Duran Duran is an electronic pop/rock band, notable for a long series of catchy, synthesizer-driven hit singles and vivid music videos. They were part of the New Wave music movement in the early 1980s, as well as a leading band in the MTV-driven Second British Invasion of the United States. They are still often identified as an Eighties band despite continuous recording over their twenty-plus year history. The band have sold over 70 million records, and have had eighteen singles in the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and thirty in the Top 40 of the UK Singles Chart, including "Rio", "Hungry Like the Wolf", "Save a Prayer", "Is There Something I Should Know", "The Reflex" and the James Bond theme "A View to a Kill" in the 1980s, "Ordinary World" and "Come Undone" in the early 1990s, and "Sunrise" and "What Happens Tomorrow" in the 2000s.
Duran Duran was created by Nick Rhodes (keyboards) and John Taylor (bass), with the later addition of Roger Taylor (drums), Andy Taylor (guitar), and Simon Le Bon (lead vocals); 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.
Although the group never disbanded, it went through several line-up changes over the years. The reunion of the original five members in the early 2000s created a stir among music media and the band's fans. Duran Duran released the first album from the reunited line-up, Astronaut, in 2004
John Taylor and Nick Rhodes formed the band in Birmingham, England 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. Other influences the band have mentioned include Mick Ronson, The Clash, Japan, New York Dolls, Velvet Underground, Visage and Blondie. 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. Their first singer was Stephen Duffy, who went on to lead Tin Tin and The Lilac Time, and the original bassist was Simon Colley. Several drummers and guitarists were subsequently tried, as well as a handful of vocalists after Duffy left Duran Duran early in 1979.
Finally, drummer Roger Taylor fell in with them at a party (after which John Taylor, originally on lead guitar, switched to bass). Andy Taylor came south from Newcastle to audition after responding to a magazine advertisement, and Simon Le Bon was recommended to the band by an ex-girlfriend who worked at the Rum Runner nightclub, where the band rehearsed. The owners of the club, brothers Paul and Michael Berrow, became the band's management, and paid them to work as doormen, DJs and glass collectors when they weren't rehearsing.
Like Depeche Mode, Duran Duran were among the earliest bands to work on their own remixes. Before the days of digital synthesizers and easy audio sampling, they created complex, multilayered arrangements of their singles, sometimes 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.
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 Twelve. A follow-up, "Careless Memories," stalled at Number 37. However, it was their third single, "Girls On Film", that garnered them the most attention. The song went to Number Five in the UK, 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 directing duo Godley & Creme, 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. The raunchy video created an uproar, and it was consequently banned by the BBC and heavily edited for MTV. The band unabashedly enjoyed and capitalized on the controversy. The album peaked in the UK Top Twenty at Number Three. Adam Ant and Spandau Ballet were key rival artists at this time, often jockeying for position versus Duran Duran on the UK charts.
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 Number One on the Australian charts, and the album performed respectably as well.
Duran Duran began to achieve recognition beyond their home country in 1982. In May, they released their second album, Rio, which scored four UK Top Twenty singles with "My Own Way", "Hungry Like the Wolf", "Save A Prayer", and the title song. A headlining tour of Australia, Japan, and the US was followed by a stint supporting Blondie during that band's final American tour. Diana, Princess of Wales declared Duran Duran her favorite band, and the band was dubbed "The Fab Five" by the British press.
However, the Rio album did not do well in the U.S. 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 in the fall, Capitol arranged to have most of the album remixed by David Kershenbaum. Only after it was re-released in the US in November, with heavy promotion as a dance album, did Rio begin to climb the American charts, six months after its European success. 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.
Finally at the end of 1983, the band released 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 music headlines by deciding to release the "Union of the Snake" video to MTV a full week before the single was released to radio, at a time when the industry feared video really might kill the radio star.
In 1985, Duran Duran's hiatus from their hectic lifestyle continued, but creative differences began to split the five members into two different bands.
John and Andy Taylor wanted to break away from the synth-rock of Duran Duran and wanted to play harder-rocking, Led Zeppelin-style material, so they joined forces with the frontman Robert Palmer and Chic drummer Tony Thompson to form the supergroup known as The Power Station. Their album, Power Station, peaked at Number Six on the US Charts and generated three Top 40 singles: "Communication", "Some Like It Hot", and the T. Rex cover "Get It On (Bang a Gong)" with the latter two peaking in the Top Ten.
Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes later formed their own side project, Arcadia. Unlike Power Station, Arcadia further explored the atmospheric part of the Duran Duran sound. Roger Taylor was primarily the drummer for Arcadia, but contributed some percussion to the Power Station album as well. Arcadia's So Red The Rose peaked at Number 23 on the charts, featuring the Top Ten single, "Election Day".
Duran Duran was never the same after the hiatus was over. The two side projects created very different styles of music, which drastically changed the image of the band members. Andy and John Taylor had grown out their hair in the fashion of other American hard rock bands, while Le Bon, Rhodes, and Roger Taylor furthered developed their New Romantic fashion with a more artsy style, wearing dyed black hair and heavy make-up.
As a result, the band's image as a whole was off-balance when they regrouped to contribute the title song to the soundtrack of the 1985 James Bond movie, A View to a Kill. This single remains the only Bond theme to go to Number One on the US charts, and it also remains the highest-placed Bond theme on the UK chart, reaching Number Two. 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 Live Aid and Arcadia, the ever-shy drummer Roger Taylor, exhausted by Duran Duran's hectic lifestyle, 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 a recording contract for a solo career in Los Angeles. The band finally resorted to legal measures to get him into the studio, but after numerous delays, they let him go at last. He played on only a few tracks on the Notorious album; producer (and former Chic guitarist) Nile Rodgers played guitar on several more songs while the disagreements were being settled.
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 October, 1986. Although the title track went to number two 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.
The next album, Big Thing (1988), yielded the singles "I Don't Want Your Love", "Do You Believe In Shame?" and "All She Wants Is" (the last a top ten hit in the UK). The record was very experimental, taking inspirations from house music and mixing it with Duran's atmospheric synth pop and more mature lyrics (the juvenile title track notwithstanding). It also strongly featured 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.
A greatest hits album titled Decade: Greatest Hits was released late in 1989, along with a remix single entitled "Burning The Ground" which consisted of woven snippets of the band's hits from the previous ten years. The single came and went with little fanfare, but the album became another major seller for the band.
Sterling Campbell left the band early in 1991, going on to work with Soul Asylum and David Bowie. At the end of that year, John Taylor (then 31) married nineteen-year-old model/actress Amanda De Cadenet, already pregnant with his daughter at the time.
In 1993, the band released a second self-titled album – this Duran Duran album is informally known as The Wedding Album (for Nick Egan's cover art featuring the wedding photos of the bands' parents) to distinguish it from the 1981 release. The swift commercial and critical success of this album (Number Four in the UK; Number Seven in the US) came as a surprise to many who considered Duran Duran to be a purely "Eighties" phenomenon which had already faded to oblivion. It hinged on two Adult Contemporary singles: "Ordinary World" was forced onto radio playlists months earlier than planned by listener demand for the leaked single, and went on to win a prestigious Ivor Novello Award award for songwriting. It reached Number Three on the US chart, and Number Six in the UK. "Come Undone" was a slinky number primarily written by Cuccurullo, with a memorable "underwater" video, which scored Number Seven in the US and Number Thirteen on the UK chart. Both the band and the record label seemed to be caught by surprise, and bassist John Taylor, who was considering leaving the band, agreed to stay (he does not play bass on "Come Undone").
However, the band's upswing in momentum was once again swiftly curbed, this time by the poorly received covers album, Thank You. 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. Original drummer Roger Taylor even returned from retirement to contribute to a few songs. However, conflicts within the band and between the band and Capitol/EMI created delay after delay; mix after mix was ordered and rejected, and by the time it finally came out in 1995, the band was not enthusiastic about supporting the album.
After that tour's completion, John Taylor co-founded the B5 Records label and recorded a solo album, as well as founding and touring with the super-group Neurotic Outsiders along with ex-members of GNR and The Sex Pistols. He also initiated a reunion of the Power Station, but the project went on without him when he had to withdraw to deal. Finally, after struggling for months to record the next album, Medazzaland, in January of 1997 Taylor announced at a Duran Duran fan convention that he was leaving the band "for good". His departure reduced the band to two original members (Le Bon and Rhodes) with Cuccurullo. The trio decided to stay the course and keep recording under the name Duran Duran.
Although Medazzaland was released in the US in October 1997, the album 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 an Internet download before releasing the single through normal channels – another attempt to stay out in front of changing technologies. "Barbarella" was later released in the UK as a single from the 1998 Greatest compilation album, and it peaked at Number 23 on the UK chart in January of 1999.
Duran Duran parted ways with Capitol/EMI in 1999; the label has since used Duran's back catalogue to release their own compilations of remixes and rare vinyl-only b-sides.
In 2000, John Taylor approached Le Bon and Rhodes with the notion of reforming the classic line-up once again. They agreed, and after competing the Pop Trash tour sent Cuccurullo a letter to tell him he was fired. In May 2001, an announcement that Cuccurullo would be leaving Duran Duran to work again with his 1980s band Missing Persons was placed on the Duran Duran's website, followed a day later by the news that John, Roger, and Andy Taylor had rejoined.
Throughout 2002 and 2003, the band worked on writing new material. They rented a house in St. Tropez to work on their first serious writing session. They then returned to London to do some self-financed work with various producers (including old friend Nile Rodgers), while searching for a new record deal. A record label willing to gamble on the band's comeback originally proved difficult to find, so Duran Duran took to the road to prove the drawing power of the reunited band. The response of the fans and the media was more than anyone expected.
At last, with more than thirty-five songs completed, the band signed a four-album contract with Epic Records in June, and polished the new album, now entitled Astronaut, with producer Don Gilmore. The album was released in October 2004 and entered the UK charts at Number Three and the US charts at Number 17; the first single was "(Reach Up For The) Sunrise". In November, "Sunrise" reached Number One on the Billboard U.S Dance Chart, and also peaked at Number Five on the UK singles chart; it was Duran Duran's highest charting UK single since "A View To a Kill" was released in 1985. A second single, "What Happens Tomorrow", debuted at Number Eleven.
The four original members of Duran Duran - John Taylor, Roger Taylor, Nick Rhodes and Simon Le Bon - have announced the global release of their thirteenth studio album, entitled All You Need is Now (March 2011). The deluxe CD/DVD edition includes one bonus track over the standard CD pressing plus a bonus DVD. Starting out in the late Spring of 2009, at Sphere Studios in London, this much-anticipated Duran/Mark Ronson union flourished, as writing and recording began on an exciting new body of work, which Ronson has boldly stated is the imaginary follow up to Rio that never was. With this newfound partnership, the band was energized and excited by the music they were creating. The result is nothing short of pure Duran Duran brilliance. The album features guest vocals/Rap from longtime Duran Duran pal/collaborator Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters and R&B/neo-soul superstar Kelis, while Owen Pallett of Arcade Fire contributes the album's string arrangements.