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Duran Duran
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Duran Duran

Duran Duran is a pop music group. They were part of the New Wave music explosion in the early 1980s, as well as a leading band in the Second British Invasion. They are still often identified as an Eighties band despite continuous recording and evolution over the past twenty-five years.

The band was formed in Birmingham, England by Nick Rhodes (keyboards) and John Taylor (bass guitar), with the later addition of Roger Taylor (drums), Andy Taylor (guitar), and Simon Le Bon (lead vocals); it is worth noting that none of the Taylors are related. (Guitarist Warren Cuccurullo was also a member of the band from 1989 to 2001, and drummer Sterling Campbell was a member from 1989 to 1991.) Inspired by one of their favorite Birmingham clubs, Barbarella's, the band took their name from the evil character Dr. Durand-Durand, played by Milo O'Shea in Roger Vadim's sexy science-fiction cult film Barbarella.

Table of contents
1 Origins
2 Early Eighties
3 Late Eighties
4 Nineties
5 2000s
6 Musicians who are influenced by Duran Duran
7 Album Discography
8 External links

Origins

John Taylor and Nick Rhodes created the band in 1978, envisioning a group with the raw do-it-yourself energy of the Sex Pistols, the dance grooves of Chic, and the elegant style of David Bowie and Roxy Music. They experimented with several different lineups; their original singer was Stephen Duffy, (who went on to lead TinTin and The Lilac Time). Duffy left Duran Duran early in 1979, shortly before the other two Taylors and Le Bon fell into place, finalizing the lineup.

Duran Duran recorded two demo tapes and performed tirelessly in clubs around Birmingham and London, especially at the Rum Runner nightclub owned by their managers, brothers Paul and Michael Berrow. They were considered part of the New Romantic scene, along with other style-and-dance bands like Spandau Ballet. Touring in 1980 with Hazel O'Connor, the band attracted critical attention that escalated into a bidding war between the major record labels. "A certain patriotism" toward the label of the Beatles led them to sign with EMI. (Nick Rhodes has since said, in a 1998 interview with Deluxe magazine, that the band was "appallingly ripped off".)

Early Eighties

Duran Duran (1981)

The band's first album, Duran Duran, was released in 1981. The first single, "Planet Earth", reached the United Kingdom's Top 20 at number 3. The second, "Careless Memories", made the chart but faded away quickly; it was the third single, "Girls On Film", that garnered them the most attention. The song went to #5 in the UK in July, before the notorious video was even filmed. That video (featuring topless women mud wrestling and other not-very-stylised depictions of sexual fetishes), was made with directors Kevin Godley and Lol Creme (formerly of the band 10cc), and was filmed in August just two weeks after MTV was launched in the United States, before anyone knew what an impact the music channel would have on the industry. The band expected the "Girls On Film" video to be played in the newer nightclubs that had video screens, or on pay-TV channels like the Playboy Channel. Needless to say, the raunchy video created an uproar (it was consequently banned by the BBC and a heavily edited "day version" was aired on MTV), and needless to say, the band enjoyed and capitalized on that uproar.

Later in 1981, the band went on their first United States tour, where they performed in venues such as The Roxy nightclub in Los Angeles and The Peppermint Lounge in New York, followed by more dates in Germany and the UK. Thanks to the videos, the band also became a major success in Australia without doing any touring or promotion there -- the "Planet Earth" single went to #1 on the Australian charts, and the album performed respectably as well.

Like Depeche Mode, Duran Duran were among the earliest bands to work on their own remixes. Before the days of digital synthesizers and audio sampling, they created complex, multilayered arrangements of their singles, often recording entirely different extended performances of the songs in studio. (These "night versions" were generally available only on vinyl, as b-sides to 45 rpm singles or on 12-inch club singles, until the release of the Night Versions: The Essential Duran Duran compilation in 1998.)

From the very beginning, the band had a keen sense of style, and worked with stylist Perry Haines and fashion designers like Kahn & Bell; and Anthony Price to build a hip, cutting-edge image, soon growing beyond the ruffles and sashes of the pirate-flavored New Romantic look. In addition, they retained creative control of the band's visual presentation, and worked closely with graphic designers like Malcolm Garrett to create album covers and tour programs.

Teen magazines and music magazines in the UK latched onto their good looks quickly, and the US soon followed; it was a rare month in the early eighties when there was not at least one picture of the band members in teen magazines like Smash Hits or Tiger Beat, even if the sugary coverage was at odds with the band's titillating videos and sometimes dark lyrics. It helped that each member had a distinctive look and personality. John Taylor once remarked that the band was "like a box of Quality Street [chocolates]; everyone is somebody's favorite," -- an effect that is now strategically planned in more recent boy bands. Duran Duran would later come to regret this early pin-up exposure, but at the time it helped gain them the national attention they sought.

Rio

Duran Duran began to achieve worldwide recognition in 1982, when they opened for Blondie during that band's final American tour. They released their second album, Rio, which scored three UK top twenties with "Hungry Like the Wolf", "Save A Prayer", and the title song.

In 1982 Diana, Princess of Wales, declared Duran Duran her favorite band. The band was dubbed "The Fab Five" by the British press, and in the US the band spearheaded what became known as the Second British Invasion of rock acts. Adam Ant and Spandau Ballet were key rival artists at this time, often jockeying for position versus Duran Duran on the UK charts.

The Rio album did not do well in the US at first. EMI in England had promoted Duran Duran as a New Romantic band, but that genre was barely known in the US, and Capitol Records (EMI's American branch) was at a loss about how to sell them.  After Carnival (an EP of Rio's dance remixes) became popular with DJs, Capitol arranged to have most of the album remixed by David Kershenbaum.  Only after it was re-released in the US, with heavy promotion as a dance album, did Rio begin to climb the American charts, six months after its European successes. MTV placed "Hungry Like the Wolf" and then several other Duran Duran videos into heavy rotation, pushing that song and "Rio" into the top twenty on the US charts in early 1983.  The seduction ballad "Save A Prayer" also did well.  In the end the album peaked at number five in US, and remained on the charts there for 129 weeks -- almost two and a half years.  (In 2003, Rio was listed at number 65 in the NME 100 Greatest Albums Of All Time.)  

The album's distinctive purple cover was painted by artist Patrick Nagel, and its iconic sun-drenched videos were directed by Russell Mulcahy (who went on to direct Highlander and other feature films). Mulcahy filmed a total of eleven videos for the band, most available on the Duran Duran video album released in 1983, with some included on the Greatest video compilation released in 1998.

The videos

Duran Duran have been widely acknowledged as video pioneers. Clearly they were in the right place at the right time; MTV needed showcase videos with charismatic performers, and Duran Duran needed exposure in America. Both sides were quick to see the potential, and the band's video work was influential -- even revolutionary -- to the medium in several ways. First, Duran Duran filmed in exotic locales like Sri Lanka and Antigua, creating memorable images that were radically different from the then-common low budget "band-playing-on-a-stage" videos. Second, rather than simply playing their instruments, the band participated in mini-storylines (often taking inspiration from contemporary movies -- "Hungry Like The Wolf" riffs on Raiders of the Lost Ark, "Wild Boys" on Mad Max, etc.). Videos were obviously headed in this direction in any case, but Duran Duran did it with a style that drew attention from commentators, and spawned a wealth of imitators. The quick editing style, graphic design (e.g. wipes, diagonal split-screens), and surreal-to-nonsensical image inserts were also to become video staples. Finally, Mulcahy was among the first video directors to shoot his work with a professional movie camera on 35mm film, rather than on videotape with cheaper video cameras. Thus Duran Duran's work compared very favorably to many of the quickly- and inexpensively-shot videos which had been MTV staples up until then.

Duran Duran (re-release of the 1981 album)

To satisfy America's newly awakened thirst for all things Duran, the band re-released their self-titled first album in the summer of 1983, with the addition of the new single "Is There Something I Should Know". This song went to number one on the UK charts and Number 4 on the American charts. In addition, keyboardist Nick Rhodes produced the #1 hit "Too Shy" for the English band Kajagoogoo that year. Rhodes and Le Bon served as MTV VJs for a show, during which artist and admirer Andy Warhol dropped by to greet them. An autograph signing session in Times Square got so far out of control that mounted police had to be called in to control the mob. The hysteria of their teenage fans accompanied them everywhere they went, drawing frequent comparisons to Beatlemania.

Seven and the Ragged Tiger, Arena

At the end of 1983, the band released a third album, Seven And The Ragged Tiger, which included the hits "Union Of The Snake", "New Moon On Monday" and "The Reflex"; Duran thus had Top Twenty hits off of three albums in a single year. They made headlines by deciding to release the "Union of the Snake" video to MTV a week before the single was released to radio, which was very controversial at the time. The band embarked on a massive round-the-world tour, followed closely by a film crew led by director Russell Mulcahy. The resulting documentary film Sing Blue Silver (accompanied by concert film Arena, and its cut-down version As The Lights Go Down) shows a variety of behind-the-scenes and "off-duty" moments with the band -- including travel difficulties, practical jokes, sightseeing, and bassist John Taylor declaring, at a meeting with executives from their top tour sponsors Coca Cola, that he much preferred Pepsi!

The live album Arena was recorded during the tour, and was released with the new studio single "Wild Boys", which went to number 2 on both sides of the Atlantic. In February 1984 they appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, and won two Grammy awards in the brand-new video categories. They were featured on the Band Aid benefit single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" along with George Michael, Boy George and Bono, among others.

Hiatus, Power Station, Arcadia

In 1985 the band took a break after completing the Seven and the Ragged Tiger tour. While Duran Duran was on hiatus, John and Andy Taylor joined forces with Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson to form the band Power Station, which released a self-titled album with two hit singles.

Singer Simon Le Bon took up the hobby of yachting, and drew media attention when his maxi-yacht Drum capsized during the Fastnet race, trapping him under the hull for an hour. He went on to participate in the Whitbread Round the World Race as well.

Duran Duran regrouped to contribute the title song to the soundtrack of the James Bond movie A View to a Kill -- it remains the only Bond theme to go to the top of the charts. The song was accompanied by a tongue-in-cheek "spy" video that had the band scampering all over the Eiffel Tower. The lead singer ended the video by introducing himself as "Bon. Simon Le Bon."

After a six-month break, Le Bon, Rhodes, and Roger Taylor formed the band Arcadia, whose sole album So Red The Rose went platinum. (Rhodes and Le Bon made another guest VJ appearance on MTV to promote this album; this time they were visited by artist Keith Haring, who decorated the MTV set behind them in his inimitable style as they hosted the show.)

Duran Duran performed for the last time with all its original members on July 13, 1985, at the JFK Stadium Live Aid concert in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was not intended to be a farewell performance -- the band planned only to take a break after four years of non-stop touring and public appearances. (The original five did not play together again until July of 2003.)

Late Eighties

Notorious

After Arcadia, the ever-shy drummer Roger Taylor, suffering from a near-nervous breakdown, retired to the English countryside with the band's blessing. Guitarist Andy Taylor, on the other hand, led the band to believe he would return to work on a new Duran Duran album even as he was signing record contracts for a solo career in Los Angeles. The band finally resorted to legal measures to get him into the studio, but after dealing with numerous delays and legal countersuits, they let him go at last. He played on only a few tracks on the Notorious album.

Finally in September 1986, Warren Cuccurullo (formerly of Missing Persons and Frank Zappa's touring band) was hired as a replacement sessions guitarist. With Le Bon, Rhodes, and John Taylor, he recorded the rest of the album Notorious, released in 1987. Although the title track went to number 2 in the US, the band found that they had lost much of the momentum and hysteria they had left behind in 1985. The music was funkier, more mature, and less "pop", and many of their teenage fans had grown up while they were away.

Subsequently, Duran Duran's fame began to wane, as they struggled to escape the teen idol image and gain critical success with more complex (and less confident) music. Capitol/EMI seemed to have lost interest in promoting the band, and many casual fans never heard that the band had released anything after Notorious, and assumed that the band had broken up.

Big Thing, Decade, Liberty

The next album Big Thing (1989) yielded the hits "I Don't Want Your Love" and "All She Wants Is". The record was very experimental, taking inspirations from hip-hop and house music and mixing it with Duran's atmospheric synth pop and more mature lyrics, as well as Cuccurullo's creative guitar work. Fans and critics either loved it or hated it. In April 1989, after the six-month world tour for Big Thing, Cuccurullo and tour drummer Sterling Campbell were made full members of Duran Duran.

In 1989, a greatest hits album, Decade, was released, becoming another major seller for the band. However, the tepid 1990 release Liberty (a retreat from the experimentation of Big Thing) failed to capitalize on any regained momentum -- a pattern the band repeated regularly in their later years. Sterling Campbell left the band early in 1991, going on to work with Soul Asylum and David Bowie.

Nineties

Duran Duran (The Wedding Album)

In the early 1990s, the rise of the Internet fueled a resurgence in Duran Duran's popularity. Many of the older fans rediscovered the band through Usenet and a growing number of Duran Duran mailing lists and websites, and began "catching up" on the albums they had missed. This has grown into a remarkably resilient and loyal community of fans, supporting at least a dozen active mailing lists and over 50,000 fan-built web pages as of 2004.

In 1993, the band released a second self-titled album -- this Duran Duran album is informally known as The Wedding Album (for Stephen Sprouse's cover art) to distinguish it from the 1981 release. The swift commercial and critical success of this album came as a surprise to many who considered Duran Duran to be a purely "eighties" phenomenon who had already faded to oblivion. It hinged on the Adult Contemporary singles "Ordinary World", which was forced onto radio playlists months earlier than planned by listener demand for the leaked single, and "Come Undone", a slinky number primarily written by Cuccurullo. Some critics seemed to consider the band as a modern act for the first time, and to re-evaluate their back catalog as deeper and more significant than that of a throwaway "teeny-bop" band. Both the band and the record label seemed to be caught by surprise, and bassist John Taylor (who had begun recording solo material on the side, and was considering leaving the band) agreed to stay and "ride it out". The band's largest tour ever, which included stops in the Middle East, the recently de-embargoed South Africa, and South America, was halted after seven months when Le Bon suffered from strained vocal cords. After six weeks recuperation, the tour continued intermittently for another five months, including appearances in Israel, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Thank You

Unfortunately the band's upswing in momentum was once again swiftly curbed, this time by the poorly received coverss album Thank You. (The title track was also included on the Led Zeppelin tribute album Encomium that same year.) The album was reportedly begun as a lighthearted tribute to the band's influences, in the vein of Bowie's Pin Ups -- some of the tracks were recorded in borrowed studios (including Prince's Paisley Park) while the band was on tour, with the intent to have an album ready to release soon after the tour was finished, with another studio album to follow quickly afterwards. However, conflicts within the band and between the band and Capitol/EMI created delay after delay; remix after remix was ordered and rejected, and by the time it finally came out in 1995, the band was not enthusiastic about supporting the album. Singles included well-regarded covers of Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines" and Lou Reed's "Perfect Day", but the critics lambasted the band's attempts at "911 Is A Joke", "Ball of Confusion" and "Crystal Ship", and the band completed a 1995 summer tour of radio station festivals only under duress.

After that tour's completion, John Taylor recorded a solo album as well as recording and touring with the supergroup Neurotic Outsiders. Finally, in January of 1997, after struggling with the band to record the next album Medazzaland, he announced at a Duran Duran fan convention that he was leaving the band "for good". His departure reduced the band to two original members (Rhodes and Le Bon) plus Cuccurullo. The trio decided to stay the course and keep recording under the name Duran Duran.

Medazzaland

Freed from some internal writing conflicts, the band returned to the studio to rewrite and re-record many of the songs on Medazzaland. (Taylor's work remains on only four tracks.) This album was a return to the layered experimentation of Big Thing, and features some of the band's most adventurous work despite some criticisms of its over-production and underlying bitterness. The track "Out of My Mind" was used as the theme song for the movie The Saint, but the only true single from the album was "Electric Barbarella", an odd throw-away pop number entirely unrepresentative of the rest of the album. Medazzaland was released in the US in 1997, but was never released in the UK. This was due in part to lagging interest in the band, but in part to record label politics, some of which involved Duran Duran's determination to make "Electric Barbarella" available as a 99-cent Internet download before releasing the single through normal channels.

Duran Duran parted with Capitol/EMI in 1999; the label has since used Duran's back catalog to release their own compilations of remixes and rare vinyl-only b-sides.

Pop Trash

The band then signed a short-lived deal with Disney's Hollywood Records -- it was to be a three-album contract, but lasted only through the poorly received 2000 album Pop Trash. The album itself was considered by some to be a strange one in the band's catalog, slow-paced and heavy-sounding. It took its title from the track "Pop Trash Movie", which was originally written by Rhodes and Cuccurullo for a Blondie reunion album. Rhodes' intricate production and Cuccurullo's songwriting and experimentation with guitar sounds and time signatures made for interesting but not ear-catching listening, and the album did not do well on the charts. The dreamy single "Someone Else, Not Me" lasted barely two weeks on the radio. (The single was noted for having the first video produced entirely with Macromedia Flash animation.)

2000s

In May 2001, it was announced that Cuccurullo was leaving Duran Duran to work again with his 1980s band Missing Persons, and that John, Roger, and Andy Taylor had returned to reform the original five-member band.

Throughout 2002 and 2003, Duran Duran worked on a new album in London with various producers.   The band played a handful of sold-out 25th-anniversary tour dates in Japan, California and Las Vegas in July 2003.

In August, the band were billed to appear as presenters at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, but were instead surprised with a Lifetime Achievement Award. They were also given a Lifetime Achievement award by Q Magazine in October, and the equivalent Outstanding Contribution award at the Brit Awards in February of 2004. In accepting the award Le Bon stated that the award "validates" what they do.

A sold-out 25-city American 2003 tour was followed by several stadium dates in Australia and New Zealand with Robbie Williams. The band also played a full concert at a private Tailgate Party at Super Bowl XXXVIII; their performance of "Wild Boys" was broadcast to millions during the pregame show.

A Jason Nevins remix of the new track "Sunrise" was released on the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy TV show soundtrack in February.

Duran Duran celebrated their homecoming to the UK with fourteen stadium dates in April 2004, including five sold-out nights at Wembley Stadium.

The band signed a contract with Epic Records in June, and are working on polishing a new album with producers Rich Harrison and Don Gilmore. The as-yet-untitled album is planned for an October 2004 release, and may include work with Gwen Stefani and Missy Elliott. The package will contain a one-hour bonus DVD with live and behind-the-scenes footage.

Much of the band's earlier video work has been released at last on DVD in 2004, including the Greatest video album, the documentary Sing Blue Silver, and the concert film Arena. The band says a huge amount of concert and documentary footage has been filmed over the years, and they hope it can be edited and released in some form over the next few years.

Musicians who are influenced by Duran Duran

These musicians have stated in articles and interviews that they admire and have been inspired by Duran Duran's music:

Album Discography

External links