The stats on DURAN DURAN are remarkable: a total of over 80 million records sold, 18 American hit singles, 30 UK top 30 tunes, and a global presence which guarantees them huge concert audiences on...
The stats on DURAN DURAN are remarkable: a total of over 80 million records sold, 18 American hit singles, 30 UK top 30 tunes, and a global presence which guarantees them huge concert audiences on five continents. More remarkable still is the way they have achieved this, fusing pop music, art and fashion with a unique sense of style and confidence.
When they first broke in the early 1980s Duran Duran single-handedly transformed music video from a gimmicky marketing tool into one of the music industry's most valued assets. With exotic locations, beautiful girls and stunning special-effects, Duran Duran took the visual imperatives of the New Romantic movement to another level. Their impact throughout the 1980s was such that Rolling Stone magazine adapting the old Beatles sobriquet dubbed them The Fab Five. Despite the occasional pause and some re-grouping in the 1990s, Duran today are an unstoppable force who still command the respect of the finest players in the game. On their last album, Red Carpet Massacre (released on Epic Records, November 2007) they collaborated with top producers Timbaland and Nate Danja Hills, as well as long-time Duran fan Justin Timberlake. For their next offering their 13th studio album: entitled All You Need Is Now (slated for digital release December 21st on iTunes and physically in February 2011) they have written and recorded with Grammy Award-winning producer Mark Ronson, a marriage that all parties agree has been a match made in heaven.
Formed in Birmingham, England in 1978, by keyboardist Nick Rhodes and bassist John Taylor, Duran Duran's early sound was an exciting stew of influences: the soul music of their youth, the vibrant New York underground music scene of the 1970s spearheaded by the New York Dolls and Velvet Underground, the iconic art pop of David Bowie and glam bands such as Roxy Music. At the time, John was at Art College and Nick was still in the 6th form at school. The first incarnation of the band was rounded out by another art student Stephen Duffy and a friend, Simon Colley who was at catering college. Simon played clarinet and bass, Nick had one small synthesizer and a drum machine, John played guitar and Stephen sang and played a fretless bass. After Simon and Stephen moved on and Duffy joined The Lilac Time and more recently Robbie Williams, a number of new faces came and went before Roger Taylor, previously drummer with local punk heroes The Scent Organs, joined the band. With Roger on board, John took up the bass and the newly christened Duran Duran named after a character in Roger Vadim's sci-fi classic movie Barbarella started to develop a funkier style, more in tune with some of the up-and-coming bands of the post-punk era such as Japan. They began to create waves in Birmingham's premier music club, the Rum Runner. Listening to their demos, the clubs owners, Paul and Michael Berrow, gave them a residency and a rehearsal space. Auditions for new band members followed, with guitarist Andy Taylor answering an ad in Melody Maker and singer Simon Le Bon joining after being introduced by an ex-girlfriend, who bartended at the club. Unlike the rest of the band, Simon came from the suburbs of London, but was studying drama at Birmingham University.
In the months that followed, the band worked tirelessly. By 1980, after supporting Hazel OConnor on tour, Duran Duran became the subject of a fierce record company bidding war. Eventually EMI Records came through, putting the band immediately into the studio with producer Colin Thurston.Their eponymous debut album sold more than 2.5 million copies in 1981, staying on the charts for an astonishing 118 weeks and spawning the giant hit single Planet Earth. That same year, Duran began to challenge expectations. They became the first pop act to produce a 12 remix single, for Planet Earth and also released a controversial video, directed by Godley and Crme, for the dance mix of Girls on Film. Its sexually explicit content led to it being banned by both MTV and the BBC. Incorrectly perceived by the rock media as the poster-boys for a new generation of teeny boppers, Duran's first major statement was the antithesis of a traditional pop album. The lyrical themes were adult-orientated, and the music, while melodically bright and dance-fueled, had a much darker quality. As the band themselves pointed out, there was a shadowy, European twist to the album. Songs like Careless Memories weren't far removed in mood from bands like The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen. What saved Duran Duran from the gloomy cul de sac of Goth, however, were their dance-inducing rhythms and Rhodes experimental electronics.
Duran Duran's ascent coincided with that of the so-called Second British Invasion which conquered America in the 1980s. Unlike contemporaries such as Spandau Ballet, Human League, Ultravox and Culture Club, they endured thanks to their exhaustive touring, imaginative embrace of new technology and superior song craft. Classic chart-toppers such as Hungry Like the Wolf, Rio and Save A Prayer soon turned Durans second album Rio multi-platinum worldwide. It was during this period that Princess Diana declared Duran Duran to be her favorite band, and new friends like artists Andy Warhol and Keith Haring publicly voiced their support. From 1983, the band went super nova. The video for Hungry Like the Wolf, which was filmed in Sri Lanka by director Russell Mulcahy, went on permanent rotation on MTV. Later that year Is There Something I Should Know went straight to #1 in the UK and hit #4 in the US. The band's third album, 1984s Seven And The Ragged Tiger, earned Duran Duran their first Stateside #1, with The Reflex. In 1985, an invitation to write for the movie A View To A Kill earned the group another first when their song became the only Bond theme tune to make it to #1, an accomplishment that is still unrivalled today.
Now that the Duran brand had become a license to print money, EMI wanted another album. For the first time in years, the band said no, taking time out to draw breath and regroup creatively. John and Andy teamed up with Robert Palmer, and former Chic drummer Tony Thompson to form the Power Station, with Chic bassist Bernard Edwards assuming production duties; while Nick, Simon and Roger embarked on a side project: Arcadia, with guest performers Grace Jones, Sting, David Gilmour and Herbie Hancock. While the Power Stations self-titled album found Andy and John moving further away from Duran Duran's signature sound, with a loud hybrid of funk and glam rock, the Arcadia album So Red the Rose was a sublime reaffirmation of the mother ships style. Pulling threads of darkness from Duran Duran, and adding glittering shards of pop reminiscent of Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger, the albums first single, Election Day, was dark electro-dance-pop at its very best. In July 1985, the five members of Duran Duran reunited to play in Philadelphia at the historic Live Aid concert. Although no one knew it at the time, this would turn out to be the final performance of the original lineup.
Chapter One of the Duran saga was now over. Other projects beckoned. In early 1986, John was approached to write the theme for the film 9 1/2 Weeks. In April, his solo tune I Do What I Do, charted on both sides of the Atlantic. As plans started to take shape for Duran Duran to begin work together again in the studio, drummer Roger Taylor abruptly announced that he wanted another year off and would be returning to his Gloucestershire farm. The four remaining band members convened in the studio in June, but before long they were down to three when Andy Taylor followed Roger into temporary retirement. With hindsight, he says his departure wasn't fueled by a desire to embark on a solo career. This was, however, the outcome. With Andy gone, and Roger officially resigning shortly thereafter, Duran Duran were in free fall.
But not for long. In August, the remaining trio were contacted by guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, whose own band Missing Persons had recently folded. Later that year, Duran Duran Mark II teamed up with producer Nile Rodgers to record the funk-based album Notorious. The album's title track topped the charts, propelling the record to multi-platinum status. (Fourteen years later, the same song was sampled by Sean Puffy Combs on the posthumous Notorious B.I.G. release, Born Again). The band were back on a roll. Notorious was followed by Big Thing in 1988, and the release of Decade in 1990, celebrating what for them had been a glorious ten years. Their sixth studio album, Liberty, came out later the same year, with new drummer Sterling Campbell replacing two-time collaborator Steve Ferrone. In 1993, Nick, Simon, John and Warren went back into the studio to record Duran Duran 2. Better known as the Wedding Album because the album artwork featured photos of their parents weddings, the CD spawned the award winning smash Ordinary World and its equally acclaimed follow-up Come Undone. Released the following year and garnering some of the best reviews of their career, as well as a prestigious Ivor Novello songwriting award, the Wedding Album sold more than four million copies around the world. A new generation of ardent Duranies were born.
In 1995, Thank You, a covers album, gave the band a chance to pay homage to many of the artists who had inspired them over the years, such as Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Led Zeppelin, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. Later that year, Le Bon performed with tenor superstar Luciano Pavarotti at the War Child benefit concert in Italy. Other festivals and tour dates followed, while, between gigs, John Taylor teamed up with the Neurotic Outsiders, a quartet of rock and roll wastrels comprising former Sex Pistols Steve Jones, Guns N Roses bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum. Originally formed to play a benefit gig in LA their onstage jam led to them signing, for one eponymous album to Madonnas Maverick Records. In 1996, John Taylor officially left Duran Duran to pursue various solo projects. Undeterred, the following year the band contributed Out of My Mind to the film version of The Saint and released Medazzaland. The album featured Electric Barbarella, the first song ever to be sold in a download format across the Web.
In 2000, after the release of two Duran tribute albums featuring artists as diverse as Kylie Minogue and Ben Lee on one, and the Deftones and Goldfinger on the other Hollywood Records put out the Pop Trash CD. The band supported this with an extremely successful international tour that featured the first ever use of augmented reality technology in a live concert. At the end of the tour, Warren Cucurrullo left for his original group Missing Persons. And then there were two. As the 21st century loomed, the future of Duran Duran lay in the balance. Simon took a well-earned break, while Nick joined his long time friend and original band mate Stephen Duffy, as The Devils, to work on an album, Dark Circles, which was released in late 2002. But no sooner had the dust settled, than the impulse for Duran Duran to evolve once more began to assert itself.
Conversations jump-started old allegiances. And as 2001 rolled around Duran Duran's original Fab Five went back into the studio to embark on writing together for their first album in almost eighteen years. Energized by the challenge of taking back their crown, Simon, Nick, Andy, Roger and John worked long and hard on an album which finally appeared on the Epic label in late 2004. Astronaut sold more than two million copies and was heralded by critics as one of their best studio efforts. The UK top five single (Reach Up For The) Sunrise earned the band their highest chart position in their home country for 20 years. The two-year world tour which accompanied Astronaut was a box office smash which saw them playing to more people, in more places, than ever before. This career-best concert outing served as a reminder that the band remained a fighting force with an incredible back catalogue, an awareness that led to them being honored with no fewer than five prestigious Lifetime Achievement awards in the space of two years. Between 2004 and 2006 Duran Duran's extraordinary creative longevity was recognized by the MTV Video Music Awards, the BRITS, the Ivor Novellos, the Spanish music industry Ondas and Q Magazines annual Q Awards.With three generations of fans now on their case, Duran had no option but to record another album. Not even the departure, for the second time, of guitarist Andy Taylor, could dent their creative momentum. In September 2006, Simon, Nick, John and Roger flew to New York for a week-long collaboration with Grammy-award-winning producer Timbaland, studio sound genius Nate Danja Hills and Justin Timberlake. The sessions produced three to-die-for newtracks. The rest of the Red Carpet Massacre album was completed with Danja back in the UK, before one final session with Justin Timberlake, in Manchester, England in June 07, which produced the albums first single Falling Down.
Over the next few months, Duran Duran performed at two of the biggest concert events on planet rock: the memorial Concert For Diana and the Live Earth eco-awareness bash, both at Wembley Stadium. A slew of promotional appearances then followed, in the lead up to the release of their 12th studio album, culminating in an unprecedented two week run on Broadway to launch the record.In 2008, the band hit the road once again, performing to hundreds of thousands of fans around the globe. As part of this year-long run they headlined festivals in a number of countries, played in arenas in others, became the first group to perform at the Louvre Museum in Paris and then two nights later, in the same city, treated fans to a specially-created mega-mix set that was filmed in a tiny theatre, with long-time-fan, Mark Ronson. This rare live performance, immediately proved that there was a powerful chemistry between Ronson and the band, and within just a few weeks a much larger collaboration had developed, with Mark committing to produce the band's 13th studio album.
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