Duran Duran





Pop group

Members include Sterling Campbell (group member, 1990-92), drums; Warren Cuccurullo (born on December 8, 1956; group member, 1986-2001), guitar; Simon Le Bon (born on October 27, 1958, in Bushey, England), vocals; Nick Rhodes (born Nicholas Bates, June 8, 1962, in England), keyboards; Andy Taylor (born on February 16, 1961, in Dolver-Hampton, England; group member, 1978-85, 2001—), guitar, keyboards; John Taylor (born on June 20, 1960, in Birmingham, England; group member,

Duran Duran
1978-97, 2001—), bass; Roger Taylor (born on April 26, 1960, in Birmingham, England; group member, 1978-85, 2001—), drums.

Addresses: Website —Duran Duran Official Website: http://www.duranduran.com/.

Career

Group formed in Birmingham, England, 1978; performed in the Birmingham area, 1980-84; toured internationally, beginning 1984; released debut album Duran Duran, 1981; released Rio, 1982; released Seven and the Ragged Tiger, 1984; split into two side projects, Power Station and Arcadia, 1985; re-formed minus Roger and Andy Taylor, 1986; released Notorious, 1987; released Big Thing!, 1988; released Liberty, 1990; released hits compilation Decade: Greatest Hits, 1990; released Duran Duran (The Wedding Album), 1993; released Thank You, 1995; released Medazzaland, 1997; John Taylor left group, 1997; released greatest hits compilation Greatest, 1998; group left EMI/Capitol, 1998; signed with Hollywood label, released Pop Trash, 2000; Warren Cuccurullo left group, five original members reunited, 2001; Capitol released singles compilation box set The Singles 81-85, 2003; toured with original members, 2003-05; released Astronaut, 2004.

Awards: Grammy Award for best video—short form, Recording Academy, 1983; Grammy Award for best video album, Recording Academy, 1983; Brit Award for best British video, for "Wild Boys," 1985; Ivor Novello Award, 1993; star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1993; MTV Video Music Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2003; Q Magazine lifetime achievement award, 2004; Brit Award for outstanding contribution, 2004.

Sidelights

When MTV dawned in the early 1980s, it changed the face of popular music forever, and the British rock group Duran Duran was one of the first acts to take full advantage of its possibilities. The five-member band of young men, with sculpted faces often adorned with make-up and wearing expensive clothes, saw in the music video the perfect vehicle for propelling their musical abilities to fame, fortune, and good times. Combining the sounds of 1970s British punk and the more upbeat, danceable rhythms of disco, Duran Duran began producing clean, sparkling (if not critically acclaimed) pop tunes. But what set them apart immediately were their videos: somewhat surreal escapist fantasies that took the self-styled playboys to such far-flung locales as Sri Lanka and Antigua. Screaming, record-buying, television-watching teenage girls everywhere ate it up—and no one could have predicted it better than the band members themselves. "Video to us is like stereo was to Pink Floyd," Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes told Keith L. Thomas in the Herald. "It was new, it was just happening. And we saw we could do a lot with it." But, with more than 25 years together and more than 70 million albums sold, the group has proven its significance well beyond the video screen.

While the conservative rock press liked to downplay the success of Duran Duran because of their obvious vanity and lack of attention to "serious" music, it should be noted that some of rock and roll's most time-honored heroes, such as Elvis Presley and even a few members of the Beatles, were never accused of being serious musicians. Success in pop music has always depended upon image at least as much as the music itself. And "serious music" is not necessarily for everyone, as Rolling Stone 's James Henke realized when he referred to Duran Duran's eager fans as "young girls who were glued to their television sets watching MTV every waking hour. These girls had little use for the Clash's left-wing politics, or the ranting and raving of that weird-looking Elvis Costello. But Duran Duran, now they were something else. Five extremely good-looking young men. Dream dates."

Duran Duran began coming together in 1978 (some sources say 1977) in the Midlands city of Birmingham, where Rhodes and guitarist John Taylor started performing with a variety of bandmates. The group, which takes its name from a character in the 1968 film Barbarella, became complete in 1980 when Simon Le Bon, a drop-out drama student, showed up one day in pink leopard-print leotards and said he wanted to sing in the band. Le Bon joined Rhodes, John Taylor (who switched to bass), drummer Roger Taylor, and guitarist Andy Taylor (none of the Taylors are related), and the quintet began performing in Birmingham, most frequently at a club called Rum Runners which had become established as the home of England's burgeoning New Romantic scene. "Donning the foppish clothes of the movement and playing a slick, if superficial, brand of dance-pop, the band was tailor-made for the style obsessed New Romantics," declared Encyclopedia of Rock.

Duran Duran quickly became the headliners of that movement, playing at large clubs and festivals throughout England, and in early 1981 they released their first single, "Planet Earth," which went to number 12 on the United Kingdom charts. Later that year their first album, Duran Duran, went to number three on the album charts and spawned two more hit singles, including "Girls on Film." They had already been shunned by the serious music press at this point, but newer, teen-oriented, image-conscious magazines like Smash Hits and The Face were more than happy to circulate glossy photos of "The Boys," as they had become known. The lavish videos helped transfer this new-found fame to the United States, where "Hungry Like the Wolf" reached number three. Their videos won the group two Grammy Awards in 1983: Best Video—Short Form and Best Video Album. By 1984 Duran Duran was an international phenomenon—their third album, Seven and a Ragged Tiger, debuted at number one and suddenly the boys were living the lives they had created for themselves on video, playing sold-out tour dates around the world.

They were dandies, playboys, and their profiles became plastered on teen magazines everywhere. First there was Rhodes (his name was originally Nicholas Bates), the man who probably most personified the band's gaudy image. Rhodes grew up with John Taylor and both found that they liked the music of glittery stars like T. Rex. "We wouldn't buy records by ugly groups," Rhodes told People, adding that when he and Taylor decided to start a band they "had vivid ideas of what we wanted to look and sound like, but we looked at the instruments and said, 'Do we have to learn to play these things?'" John Taylor was a ladies' man and a huge target for the gossipy British Fleet Street press. His wanderings were well-chronicled there. "Being a rock star is like putting a huge sign in a window, 'For Sale,'" Taylor told People. "I did an interview with Penthouse and they said, 'What's your idea of a great woman?' I said, 'Someone who could tie me up and whip me and make great bacon sandwiches.'" Le Bon was an unlikely pop star in that he still opened doors for women, had a pensive streak that made him yearn for sailing alone on the sea, and because his bandmates once tagged him with the nickname "Lardo" because of his pudginess. Roger and Andy Taylor rounded out the band and were more known for staying in the shadows while the others baited the screaming girls at center stage.

By 1985 Duran Duran had started suffering from the personality conflicts that hamper many bands. Their production slacked off as the players spent more time apart, getting together only occasionally for certain projects, such as the immensely successful single and video for the James Bond movie A View To a Kill. The song was the only Bond theme to go to No. 1 on the charts. John and Andy Taylor began work on an outside project with Robert Palmer in 1985 and formed a band called Power Station, which recorded an album of the same name (which was number 30 that year, according to Rolling Stone ) and played at the Live Aid benefit concert. In the meantime the remaining "thoughtful" members of the group briefly performed and recorded as Arcadia, spawning the LP So Red the Rose. It, too, climbed the charts; Rolling Stone found it harmless and bland: "Egan's lubricated bass line contrasts nicely with Simon's hog-calling tenor . like the Power Station's record, it's proficient, serviceable pop without any unifying drive or purpose. And no matter how obnoxious (or not) you may have found them, personality is one thing Duran Duran never lacked." By 1986 Duran Duran was back intact and recording again, although they would never regain the success of the early 1980s.

Their 1987 effort, Notorious, received the usual chilly reception from critics, but the videos were popular on MTV. Rolling Stone actually went so far as to call Notorious Duran Duran's "most consistently listenable work," but felt the band had lost personality in the search for musical maturity. Big Thing! of 1988 had none of the MTV audience and none of the back-handed compliments of earlier reviews. People panned the album; "As 'mature' musicians, they're marooned." Encyclopedia of Rock summed up Duran Duran's impact on the music world in this way: "Musically, Duran Duran are no more than accomplished studio stylists, skillful welders of a host of disparate elements—hard rock, electro, white soul and, latterly, scratch and hip-hop—into an eminently commercial sound. Far more important was their marketing success, whereby they capitalized on their obvious visual attractions through the media (video and the glossy pop magazines), a technique that became increasingly important in the music industry in the Eighties." Warren Cuccurullo, formerly of the group Missing Persons, began assisting Duran Duran on guitar in 1986; he became a permanent member of the group in 1990.

Liberty, released in 1990, was another of Duran Duran's efforts to renew their past success. This time the band combined "everything from disco to guitar rock, Motown, Philly soul, and new wave," according to Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music Guide, creating an album that was stylistically confusing and helped to continue the band's falling sales. The greatest hits compilation Decade: Greatest Hits was also released that year and would eventually earn platinum sales in May of 1998.

The group's fortunes changed, though, in 1993 with the release of what was considered a comeback album, Duran Duran (The Wedding Album) . The album topped the charts at number three and went platinum in June of 1993, powered by the hit singles "Ordinary World," which hit number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and "Come Undone," which charted in the top ten. The album also achieved broad international success, landing among the top-ten selling records in Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina. The group toured and was also featured in an MTV Unplugged special.

Thank You, what MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide referred to as a "bizarre" covers album, followed in 1995. Duran Duran's ode to their influences "killed the momentum again," according to MusicHound Rock, eroding the resurgent popularity brought about by Duran Duran (The Wedding Album) . "The idea was to do songs that we wish we'd written," Rhodes told Entertainment Weekly. Medazzaland was released in 1997, minus the contribution of John Taylor, who left the group that year to start a new band, Terroristen. Another greatest hits compilation, this one entitled simply Greatest, was released in 1998. The group left the EMI/Capitol label that same year.

With Le Bon and Rhodes the only remaining members of the original lineup, the group released Pop Trash in 2000 on the Hollywood label. The album "marks a bold departure from Duran Duran's signature dance-oriented pop sound into more avant-garde musical experimentation," said Carly Hay in Billboard. "That's what I like about this album: It spans," LeBon told Hay. "This is our statement on how it feels to live a little."

In 2001, Cuccurullo left to re-form Missing Persons, and all five of the original members of Duran Duran reunited to begin work on a new album. At first, Duran Duran had trouble getting signed to a new contract. "Every time we sidled up to a record label, the chief executives would get fired, or the company would be cannibalized by a bigger company," Rhodes explained to Europe Intelligence Wire's Robert Sandall. Duran Duran also had to deal with being considered has-beens. While writing and recording, the band played periodic shows in Japan, the United States, and other countries. On August 28, 2003, the band received a MTV Video Music Award for lifetime achievement. On February 17, 2004, Duran Duran received the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. At the award ceremony, they played a selection of their hits, receiving resounding applause. In April of that year, the band launched an arena tour of the United Kingdom, their first full-blown tour with the original lineup in 18 years. The concerts were completely sold-out, helping prove that the band still had a faithful fan base. "It says something that 18 years after the original line-up disbanded, the mere mention of their name can reduce grown women to a state of teenaged hysteria," declared Europe Intelligence Wire's Jeff Magill. "But Duran Duran were the quintessential pop band. They had the good looks, sharp style, and brilliant music required to elevate them to iconic status, where they remain today." After noticing how much public support Duran Duran received, Don Ienner, the head of Sony Music Label Group, signed them to a worldwide contract in 2004. "These guys are very current," Ienner told Entertainment Weekly 's Nicholas Fonseca. "They're not just a nostalgia band coming out and playing their history. They want to finish what they started."

In June of 2004, Duran Duran announced plans to release their first new album with this lineup since 1983's Seven and the Ragged Tiger. The album's first single, "(Reach Up for the) Sunrise," climbed the charts, prior to the album's release. After working on the album for more than three years, the band released Astronaut in October of 2004. Two versions were released: a CD-only version and a limited-edition CD/DVD package that included footage from the band's sold-out April of 2004 show at London's Wembley Arena. Co-produced by Don Gilmore (Linkin Park) and Dallas Austin (Boyz II Men), the album was a return to the band's new-wave sound. "We were very adamant that this has to be classic Duran Duran music," John Taylor told Fonseca in Entertainment Weekly. "But it also had to be modern. It took us several years to strike that balance." According to the Washington Times ' Scott Galupo, the album is "better than anything put out under the band's moniker in more than a decade [and is] among the year's best improbable comeback albums." With the renewed interest in the band, John Taylor told Europe Intelligence Wire's Magill that the band just wants to please the fans. "It's not about the money, you know. We just want to make a difference, I suppose, even if it's just in a few people's lives for one night. That's all a musician can hope for."

Selected discography

Duran Duran

Duran Duran, Harvest, 1981.

Rio, Capitol, 1982.

Seven and the Ragged Tiger, Capitol, 1983.

Arena, Capitol, 1984.

Notorious, Capitol, 1987.

Big Thing!, Capitol, 1988.

Decade: Greatest Hits, Capitol, 1990.

Liberty, Alliance, 1990.

Duran Duran (The Wedding Album), Capitol, 1993.

Thank You, Capitol, 1995.

Medazzaland, Capitol, 1997.

Night Versions: The Essential Duran Duran (remixes), EMI/Capitol, 1998.

Greatest, Capitol, 1998.

Pop Trash, Hollywood, 2000.

The Singles 81-85 (box set), Capitol, 2003.

Astronaut, Epic Records/Sony Music, 2004.

(Contributor) Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (soundtrack), Capitol, 2004.

The Singles, Vol. 2 (1986-1995) (box set), EMI, 2004.

Andy Taylor (solo)

Thunder, MCA, 1987.

Dangerous, A&M, 1990.

Arcadia

So Red the Rose, Capitol, 1985.

John Taylor (solo)

(Contributor) 9 1/2 Weeks (soundtrack), Capitol, 1988.

(With Neurotic Outsiders) Neurotic Outsiders, Maverick, 1996.

Feelings Are Good & Other Lies, Revolver, 1997.

Techno for Two (Japanese import), Cutti, 2001.

Power Station

The Power Station, Capitol, 1985.

Living in Fear, Chrysalis, 1996.

Sources

Books

Graff, Gary, and Daniel Durchholz, editors, Music-Hound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, second edition, Visible Ink, 1999.

Hardy, Phil, and Dave Laing, Encyclopedia of Rock, Schirmer, 1988.

Periodicals

Amusement Business, November 2, 1998.

Billboard, June 26, 1993; May 6, 2000; February 21, 2004, p. 49; February 28, 2004, p. 7; October 2, 2004, p. 5; October 23, 2004, p. 46.

Billboard Bulletin, November 25, 2003.

Entertainment Weekly, April 14, 1995; August 1, 2003; September 5, 2003; October 15, 2004, pp. 34-37.

Europe Intelligence Wire, February 20, 2004; April 5, 2004; September 17, 2004.

Herald, August 25, 1984.

Hollywood Reporter, August 29, 2003.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, February 10, 2004.

People, July 22, 1985; November 7, 1988; October 25, 2004, pp. 128-30; November 1, 2004, p. 37.

Rolling Stone, February 2, 1984; January 16, 1986; January 29, 1987.

UPI NewsTrack, June 16, 2004.

Washington Times, October 15, 2004, p. D7.

Online

"Duran Duran," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (April 5, 2005).

Duran Duran Official Website, http://www.duranduran.com (April 5, 2005).

"Duran Duran," Recording Academy, http://www.grammy.com/awards/search/index.aspx (April 5, 2005).

"Duran Duran," Recording Industry Association of America, http://www.riaa.com/gp/database/search_results.asp (April 5, 2005).

"Duran Duran to be Honoured with the 'Outstanding Contribution' at the BRIT Awards in 2004," BRIT Awards, http://www.brits.co.uk/2003/press/release.php?releaseID=32 (April 5, 2005).

—David Collins



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