We boarded a light aircraft and took to the sky. This was an unscheduled flight that came about as a last-minute decision or at least I was the last to know about it. There was only room for a handful of us in the Cessna airplane and I’m sure that in fair weather conditions this light aircraft would be just the ticket for scooting about the airwaves with the minimum of fuss or anxiety, however on this particular day that was just not the case.
It was December and we were up in Scotland, in Edinburgh to be precise. This was the British winter tour of 1981. The weather was foul, we had record-breaking temperatures and unprecedented snow fall that winter. A press promo had been scheduled for that afternoon in Liverpool but it became clear that the roads would be impossible to manoeuvre at any decent speed and so therefore we wouldn’t make it in time. Hence the light aircraft option.
Of course the weather conditions were no different up there! It was a nightmare! We were tossed to the wind in a vehicle that had as much stability as a paper bag. It was obvious to me that we were all going to die! This was going to be one of those great Rock ‘n’ Roll flight tragedies. We would be joining Otis Reading, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper and Buddy Holly, all that talent tragically lost flying around in silly private planes like this one!
We would be breaking news.
“A light aircraft crashed into Blackpool Tower today killing all five members of pop group Duran Duran” (they probably wouldn’t bother mentioning the additional death of tour manager, wardrobe mistress, security guard and pilot).
So tragic. The world would be in shock. No Rio! A real disaster.
As you might guess Master Le Bon was undeterred by the adventure, I suppose it was kind of like being at sea in a storm only we were in the sky, which is somehow much worse than being at sea. I’ve been at sea in a storm, I was backpacking and needed to hitch a lift from Australia to New Zealand so I jumped on board the maxi yacht NZI Enterprise because it turns out I’m rather partial to a maxi ocean racing yacht and what better way to cross the Southern Ocean I thought, that was until the wind got up and we were riding some ridiculously huge waves at a great rate of knots in the dark of the night with only the odd crack of lightning to add illumination and additional drama.
“All hands on deck” came the cry. I launched myself out of my bunk and at rapid speed slipped into my foul weather gear and shot up and out of the hatch. I was strapped into a safety harness and told to ‘man’ the winch, essentially take up the slack whilst other crew members went to the bow of the boat and risked their lives to wrestle down the headsail. We should have furled the mainsail earlier but it was too late now. We were pushing the boundaries of safe sailing it is true but that said, I was much more disturbed to be in that light aircraft. You see I don’t fly, but I can swim, do you get my drift?
Back on planet paper bag I felt the blood drain from my face and thought there was good chance I might throw up. Andy was very amused by the general anxiety brewing on board the plane and he decided to ramp up the tension by entering the cockpit and positioning himself as the co-pilot. We protested, he laughed.
The light aircraft dipped and dived in the general direction of Liverpool. We swung past Blackpool Tower for a closer look. Was that really necessary! I clutched onto my sick bag and got a supportive nudge from Nobel. We went through a phase of calling each other by our names spoken backwards, Le Bon worked particularly well. My name Worreb was not so catchy, but I do remember JT used to call me Mazza for a while. Anyway we landed in Liverpool and I learnt that small planes were not my thing.
We completed our year of touring with a three night run at the Birmingham Odeon. On December 23rd, our final gig, the roadies felt it fit and entirely appropriate to hire a stripper to mark the moment, so they created a special space for her under the stage, a sort of bed upon which she could writhe. They replaced the floor where Simon usually stood with a sheet of transparent perspex, a window if you will into the strippers world. The band knew nothing of this until they launched themselves onto the stage with their usual gusto and there she was, a sexy scantily clad woman writhing about beneath them in her tacky makeshift boudoir. Surprise! The band being ever professional cracked on with the job at hand, knocking out their tunes to their ever adoring fans.
The road crew, clearly in a frisky mood, stormed onto the stage that night for the last song. We took our moment and it felt good. We were a team, a family, we had grown close. The Duran success was our success, we had all played our part gladly. It certainly had been an amazing year of globe-trotting. 1982 was just around the corner and another year of intense touring was planned.
The album Rio was recorded in the early part of 1982 at Air Studios on Oxford Street. The boys rented a block of apartments in Bayswater and I was enlisted to cook for them. An evening meal, a spot of home cooking for them when they got back from the studio, a lasagna, a shepherd’s pie and so forth. I’m not a master chef and there was no money for Michelin Star back then but they were grateful and hungry.
I would whip up a pudding in the morning at my flat in Kensington, I had moved from Birmingham to London earlier that year after the Spring tour. I would trot over to the boys’ pad in the afternoon to serve them dinner that evening and of course I was happy to adapt my job within the general field of nurturing since I happened to have one of the most fun jobs on the planet at that time.
Sometimes I would take a walk up Oxford street and visit the boys in the studio, on one occasion when I was there Paul McCartney popped in, there was a flurry of excitement as everyone rushed to greet him, rightly so. Hero at the door! I was sitting across the room, generally my default position in these situations was to hang back, I figured he hadn’t popped in to see me! So when he bothered to make the journey across the room to introduce himself to me I was mightily impressed. With upbeat enthusiasm he shook my hand. “Hi I’m Paul” he said. Made my day. Big respect to Macca for keeping it real and soulful.