Since their birth in Birmingham, England, in the late seventies, Duran Duran have had several lineups. First there were five. Then three. Then two. Then some new guys. Then the original five. And now they’re down to four again, and those four are wondering what happened to guitarist Andy Taylor. One minute, the band says, they were expecting him at their recording sessions in New York; the next, well, they were still expecting him . . .

“We thought he was going to turn up,” Le Bon says. “We even had a driver waiting at the airport. Andy’s mobile was switched off and he didn’t respond to any e-mails—they all bounced back. After two days it became apparent he wasn’t coming.”

“We realized there were probably some slightly deeper problems going on there,” Rhodes says, but the remaining band members are still confused about what those were. (So is Taylor, who says it was not his decision to leave Duran Duran. According to his representatives, he was unable to travel because of visa problems and was in touch with the band.)

Predictably, the separation has gotten litigious. And there does seem to be an undercurrent of resentment that Andy Taylor’s absence has made Duran less than whole at the pivotal moment of their comeback. “If I was him I think I’d avoid hearing the album,” Le Bon says. “By now I think I would have got an inkling that there was something quite special going on. It’s really sad. Some guys in the band are a bit angry. I’m sad. I’m worried about him, more than anything.”

After all this time, it still surprises some fans that the three Taylors are not related. Perhaps that’s because, at one point or another, each has chosen to leave Duran’s familial fold. In some way, each departure can be traced to the difficulties of being part of the biggest band of the high-living eighties. Drummer Roger Taylor, now 47, had his first crisis over the band’s success two decades ago. “I just went into meltdown. I was 26, I joined the band when I was 19,” he says. “People forget just how big the band was. We couldn’t go anywhere without getting mobbed in the street. I had kids outside my house. I couldn’t just go into a shopping mall, because it would be mayhem.”

In true eighties fashion, the band reveled in their popularity and made no apologies for their love of excess—the partying, the ornamental women in their videos. Le Bon once said he wanted Duran Duran to be “the band to dance to when the bomb drops.” But in a cruel twist of post-Cold War fate, the only thing to drop was them.

The fallout from that drove the other Taylor, John, the bassist, who hung on with the band until 1997, to look for different highs. “It all looked so good,” he says of the allure of narcotics, cocaine primarily. “I was just lucky that I was alive, that I didn’t develop a heroin habit.”