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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), John Taylor (bass guitar), Roger Taylor (drums), Andy Taylor (guitar), and Simon Le Bon (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.) 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.
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; one of their early singers
was Stephen Duffy, later to become lead singer of The Lilac Time. Duffy left 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".)
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, selling 2.5 million copies. 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, made with directors Kevin Godley and Lol Creme (formerly of 10cc), 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 only in the newer nightclubs that had video screens, or on pay-TV channels like the Playboy Channel. Needless to say, the raunchy video (featuring topless women mud wrestling and other not-very-stylised depictions of sexual fetishes) created an uproar, and was consequently banned by the BBC (an edited 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.
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. 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 Smash Hits or Tiger Beat. 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.
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 or 12" singles, until the release of the Night Versions: The Essential Duran Duran compilation in 1998.)
Duran Duran began to achieve worldwide recognition in 1982, when they opened for Blondie during that band's last 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, Princess Diana 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.
In the summer of 1983, the band re-released their self-titled first album, with the addition of the new single "Is There Something I Should Know". This song went to number 1 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.
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 one year. 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 included the new studio single "Wild Boys", which went to number 2 on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1984 they appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, and were featured on the Band Aid benefit single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" along with George Michael, Boy George and Bono, among others. They won two Grammy awards that year in the brand-new video categories.
In 1985, Duran Duran contributed 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."
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.)
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.
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.)
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 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 music. Capitol 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.
In 1988, Cuccurullo was made a permanent member of the band, and the next album Big Thing 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 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.
In the early 1990s, the rise of the Internet did allow a resurgence in 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 the cover art) to distinguish it from the 1981 release. The swift 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. However, the commercial and critical success gained by such hits as "Come Undone" and "Ordinary World" was swiftly tarnished by the poorly received covers album Thank You (1995). (The title track was also included on the Led Zeppelin tribute album Encomium that same year.) The 1997 departure of bassist John Taylor reduced the band to two original members plus Cuccurullo, and they failed to significantly add to their fan base with the albums Medazzaland (1997) and Pop Trash (2000). They parted with their label Capitol Records in 1999; Capitol has since used Duran's back catalog to release their own compilations of remixes and rare vinyl-only b-sides.
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 (guided by comeback maven John Kalodner). The band played a handful of 25th-anniversary tour dates in Japan, California and Las Vegas in July 2003 (to generally good reviews from the trade papers).
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.
The new album is planned for a summer 2004 release, and may include work with Gwen Stefani and Missy Elliott.
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: