Borrowing their name from a character in the cult 60s science fiction movie Barbarella, this UK pop band achieved global fame in the early 80s thanks to a series of catchy synthpop tunes, a strong visual image, and expensively produced promotional videos which enjoyed endless rotation on the nascent MTV music channel.
The bands classic line-up featured vocalist Simon Le Bon (27 October 1958, Bushey, Hertfordshire, England), keyboard player Nick Rhodes (b. Nicholas James Bates, 8 June 1962, Moseley, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England), guitarist Andy Taylor (b. 16 February 1961, Tynemouth, England), bass player John Taylor (b. Nigel John Taylor, 20 June 1960, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England) and drummer Roger Taylor (b. 26 April 1960, Castle Bromwich, Warwickshire, England). Formed by Rhodes and John Taylor in 1978, the early line-ups of the band included Simon Colley (bass/clarinet), Stephen Duffy (b. 30 May 1960, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England; vocals), Andy Wickett (vocals), Alan Curtis (guitar), and Jeff Thompson. They established a residency at the Rum Runner in Birmingham, and the clubs owners Michael and Paul Berrow became the bands first managers. Duran Duran came to prominence in late 1980 when they toured with Hazel OConnor and won a recording contract with EMI Records. Firmly in the new romantic bracket, they enjoyed early publicity and reached the UK Top 20 the following year with their debut single, Planet Earth. The follow-up Careless Memories barely scraped into the UK Top 40, but this proved merely a minor setback. Girls On Film, which was accompanied by a risqué Godley And Creme video that featured nude models, brought them their first UK Top 5 hit. Two albums quickly followed and hits such as Hungry Like The Wolf, Save A Prayer, and Rio revealed that there was considerable songwriting substance behind the hype.
By 1983, Duran Duran was in the ascendant, having broken into the US Top 10 three times. Is There Something I Should Know?, a gloriously catchy pop song, entered the UK charts at number 1, thereby underlying the strength of their fanbase. They were now, unquestionably, the most popular teen idols in the country. An impressive run of transatlantic Top 10 hits followed over the next two years, including Union Of The Snake, New Moon On Monday, The Reflex (a UK/US number 1), The Wild Boys, and A View To A Kill, the latter a James Bond movie theme which gave the band their second US chart-topper. At the peak of their success, the band members decided to wind down and venture into other projects, such as the Power Station and Arcadia, while Le Bon caused many a teenage heart to flutter when he was almost killed in a yachting accident in 1986. The same year the band regrouped, minus Roger and Andy Taylor, to record Notorious with producer Nile Rodgers. Although the title track was a big hit the band had by now lost many of their original fans, and excellent follow-up singles such as Skin Trade and Meet El Presidente failed to break into the Top 20 either side of the Atlantic.
The trio of Le Bon, Rhodes and John Taylor continued recording, knowing that they had already secured a place in pop history. Pointlessly tinkering with their name (to DuranDuran) failed to restore the bands commercial fortunes, and the release of a singles compilation raised question marks about their future. Guitarist Warren Cuccurullo (b. 8 December 1956, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA; ex-Missing Persons), who first featured on Notorious, and drummer Sterling Campbell (b. 3 May 1964, New York City, New York, USA) became permanent members in June 1989, although the latter left two years later, going on to play with Cyndi Lauper and David Bowie among others.
Renewed interest in Duran Duran came about in 1993 when Ordinary World became a major transatlantic hit (USA number 3/UK number 6). It was followed by Come Undone, which reached number 7 in America. Both tracks were taken from Duran Duran, which caused critics who had written them off to amend their opinions. In 1995 they released Thank You, a covers album that paid tribute to the bands influences, although they attracted hostile criticism for versions of rap classics White Lines (Dont Do It) and 911 Is A Joke. Two years later John Taylor left the band, leaving Le Bon and Rhodes to carry on with the long-serving Cuccurullo. Their contract with EMI ended following the record companys refusal to release Medazzaland in the UK, although Greatest sold well on the back of an 80s revival. Pop Trash, released on the Hollywood label in 2000, was a deliberate attempt to escape the pop tag with which Rhodes and Le Bon will forever be associated.
In May 2001, the five original members announced they intended to play together for the first time in over 15 years. They eventually performed a series of US dates in 2003 and carried on playing throughout the rest of the year and into 2004. During this time they returned to the studio to complete the first album by the original line-up since 1983s Seven And The Ragged Tiger. The resulting Astronaut was released to polite reviews in October. Andy Taylor left the line-up two years later.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.