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Duran Duran’s pop Massacre

 article about Duran Duran
2007-12-09 06:39:39

Back in an era style forgot, when leg warmers, puffball skirts and crimped hair were the height of fashion, one band were plastered on every teenage girl's bedroom wall and held warmly in the hearts of housewives everywhere.

Duran Duran – made up of lead vocalist Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor, guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor - were the pop heartthrobs of the 80s, known as much for their honed style and good looks, as for being responsible for bringing the New Romantic musical genre to the mainstream.

But while the band's gorgeous looks may have helped prick the interest of teeny boppers eager to spend their cash on their pin-ups, it was Duran Duran's sexy fusion of rock and pop that secured them their place in history as one of the most successful UK acts of the past four decades.

And now, the "prettiest boys in pop", are back with a new album, ‘Red Carpet Massacre', a new sound, and a new commitment to being at the cutting edge of ‘cool'.

The Duran Duran story started 29 years ago in Birmingham, when John and Nick, inspired by ‘Barbarella' villain ‘Dr. Durand Durand', started jamming together under the name.

By 1981, the two-piece had become a fivesome, with Simon, Andy and Roger, and the group had a top five UK hit with their third single ‘Girls on Film'.

But it was the release of the song's erotic music video, featuring topless women mud-wrestling and clips of stylised sexual fetishes, that really got them noticed.

The raunchy promo caused uproar and was banned by the BBC and heavily edited by MTV, giving the band the kind of press coverage they could previously only dream of.

MTV - which had launched just weeks before the ‘Girls on Film' video was released – became instrumental for the band when it came to cracking America, something many UK acts before Duran Duran and proceeding them have failed to do.

Hits like ‘Hungry Like The Wolf', ‘Rio', ‘Save a Prayer' and ‘Wild Boys' were heavily rotated on the channel and music bible Rolling Stone handed them the title "the first rock group to ride in on a video wave".

However, by 1985 - when they were arguable at the height of their fame, after winning two Grammy awards, achieving numerous top 10 hits worldwide and playing to sold-out venues across the globe - rifts were beginning to develop.

During a well earned long break, the group appeared to split into two factions, with Andy and John wanting to pursue solo projects and Simon, Nick and still dedicated to Duran Duran.

Then, in 1986, Roger left the band citing exhaustion and after some legal wrangling Andy also quit.

Although the band never officially disbanded, what followed was years of reshuffles in the group, but one constant remained - the ability to churn out songs, 1993's ‘Ordinary World' was an unexpected hit around the world.

It wasn't until 2000 that the original five members would finally be reunited.

The reformed group released their 11th studio album ‘Astronaut' in 2004 and proved they still had a massive following. The LP entered the UK album chart at number three and the US charts at number 17. The band followed the success up with a world tour and went on to headline the Live 8 concert in Rome in 2005.

But, by 2006, old tensions had resurfaced and Andy left the group for a second time, later explaining he was in favor of a more electric sound, whereas Simon wanted to go in a different direction.

That different direction involved hiring a crack team of hip musicians, including superproducer Timbaland and the reigning king of pop Justin Timberlake, to make Duran Duran cool and relevant once again.

Despite the superstar collaborators, the album ‘Red Carpet Massacre' has provided the band with the second poorest debut chart entry of their career, reaching just number 44 in Britain.

‘Falling Down', a catchy club tune produced by Justin, seemed to be the most sensible option to release as the first single, but that too failed to make it into the top 40 of the UK singles chart, limping in at a disappointing 52.

However, as the past 26 years will pay testament, this is one band who will not surrender at the first hurdle.

But as the Rolling Stones and to a lesser extent the newly reformed Spice Girls – who also had disappointing sales with their comeback single - have shown, sticking to what you know best guarantees success in the fickle world they call the music industry, and getting down with the kids doesn't work when you are nearing 50!

So guys, perhaps it's time to pull out those sweat bands and restyle those mullets and give us another blast of ‘her name is Rio and she dances on the sand…'

Here, Simon, Nick, Roger and John, talk about "foreplay" with Justin Timberlake, making music that makes people "want to have sex" and their plans for the future.
 
Q: Hi guys, what do you think of the state of the music industry at the moment? Are you fans of TV talent shows like ‘The X Factor'?
 
Roger: Not really. But there is nothing wrong with shows likes that. As for the acts they produce, it's where you are going not where you came from.
 
John: I wish there was more focus on song writing.
 
Q: What advice would you give the acts that come from these shows about entering the music industry?
 
Roger: Start writing your own songs and get a good music lawyer.
 
Q: You have worked with some very contemporary, young artists on the new album. How did that come about?
 
Nick: We were huge fans of Justin's first album, I think it was about as perfect as a pop record can be. And I loved what Timbaland had done with Missy Elliott in the past. It just seemed like a good fit for us. And then we all happened to have a few days in New York to get together and see what we came up with.
 
Q: Were you nervous about working with them before you started recording with them, and do you think they were nervous about working with you?
 
Nick: There was a palpable sense of excitement in the room. It was perfumed with adrenaline and nervous energy. At first, things moved as slowly as a chess match, everyone acting with great caution, but once the foreplay was over, we gathered in the control room and I said to Timbaland, ‘So, have you got a beat to play for us?'
 
Q: Do you have a desire to nurture the next generation of musician's like Justin?
 
Roger: Not really, he was nurturing us?
 
Q: I don't think anyone would have expected Duran Duran to collaborate with people like Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. Is it important to you to keep on confounding people's expectations about what Duran Duran is all about?
 
Roger: Yes definitely!
 
Simon: Everything we do has to have class, be meaningful, and above all make you dance and want to have sex. On one level we're a really experimental band, and ‘Red Carpet Massacre' is one of our most important albums.
 
Q: It seems to be a slight change of direction musically. Do you think you will continue down this route and maybe work with the likes of Timbaland again?
 
Nick: We've never been bound by rules.  Many of our most successful recordings were made with dance producers, particularly Nile Rodgers and the late Bernard Edwards, so working with Timbaland was a natural fit.
 
Q: You are still seen as one the ultimate 'video bands', how important is video to you now?
 
John: 7 out of 10
 
Q: What is the story behind calling the new album 'Red Carpet Massacre'?
 
Simon: The press were absolutely f***ing ripping the Hollywood A-listers to shreds with these comments about what they were wearing, and I just thought, 'God, they've been massacred.'
The lyrics just came to me. It's a fantasy of evening dresses, cleavage, sexy chicks, having them fighting each other, pulling each other's hair. That's my fantasy. Breasts and a little bit of blood spatter.
 
Q: 'Red Carpet Massacre' and 'Falling Down' both failed to make it into the top 40. Does it bother you when your work doesn't become a huge commercial success?
 
Roger: No, our career is not really dependent on airplay or chart positions.
 
Simon: This album was all about doing something new, which has always been Duran Duran's ethic. It has also allowed us to push through to new countries.
 
Q: What are the band's plans from this point forward? Will there be more singles? A tour?
 
John: Christmas break - then plans to tour the US, Australia, Japan, the UK and Europe
 
Q: Is it true that there is a whole Duran Duran album on the shelf from when Andy Taylor left the band that you couldn't use because he wouldn't allow it?
 
Roger: Yes it's true, and maybe one day they will be released.
 
Q: Andy is writing his autobiography at the moment, is that a cause for any nervousness from any of you? Any skeletons that might get rattled?
 
Roger: Only his.
 
John: Not at all. At this point everything is in the open as far as I am concerned
 
Q: Do you predict an end for Duran Duran at any point or will you become the Rolling Stones for your generation and keep going forever?
 
Roger: I can't see an end right now.
 
John: We will keep going forever. Or we might quit after Christmas.





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