❉ We chat with the former Duran Duran frontman, back with new album Creatures of Love.
Andy Wickett might not be a name that readily springs to mind, but if I mention one of the first bands he was in, it might just pique your interest a little more. Especially when I go on to mention that this band went on to become one of the top bands of the 1980s, were part of the early New Romantic movement and to this day have a loyal fanbase, and play concerts in prestigious venues the world over. They were even the favourite band of a certain member of British royalty.
The band are Birmingham legends Duran Duran. Andy joined them after leaving his first band TV Eye, who were heavily influenced by the style and musicality of the New York Dolls. Andy and TV Eye used to flaunt their flamboyancy in local club Barbarellas which was to later also showcase the early Duran Duran. Nick Rhodes was a big fan of TV Eye and used to regularly see them play at Barbarella’s, often taking his tape recorder with him. Soon after, Rhodes and Wickett became friends and Andy left TV Eye where Stephen Duffy (previously the singer with Duran) took his place. Andy was then asked to front Duran Duran with John on guitar, Roger Taylor on drums, and Nick Rhodes on keyboards.
One of the fast riffs TV Eye used to play at Barbarella’s eventually became an early version of Duran Duran’s world hit Rio, however the chord progression was instead used for early Duran song, See Me Repeat Me. When working the night shift at the Cadbury’s Bourneville factory, Andy wrote the melody to Girls on Film. In his mind, he sang the lyric “girls in film they look better, girls in film always smile”. John Taylor suggested the change of word from ‘in’ to ‘on’, Andy instructed Nick how to play the melody on his keyboard, and thus a worldwide classic hit was born. They recorded Girls on Film along with the aforementioned See Me Repeat Me, and two other tracks, Reincarnation and Working the Steel as part of their first demo in 1979. It was recorded in Bob Lamb’s studio, otherwise known as the home of those other Birmingham stalwarts, UB40.
Hungry for success, Nick’s dad took the demo tape to London along with an eager Nick and John in tow, in search of a record deal. The A&M at EMI loved Andy’s voice and said they would sign the band if they could produce more of the same, like Girls on Film.
However, soon afterwards Andy decided to leave the fledgling Duran Duran for personal reasons. He asked them for payment for his songs Rio and Girls on Film and was offered six hundred pounds on the provision that he signed a waiver to any further claim against the songs. His solicitor suggested he do so, as proof that Andy had been directly involved in writing the songs. Andy took the money and spent the £600 in used £50 notes to buy a keyboard but later found out that his solicitor felt he was mistaken in advising his client in the way he did. In actual fact, there was no case to be fought in court and therefore no further royalties were due to him.
However, the story doesn’t quite end there. Andy was still to have further involvement with Duran Duran when his replacement vocalist, Simon le Bon, was to receive singing lessons from Andy at the cost of £10 a session, on the insistence of Duran’s new managers Paul and Michael Berrow. The sessions lasted twenty minutes each, and Andy would get Simon to sing… Girls on Film!
Andy holds the reputation for being one of the Midland’s finest songwriters and musicians. His current band is World Service and he has spent his entire musical career playing arenas around the world.
Unrestricted by the pre-conceived ideas of ‘genre’ music, Andy has played with a wide and diverse number of acts from electronic music to Asian-influenced, sometimes blending the genres to unique effect.
He has worked with a number of commercially successfully artists including Culture Club, U2, Britney Spears, The Clash and Gregory Issacs.
Whilst not bitter about how history has played out, he is bittersweet about it. He’s written over two hundred songs throughout the course of his career and finds his lack of commercial success frustrating, especially as he now feels his song writing ability is much better than it was almost forty years ago, at the start of his career.
We Are Cult caught up with Andy to ask him about his careless memories of his time with Duran Duran.
Thanks for talking to us Andy. Can you tell me first of all, the answer we’re all curious to know…. Why did you decide to leave Duran Duran when you did?
I was getting into dub reggae at the time, so wanted to move towards that direction.
With the benefit of hindsight would you really have done anything differently?
I think if I had stayed with them I would have been dead from all the available drugs and drink that was on offer. I was quite a wreck head at that time!
Have you subsequently found your mojo, musically?
I find different mojos all the time. I have very diverse and eclectic tastes.
What are your thoughts on the re-working of your old Duran Duran songs?
They are a bit more polished after going through the big studios and production.
I think the demos (we originally did) show more of the edginess as they were recorded in a very short time and are in a very raw state.
What’s your favourite memory of those days?
That would be the time Nick told me that the record companies loved my voice and would sign us if we had more sounds like Girls on Film. It was very encouraging.
Have you kept in touch with your former Duran Duran band mates?
My band World Service supported them on their British tour in 1996. That was the last I saw or heard from them.
What are your thoughts on how Duran Duran have evolved into the band they are today?
I think they do very well to continue after all this time. They are very hard-working. Having said that, I don’t really follow what they are doing these days.
Do you prefer studio work or performing live?
I like creating songs the best, but I also have some gigs coming up in Los Angeles.
Who inspires you musically and who do you rate in the music scene these days?
Iggy Pop is a great influence to me. He is a great lyricist and performer.
I also love Lana Del Rey.
Re your music today, what are you currently doing?
I have just had my album Creatures of Love by Andy Wickett and World Service, released on Cleopatra Records.
My new album is available on CD or download on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon & Google Play!
I’m currently recording my next album, and working on a digital double of myself for a video.
Thanks for talking to us at We Are Cult Andy, and all the best with your future endeavours.
❉ For more information about where Andy is playing these days go to his website www.andywickett.com
❉ Creatures of Love by Andy Wickett and World Service is released by Cleopatra Records. Buy the album Creatures of Love here:
❉ Ange Chan is a poet and novelist. Her 4th poetry collection “Fame; What’s Your Name?” and her second novel “Baby, Can You Hear Me?” were both published in paperback and Kindle in 2016. Her latest poetry collection “Songs of Sorrow and Heartbreak” was published in October 2017 and her third novel “Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots” will be published in 2018.