If you were a teenager or young adult in the early eighties, chances are good you were a Duran Duran fan. I’ll never forget the first time I saw “Hungry Like the Wolf” on MTV; I just sat there with my jaw on the ground. As I had MTV before a lot of my friends, I was blabbering about Duran Duran months before they hit it big on the international music scene. By that time I was already an obsessed, full-blown Duranie with my wall covered in posters, piles of British magazines and books, a record collection of U.S. releases, imports, colored vinyl, alternate covers – you name it. I alternated between sexy songwriter Simon Le Bon and the simply sexy John Taylor.
August 10th is Duran Duran Appreciation Day, and in their honor, I’d like to do a little looking back…
Their achievements are not bad for a bunch of teens who hooked up in Birmingham in 1978. Nick Rhodes and John Taylor (who was just out of art school), followed by Roger Taylor, Andy Taylor (none related), and finally singer Simon LeBon got it together before some members could barely play their instruments. Although pegged as New Romantics with their poet shirts and eyeliner, they worked hard to form an edgier image. However, who can ever forget “Hungry Like The Wolf,” “Rio,” “Girls on Film,” Save A Prayer,” and “The Reflex?” I played that vinyl until it turned white! Their videos were always cutting edge – cinematic mini-movies shot with 35mm movie cameras that brought attention not only to the band, but to director Russell Mulcahy. The videos were sexual, subversive, and visually challenging. LeBon’s lyrics were sharp and smart, often inspired by literature. Often they were bizarre – has anyone figured out exactly what “Union of the Snake” really means?
It didn’t matter what they sang; the world fell in love and in February 1984 Rolling Stone Magazine called them the “Fab Five” and predicted they’d be as big as the Beatles. They never quite went that far, but they have sold over 70 million records, won two Brit Awards, one for Outstanding Contribution to Music, two Grammys, and an MTV Award for Lifetime Achievement. They received their Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1993.
In 1985 the band began to fall apart. If you read Andy Taylor’s biography “Wild Boy” and John Taylor’s “In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran” you will know the group was plagued by serious partying and drug addiction. At one point Simon and Nick Rhodes broke off and formed Arcadia; John Taylor and Andy Taylor joined Robert Palmer to form Power Station. Both groups had successful albums and hit singles, but before long those projects were set aside. As a group, they did do one of the best songs for a James Bond film, “A View to A Kill.”
Duran Duran has regrouped many times in the intervening years; as a trio of Simon, Nick and John Taylor they recorded the album “Notorious” (one of my faves, actually). Trying to escape the teen idol image, the band released an experimental album called “Liberty” which was met with less than warm enthusiasm. “All She Wants Is” was their last UK top ten single until 1993.
The band line-up continued to change and rotate – Andy Taylor left, came back and left again. The same with John Taylor; and Roger Taylor left after his marriage in 1985, returned briefly and left again. In June 2015 the band regrouped with the release of “Paper Gods.” The album produced their first top ten single in 22 years, “Pressure Off.” Four of the original members are currently on tour – Simon, Nick, John and Andy. In the intervening years, they produced some great songs such as “Ordinary World” and “Reach Up for the Sunrise.”
As such a die-hard Duranie, I’m so glad the band is still on the musical map. Despite the schoolgirl crush, I thought they were extremely creative and talented. And they were pretty decent guys. Yes, I met them, in 1984. When a friend and I saw them in Jacksonville, we ended up staying in the same hotel as them, and as there were only 2 of us, we got to have a lot of fun. So much so they told us where they were staying in Miami as they did the rest of their Florida dates, so we spent a week watching their antics in South Florida. I even met Simon’s younger brother, who actually told me I was hot (I was 24, wore a size 4 and yeah, looked pretty decent). I still have my whole Duran collection, books, magazines, vinyl and of course all of the later releases on TV. I saw them live on their tour for “Astronaut” and am looking forward to seeing them again in the future.
I guess once a Duranie, always a Duranie. Thank you guys for years of great music, awesome music videos – you completely changed that playing field – terrific live shows, and for being so super nice to a wide-eyed, star struck young fan. I hope you have a Happy Appreciation Day. You earned it.