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Duran Duran

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ALSO: Don't miss David Medsker's list of Duran Duran Deep Cuts!

Forgive me if I avoid the whole recount-the-band’s-history thing. Anyone who wants to know that stuff knows it already, and those who don’t should check out Wikipedia’s magnificent recap. Let’s deal with some big picture stuff instead.

It may seem an odd thing to say for one of the most popular bands of the ‘80s, but in many regards, Duran Duran actually had it tough when they were at their peak. When the girls gravitated to them, the music press, who up to that point had given their first two albums warm to glowing reviews, viciously turned on them. Meanwhile, all of their Top of the Pops peers – Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, even Cyndi Lauper – received a free pass for virtually everything they did. Not so, Duran Duran. “Rolling Stone” only put them on the cover once and it was a reluctant once, since Duran was the biggest band in the world and there was no way “Rolling Stone” couldn’t put the band on the cover. When the Duran mania began to ebb a little, the press hit them even harder. Their best reviews post-Rio came in 2004 when they released Astronaut, and that was due in no small part to the fact that the music press or yore had been replaced by children of the ‘80s, many of whom grew up admiring the band. Children like, well, me.

But to be fair, Duran Duran did bring some of that misery on themselves. Their 1990 album Liberty was one of the most overcooked albums in history (Chris Kimsey, hang your head in shame). 2000’s Pop Trash was the best example of truth in advertising since the TV show “Jackass.” And then there’s the band’s 1995 covers album Thank You, which Q Magazine declared in April of this year was the worst album of all time. With each of those lows, however, was an equal but opposite high. Duran Duran, a.k.a. The Wedding Album, was a tremendous success, landing the album and two singles in the Top 10. 1997’s Medazzaland may have been hamstrung by an awful first single (“Electric Barbarella”), but the rest of the album is absolutely better than you think it is. And then there’s Astronaut, which might be the first Duran album to be over-praised a bit. It’s good, yes, but they made other albums that deserved the press that Astronaut received.

For a band that was once treated as a scourge on the musical landscape, the truth is that a lot of very, very good bands on the current scene cite Duran Duran as an influence, including Franz Ferdinand, the Killers, Scissor Sisters and Garbage, to name a few. And let us not underestimate the importance of shooting those exotic videos when they did. Were they gaudy? Sure. But up to that point, music videos were shot in six hours on a soundstage in Hoboken with a disco ball and some tarps hanging on the walls (see Laura Branigan’s “Gloria,” if you want a good laugh). The idea of going to Antigua, or Sri Lanka, or even doing one on a soundstage but spending a million dollars on it, was unheard of. Without Duran’s splashy vids, it’s entirely possible that the idea of music video as a promotional tool is dead by 1984. MTV should be sending these guys Christmas cards every year for the rest of their lives.

The band is finishing up work on their twelfth studio album (not including side projects Arcadia and the Power Station), and even roped in Justin Timberlake for a track. The stage seems set for Duran Duran to become megastars again, and good for them. They have endured more hardships than any of their ‘80s peers combined (Simon nearly drowns in 1985, John goes down a drug-fueled rabbit hole, Roger retires from the business for 15 years), and somehow came out of it in one piece. It may be much, much later than they would have liked, but at long last, Duran Duran finally has it all. As Tears for Fears said on their (awesome) last album, everybody loves a happy ending.

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Duran Duran on the Web

Duran Duran.com
The official web site of the band.

Duran Duran Says

John: "That’s how me and Nick became friends...we were both into girls’ clothes..."

Nick: "That wretched boat in the “Rio” video. God, I hated that boat. Wrecking my Antony Price suit with all those dreadful waves splashing everywhere. Really! Tie the damn things up and have a couple of cocktails on them!"

Simon: "I’d spent my entire teenage years suffering one unrequited love affair after the other. I was so shy I couldn’t even talk to girls. If I fancied them, I’d follow them home, but I didn’t have the guts to approach them. I was a teenage stalker. The same went for John. The first time I saw him, he was this specky geek with nicotine-stained fingers, trembling with fear at the prospect of having to meet people. And his name wasn’t even John. It was Nigel. He was a Nigel with glasses, poor sod. I remember staring at his face and slowly realizing that he was rather beautiful, exquisite in fact. I mean, this was the best looking guy I’d seen in years, maybe my whole life. Losing his glasses and changing his name to John was the best thing he ever did. He was a man transformed. To see him in action was incredible. He could charm the knickers off anyone."

Andy: "I'd always felt like being weird, but there was no one to be weird with in Newcastle." Roger: "You can't scratch your bum in public anymore."

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