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Biographies: Duran Duran

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Reviewer: Iluvthe80s

Duran Duran personified New Wave for much of the mainstream audience. And for good reason, too. Duran Duran's reputation was built through music videos, which accentuated their fashion-model looks and glamorous sense of style. Without music videos, it's likely that the band's pop-funk-described by the group as The Sex Pistols meets Chic- would never have made them international pop stars. While Duran Duran did have sharper pop sensibilities than their New Romantic contemporaries like Spandau Ballet, none of their peers exploited MTV and music video like the Birmingham-based quintet. Each video the group made was distinctive, incorporating a number of cinematic styles to showcase the band as either part of the jet-setting elite or as worldly adventurers. While early videos like "Girls On Film" and "The Chauffeur" sparked controversy in England over their sexual content, their best-known clips were often based on hit contemporary movies. The clever videos helped make Duran Duran's rise to popularity remarkably swift. Between 1982 and 1984, they rocketed from underground British post-punk sensations to teen idols. But their fall from grace was equally fast. By the late 80's, the groups lineup had fragmented, and the remaining members had trouble landing hit singles. Neverless, the group pulled off a surprising, if short-lived, comeback in the early '90's as a sophisticated soft-rock trio.

Inspired by David Bowie and Roxy Music, as well as post-punk and disco, schoolmates Nick Rhodes and John Taylor formed Duran Duran in 1978 with their friends Simon Colley(bass and clarinet) and Stephen Duffy (vocals). Taking their name from a character in Roger Vadim's psychedelic sci-fi film Barbarella, the group began playing gigs in Birmingham, supported by a drum machine. Within a year, Duffy and Colley both left the group and would be replaced by vocalist Andy Wickett and drummmer Roger Taylor. After recording a demo, John Taylor switched to bass and guitarist John Curtis joined the band, only to leave within a matter of months. The group placed an ad in Melody Maker, which drew the attention of Andy Taylor, who became their guitarist. However Duran Duran were still having trouble finding a vocalist. Following Wickett's departure in 1979, a pair of singers passed through the group before. Simon Le Bon, a former member of the punk band Dog Days and a drama student at Birmingham University, joined in early 1980.

By the end of 1980, Duran Duran had become popular within the burgeoning New Romantic circuit in England and had secured a record contract with EMI. "Planet Earth", the band's first single, quickly rose to number 12 upon its spring 1981 releasee. Immediately, Duran Duran became the leaders of the New Romantic movement, becoming media sensations in the British music and mainstream press. The group's popularity increased through their cutting edge music videos. Duran Duran, their debut album, reached number three upon its release and stayed in the charts for 118 weeks. The band quickly followed the album with Rio in the spring of 1982. Rio entered the charts at number two, and it's singles "Hungry Like The Wolf" and "Rio"-became Top 10 hits. By the November release of the US-only remix EP Carnival, the band were superstars in Europe, but only just beginning to make headway in America. Their exposure in the US was helped greatly by MTV, who put the groups videos into heavy rotation. "Hungry Like The Wolf" became a Top Ten hit early in 1983. Rio followed that single into the Top Ten, eventually selling over two million copies.

Duran Duran-mania was in full swing across America, with "Is There Something I Should Know" reaching the Top Ten. Duran Duran capitalized on their popularity by releasing Seven and The Ragged Tiger in time for 1983's holiday season. The record hit number one in the UK and number eight in the US, spawning the hit singles, "Union of the Snake" and "The Reflex", their first number one US hit. The band took an extended break after completing their year-and-a-half-long international tour in the spring of 1984. In November, they released the non-LP single "Wild Boys"which reached number two in the US and UK, where it was added to the live album Arena.

By 1985, Duran Duran fever was beginnning to cool off, and after the band completed the title track for the James Bond movie View To A Kill, the group went on hiatus. Andy and John formed the supergroup the Powerstation with vocalist Robert Palmer and former Chic drummer Tony Thompson in January, releasing their eponymous debut album in the spring. The remaining members of Duran Duran responded with their own side project, Arcadia, which released and album called So Red The Rose, in the fall of 1985. Early in 1986, Roger Taylor announced he was taking a year-long sabbatical from the group; he never returned. Several months later, Andy Taylor also left, reducing Duran Duran to a trio. Late in 1986, the band released Notorious, their first album in nearly three years.

Big Thing and Liberty were released later in the decade with not much fanfare. The greatest hits album Decade was released late in 1989. By that point, former Missing Persons guitarist Warren Cuccurullo had become a permanent member of the group. In 1993, the band returned from a prolonged hiatus with Duran Duran- The Wedding Album, a mature, layered record of lite funk and soulful adult contemporary pop that became a surprise hit. Not only did the record restore their commercial statuss, but it earned them some of their best reviews of their career. The group followed the album with one of their poorest received efforts, 1995's all-covers Thank You, the managed to go gold in America despite its negative reviews. While Duran Duran was recording the follow up to Thank You in 1996, John Taylor left the band to pursue a solo career, leaving the group a trio of LeBon, Rhodes, and Cuccurullo. That follow up Medazzaland, was released in 1997, but failed to produce any major hits. Duran Duran returned in 2000 with the album Pop Trash.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

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