Duran Duran are an English new wave and synth-pop band formed in Birmingham in 1978
Written by MarkCarney on 18th May 2016
Duran Duran are an English new wave and synth-pop band formed in Birmingham in 1978. The band grew from alternative sensations in 1982 to mainstream pop stars by 1984. By the end of the decade, membership and music style changes challenged the band before a resurgence in the early 1990s. The group were a leading band in the MTV-driven “Second British Invasion” of the US. The band achieved 14 singles in the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart and 21 in the Billboard Hot 100, and have sold over 100 million records worldwide.
When the band first emerged, they were generally considered part of the New Romantic scene, along with bands such as Spandau Ballet. Duran Duran however would soon shed this image, by using fashion and marketing to build a more refined and elegant presentation. The band has won a number of awards throughout their career: two Brit Awards including the 2004 award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, two Grammy Awards, and an MTV Video Music Award for Lifetime Achievement. They were also awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The video age catapulted Duran Duran into the mainstream with the introduction of the 24-hour music channel MTV. Many of their videos were shot on 35 mm film, which gave a much more polished look than was standard at the time. They also collaborated with professional film directors to take the quality a step further, often teaming up with Australian Russell Mulcahy for some of their most memorable video offerings. In 1984, the band were early innovators with video technology in their live stadium shows.
The group was formed by keyboardist Nick Rhodes and bass guitarist John Taylor, with the later addition of drummer Roger Taylor, and after numerous personnel changes, guitarist Andy Taylor and lead singer Simon Le Bon. These five members featured the most commercially successful line-up. The group has never disbanded, but after separation of Andy and Roger Taylor in 1986, the line-up has changed to include former Missing Persons American guitarist Warren Cuccurullo from 1989 to 2001 and American drummer Sterling Campbell from 1989 to 1991. The reunion of the original five members in the early 2000s created a stir among the band’s fans and music media. Andy Taylor left the band once again in mid-2006, and guitarist Dom Brown has since been working with the band as a session player and touring member.
1978–1980: Formation and early years
John Taylor and Nick Rhodes formed Duran Duran in Birmingham, England, in 1978, where they became the resident band at the city’s Rum Runner nightclub. At the club they were doing jobs such as John working the door and with Nick deejaying for £10 a night. They began rehearsing and regularly playing at the venue. There were many nearby nightclubs, and the most significant one, where bands such as the Sex Pistols and the Clash played gigs, was called Barbarella’s. They would go on to name the band after a character from Barbarella, Roger Vadim’s French science-fiction film. The character, played by Milo O’Shea, is named “Dr. Durand Durand”.
The band’s first singer was Stephen Duffy. Simon Colley soon joined Taylor, Rhodes and Duffy. Colley was the band’s original bass player, as John Taylor was the guitarist at this point. This was the first complete line-up of the band that played live shows. For drums and percussion, an electronic drum machine belonging to Rhodes was used. Colley left the band prior to the addition of Andy Taylor. A few guitarists were subsequently auditioned (for the most part, unsuccessfully) as well as a handful of vocalists after Duffy left Duran Duran early in 1979. Among the handful of vocalists they had prior to Simon Le Bon was Andy Wickett, who had a major part in the writing of “Girls on Film” during his tenure with the band, according to Andy Taylor’s autobiography. (Wickett is also featured on some of the demos that were presented to EMI.) According to both Wickett’s and John Taylor’s websites, Wickett co-wrote an early version of the song that came to be known as “Rio”. Upon Colley’s and Wickett’s departures, the band enlisted singer Jeff Thomas and guitarist Alan Curtis, each for only a relatively brief period, before finally settling on Andy Taylor for lead guitar and Le Bon for vocals in 1980.
The meeting of drummer Roger Taylor in 1979 with John Taylor, Rhodes and Wickett at a party, as well as the departure of Colley, led John Taylor to switch to bass. Roger Taylor then became their original (human) drummer. It was this line-up (John Taylor on bass and guitar along with Rhodes, Wickett and Roger Taylor) that made the first-ever Duran Duran studio demo tapes. In April 1980, guitarist Andy Taylor came from Newcastle to audition after responding to an advertisement in Melody Maker. In May 1980, London vocalist Simon Le Bon was recommended to the band by an ex-girlfriend who worked at the Rum Runner. The owners of the club, brothers Paul and Michael Berrow, became the band’s management, paying them to work as doormen, disc jockeys and busboys when they were not rehearsing.
The group were generally considered part of the New Romantic scene, with other style-and-dance bands such as Spandau Ballet, Japan and ABC. In 1980, they recorded two demo tapes and performed in clubs around Birmingham and London. In late 1980, when touring as an opening act for Hazel O’Connor, the band attracted critical attention, resulting in a bidding war between the record companies EMI and Phonogram. “A certain patriotism” toward the label of the Beatles led them to sign with EMI in December;
Duran Duran were amongst the earliest bands to work on their own remixes. Before the days of digital synthesizers and easy audio sampling, they created multi-layered arrangements of their singles, sometimes recording entirely different extended performances of the songs in the studio. These “night versions” were generally available only on vinyl as b-sides to 45-rpm singles or on 12-inch club singles until the release of the compilation Night Versions: The Essential Duran Duran in 1999.
From the very beginning of their career together, all the band members had a keen sense of visual style. They worked with stylist Perry Haines and fashion designers such as Kahn & Bell and Antony Price to build a sharp and elegant image, soon outgrowing the ruffles and sashes of the pirate-flavoured early New Romantic look that had been popularised by Adam and the Ants during 1980–81. They have continued to present fashion as part of their package throughout their career. In the 1990s they worked with Vivienne Westwood, and in the 2000s with Giorgio Armani. The band retained creative control of their visual presentation and worked closely with graphic designer Malcolm Garrett and many others over the years to create album covers, tour programs and other materials.
All five members of the band were photogenic. Teen and music magazines in the UK latched onto their good looks quickly, and the US soon followed. It was a rare month in the early 1980s when there was not at least one picture of the band members in teen magazines such as Smash Hits or Tiger Beat. John Taylor once remarked that the band was “like a box of Quality Street [chocolates]; everyone is someone’s favourite” Duran Duran later came to regret this early pin-up exposure, but at the time it helped attract national attention. In an interview with Rock Fever Superstars Magazine in early 1988, John Taylor stated:
We used to be a very chi-chi name to drop in ’79, but then the Fab Five hype started and something went wrong. Something went really wrong. That wasn’t what I wanted. […] Not that I didn’t like being screamed at. At one point I really did.”
1981–1982: Debut album
The band’s first album, Duran Duran was released on the EMI label in 1981. The first single, “Planet Earth”, reached the United Kingdom’s top 20 at number 12. A follow-up, “Careless Memories”, stalled at Number 37. However, it was their third single, “Girls on Film”, that attracted the most attention. The song went to Number 5 in the UK. The video, featuring topless women mud wrestling, pillow fighting and stylised depictions of other sexual fetishes, was made with directing duo Godley & Creme in August. The video was filmed just two weeks after MTV was launched in the United States. The band expected the “Girls on Film” video to be played in the newer nightclubs that had video screens or on pay TV channels like the Playboy Channel. Kevin Godley explained the thinking behind it:
We were very explicitly told by Duran Duran’s management to make a very sensational and erotic piece that would be for clubs, where it would get shown uncensored just to make people take notice and talk about it.
The video was heavily edited for MTV (Music Television). The album peaked in the UK top twenty at number 3. Later in 1981 the band embarked on their first United States club tour followed by more dates in Germany and the UK. This second tour of Britain coincided with a wave of riots sparked by unemployment and racial tension, including those of Moss Side and Toxteth. The band played Birmingham the day after the Handsworth riots. Duran Duran began to achieve worldwide recognition in 1982. In May they released their second album, Rio, which scored four UK Top Twenty singles with “My Own Way”, “Hungry Like the Wolf”, “Save a Prayer”, and the title song “Rio”. A headlining tour of Australia, Japan, and the US was followed by a stint supporting Blondie during that band’s final American tour. Diana, Princess of Wales declared Duran Duran her favourite band, and the band were dubbed “the Fab Five” by the British press, comparing them to the Beatles whose nickname was the Fab Four.
At first, the Rio album did not do well in the United States. EMI in the UK had promoted Duran Duran as a New Romantic band, but the New Romantic movement was barely known in the US, and EMI’s American subsidiary Capitol Records was at a loss about how to sell them. After Carnival (an EP of Rio’s dance remixes) became popular with DJs in the fall, the band arranged to have most of the album remixed by David Kershenbaum. In June 1982, Duran Duran appeared for the first time on American television, performing “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Rio” on Dancin’ On Air, the forerunner to the national hit show Dance Party USA.
Now promoted as a dance album, Rio was re-released in the US in November, and began to climb the American charts six months after its European success. MTV placed “Hungry Like the Wolf” and several other Duran Duran videos into heavy rotation, pushing the single and album into the US top twenty in early 1983. The ballad “Save a Prayer” also did well. “The band was a natural for music television,” noted Rolling Stone magazine. “They may be the first rock group to ride in on a video wave.” The album ultimately peaked at number 6 in the US and remained on the charts there for 129 weeks. In 2003 Rio was listed at number 65 in the NME 100 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
1983–1985: The “Fab Five”
The band began 1983 by playing the MTV New Year’s Eve Rock ‘n’ Roll Ball with “Hungry Like the Wolf” still climbing the charts in the US, and the American reissue of the “Rio” single to follow in March. To satisfy America’s appetite for their music, the band re-released their eponymous first album in the US in the middle of the year with the addition of the new single “Is There Something I Should Know?”. Upon its release, this song entered the chart at number 1 in the UK (a rarity then and their first chart-topper in their home country) and reached number 4 on the American charts. During the promotion of this album, Rhodes and Le Bon were MTV guest VJs for a show, during which artist and admirer Andy Warhol dropped by to greet them. “Our first gigs in the United States were crazy and culty”, Rhodes said later, “But when we came back after ‘Hungry’ was a hit, it was mayhem. It was Beatlemania. We were doing a signing of the ‘Girls on Film’ video at a store in Times Square. We couldn’t get out of the store. The cops sealed off the streets.” Also in 1983, keyboardist Nick Rhodes produced the UK number 1 and US number 5 hit “Too Shy” for the English band Kajagoogoo and Andy Taylor became the first member of Duran Duran to get married.
The band spent the next year as tax exiles, writing songs at a chateau in France where The Tube with Jools Holland filmed a documentary with the band in May 1983 before they flew to Montserrat and then Sydney to record and mix their third album. During the summer, they returned to the UK to perform two concerts, the first on 20 July in front of the Prince and Princess of Wales at the Dominion Theatre, and the second, a charity concert at Aston Villa’s home ground. The band were under pressure to follow up the success of Rio, and the recording process took over six months as different band members went through bouts of perfectionism and insecurity. A newly decadent lifestyle and substance abuse issues for some members added complications. In the documentary film Extraordinary World, filmed a decade later, Rhodes described the effect on their sound as “barely controlled hysteria, scratching beneath the surface”.
The new album, Seven and the Ragged Tiger, included the late 1983 hit “Union of the Snake” (with the soprano sax solo by Andy Hamilton). With “Hungry Like the Wolf”, “Rio”, “Save a Prayer” and “Is There Something I Should Know?”, Duran Duran now had five US Top Twenty hits from three different albums in a single year. The band made music headlines by deciding to release the “Union of the Snake” video to MTV a full week before the single was released to radio. They followed up with “New Moon on Monday”, which reached Number 9 in the UK. Their next single “The Reflex”, taken from Seven and the Ragged Tiger and given a significant remix overhaul by Nile Rodgers of Chic fame, became their first number one hit in the United States. “The Reflex” was also their second and final UK number one and was successful in numerous other countries around the world.
The band embarked on a global tour that continued throughout the first four months of 1984 including their first major stadium dates in America. A film crew led by director Russell Mulcahy followed the band closely, leading to the documentary film Sing Blue Silver and the accompanying concert film Arena. The live album Arena was also recorded during the tour and was released with the new studio single “The Wild Boys”, which went to number 2 on both sides of the Atlantic. In February 1984, the band appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and won two Grammy Awards in the brand-new Long Form and Short Form music video categories. Meanwhile, “Save a Prayer” gained momentum in North America, and a special US remix of the song became a single in January 1985. It peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March. A live version of the song was used for the single’s B-side, taken from the concert video footage for Arena / As the Lights Go Down.
During this period, all of the band members became heartthrobs for many of their young teenage fans. After the tour, Roger Taylor was married in Naples, Italy, and Nick Rhodes wed in London, wearing a pink velvet tuxedo and top hat. At the end of 1984, the group were featured on the Band Aid benefit single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” along with other popular British musical acts. Simon Le Bon sang between contributions from George Michael and Sting.
1985: Side projects and Live Aid
Even with Duran Duran on hold, band members were soon anxious to record new music, leading to a supposedly temporary split into two side projects. John and Andy Taylor wanted to break away from the Duran Duran sound and pursue hard rock material; they collaborated with Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson to form the rock/funk supergroup the Power Station, which released two Top 10 singles. Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes, on the other hand, wanted to further explore Duran Duran’s atmospheric aspect and formed Arcadia, who released one LP (So Red the Rose) from which the single “Election Day” was released. Contributors to that album included guitarist Masami Tsuchiya, bassist Mark Egan, percussionist David Van Tieghem, drummer Steve Jordan, Sting, Herbie Hancock, and David Gilmour. Roger Taylor was a drummer for Arcadia as well, but also contributed percussion to the Power Station album. Duran Duran were never the same after this break. According to Rhodes, the two side projects “were commercial suicide… But we’ve always been good at that.” The band was still off balance when they regrouped to contribute “A View to a Kill” to the 1985 James Bond movie of the same name. This single was the first Bond theme to go to number 1 on the US charts, and was at the time the joint highest-placed Bond theme on the UK chart where it reached number 2. It was the last single the band recorded as the original five-piece for close to twenty years.
As a follow-up to the Christmas 1984 Band Aid single, Duran Duran performed in front of 90,000 people (and an estimated 1.5 billion TV viewers) at the Live Aid charity concert at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 13 July 1985 while their Bond song held the top spot on the American charts. It was not intended to be a farewell performance—the band planned only to take a break after four years of non-stop touring and public appearances—but the original five did not play live together again until July 2003. Their Live Aid set became famous for Le Bon inadvertently hitting an off-key falsetto note in the chorus of “A View to a Kill”, an error that was trumpeted by numerous media outlets as “The Bum Note Heard Round the World” (in contrast to Freddie Mercury’s “Note Heard Round the World” at the Wembley Stadium Live Aid show). Le Bon later described the moment as the most embarrassing of his career.
1986–1989: Le Bon, Rhodes and John Taylor trio
After releasing three studio albums and one live album in five years, each accompanied by heavy media promotion and lengthy concert tours, the band lost two of its core members to fatigue and tension in 1986. After Live Aid and Arcadia, drummer Roger Taylor retired to the English countryside, suffering from exhaustion. This was originally announced as a one-year sabbatical, but it soon became clear that he would not be returning to the band. An official press release was issued in April 1986 confirming his departure. In a 2004 interview with Live Daily, Roger Taylor confirmed his reasons for leaving: “I was burned out. I think I was just exhausted. It was a very intense five years. We didn’t stop. It was constant touring, constant writing, recording. We broke internationally, as well—instantly, pretty well. It’s a nonstop schedule, really. I had lost myself somewhere.”
Guitarist Andy Taylor, on the other hand, led the remaining members to believe he would return to work on a new Duran Duran album even as he was signing a solo recording contract in Los Angeles (he eventually released a solo album in 1986, Thunder). The band resorted to legal measures to get him into the studio, but after numerous delays, they let him go at last. He played on only a few songs on the next album while the disagreements were being settled.
Without a guitarist or a drummer, the three remaining members, Le Bon, Rhodes, and John Taylor had producer (and former Chic guitarist) Nile Rodgers play a few tracks on guitar, and hired Steve Ferrone to play drums while they searched for replacements. Finally in September 1986, Warren Cuccurullo (formerly of Missing Persons and Frank Zappa’s touring band) was hired as a session guitarist. With Le Bon, Rhodes, and Taylor, he recorded the rest of the Notorious album, which was released in October 1986. The black-and-white documentary film Three to Get Ready chronicled the recording of the album, legal tensions, and preparations for the tour.
Although the song “Notorious” went to number 2 in the US, number 7 in the UK, and album sales were strong, the band found they had lost much of the momentum and hysteria they had left behind in 1985. In the three years between the release of Seven and the Ragged Tiger and Notorious, many of their teenage fans had grown up, and the music was funkier, more mature, and less “pop”, given the added experience of their work on Arcadia and Power Station and with other musicians. “Skin Trade” and “Meet El Presidente”, the two subsequent singles, made the charts but fared poorly compared to the band’s earlier successes. Finally in late 1987, Sterling Campbell was hired as a session drummer.
Subsequently, Duran Duran struggled to escape the teen idol image and gain respect among critics with more complex music. The new serious image was not accepted at first and their popularity began to wane. Rolling Stone said, “In their search for musical maturity, the surviving Durans have lost a good deal of their identity.” Another factor was the band’s dismissal of early managers the Berrow brothers. There was no announcement of the reasons for the decision, but disagreements over money, and the brothers’ involvement in Le Bon’s yachting adventures (they were co-owners of Drum) were thought to have played a part. Whatever the reason, Duran Duran switched managers frequently and undertook periods of self-management in the later stages of their career. In addition, EMI (which fired its president and went through a major corporate restructuring that summer) seemed to have lost interest in promoting the band.
The next album Big Thing (1988) yielded the singles “I Don’t Want Your Love” (number 4 in the US), and “All She Wants Is” (the last top ten hit in the UK until 1993). The record was experimental, mixing influences from house music and raves with Duran’s atmospheric synthpop and the creative guitar work of Cuccurullo (now a full band member), as well as more mature lyrics.
1989–1991: Five again, Decade and Liberty
By the end of 1989 and at the start of the 1990s, the popularity of synthpop was fading a bit and losing fans to other momentum-gaining music genres at the time, such as hip hop, techno and alternative rock. After touring for the album finished, the band regained a five-man membership as guitarist Warren Cuccurullo and tour drummer Sterling Campbell were made full members of Duran Duran.
The compilation album Decade: Greatest Hits was released late in 1989, along with the megamix single “Burning the Ground”, which consisted of woven snippets of the band’s hits from the previous ten years. The single came and went with little fanfare, but the album became another major seller for the band. However, the tepid 1990 release Liberty (a retreat from the experimentation of Big Thing) failed to capitalise on any regained momentum. The album entered the UK album chart in the top ten, but faded away quickly. The singles “Violence of Summer (Love’s Taking Over)” and “Serious” were only mildly successful, and the album’s soft rock did not fare well against contemporaries like Alice in Chains and Jane’s Addiction, while Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the grunge revolution were just around the corner. For the first time, Duran Duran did not tour in support of an album, performing on only a handful of club dates and TV shows. Sterling Campbell left the band early in 1991, going on to work with Soul Asylum and David Bowie. The quartet of Le Bon, Rhodes, Taylor, and Cuccurullo would remain intact for six more years. In December 1991, John Taylor (then 31) married 19-year-old model/actress Amanda De Cadenet, and she gave birth to his daughter in March 1992.
1992–1996: Quartet line-up and a brief comeback
In 1993, the band released a second self-titled album: this Duran Duran album is known as The Wedding Album (for Nick Egan’s cover art featuring the wedding photos of the band members’ parents) to distinguish it from the 1981 release. The release of this first “comeback” album was delayed, with then manager at Left Bank, Tommy Manzi, later telling HitQuarters that this was due to industry resistance to the revival of the band, whom he said would rather focus on “the next hip band”. Listener demand for leaked single “Ordinary World” forced it onto radio playlists months earlier than planned; it reached number 3 on the US chart and number 6 in the UK and won a prestigious Ivor Novello Award for song writing.
“Come Undone”, primarily written by Cuccurullo, with lyrics by Le Bon, made number 7 in the US and number 13 in the UK. Both the band and the record label seemed to be caught by surprise by the album’s critical and commercial success (No. 4 in the UK, No. 7 in the US). Bassist John Taylor had been considering leaving the band but changed his mind. The band’s largest tour ever, which included stops in the Middle East, the then recently de-embargoed South Africa, and South America, was halted after seven months when Le Bon suffered from strained vocal cords. After six weeks’ recuperation, the band performed intermittently for another five months, including appearances in Israel, Thailand, and Indonesia.
In 1995, the band released the cover album Thank You. Songs from Thank You included covers of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” and Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)” (with backing vocals from the original artists). The album also marked the temporary return of former drummer Roger Taylor, who joined the band in studio to play drums on “Watching the Detectives” and “Perfect Day” (as well as a cover of “Jeepster” by T. Rex that did not appear on the album). In a video interview provided with the album’s electronic press kit, Reed said he considered Duran Duran’s version the best cover ever done of one of his songs, and they received praise from Robert Plant and Jimmy Page for their cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You”.
1997–2000: John Taylor’s departure and second trio
After the promo tour for Thank You was completed, John Taylor co-founded the B5 Records label, recorded a solo album, founded and toured with the supergroup Neurotic Outsiders, and reunited the Power Station, though the project proceeded without him when he had to withdraw to deal with his divorce from De Cadenet. Finally, after struggling for months to record the next album, Medazzaland, in January 1997, Taylor announced at the DuranCon fan convention that he was leaving the band “for good”. His departure reduced the band to two long time members (Le Bon and Rhodes) and Cuccurullo, who decided to continue recording under the name Duran Duran.
Freed from some internal writing conflicts, the band returned to the studio to rewrite and re-record many of the songs on Medazzaland. (Taylor’s work remains on only four tracks.) This album marked a return to the layered experimentation of Big Thing, with intricate guitar textures and processed vocals. The track “Out of My Mind” was used as the theme song for the movie The Saint, but the only true single to be released in the United States was the quirky “Electric Barbarella”, which was the first single ever to be sold online. The video for this single, featuring a sexy robot purchased and played with by band members, had to be censored before airing on MTV, but there was little of the controversy that had surrounded “Girls on Film”. “Barbarella” peaked at No. 52 in the US in October 1997. Although Medazzaland was released in the US in October 1997, the album was never released in the UK. “Barbarella” was later released in the UK as a single from the 1998 Greatest compilation album and peaked at No. 23 on the UK chart in January 1999. The group played a set at the Princess Diana Tribute Concert on 27 June 1998 by special request of her family.
Duran Duran parted ways with Capitol/EMI in 1999, although the label has since used Duran Duran’s back catalogue to release several compilations of remixes and rare vinyl-only B-sides. The band then signed what was intended to be a three-album contract with Disney’s Hollywood Records, but it lasted only through the poorly received 2000 album Pop Trash. This slow-paced and heavy album seemed out-of-keeping with earlier band material. Rhodes’ intricate production and Cuccurullo’s songwriting and experimentation with guitar sounds and time signatures were not enough to hook the public, and the album did not perform well. The dreamy single “Someone Else Not Me” lasted barely two weeks on the radio, although its video was noted as the first to be produced entirely with Flash animation. While supporting Medazzaland and Pop Trash, Duran Duran toured with bassist Wes Wehmiller and drummer Joe Travers.
In 2000, Le Bon approached John Taylor with a proposal to reform Duran Duran’s classic line-up. They agreed to part company with Cuccurullo after completing the Pop Trash tour. Cuccurullo then announced on his website that he was leaving Duran Duran to resume work with his 1980s band Missing Persons. This announcement was confirmed the next day by Duran Duran’s website, followed a day later by the news that John, Roger, and Andy Taylor had rejoined. To fulfill contractual obligations, Cuccurullo played three Duran Duran concerts in Japan in June 2001, ending his tenure in the band.
Throughout 2001, 2002 and 2003, the band worked on writing new material, initially renting a house in St. Tropez where sound engineer Mark Tinley built a recording studio for their first serious writing session. They then returned to London to do some self-financed work with various producers (including old friend Nile Rodgers) and search for a new record deal. It proved difficult to find a record label willing to gamble on the band’s comeback, so Duran Duran went on tour to prove the drawing power of the reunited band. The response of the fans and the media exceeded expectations. The band played a handful of 25th-anniversary dates across 2003, starting with two arena dates in Tokyo filled to capacity. Tickets sold out for each show within minutes, and celebrities turned out en masse for reunion dates. Amongst these were a number of shows at smaller venues that the band had played on both sides of the pond when they first got together in the early 80s. In August, the band were booked as presenters at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, only to be surprised with a Lifetime Achievement Award. They also received a Lifetime Achievement award from Q magazine in October, and the equivalent Outstanding Contribution award at the BRIT Awards in February 2004.
The pace picked up with a sold-out tour of America, Australia and New Zealand. The band played a full concert at a private tailgate party at Super Bowl XXXVIII, their performance of “The Wild Boys” broadcast to millions during the pre-game show. A remix of the new track “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise” was released on many TV shows in February while magazines hailed (the modern “Fab Five”) Duran Duran as one of the greatest bands of all time. Duran Duran then celebrated their homecoming to the UK with fourteen stadium dates in April 2004, including five sold-out nights at Wembley Arena. The British press, traditionally hostile to the band, accorded the shows some very warm reviews. Duran Duran brought along band Goldfrapp and the Scissor Sisters as alternating opening acts for this tour. The last two shows were filmed, resulting in the concert DVD Duran Duran: Live from London which was released in November.
Finally, with more than thirty-five songs completed, the band signed a two-album contract with Epic Records in June, and completed the new album, now entitled Astronaut. The album was released in October 2004 and entered the UK charts at number 3 and the US charts at number 17. The first single was “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise”, which reached number 1 on the Billboard US Dance chart in November and peaked at number 5 on the UK Singles Chart, Duran Duran’s highest chart position since “A View to a Kill” in 1985. A second single, “What Happens Tomorrow”, debuted at No. 11 on the UK chart in February. A 5.1 mix of Astronaut was created by Jeremy Wheatley for the dual-disc release of Astronaut. The CD side contains the album as-is and the DVD side contains the 5.1 mix of the album in DVD Audio format along with some DVD footage and videos.
After a world tour in early 2005, Duran Duran were presented with the PRS Outstanding Contribution to British Music at the 2005 Ivor Novello Awards. The Performing Right Society and the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters take great pleasure with presenting Duran Duran with the PRS Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award at the 50th Ivor Novello Awards Ceremony in London. Later that summer, the band headlined the massive Live 8 concert, Rome on 2 July 2005 in the Circus Maximus.
2006–2008: Red Carpet Massacre and Andy Taylor’s second departure
In early 2006, Duran Duran covered John Lennon’s song “Instant Karma!” for the Make Some Noise campaign sponsored by Amnesty International. Their version later appeared on Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur as an iTunes exclusive bonus track. They also performed at two high-profile events – the Nobel Prize Awards and the 2006 Winter Olympics. After a couple of weeks of songwriting in Northern California, the band began working with producer Michael Patterson in London, and continued intermittently for the next several months. At one point, they reported having fifteen tracks nearly complete for an album tentatively titled Reportage, but no further news emerged from the band for months afterward. In September, the band held meetings in New York City with Justin Timberlake and producer Timbaland with an eye to a potential collaboration and were soon reported to have completed three songs with the producer, including a song with Justin Timberlake.
On 25 October 2006, Duran Duran parted company with Andy Taylor once again. In an official announcement on their website, the band stated that an “unworkable gulf” had developed between them and Taylor and that “we can no longer effectively function together”. It was noted by Andy Taylor in his book “Wild Boy” that tensions had arisen between the group’s management and himself, and he was also diagnosed with clinical depression connected with the death of his father. Dom Brown, who had previously toured with the band, took over guitar duties and has been performing with them since. After Taylor’s departure, the band scrapped the Reportage album and wrote and recorded a new album entitled Red Carpet Massacre, which included the Timbaland tracks. Dom Brown is the featured guitarist on the album.
In July 2007, the band performed twice at Wembley Stadium. Their first appearance at the stadium was the Concert for Diana which celebrated the life of Princess Diana almost 10 years after her death. The band performed “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise”, “Wild Boys” and “Rio”. Their second appearance was at Live Earth concert, London. On 25 September, the Timberlake collaboration “Falling Down” was released as a download single on iTunes, and the band announced that they would play nine shows at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway to launch the Red Carpet Massacre album. The album launch was later extended to incorporate a show in London on 3 December 2007 and one in Dublin on 5 December 2007.
In May 2008, they toured the US leg of their 2008 world tour and were supported by the British band Your Vegas. In June 2008, they played the Louvre in Paris in a fundraising effort that contributed to the restoration of a Louis XV drawing room. Guests dined, privately viewed some of the museum’s artworks, then attended a performance by the band in the I.M. Pei-designed Pyramid du Louvre. The group’s performance marked a first for both the band members and the 18th century museum (which had never before allowed a rock concert to occur anywhere within the grounds or buildings).
On 2 July 2008, in Paris, Mark Ronson performed a unique live set with Duran Duran for an exclusive, invitation-only performance. Together, they showcased specially re-worked versions of some of Duran Duran’s classic hits re-created by Ronson, along with tracks from Red Carpet Massacre. Simon Le Bon also performed songs from Ronson’s latest album, Version, as one of Ronson’s featured guest vocalists. Unlike the band’s previous album Astronaut, Red Carpet Massacre sold poorly and received mixed responses from the music press.
In 2008, Rio was included in the Classic Albums series.
2009–2012: All You Need Is Now
The band departed from Epic Records in 2009, after releasing just two albums. In early 2010, it was revealed that the band would be contributing a cover of “Boys Keep Swinging” to a tribute/charity record for David Bowie called We Were So Turned On from which all profits go to War Child. Other contributing artists included Carla Bruni, Devendra Banhart, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and Warpaint. The album was released on 14 September 2010 on Manimal Vinyl Records. A limited edition split 7″ single with Duran Duran and Carla Bruni was also released on Manimal Vinyl in December 2010.
In November 2010, Duran Duran announced the worldwide release of their 13th studio album, entitled All You Need Is Now which was to be released on the band’s own Tapemodern label and distributed by indie label S-Curve Records. The album, produced by the Grammy Award-winning Mark Ronson and mixed by Spike Stent, was released exclusively on iTunes on 21 December 2010 and hit the No. 1 spot on download charts in 15 countries (including the UK). The first single from the record, title track “All You Need Is Now”, was free to download worldwide on 8 December 2010 exclusively in iTunes. Guitarist and songwriter Dom Brown co-wrote all but two songs on the album. In March 2011 the band embarked on a world tour in support of the album. After a warm-up show in London, the tour officially began 16 March 2011 in Austin, Texas.
The expanded physical album, including various format special packages, was released in March 2011, only weeks after the 30th anniversary of the band’s first release “Planet Earth”. The CD features fourteen tracks, including five tracks not included with the original digital release: “Mediterranea”, “Other People’s Lives”, “Too Bad You’re So Beautiful”, “Diamond in the Mind”, and “Return to Now”. In a video posted on the band’s website in February 2011, Rhodes mentioned the mixing of another four tracks: “Too Close to the Sun”, “Early Summer Nerves”, “This Lost Weekend”, and “Networker Nation”. The album entered the UK chart at No. 11 and the Billboard chart at No. 29.
On 25 February 2011, while in Milan, Duran Duran received a Style Icons of the 20th Century Award and a key to the city, presented by the city’s mayor Letizia Moratti.
On 23 March 2011, the band performed live at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles as the start of the second season of Unstaged: An Original Series from American Express. The concert was directed by David Lynch and live-streamed on YouTube. The band was joined onstage by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, Beth Ditto of Gossip, and Kelis.
On 17 April 2011, Duran Duran performed at the Coachella Music Festival located at Empire Polo Grounds, in Indio, California.
In May 2011, Le Bon contracted laryngitis leading to either cancellation or rescheduling of most of the European dates for the All You Need Is Now World Tour.
On 1 May 2012, it was announced that the band would be headlining the London Summer Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony celebration in Hyde Park, which took place on 27 July. They represented England, along with Snow Patrol for Northern Ireland, Stereophonics for Wales, and Paolo Nutini for Scotland. At the end of August 2012, with one week left of their 18-month world tour, the band were forced to cancel the rest of the North American leg of the tour as Nick Rhodes had become ill with a viral infection.
2013–present: Paper Gods
On 4 March 2013, the band returned to the studio to work on their 14th studio album, and continued during the week beginning 23 September. They reconvened 13 to 18 December. On 31 December 2013, the band posted a mixtape curated by John Taylor as a New Year’s “thank you” to their fans. On 10 February 2014, John Taylor and Roger Taylor worked with the Voce Chamber Choir and London Youth Chamber Choir on vocals for use on some Duran Duran tracks.
Former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante worked with the band on the new album. The band confirmed this in April 2014 on their official website: “We were holding this exciting news because we were hoping to give you full details when we announced, but as word has leaked out, catching us rather off guard, we wanted to confirm… yes it’s true, the extraordinarily talented John Frusciante has indeed been doing some work from his home base in California on our new album. The tracks have been going back and forth via the internet, and we are thrilled with the results. We are all such big fans of John’s work and are honoured to have him adding his magic to the record! There are no current plans for John to tour with us, but his guitars sound incredible on the tracks. Hoping to have more news for you soon.”
On 15 June 2015, the band officially announced the album’s title as Paper Gods, setting a release date of 11 September 2015. The single “Pressure Off” was also released the same week, first via Microsoft’s Xbox Music. The song subsequently appeared on Google Play Music. Forthcoming tour dates for the UK and US were also announced. The album debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200, the band’s highest debut in 22 years. The album also reached number 2 in Italy, number 4 in the Netherlands, and number 5 in the UK.
On July 7, 2016, Duran Duran announced that MNDR would stand in for Nick Rhodes during part of the third leg of the Paper Gods tour in the United States. Rhodes was quoted as saying, “I will be back as soon as I can but know, in the meantime, that I am leaving both the band and fans in great hands, with the fabulous MNDR.”
In December 2016 the band members Le Bon, Rhodes, Andy Taylor, John Taylor and Roger Taylor lost a case in the British High Court after they attempted to reclaim the US copyright on their first three albums from Gloucester Place Music, part of EMI Music Publishing. Rhodes commented “We signed a publishing agreement as unsuspecting teenagers, over three decades ago, when just starting out and when we knew no better… if left untested, this judgment sets a very bad precedent for all songwriters of our era.”