Duran Duran returns to the road

REJUVENATED pop stars Duran Duran killed two birds with one stone last week, using Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport as the staging ground for the band’s new video “Too Much Information” (a song that doesn’t speak very highly of Duran’s old vid friend MTV), and as the setting for a dress rehearsal for its upcoming world tour.

The band’s planned nine-month road trek, its first major outing in more than four years, kicks off today in Mexico City. U.S. dates commence with a July 14 stop at Tampa’s Sun Dome. The L.A. date, originally scheduled for the Hollywood Bowl, will be Aug. 23 at the Forum in Inglewood.

If the Brit group’s set at the practice gig is any indication, their show will mix fan faves like “A View to a Kill” and “The Chauffeur” with cuts from the band’s latest top-10, self-titled album (currently at 18 on the Billboard album chart). Noteworthy was the rearrangement given some of Duran’s biggest hits, particularly “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Girls on Film,” where the quintet toned down the original dance vibe in favor of a warmer, organic delivery.

The theatrical nature of the show, which employs numerous side-stage sets and dramatic bits, is the work of British film and theater set designer Stefanos Lazardis, who calls the show “a celebration of life. Each song will have its own concept — each song could make a feature film by itself.”

THE SELF-PROCLAIMED “most violent man in rock ‘n’ roll,” Kevin Michael (G.G.) Allin, died June 28 in New York City at age 36, apparently of a heroin overdose. Allin, whose antics included hurling his feces at audiences, punching out crowd members and holding women at knife-point (to bring back “the danger in rock ‘n’ roll, which is dead,” he said), had always claimed his death was destined to come on stage, preferably on a Halloween and after he’d “taken a bunch of you (expletive) out with me.”

The singer/performance artist’s brother and bassist, Merle Allin, said G.G. had been “partying all day, doing coke” prior to a show at Manhattan’s Gas Station, an art gallery on the Lower East Side. As was typical of Allin’s gigs, the actual set lasted about 10 minutes. But, in Merle’s words, “You could sense it waskind of a grand finale.”

The Gas Station’s particularly violent crowd spilled onto the street and commenced a bottle-hurling battle with police while G.G. made his escape to an Avenue B apartment. There, according to his brother, G.G. copped one too many bags of heroin in an attempt to cool out.

He was found dead the next morning at 9 a.m., but “had clearly been dead for about five hours,” according to his brother. “He was totally blue, and rigor mortis had set in to the point where I couldn’t get the rings off his fingers.”

Allin will be buried in New Hampshire. At his request, he will be laid to rest in his favorite outfit: a dog collar, a leather jockstrap and boots.

Allin recorded 18 albums during his 13-year career, all of which are probably still available (his cult is forming, no doubt).

On a personal note from someone who played in a punk band, Thrills, with Allin (who was a great drummer) back in 1978: For all the hype and fury, he was actually a fairly gentle and likable soul off-stage. But believing one’s reputation can become deadly.

IS AGEISM in the jazz business — the alleged reluctance of major labels to sign jazz musicians in their middle or older years — on its way out?

Take a good look at Columbia’s new “Legendary Pioneers of Jazz” series. Its first three albums, released June 22, feature trumpeter Doc Cheatham, 88; clarinetist Alvin Batiste, 56; and impresario/pianist George Wein, 67, and the Newport All-Stars — none of whom have been fought over by the majors in the past.

“I would have had some difficulties in signing these artists until now,” admits Dr. George Butler, exec producer of the series. “I was focusing on the young marketplace. Major labels want to sell records and make money, and I had to build a profit base where I could afford to sign artists like these.”

Ironically, Butler started the rush toward jazz youth a dozen years ago by signing then-teenaged Wynton Marsalis. But now, secured by the popularity of the Marsalis brothers, Harry Connick Jr. and others, Columbia and other major labels are beginning to look toward highly respected if little-heralded veterans whom young jazz stars cite as their influences.

Butler denied the theory that the series was spurred by the recent success of vet jazz musicians like Joe Henderson, Shirley Horn and Abbey Lincoln at Verve. “I was planning this much before Joe won his Grammy, because it took me some time to decide upon which artists and to negotiate with them,” he said.

However, Butler said that despite the new wave of attention, some jazz artists over 40 are rather disbelieving and cynical about the turn in their fortunes. “They were ignored in their under-40 years and may be difficult to deal with if you talk to them about a deal they may feel is not compatible with their artistry,” he said. “Or (they were involved in) deals that perhaps were not fair, and they become suspicious of anybody they deal with on a major label.”

Thus far, the “Legendary Pioneers of Jazz” series is limited to these three releases. While Butler has other artists in mind, no contracts have been signed yet. Butler anticipates having a followup release out by the first quarter of 1994.

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