the fashionable origins of duran duran
Fáshiön music (1978-80)
Luke Sky – Guitar, bass, main vocals
Mulligan – Bass, synth, vocals
Dik Davis – Drums, vocals
From 1978-80 Fáshiön music was one of the most innovative, groundbreaking bands of the transition from punk to new wave. They pioneered bands having their own record label, and toured UK with John Cooper Clark, Squeeze, and the B52s. On UK and USA tours they played with The Police, The Ramones, Patti Smith, The Cramps, did a UK club tour with U2 and played shows with a veritable who-who of the punk/new wave scene.
Nick Rhodes – “Fáshiön were an inspiration on the Birmingham scene. John (Taylor) and I used to go and see them at The Barrel Organ in Digbeth virtually every week over a six month period. They were a great inspiration. We played our last gig with Stephen Duffy as our vocalist at Barbarellas supporting Fáshiön.”
John Taylor – “Fáshiön were definitely doing something new. You really had to be there with Fáshiön, but they were very important to Nick and me. It was like New Sounds New Styles, all about mixing things up. Fáshiön took a punk ethic, fused it with white reggae and there was a synth pop element. And clothes were important, posters were important, typeface was important. Birmingham had never really been known for style, we needed something. And Fáshiön did something different every week. They were pretty glamorous.”
(From Duran Duran Unseen … Paul Edmond –Photographs 1979-82)
In 1979 Fáshiön went off to conquer America and were promptly swallowed whole by the music biz without so much as a hiccup. Spat back four months later across the Atlantic they arrived to find Two Tone and the Coventry Sound had swept the land in their absence. They were suddenly no longer the hot ticket they always thought themselves to be. In those desperate last days of the band’s first line-up they rehearsed at The Rum Runner on Broad Street in Birmingham’s city center. The Rum Runner was easily the coolest club in town; it was where The English Beat shot their Mirror In The Bathroom video. As well as Fáshiön, UB40 rehearsed there, and a new band was giving birth to itself in one of the club’s back rooms – Duran Duran.
The following conversations might not have taken place word for word, but something very like them did.
The next day, I show up for rehearsal at The Rum Runner to find Dik and Mulligan already there. I come out of the murky afternoon Birmingham light into the murky light of one of the club’s mysterious back rooms. At least there’s no waiting for your eyes to adjust to the gloom. I’m not in the best of moods. The club-in-the-afternoon atmosphere of stale booze and cigarette smoke with just a whiff of toilet cake and disinfectant cheers me up a bit. Told you I wasn’t in the best of moods.
Mulligan and Dik are standing staring at a brand, spanking new back line – drums galore, stacks of amps, new basses, guitars, and keyboards all over the place. There’s even a sodding saxophone on a stand.
“What the …” I ask, “Don’t tell me Copeland finally came through with a sponsorship deal.”
“You must be joking.” Mulligan says, “This all belongs to Duran Duran.”
A gorilla in a suit two sizes too small for it steps out of the shadows.
“That is all off limits.” he growls, “Boss’s orders. That belongs to Duran Duran, that does.”
“How nice for it.” I say.
“Or to a music shop with a hole in the back wall.” Dik says.
Mulligan grins and shushes him.
“Shall we?” I ask, pointing at our small clump of road-battered gear.
We hack through some of our old singles Steady Eddie Steady, Citinite, The Innocent, and Silver Blades just to get warmed-up. Then we try to bludgeon the new material (Emotional Blackmail, Artificial Eyes, and Do it in the Dark) into some semblance of a hit record.
We decide to take a break from a rehearsal that’s going nowhere fast. Mulligan is just starting a game of Space Invaders on the wardrobe-sized machine by the door, Dik and I are standing behind him watching, when a silhouette carrying a guitar case appears in the doorway.
“’Scuse us, like, you Duran Duran?” a Geordie wants to know.
“Not exactly, no.” Dik says.
“No. Not at all, in fact.” I agree.
“I’m here for the audition. Just off the train. Name’s Andy.”
“Alright, Andy. We’re Fáshiön. Bits of it anway.” Dik says and grins.
Duran Duran’s gear is just through there.” I say, waving back into the darkened bowels of the club. “Go on through. I expect they’ll be here in a bit.”
“You’re welcome mate,” Dik says. “Just look for a pile of right tatty, old, road battered gear with steam coming off it. That’ll be ours. The brand new stuff opposite it is theirs.”
Dik and I go outside for a smoke. We hop around trying to keep warm while we add to Broad Street’s carbon monoxide.
“Here, they’ve been on at me, y’know.” I say.
“What? Who has?” Dik leers at a couple of passing office girls and they giggle.
“The management brothers.”
“They want to know if I think that new bloke can sing?”
“What did you tell them?”
“Well, not the truth.”
“No. Why start now? Said he was alright did you?”
“Well, he’s not bad.”
“His shirts look a bit grubby though.” Dik adds, “Someone should tell his Mom about that new biological Persil, eh?”
Is he any good, they want to know. Does he have what it takes to be a star? Why would I even care, and how the fuck am I supposed to know? I’ve lost my way, I’m no longer convinced of the inevitability of my own stardom. I’m on a treadmill, going through the motions, it feels like I’m trapped on a stairway to nowhere.
“Looks like they’re looking for a guitar player as well, then.” I say, turning to stare back down the alley at the club entrance behind us.
“Oy. Don’t get any ideas, lanky, you’ve got a job.”
“You must be joking.” I say, “Me? Play with that lot of Mulligan worshippers? They think I’m some kind of oik in eyeliner.
“Well, you are.”
“I know. But I do have lovely eyes.”
“Come on, let’s go and see if we can persuade the god Mulligan to skank up the bass line to Do it in the Dark.”
We beseech him, but our prayers fall on deafened ears.
A couple of weeks later, Annette tells us that the newly furnished Duran Duran have finalized their line-up and want us to play a showcase gig with them at The Rum Runner.
“They’ll open up the show.” she says.
“Yes, and I’m sure we’ll manage to finish it off.” I add.
On the night, Duran Duran bang through their set with lots of dash and fresh-faced enthusiasm. The new guitar player, Andy, turns out to have just the right touch of funk to his playing to spark their sound.
I, on the other hand, play the whole set collapsing back against the mirrored wall, staring out at the crowd with a bored, fixed expression. Who knows how our show goes, most of the poseurs there probably weren’t even listening. I know I barely was.
But then, suffering the swings and roundabouts of outrageous fortune there at the end of my so-called career, just a couple of weeks later we are down in London opening two shows at The Rainbow Theater for The Stranglers and I’m having the time of my life again!
Fáshiön CD download: www.cdbaby.com/cd/fashionmusic
Fáshiön 30th Anniversary “Stairway To Nowhere” CD and download: www.cdbaby.com/cd/fashionmusic2
Luke Sky’s “Stairway To Nowhere” band memoir:
Luke James aka Luke Skyscraper James aka Luke Sky Bio
Luke James was born and raised in Birmingham and has been telling stories since he broke his first window.
He has wanted to live in the USA since he saw The Lone Ranger on TV when he was six-years-old.
He first came to San Francisco in 1979 when his band Fashion were touring with The Police. He subsequently lived in Bordeaux, London, Los Angeles, and Charlottesville, VA where Rita Mae Brown gave him money for a typewriter.
In 1988 he arrived at SFO with $1,000, a suitcase, a guitar, and a six month tourist visa. He’s still there.