Duran Duran

Duran Duran

In the early 80’s, MTV made it possible for image-conscious groups to become stars with a few well-made videos. Few bands took advantage of this the way Duran Duran did. Utilizing a string of sleek, cinematic videos that played up their teen-friendly charisma, the group rocketed to fame as one of the top attractions of early MTV. However, they could also back up their visual appeal with songs that married crafty, hook-laden pop melodies to elements of new wave and dance music. As a result, they became one of the top international pop groups of the 80’s and have survived well into the new millennium.

Duran Duran grew out of the English club scene of the late 70’s. As they played Birmingham clubs, they developed a sound that mixed the pulse of disco and the electronic edge of new wave into a hip but danceable style. They sealed their appeal with their flamboyant ‘New Romantic’ image, a style of dress blending sci-fi concepts with high fashion. The package of style and music was too good for record companies to resist, and by 1981, Duran Duran were U.K. hit-makers with glossy, synth-driven singles like “Planet Earth” and “Girls On Film.” These songs were also promoted with artsy, gorgeous music videos.

The songs were definitely catchy, but the stylish music videos are what helped Duran Duran become international stars. When they released their second album, Rio, they produced memorable videos for many of the songs. “Hungry Like The Wolf” presented a globe-trotting adventure story in the mold of Raiders of the Lost Ark, backing up the song’s pulsating rock. The “Rio” video had the group frolicking on a yacht and tropical island as a visual backdrop for the song’s bouncy synth-groove. The combination of Hollywood style and the group’s camera-friendly looks made these songs U.S. pop chart hits and MTV staples.

By 1983, Duran Duran had reached ‘superstar’ status: their image dominated both MTV and every teen magazine. They also continued to score hits songs like “Is There Something I Should Know?” This single was added to their self-titled first album for its reissue in the U.S. and helped push that album into the Top-10. The group undertook a world tour later in the year, during which Seven And The Ragged Tiger was released. It contained two major hits in “Union Of The Snake,” which mixed driving guitar riffs with a spooky atmosphere, and “New Moon On Monday,” an exuberant slice of synth-pop.

Duran Duran played up the dance element of their sound in 1984 with “The Reflex” and “Wild Boys.” Both songs were produced by dance music legend Nile Rodgers, who produced Like A Virgin for Madonna and played up the group’s dance-music influences. The shift in style worked, making “Reflex” a #1 hit and “Wild Boys” a #2. “Wild Boys” also had a memorably over-the-top adventure-themed video done in the style of The Road Warrior. The band also did well with Arena, a live album that included “Wild Boys” and spawned a successful concert video.

In 1985, Duran Duran scored another #1 hit with “A View To A Kill,” the theme song from the James Bond film of the same name (and surprisingly, the only Bond theme to hit #1). After that, they took a break to pursue solo work. John and Andy Taylor teamed with Robert Palmer to form The Power Station, scoring two Top-10 hits with the drum-driven “Some Like It Hot” and a guitar-dominated cover of the T-Rex classic “Bang A Gong (Get It On).” Meanwhile, Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor formed Arcadia. They scored a hit with “Election Day,” a song that featured narration from cult actress and musician Grace Jones.

Both Andy and Roger Taylor decided to leave Duran Duran in 1986. The remaining trio added session players to fill out the group and recorded Notorious, an album that moved the group further into a dance-music direction. The title track featured horns and became a #2 hit. “Skin Trade,” a moody ballad with a falsetto vocal, also hit the Top-40. The next year the group continued in this vein with Big Thing. “I Don’t Want Your Love” became a Top-5 hit from this album, and “All She Wants Is” went top-30. In 1989, the band celebrated ten years of success with a best-of album called Decade.

Duran Duran began the 1990’s with Liberty. After that album, the group took a hiatus to reevaluate their style. They returned in 1993 with a revitalized sound on another album titled Duran Duran (unofficially known as “The Wedding Album”), which moved away from dance music to explore a mellower, r&b-flavored sound that favored atmosphere over danceability. The album became one of their most critically-acclaimed, and the group scored two more Top-10 hits with “Come Undone” and “Ordinary World.” They also made a successful return to touring.

In 1995, they recorded Thank You, a covers album that saw the band tackling the songs of groups as diverse as Led Zeppelin and Public Enemy. In 1997, they became the first group to make a single available for download on the internet with “Electric Barbarella” from the Medazzaland album. They released Pop Trash in 2000, an album that mixed alternative influences into their sound but it wasn’t as well received by the public, having strayed just a bit too far from their fan’s expectations.

Into the millennium, Duran Duran has shown no signs of slowing. They kicked off the new century with a reunion featuring all of the original members and the fans response was overwhelming. More albums followed, more sold-out world tours, and eventually, more personnel changes when Andy Taylor left again in 2006. As of this writing, they are still recording and performing with yet another new album on the horizon. All in all, they have pulled off one of the more impressive feats in the music industry by progressing from a teen sensation to an adult-contemporary favorite with their hipness remaining intact after all these years.

If you count Duran Duran as one of your favorite bands, maybe even had a poster or two hanging on your wall back in the day, we hope you’ll take a moment to share some of your cherished memories with us in our comments section below.

One Response to “Duran Duran”

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  1. Gina says:

    Duran Duran is my favorite band–well, actually, you could say The Monkees, but I count that as my favorite TV show. I like Duran Duran best in the Rio/Seven & the Ragged Tiger era. The songs have an eerie beauty to them. It makes me think of being on an exotic adventure with Indiana Jones or Jonny Quest. Alas, as things must, the band’s sound has moved on, but I usually find a few songs on each album to like. The Pop Trash album wasn’t too bad.

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