Duran Duran

Posted: January 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Feature story | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Back To The Future

The ’80s were the best decade ever.

At least that’s the impression you get if you saunter into a club or party these days. From hotel lounges to hipster soirees, when a DJ spins one of the decade’s percolating synth-pop numbers, the dance floor suddenly floods with revelers busting herky-jerky moves not witnessed since Molly Ringwald’s heyday.

Add to that phenomenon a host of new ’80s-influenced bands, like Interpol, the Faint, the Rapture and the Epoxies, to name just a few among a flock of sequels, and we’re in the throes of a full-on revival. Need further proof? Even leg warmers have returned as a must-have fashion accessory, thanks to Karen O., the art-damaged vocalist for New York’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Yet somehow the nostalgia party wasn’t quite complete until earlier this year. That’s when the original line-up of Duran Duran reformed to celebrate its 25th anniversary, tour behind a singles box set, and prep material for a new album. Keyboardist Nick Rhodes, now 41, isn’t surprised that music fans are once again hungry like the wolf for the decade’s music, art and fashion.

“It’s only now that people are starting to put the decade in a little more perspective, saying, ‘Actually, that was really interesting,’” he says. “We were lucky in the ’80s because there was so much to take from musically. We’d just come out of a decade where, in a matter of a few years, we’d had punk rock, disco, glam rock and progressive rock. The ’80s were a lot more fun than the ’90s.”

The classic version of Duran Duran–Rhodes, crooner Simon Le Bon, bassist John Taylor, drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor (all unrelated, it must be dutifully noted)–certainly made it look and sound that way.

Inspired by Roxy Music, Kraftwerk and disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder; dressed like David Bowie’s fedora-sporting wraith in The Man Who Fell To Earth; and named after a character in the camp sci-fi classic Barbarella, the British quintet took glam-pop to the dance floor and conquered the world with its second album, 1982′s “Rio.”

Impressively, they accomplished the feat while sweatlessly squiring oil-wrestling supermodels on champagne-fueled yacht parties in Sri Lanka. Or so it seemed.

“The videos propagated a lot of that lifestyle image,” says Rhodes with a laugh. “But to us it was no different than doing little movies. If you see George Clooney or whoever in a movie, you don’t think, ‘Oh, they must be doing that every day–robbing banks or whatever.’ The videos were very much an acting job.

“But having said that, I think we all had great energy then and wanted to be involved in things that were uplifting and exciting. We were very optimistic. We were teenagers when we made the first record. A lot of that energy transferred into this sort of brightness that we projected.”

The center, however, could not hold under the pressure of Duran-mania. By the mid ’80s, band members were experimenting with the side projects such as Arcadia and Power Station. Le Bon, perhaps taking the band’s method acting too far, suffered a real-life yachting accident. And by the band’s fourth album, Notorious, Duran Duran had shed all but one of its Taylors.

“When we split up, there wasn’t a lot of animosity. It was just one of those things that chaotically happened,” says Rhodes. “Andy was doing something else in L.A. at the time we were making Notorious, and Roger really wanted to take time out of the music business. It was a bit crazy back then, to say the least, so it just sort of fell apart.”

The band pressed on through the ’90s with Missing Persons guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, and recorded some better-than-remembered albums, notably 1997′s whirring, bleeping Medazzaland. When John Taylor and then Cuccurullo eventually left the band, it opened the door for a full-fledged reunion. Now, Duran Duran has enough new material to amend its ’80s oeuvre with another album, due next year.

“We wanted to make sure we got it right,” says Rhodes. “Having created what we did with the first few albums with this line-up, we were painfully aware that anything we stuck out now, people were going to judge against that. We all wanted to be certain that what we’d done was the best we had to offer. It sounds like what Duran Duran should sound like now.”


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