Duran Duran won the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame fan vote by an extremely healthy margin, but Simon Le Bon was skeptical they’d actually make it in until the day he learned it was official. “I was in shock and disbelief,” he tells Rolling Stone via Zoom from Italy. “I mean, we’re Duran Duran. We’re always the bridesmaid, never the bride. And we looked over the list of names and thought we didn’t really have a hope in hell.”
The band kicks off a European tour later this month and they’re headed to America in August, but right now they are in celebration mode. We spoke to Le Bon about his reaction to the honor, their plans for the big night, why he’s confident they’ll reunite with former guitarists Andy Taylor and Warren Cuccurullo, and what he hopes the group can achieve in the coming years.
Where am I catching you?
I’m in Taormina. It’s in an ancient city in Sicily. Can you hear the sea smashing against the rocks?
I do … Congratulations on the big news. Who broke it to you?
Our manager. Then she said, “You can’t tell anybody until Wednesday.”
Why were you doubtful that you’d get in?
We were up against incredible names, people I have incredible respect for. Kate Bush is an absolute deity in my mind. I was surprised Fela Kuti didn’t do so well. I guess he’s not around anymore, so he’s not kicking his family to make the votes or anything.
The whole roster of people … New York Dolls, for God’s sake! Devo! These are really important artists in my mind and so I think it’s probably healthier for us not to expect anything, so we didn’t expect. We just thought, “Well, we’ll wait and see what happens.” But now the news has come in and it’s incredible! We are over the moon about it.
How did the band celebrate?
Nick [Rhodes] and I can have a drink. John [Taylor] and Roger [Taylor] are both teetotalers. It’s a cup of tea for them and a glass of champagne for Nick and I.
What does this mean for you on a personal level?
It’s a funny thing. In America, this means a lot, a lot, a lot. But I don’t spend all that much of my time in America. It’s only the people in the music industry in the U.K. who realize how important this is, in the U.K. And I live with a family and they will not allow me to get big-headed or anything like that. They don’t want me to turn into some rock-star egomaniac, which they’re a bit late, to be honest with you. That boat has already sailed.
Some fans were upset that it took so many years, but I think it’s because some parts of the rock-critical establishment were stuck in the past for a while. They came of age in the Sixties and Seventies and anything with synthesizers and flashy videos on MTV just turned them off. They refused to see the artistry in it.
I think you’re right. I do feel that a new guard has taken over. The fact that we were nominated in the first place is indicative of that. It did seem for a very long time to be the preserve of guitar bands and blues and rock artists alone.
You’re going to be inducted alongside Carly Simon, Eminem, Dolly Parton, Eurythmics, Pat Benatar … are you fans of these people?
Some more than others, but I won’t like to go into details.
It was interesting to watch Dolly Parton go from unsure about getting in to saying she was OK with it.
I didn’t quite understand that. At first, she told people not to vote for her, but if you look at the date, it was probably after everyone had already voted. But people react in different ways. That’s fair enough. I got the feeling that what she was really saying was, “I’ve had this huge success and I don’t want to take this accolade away from somebody else who may need it more than me.” That was a very generous point of view on her behalf. I totally think she deserves it. She’s somebody on this who I am a massive fan of.
You guys won the fan vote by a pretty healthy margin. That must have given you some confidence.
The fan vote counts for I think only one vote, but I think it just kept the attention on us. I think that probably had some kind of sway when it came to the actual votes. It reminded people of what the public wants.
The inductees include the current lineup along with Andy Taylor and Warren Cuccurullo. I imagine you’re cool with that.
Yes. Absolutely. I’ve been in contact with both Andy and Warren. They are both extremely excited and very, very grateful and honored in the same way that Nick, Roger, John, and I are as well. We’re talking about how we’re going to present ourselves on the night.
Fans will be so excited to see you play with them again.
That is what we’re aiming for. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to do that. I’ve already had a definite yes from Andy. He’s definitely up for it. I’m pretty sure Warren will want to do it. … We’ve always maintained a decent relationship with these guys. We didn’t have so-called “acrimonious splits.” It was gentlemanly and it was understood. And pretty much mutual.
Will picking just three songs from a career of 40 years be a challenge for you guys?
It will be a challenge. We’ve got a 40-year career and we’ve got a new album out. It’s not like we made all of our records up until 20 years ago. And so it is going to be difficult. If we’ve got Warren and Andy both playing with us, we’ll want to do songs that they were involved with. That’s not difficult, is it?
We’ve got Andy on the first three albums, so you have songs like “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Rio” and “Planet Earth.” And Warren was on a very significant album of ours, among others. He was a very important part of The Wedding Album, which had “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone” on it. We’re not struggling for good songs, that’s for sure.
How do you think you’ll feel that night when you’re standing at the podium and soaking it all in?
I don’t know how it’s going to feel. I’m not really one for predicting things, to be honest with you. I accept things as they are. Don’t forget that John and I went and inducted Roxy Music into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. And it was a big deal for us. We were very excited. It meant a lot to us to induct our heroes. The thing for us will be finding someone who feels that way about Duran Duran as we felt about Roxy Music.
That won’t be hard. I’m sure Mark Ronson or someone like him would be so honored.
Mark is definitely on the list. There’s Mark, there’s Nile [Rodgers], Courtney Love …
What are your goals for the band in the next few years?
Getting the live show up and running. We have some great collaborations on Future Past. We’d like to bring some of those artists onstage with us. It would be great to have Tove Lo do “Give It All Up” with us. I love what she did on the record. All of the people who collaborated, like Graham Coxon and Mike Garson and Ivorian Doll and Chai. They all have magnificent contributions to our album. It would be lovely to get them onstage with us at some point and do it live.
I know many fans wanted this induction years ago, but it’s pretty perfect timing since it’s the culmination of your 40th-anniversary celebration.
There is that. I understand why people wanted it earlier, but everything has its right time. Everything in its own time. This seems like a very good time for this to happen to us. It’s the 40-year anniversary. We spent the last three years working on a new album we released in September of last year. We’re going out on tour right now. We’re starting off with a modest European and American tour, possibly going to Australia and New Zealand later on. Then we’re talking about coming back with something bigger next year. And so yes, it is perfect timing.