[Nagel's artwork for Duran Duran's Rio]Duran Duran are known as an ’80s band.  In fact, they are probably the first ’80s band — and the first band of the modern era.

To us, the seventies were done, and the 1980s were about doing something with all this new stuff, the stuff that had burst forth during the ’70s. Duran Duran caught that wave.  They seemed to have grabbed handfuls of  ’70’s artistic creativity and moulded something unique for themselves.

They seemed happy to use the new synthesisers and sequencers, big drum sounds, guitar effects, fretless bass slides, and typical ’80s stereo noise effects — and in that respect they fitted right in with the period and the likes of Paul Young, Nik Kershaw, Grace Jones, Paul Simon, Robert Palmer, and loads more — however, they wrote some good songs that were big hits around the world and which still stand the test of time.

They got Patrick Nagel to do their album cover for “Rio”, this was a throw-back to progressive rock bands being associated with artists — for example, Woodroffe, Rick Griffin, Mouse and Roger Dean. The choice of Nagel was interesting also because Nagel was closely associated with Playboy Magazine – and Duran Duran were promoted into the USA through Playboy. Nice twist.

Their big intro was “Girls on Film” — that set the dangerous / sexy tone.  Madonna was Lesbo-dominatrix, Frankie Goes To Hollywood were gay, so Duran Duran were the heterosexual male balance. It tied in nicely with Playboy clubs and TV station, and got them the initial media scandal they needed to get on.

[Embedded video from Youtube of Girls of Film by Duran Duran]

Although they rode in on the UK New Romantic wave, that was quickly lost when they started to gear up for world domination. They changed to the epitome 1980’s male fashion statement — the suit and pastel colours.  This was generated by Miami Vice, and taken up by Playboy and the wave of new male magazines starting up (Maxim, and the refurbished GQ (Gentlesmen’s Quarterly), and revamped Esquire).

There was a mood for male grooming and male fashion that Duran Duran tapped into.

They were a real (some say the first) “Boy Band”, in that every one was a pin-up for young teen girls. There was a David Bowie style androgynous-ness  with the dyed hair, sharp cuts, jewellery and the use of make-up.

Their artistic credentials were sealed when they got approval from art legend, Andy Warhol. I remember thinking that Duran Duran were everywhere, doing everything with everybody – and (annoyingly) enjoying themselves.

At that time in the UK, ordinary people began buying shares (British Gas etc) as Thatcher sold off the socialist Nationalised industries.  There was a feeling in general of prosperity and selfishness — the personal computer, the personal number plate, the personal mobile phone and so forth.  On the new Channel Four,  Harry Enfield’s character “Loadsamoney” was seen each week boasting about his wealth. Duran Duran seemed to arrive already rich and successful!

The video for Rio had them larking about on a yacht.  This was Miami Vice, this was Wham, this was Playboy. This was aspirational marketing.

[Embedded video from Youtube of Rio by Duran Duran]

Duran Duran then clicked at just the right time with the music television take-off, MTV, and both went into the stratosphere.

To cap it all, the band were also closely associated with fashion designers, and the rise of the “supermodel”. They were on mark in the same way and at the same time as Basquiat and Haring, doing a lot of the same things as Madonna and Malcolm Mclaren. They were sharp, savvy, and not ashamed of it. Duran Duran were a luxury brand.

But they went further — they did a Bond film theme (A View to a Kill) — and it was massive (the only James Bond theme to go to number one in the USA)

The band was said to be the favourite band of Lady Di/ Princess Diana — the world’s most famous woman at that time, so they were in with serious royalty on top of everything else!

What Duran Duran did not do well was adapt and change; they were too closely defined despite their broad media range — it was all flashy, sexy, sunny, stuff — young, good-looks,  fame and fortune.  Just where does one go from there?

The nearest they came was when their singer, Simon LeBon participated in Live Aid.

In the end, Simon LeBon and Nick Rhodes went off on a project called Arcadia, while Andy Taylor and John Taylor joined up with Tony Thompson and Robert Palmer to form The Power Station. I have to say that I quite liked The  Power Station as well as Arcardia’s “Election Day”, and was disappointed when nothing came of these bands.

Duran Duran are loved and hated in equal measure. They could only possibly exist for a short period, they shone brightly while they did, and they absolutely defined an historical cultural period like no other group of people before or since.


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