Duran Duran Biography
Duran Duran is a pop music group, notable for a long series of catchy, synthesizer-driven hit singles and vivid music videos. They were part of the New Wave music explosion 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 and evolution over their twenty-five year history. The band has sold over 70 million records, and has had eighteen singles in the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and thirty in the Top 40 of the UK Singles Chart, including 'Planet Earth', 'Rio', 'Hungry Like The Wolf', 'Save A Prayer', and the James Bond theme 'A View To A Kill' in the 1980s, with 'Ordinary World' and 'Come Undone' in the early 1990s.
Duran Duran was created 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); 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 band has never broken up, it has gone through several lineup changes over the years. The reunion of the original five members in the early 2000s has created a stir among both music media and fans. The band has released a new album Astronaut, and has announced a global tour beginning in February 2005.
History of Duran Duran
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 has mentioned include Mick Ronson, The Clash, Japan, New York Dolls, Velvet Underground, Visage and Blondie. Inspired by one of their favourite Birmingham clubs, Barbarella's, the band took their name from the evil character Duran-Duran, 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 TinTin and The Lilac Time. Several drummers and guitarists were 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, 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.
The up-and-coming group were considered part of the New Romantic scene, along with other style-and-dance bands like Spandau Ballet. Over the course of 1980, they recorded two demo tapes and performed tirelessly in clubs around Birmingham and London. Touring in late 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 in December. Nick Rhodes has since said, in a 1998 interview with Deluxe magazine, that the band was 'appallingly ripped off'.
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.
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 Antony Price to build a sharp and elegant image, soon growing beyond the ruffles and sashes of the pirate-flavored New Romantic look. They may have suffered from the typical hair spray and mullet excesses of the 1980s, but have maintained a focus on presenting fashion as part of the package throughout their career. In the 1990s, they worked with Vivienne Westwood, and in the 2000s with Giorgio Armani. (One of the band's advertising taglines adopts journalist Linda Ellerbee's phrase 'Styles change, style doesn't.') In addition they retained creative control of the band's visual presentation, and worked closely with graphic designer Malcolm Garrett and many others over the years to create album covers, tour programs, and other materials.
Teen 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 favourite' – 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.
1981–1982: A band is launched
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 12. A follow-up, 'Careless Memories,' stalled at Number 39. However, it was their third single, 'Girls On Film', that garnered them the most attention. The song went to Number 3 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 3.
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 1 on the Australian charts, and the album performed respectably as well. Adam Ant and Spandau Ballet were key rival artists at this time, often jockeying for position versus Duran Duran on the UK charts.
Later in 1981, the band went on their first U.S. club tour, followed by more dates in Germany and the UK. This second tour of Britain coincided with a wave of riots sparked by unemployment and racial tension, including those of Moss Side and Toxteth; they played an eerily quiet Birmingham the day after the Handsworth riots.
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. Princess Diana declared Duran Duran her favourite 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.
1983–1984: On top of the world
Duran Duran began 1983 by playing the MTV New Year's Eve Rock'n'Roll Ball, with 'Hungry Like The Wolf' still climbing the charts in the US, and the American reissue of the 'Rio' single to follow in March. To satisfy America's newly awakened thirst for all things Duran, the band decided to re-release their self-titled first album in the US in the middle of the year, with the addition of the new single 'Is There Something I Should Know?'. This song went straight in at Number 1 in the UK (a rarity then, and their first chart topper in their home country), and reached Number 4 on the American charts. During the promotion of this album, Rhodes and Le Bon served as MTV guest 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.
Also in 1983, keyboardist Nick Rhodes produced the Number 1 hit 'Too Shy' for the English band Kajagoogoo, and Andy Taylor became the first member of Duran Duran to get married. The band's main rivals were now Culture Club and Wham!.
Duran Duran returned to songwriting at a chateau in France in May 1983, before flying to Montserrat and then Sydney to record and mix their third album. The band was under enormous pressure to follow up the success of Rio, and the recording process took over six months as different band members went through bouts of perfectionism and insecurity. A newly decadent lifestyle and substance abuse issues added complications as well. In the documentary film Extraordinary World, filmed a decade later, Le Bon described the effect on their sound as 'barely controlled hysteria, scratching beneath the surface'.
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.
The band then embarked on a massive around-the-world tour that continued through the first four months of 1984, including their first major stadium dates in America. The band was followed closely by a film crew led by director Russell Mulcahy. The resulting documentary film Sing Blue Silver (accompanied by concert film Arena) shows both the live music and the hard work of putting on a show, together with 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 also 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 Long Form and Short Form music video categories. After the tour concluded, Roger Taylor was married in Naples, Italy, and Nick Rhodes celebrated his marriage in London, famously wearing a pink velvet tuxedo and top hat.
Duran Duran then began a long break; however, as most of them remained in London and were active in celebrity circles, the band was never far from the tabloids or the public eye.
At the end of the year, the group was featured on the Band Aid benefit single 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' along with other music celebrities like George Michael, Boy George, Bono, Paul Weller, Paul Young and Sting.
1985: Hiatus and side projects
With Duran Duran still 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 in 1985.
Duran Duran then 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 Number 1 on the US charts. It also remains the highest-placed Bond theme on the UK chart, reaching Number 2. 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.'
As a follow-up to the Band Aid single, Duran Duran performed in front of 90,000 people (and an estimated 1.5 billion TV viewers) at the Live Aid charity concert held at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 13, 1985. 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 – but the original five did not play together again until July of 2003. With the Bond song holding at Number 1, and the band arguably suffering from overexposure, their Live Aid set became infamous for Le Bon inadvertently hitting a falsetto note in the chorus of 'A View To A Kill' – an error gleefully noted in the press as 'The Bum Note Heard 'Round The World', and which the singer himself would later describe as the most humiliating of his career.
During the previous year, Le Bon had taken up the hobby of yachting. He again drew media attention when his maxi-yacht Drum capsized during the August 1985 Fastnet race, trapping him under the hull for an hour. He went on to participate in the 1986 Whitbread Round the World Race as well. At the end of 1985, he married model Yasmin Parvaneh.
After a break from Duran Duran, Le Bon, Rhodes, and Roger Taylor formed the band Arcadia, whose November 1985 album So Red The Rose went platinum. Rhodes and Le Bon made another guest VJ appearance to promote this album; this time they were visited by artist Keith Haring, who decorated the MTV set behind them in his inimitable style while they hosted the show.
1986–1991: Waning success
After 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 dealing with numerous delays and legal countersuits, 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.
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. Another factor was the band's dismissal of early managers the Berrow brothers. There were no public reason given, but disagreements over money, and their involvement in Le Bon's yachting adventures (they were co-owners of Drum) were suspected to play a part. Whatever the reason, Duran Duran did not have consistent management through the latter part of their career, switching managers frequently and going through periods of self-management. In addition, EMI (which fired its president and went through a major corporate restructuring that summer) seemed to have lost interest in promoting the band. Many casual fans never heard that the band had released anything after Notorious, and assumed that the band had broken up.
The next album Big Thing (1988) yielded the singles 'I Don't Want Your Love', 'All She Wants Is' & 'Do You Believe In Shame?'. 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 (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 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.
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. The singles 'Violence of Summer' and 'Serious' were only mildly successful, and the album's low-key, R&B-flavored soft rock did not fare well against contemporaries like Alice in Chains and Jane's Addiction, when Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the grunge revolution were just around the corner. For the first time, Duran Duran did not tour in support of an album, performing only a handful of club dates and on several TV talk and variety shows.
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.
1992–1996: A second climb, another fall
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 65,000 fan-built web pages as of 2005.
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 (#4 in the UK, #7 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 3 on the US chart, and Number 6 in the UK. 'Come Undone' was a slinky number primarily written by Cuccurullo, with a memorable 'underwater' video, which scored Number 7 in the US and Number 13 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. 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.
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. 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.
Singles from Thank You included covers of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five's 'White Lines' (which included backing vocals from the original artists) and Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day'. In a video interview included in the album's electronic press kit, Reed said that he considered Duran Duran's effort the best cover ever done of one of his songs. The title track was also included on the 1995 Led Zeppelin tribute album Encomium. Still, the critics lambasted the band's attempts at '911 Is A Joke', 'Lay Lady Lay', '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 founding and touring with the supergroup Neurotic Outsiders; he also initiated a reunion of the Power Station, but the project went on without him when he had to withdraw to deal with his divorce from De Cadenet and drug rehabilitation from his long addiction to cocaine. Finally, in January of 1997, after struggling 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.
1997–2000: Soldiering on
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, with intricate guitar textures and processed vocals. The track 'Out of My Mind' was used as the theme song for the movie The Saint, but the only true single to be released in the United States was the quirky 'Electric Barbarella'. The video for this single, featuring a sexy robot purchased and played with by band members, had to be censored before airing on MTV, but there was little of the controversy that had surrounded 'Girls On Film'. 'Barbarella' peaked at #37 in the US in October of 1997.
The group played a set at The Princess Diana Tribute Concert on June 27, 1998, by special request of her family.
Although Medazzaland was released in the US in October 1997, it 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 – 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 #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 catalog to release their own compilations of remixes and rare vinyl-only b-sides.
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 were not enough to hook the public, 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.
2001–2005: A highly anticipated reunion
In May 2001, as the trio finished their final dates for the global Pop Trash tour, it was announced that Cuccurullo would be 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 writing new material. The band 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.
First, the band played a handful of 25th-anniversary tour dates in Japan, California and Las Vegas, Nevada in July 2003. Tickets sold out for each show within minutes, and celebrities turned out en masse for reunion shows at small venues the band had played on their first trip to America – The Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles and The Ritz (now Webster Hall) in New York City.
Then 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 2004.
The pace picked up as a sold-out 25-city American 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 remix of the new track '(Reach Up For The) Sunrise' was released on the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy TV show soundtrack in February, while the Queer Eye guys (the modern 'Fab Five') hailed Duran Duran as 'the first metrosexuals'.
Duran Duran then celebrated their homecoming to the UK with fourteen stadium dates in April 2004, including five sold-out nights at Wembley Arena. The British press, traditionally hostile to the band, gave the shows some very warm reviews.
At last, with more than thirty-five songs completed, the band signed a four-album contract with Epic Records in June, and polished a new album entitled Astronaut with producer Don Gilmore. The album was released in October 2004 and entered the UK charts at Number 5 and the US charts at Number 17; the first single was '(Reach Up For The) Sunrise'. In November, 'Sunrise' reached Number 1 on the Billboard U.S Dance Chart, and also peaked at number 5 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 #11 in February.
A 2005 world tour begins in February with eight weeks of stadium dates in North America. Concerts in Europe, the UK, Australia and Japan are expected to follow.
Although they began their career as an interesting New Wave art-school band in the tradition of Roxy Music, the band's quick rise to stardom, their polished good looks, and their embrace of the teen press seemed to have doused their chances of favor from music critics. The British music press was particularly venomous. During the 1980s, Duran Duran were considered the quintessential manufactured, throw-away pop group – not too different from other boy bands created by behind-the-scenes managers (Menudo, New Kids On The Block, NSYNC). While few would argue that the music was light and uncomplicated pop, the critics seemed to miss that the band wrote and played their own music long before there were managers or record companies involved, and were driven by their own ambition. As Moby said of the band in his website diary in 2003: '... they were cursed by what we can call the 'bee gees' curse. which is: 'write amazing songs, sell tons of records, and consequently incur the wrath or disinterest of the rock obsessed critical establishment'.' 1 (http://moby.com/cms/viewdiary.asp?Diary_ID=1453&ViewType=Current)
Over the years, the band's contemporaries (The Bangles, Elton John, Kylie Minogue, Paul Young, Smashing Pumpkins) have lauded their efforts towards pure, uplifting pop which rebelled against the cynicism of punk and the doom and gloom of Margaret Thatcher-era Britain. Le Bon himself described the group as 'the band to dance to when the bomb drops'.
Successors like Barenaked Ladies, Beck, Jonathan Davis of Korn, the Deftones, Garbage, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, Gavin Rossdale and Bush, Wyclef Jean, Marilyn Manson, Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, The Orb, and Pink have all cited Duran Duran as a key band in their formative years in music. Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray has called himself one of their biggest fans; he 'wanted to be John Taylor'. Sugar Ray's videos have included affectionate parodies of Duran videos. Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake have also praised the band.
The newest crop of performers to name Duran Duran as influences include Dido, Franz Ferdinand, Lostprophets (who took their name from the title of a Duran Duran bootleg tape), Goldfrapp, The Killers, the Scissor Sisters ('the reason we got into music') and The Strokes.
Their songs were cheerful, hook-laden pop that fared well on the radio, but what many remember best about Duran Duran are their iconic music videos. Though many of the videos were tongue-in-cheek, the band never quite escaped the glamourous and decadent jet set image their early videos projected.
The MTV cable channel and the band were launched at about the same time, and each had a hand in propelling the other to greater heights. MTV needed showcase videos with charismatic performers, 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 The Road Warrior, 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, Duran Duran was among the first bands to have their videos shot with a professional movie camera on 35mm film, rather than on videotape with cheaper video cameras. Thus the group's work compared very favorably to many of the quickly- and inexpensively-shot videos which had been MTV staples up until then. Duran Duran changed the views of record companies on what a video could accomplish, and the views of other bands on how much effort should be invested in them.
In return, MTV gave Duran Duran critical access to American radio markets that were unfriendly to British music, New Wave music, or 'anything with synthesizers'. Because MTV was not available everywhere in the United States at first, it was easy to see a pattern: where MTV went, listener demand for Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, Def Leppard and other European bands with interesting videos went through the roof.
Duran Duran's sun-drenched videos 'Rio', 'Hungry Like The Wolf' and 'Save A Prayer', and the surreal 'Is There Something I Should Know?' were filmed by future movie director Russell Mulcahy, who made a total of eleven videos for the band. Duran Duran has always sought out innovative directors and techniques, even in their latter years when MTV gave them very little airplay. In addition to Mulcahy, they have had videos filmed by influential photographers Dean Chamberlain and Ellen von Unwerth, Chinese director Chen Kaige, Julien Temple, and the Polish Brothers, among others.
In 1984, Duran Duran brought video technology pioneered at the US Festival into their live stadium shows: they were the first major act to provide video screens above the stage to bring the action closer to the audience in the rear. They have also recorded concerts using IMAX and 360 degree panoramic 'immersive video' cameras, with 10.2 channel audio. In 2000, they experimented with augmented reality technology, which allowed three-dimensional computer-generated images to appear onstage with the band.
Duran Duran appeared on several century-end video countdowns: The MTV '100 Greatest Videos Ever Made' featured 'Hungry Like The Wolf' at #11 and 'Girls On Film' at #68, and the 'VH1: 100 Greatest Videos' listed 'Hungry' at #31 and 'Rio' at #60. MTV also named 'Hungry' the fifteenth of their most-played videos of all time.
The band has released several video compilations, starting with the self-titled 'video album' Duran Duran, for which they won a Grammy award, up to the 2004 two-disc DVD release Greatest, which included alternate versions of several popular videos as easter eggs. In addition to Greatest, the documentary Sing Blue Silver, and the concert film Arena (both from 1984) were released on DVD in 2004. Other video collections, concert films, and documentaries are still available only on videotape, and the band has not yet released a comprehensive collection which includes every music video the band has made. Duran Duran has also said that a huge amount of unreleased 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.
A short list of original albums only; for a detailed list including greatest hits albums, compilations, singles, EPs, videos and more, see the Duran Duran discography
This biography is published under the GNU Licence
Items to buy by Duran Duran