Duran Duran at Ultra Music Festival March 25
There are several parts to the Duran Duran saga. The first found the Brit New Wave band conquering America, providing fodder for MTV, and turning songs such as "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Save a Prayer," "Union of the Snake," "The Reflex," and "Wild Boys" into rallying cries for a new generation of teens. I experienced this phenomenon firsthand while working as a promotion rep for Simon Le Bon and company's label, Capitol Records. Given the audience reactions I witnessed, I can honestly say I've never seen another band whose charisma even came close.
Unfortunately, the later chapters of the Duran Duran story weren't nearly so glorious. "We were messed up emotionally," bassist John Taylor told me in 2006. "Things were moving so quickly. We did a lot of drugs, got laid a lot, and got caught up in an immense amount of touring. It created a bad dynamic within the band and an incredible amount of competitiveness... The ego is a very fragile thing, and it's often bigger than it's meant to be."
A final stab at the charts with the theme song for the James Bond film A View to a Kill led to a prolonged hiatus and short-lived side projects like Power Station and Arcadia. Despite the occasional hit — "Come Undone" and "Ordinary World" chief among them — intermittent attempts to regroup failed to lift Duran Duran to its earlier heights, and the band became something of a revolving door of old members and new recruits. By the mid '90s, Le Bon, Taylor, and the others were grasping for anything that would put them back on course. Yet subsequent albums — such as the covers collection Thank You, Mezzaland — suggested the band's glory days were clearly in the rearview mirror.
"We had a lot of luggage in our suitcases," Taylor said. "It had gotten pretty stinky. It was like a dysfunctional family in a way [with] all this locked-up resentment. We felt we had to work. But it started to [seem] like Spinal Tap after a while."
Fortunately, the tale has a happy ending. Duran Duran found its footing with the dawn of a new millennium and a pair of critically lauded albums, 2004's Astronauts and 2007's Red Carpet Massacre. And a new album, aptly dubbed All You Need Is Now, reaffirms the group's slick, sophisticated, hook-heavy sound. Having proved sufficiently savvy in transitioning through rock, funk, and dance without loss of either cool or credibility, these New Wave legends are no longer attempting to reinvent themselves. It's finally enough just to be Duran Duran.
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