Duran Duran are an English pop-rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1978 and famous for a long series of popular singles, albums and vivid music videos in The '80s and beyond, for which they've won two Grammy Awards. They were one of the most commercially successful of the New Romantic bands and a leading band in the MTV-driven "Second British Invasion" of the United States. They are named after the character of Professor Durand Durand from the 1968 movie Barbarella.
Their core members for their most successful period were singer Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, and three unrelated Taylors: bassist John, guitarist Andy and drummer Roger. Despite numerous personnel changes over the years, Le Bon, Rhodes, John and Roger Taylor are still active into the 2020s over forty years]] since the band's formation.
In 1980, they recorded two demo tapes and performed in clubs around Birmingham and London. In late 1980 when touring as an opening act for Hazel O'Connor, the band attracted critical attention resulting in a bidding war between the record companies EMI and Phonogram Records. "A certain patriotism" toward the label of The Beatles led them to sign with EMI that December. However, Nick Rhodes said in a 1998 interview with Deluxe magazine that the band felt they were "appallingly ripped off" by the EMI contract.
Although they began their career as "a group of art school, experimental, post punk rockers", Duran Duran were generally considered part of the New Romantic scene, with other style-and-dance bands such as Spandau Ballet, Japan and ABC. Their quick rise to stardom, polished good looks and embrace of the teen press almost guaranteed disfavour from music critics: during the 1980s, they were considered the quintessential manufactured, throw-away pop group. However, according to the Sunday Herald, "To describe them, as some have, as the first Boy Band misrepresents their appeal. Their weapons were never just their looks, but self-penned songs." 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'."
Duran Duran were amongst the earliest bands to work on their own remixes. Before the days of digital synthesizers and easy audio sampling, they created multilayered arrangements of their singles, sometimes recording entirely different extended performances of the songs in the 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 compilation Night Versions: The Essential Duran Duran in 1998.
During their 1981-84 imperial phase, the albums Duran Duran, Rio and Seven And The Ragged Tiger sold millions and produced a string of successful and enduring singles — and accompanying videos — like "Planet Earth", "Girls On Film", "Hungry Like The Wolf", "Save A Prayer", "Rio", UK chart-topper "Is There Something I Should Know?", transatlantic number one "The Reflex", and "The Wild Boys".
In 1985, the band topped the US charts with the single "A View to a Kill" from the soundtrack of the film of the same name and performed at Live Aid, yet differences within the group ensured it would be the last time the 'classic' five-piece lineup would appear on stage together for what would prove to be 18 years. Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor both left before the recording of the band's fourth album, 1986's Notorious. The remaining trio recruited additional members and spent the rest of the 1980s and early 1990s continuing to release music, but to diminishing success.
An unexpected critical and commercial comeback followed however with 1993's Duran Duran (commonly called The Wedding Album) featuring two top-ten worldwide hits "Ordinary World" and "Come Undone", which returned the band to their former superstar status and their highest chart placings in years. This peak was short-lived, though. A 1995 album of cover songs, Thank You, produced a minor hit with Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" but was otherwise critically panned. John Taylor too left in 1997, reducing the band to a rump of just Le Bon, Rhodes and their American longtime guitarist/co-songwriter Warren Cuccurullo, which produced two more albums and a number of singles but compared to prior releases underperformed on the sales charts.
Then, early in the new millennium the pendulum swung once more. A full reunion of the classic lineup of Le Bon, Rhodes, and all three Taylors in 2001 led to a number of highly successful concert tours and the 2004 album Astronaut, the first featuring all five in 22 years and which reached number 3 in the UK — their highest in all that time. The album's lead track "(Reach Up for The) Sunrise" reached number 5 in the UK, their last major hit single to date. Andy Taylor left again in 2006, but the rest of the group has remained intact this time and released four additional albums, with the most recent being Future Past in October 2021.
Several of the band's contemporaries and peers, including The Bangles, Elton John, Kylie Minogue and Paul Young, have named themselves fans of Duran's stylish, uplifting pop. Simon Le Bon described the group as "the band to dance to when the bomb drops". Later acts from Justin Timberlake to Beck, Jonathan Davis of Korn, Gwen Stefani, P!nk, Dido, Barenaked Ladies, Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Panic! at the Disco, Lostprophets (who took their name from the title of a Duran Duran bootleg tape), Goldfrapp, The Bravery and Scissor Sisters (who first came to wide notice while touring as DD's opening act) have all cited Duran Duran as a key band in their formative years.
The band's discography:
- Duran Duran (1981)
- Rio (1982)
- Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983)
- Notorious (1986)
- Big Thing (1988)
- Liberty (1990)
- Duran Durannote (1993)
- Thank You (1995)
- Medazzaland (1997)
- Pop Trash (2000)
- Astronaut (2004)
- Red Carpet Massacre (2007)
- All You Need Is Now (2010)
- Paper Gods (2015)
- Future Past (2021)
Notable Duran Duran videos include:
- Hungry Like The Wolf
- Is There Something I Should Know
- New Moon On Monday
- The Reflex
- Girls On Film
- A View To A Kill
- Union Of The Snake
- Save a Prayer
- The Wild Boys
- Ordinary World
- Come Undone
Principal Members (Founding members in italic, current members in bold):
- Sterling Campbell drums (198991)
- Simon Colley bass guitar (197879)
- Warren Cuccurullo guitar, backing vocals, bass guitar (19892001)
- Alan Curtis guitar (197980)
- Stephen Duffy lead vocals, drums, bass guitar (197879)
- Simon Le Bon lead vocals (1980present)
- Nick Rhodes (born Nicholas Bates) keyboard, backing vocals (1978present)
- Andy Wickett lead vocals (197980)
- Andy Taylor guitar, vocals (198086, 200106)
- John Taylor bass guitar, guitar, backing vocals (197897; 2001present)
- Roger Taylor drums, percussion (197985; 2001present)
- Jeff Thomas lead vocals (1980)
Her name is Troper and she dances on the sand:
- Animated Music Video: MORE JOY!s anime-like lyric video.
- Bowdlerise: Did you know there was a time when the music video "Girls on Film" was too steamy and "Wild Boys" was too violent and had to be censored?
- Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Every band member in the 80s, with their fluffed up hair and boyish good looks.
- Cover Album: Thank You.
- "Double, Double" Title: Two eponymous albums both named Duran Duran, from 1981 and 1993.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Simon Le Bon, causing multiple Stupid Sexy Flanders reactions ever since 1980.
- Gender Flip: The video for "Girl Panic" portrays the band as sexy girls, all of them famous top models playing the role of each band member. The real Duran Duran are reduced to a Creator Cameo.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: John Taylor and Nick Rhodes. They'd known each other since age ten, and John's '80s departure from the band supposedly hit Nick almost like a breakup.
- Hurt Foot Hop: In the music video for "Rio", a crab claws Roger Taylor's foot, causing him to hop in pain and embarrass himself in front of the titular woman.
- The Invisible Band: "Girl Panic" features a quintet of supermodels miming the song interspersed with segments in which the models, in character as the band members, are interviewed by music journalists portrayed by the actual band members.
- It's Personal: A white British pop band deciding to cover Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel's gritty proto-rap hit "White Lines" seems to be a ridiculous exercise in poor taste... until one remembers that the band had numerous struggles with cocaine abuse. John Taylor's cocaine problems were so bad they nearly killed him and broke the band apart. In light of that, it appears they picked the most blatant "fuck you" song about the drug to vent some anger.
- Lead Bassist: John Taylor is a Type C due to the aforementioned HLP with Nick Rhodes, and Type A for his unorthodox playing style which has been emulated since then.
- Lyrical Cold Open: "Is There Something I Should Know", "None Of The Above", and "Notorious".
- Lyrics/Video Mismatch: "Come Undone". The lyrics appear to be about offering to help a person who's coming apart at the seams. The video is about a woman performing an underwater escape from chains and a male transvestite, among other images.
- The Midlands: The band were formed in 1978 in Birmingham, were the house band at Rum Runner (a Birmingham version of Studio 54), and founding members Nick Rhodes and John Taylor (and fellow Brummie Roger Taylor) speak with that very distinctive Brummie drawl, decades after moving away.
- The Movie: Arena. Sort of.
- A better example is 1984's Sing Blue Silver, a documentary about their massive North American tour and how the band were coping with success. Another documentary came along in 1988, Three to Get Ready, which showed the band's efforts to chug along after two of their members left (thus leaving only Simon, Nick, and John), their attempts to manage themselves, deal with an increasingly unsupportive record company (Capitol Records), and prepare for their 1987 tour promoting Notorious.
- The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Parodied at the end of the music video for "A View to a Kill":Random fan: Excuse me. Aren't you..
Simon: Bon. Simon Le Bon.
- New Sound Album: Notorious, the first album after the 1985 hiatus, saw the group move toward Funk. Occurred to a lesser extent with The Wedding Album, which had a kind of proto-Britpop vibe.
- No Fourth Wall: The music video for "Girl Panic!", so much. Models hold clapperboards, the music stops frequently for a behind-the-scenes featurette, and the band members are interviewing models who are pretending to be the band members about themselves and about "Girl Panic!".Yasmin Le Bon (pretending to be Duran Duran's guitarist Dom Brown): I'm quite amazed, actually, that it's pulled together.
- One Head Taller: Simon and John, who both stand over 6 foot tall, dwarf their shorter bandmates. Who's taller varies.
- One Steve Limit: Simon Le Bon vs. Simon Colley, Andy Taylor vs. Andy Wickett. Averted wholly with the three entirely unrelated Taylors who comprised 60% of the band's most famous lineup.
- Oop North: Andy Taylor was born near Newcastle. Reportedly he and Birmingham-bred Nick Rhodes were unable to understand one another when he first joined the band due to both men's thick accents.
- Repetitive Name: Just try saying it three times fast.
- The Rival: The '80s music press developed a sort of friendly rivalry between Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, although members of both groups have said that they enjoyed listening to each other's records.
- Self-Titled Album: Their debut album was self-titled, as was the big comeback album they released in 1993. The latter is often referred to as The Wedding Album (due to its cover art) to distinguish it from the earlier record.
- Shout-Out: The music videos for Hungry Like the Wolf and Wild Boys are shout outs to Indiana Jones and Apocalypse Now (the scene with Simon's head rising from the water).
- Wild Boys (the song and music video) was a shoutout to the novel of the same name by William S. Burroughs because the song was originally meant to go on a soundtrack for a film adaptation of the novel (by Russell Mulcahy) that went nowhere. So they filmed the music video that way instead.
- The song Electric Barbarella isn't really about an "electric" Barbarella, but the title is a shoutout to the band's naming origin.
- Zoom In is about Second Life; the band has performed in-game before and have their own land based on their music.
- Surreal Music Video: The Chauffeur. Filmed in black and white, ends with two women dancing together in lingerie.
- Theme Tune: A View to a Kill, the only Bond theme to be a number one single in the US.
- Title-Only Chorus: "Girls on Film".
- Vocal Range Exceeded: A rather infamous example happened during the group's performance at Live Aid: while the group were performing "A View To A Kill", Simon's voice cracked on "A fatal kiss is all we need". The press dubbed it "The Bum Note Heard 'Round the World", in contrast to "The Note Heard 'Round the World", which was sung by Freddie Mercury during Queen's performance.
- Word Salad Lyrics: The early lyrics came from a book of poetry Simon Le Bon had written, and he doesn't like to explain what any of them mean.
"You've gone too far this time,But I'm dancing on the Valentine,I tell you somebody's fooling aroundWith my chances on the dangerline"
- The Reflex is a particularly notable example.