeBon and Andy Taylor in concert

Simon LeBon and Andy Taylor in concert (Image: Getty)

But, as Taylor explains today, Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon insisted the band helped pay for his care.

The 62-year-old reveals: “Simon called me up one day and said, ‘I want to help you with this. You’ve been off the scene for quite a few years. Let us help.’ That’s what mates are for and I’d do the same for Simon.”

Laughing about rumours that he and Le Bon had feuded since Taylor quit the band in 2006, he jokes: “Simon offering to do that – that’s how much we hate each other.” He and Duran Duran are now helping to raise funds for cancer charity CRIS.

Despite the group’s flamboyant image as they conquered the 1980s, Taylor was the band’s quiet man in public. And he kept his cancer diagnosis private until he was forced to go public last November – to explain his absence in rejoining Duran Duran when they were inducted into the prestigious Rock And Roll Hall
Of Fame.

Taylor wrote a moving letter to his bandmates: Le Bon, bassist John Taylor, keyboard player Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor. He explained he was too ill to travel from his home in Ibiza to the ceremony in Ohio.

He admits: “I was so sad I couldn’t go to the ceremony. I thought, ‘This should be the biggest celebration of our career and I’ve let them down.’ I only told them I was ill three days before as I didn’t admit to myself I couldn’t go until the last possible minute.”

Le Bon read the letter out at the starry do, thus revealing his former bandmate’s illness to the world as he tuned in to watch.

“That was so powerful,” says Taylor, looking upbeat as he speaks with frankness about his condition and his career. His man-bun bounces with enthusiasm as he talks over Zoom from his lounge.

“While Simon was reading the letter, I looked at John and I was utterly blown away by how he maintained his composure. He’s always been a class act.”

Taylor had begun recording his latest solo album – his last was 1990’s LP of covers, Dangerous – shortly before his diagnosis.

Man’s A Wolf To Man, out on Friday, is catchy and imaginative. But it was the return to singing after years as a guest guitarist and producer, including for Sir Rod Stewart, that led to Taylor discovering he had cancer.

He recalls: “I was suddenly unable to reach certain notes. I went to see a throat specialist, who said my voice was 100% OK. Three weeks later, I found lumps on my throat and a test told me I had cancer. I thought, ‘Damn, so that’s what has been messing with my vocals!’”

Andy, Simon, Nick, John and Roger take New York

Andy, Simon, Nick, John and Roger take New York (Image: Getty)

Further checks revealed the cancer had spread from his prostate. Taylor credits his wife, Tracey, with helping him stay strong since his diagnosis. The couple, who have four children, have been married for 40 years. “When we got together, it was terrible for Tracey to try to keep up with the 22-year-old Andy Taylor,” he says.

“I didn’t see that at the time. Now I’m the 62-year-old Andy Taylor, my wife means more to me than ever. She’s a bloody miracle.”

Feeling that Duran Duran had achieved all a band possibly could, Taylor first left in 1985 following Live Aid.

On the day of that monumental charity gig – when they played the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia – Taylor admits: “I drank white wine and rose until it was coming out of my ears.” He reflects: “Duran weren’t in good shape by then. Roger particularly wasn’t in good shape and that day really brought home to me how bad our situation was.”

Andy believes that with more support he could have been persuaded to stay, noting: “That’s the point where the music industry should have stepped in to help. I’ll take all the bullets I deserve for leaving the band.

“But all the industry people who’d dined on Duran Duran since the start, when it was time for them to stand up and help us, they weren’t there.”

Simon Le Bon, with Roger, Nick and John, revealed the guitarist’s illness

Simon Le Bon, with Roger, Nick and John, revealed the guitarist’s illness (Image: )

It was a frustrating exit for a musician who grew up in Newcastle and first picked up a guitar aged nine. He says: “Playing guitar to my dad’s Glen Campbell albums was the best decision I ever made in my life.”

Taylor moved to Birmingham after successfully auditioning for Duran Duran, who had begun to get noticed on the local scene even before Le Bon – a Londoner – joined. That was shortly after Andy became the band’s third unrelated Taylor.

Their colourful appearance and fanbase of teenage girls made Duran Duran the target of snooty music critics.

But Taylor points out: “John and Nick were punk fans. In a music scene of synthesiser heaven, we kept an edge. Me being a guitarist meant we could stay a live band, which gave us an edge over a lot of the synth groups.”

Before officially announcing his departure, Andy and John formed rock-oriented The Power Station, with singer Robert Palmer, plus Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson of disco pioneers Chic.

The new band enjoyed huge success in the US but both Taylors became party animals and The Power Station were soon infamous for their hedonistic lifestyle.

Andy confesses: “At the end of a tour, I said to John, ‘We’ve got to stop doing this, or one of us is going to die.’” John got clean in 1994. His old pal smiles: “He is on the path of sobriety and I’m on the right side of being a good boy.”

Andy then produced two platinum-selling albums for Sir Rod and worked with rockers Reef, before rejoining Duran Duran in 2002. He quit again four years later, disagreeing with his bandmates’ decision to work with hip-hop producer Timbaland.

Mostly living quietly in Ibiza with his family, Man’s A Wolf To Man helped Taylor regain his creativity. Its title track was inspired by Donald Trump – who Duran Duran knew in their heyday.

He reveals: “Trump was this orange man who everyone avoided at red carpet events. When we got our MTV lifetime achievement award, we were one ahead of him on the red carpet. We were saying to each other, ‘Hurry up! Quick, we don’t want him catching up with us.’ Trump was never our class of person.”

Making the new album also helped him come to terms with his cancer. Taylor reasons: “When I’m in dire straits emotionally, music is something so rich and creative. It lifts me psychologically and balances the grim reaper sat on my shoulder. I’ve had small bouts of therapy since my diagnosis, but music has been my main therapy.”

Alongside his own album, Taylor has also had another reconciliation with Duran Duran. He plays on 10 songs on their new Halloween-themed album Danse Macabre, out on October 27. Taylor’s replacement in the band, American guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, plays on two other tracks.

Andy Taylor’s new album Man’s A Wolf To Man

Andy Taylor’s new album Man’s A Wolf To Man (Image: Andy Taylor)

Of his return, Taylor beams: “We’d always maintained a gentlemanly approach to each other after I left. Verbally, we used to kill each other. The Gallaghers had nothing on us, but we all respected the boundaries and agreed we shouldn’t publicly air any grievances. And when I got to a point of needing the band: man, they were there.

“Having two albums out at this point of my life is bloody marvellous. Having a solo deal at my age is mad anyway, then to have a reconciled Duran album is more than I could have wished for.”

He is open to working with Duran Duran again, though he doesn’t want to rejoin full-time, noting: “The other four have a defined structure that works for them. In football terms, I’d be coming in like a wild Ronaldo and they’d have to change shape to play me.

“But if there was something that could work for all of us and the fanbase, I’d be up for it.”

Instead, with his health appearing more positive, Taylor is hoping for an emotional return to playing live. He emphasises he has to be cautious, but says: “I’m really enjoying playing guitar again. I’m taking small steps to get back to the point where I can hang out and play onstage with a band again, without my health feeling compromised in any way. That will take a while, but I’m in really good nick.

“I want to be able to keep up with other musicians without having to say, ‘Whoa, I need a cup of tea.’ If I can do that – that’d be fantastic.”

  • Andy Taylor’s new album Man’s A Wolf To Man is released on Friday on BMG
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