30 years later, durable Duran Duran proves "All You Need Is Now"
Back in the early 80's it was all soooooooo easy for Duran Duran. With their frosted hair, over-accessorized clothes and cheekbones sharp enough to crack tuna cans, they were like five lil' Justin Beiber's, placed on this earth to titillate the girls and remake pop music.
They were "The Fab Five" or "The Prettiest Boys In Rock," depending on what New Romantic groupie — likely covered in safety pins, black lipstick, and jelly bracelets — you cared to ask.
From 1981-1983, Duran Duran emerged from Birmingham, England and released three multi-million-selling, top-10 albums — Duran Duran, Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger — that every child in the upper hemispheres and with a "teen" in their age ate up like Cocoa Puffs. Young fans the world over couldn't wait for the next single to be poured onto the radio: "Girls On Film," "Hungry Like The Wolf," "Union of the Snake," "The Reflex," and on, and on, and on.
Much like Beiber and Gaga use the Internet and digital music platforms to maximize their market share and create buzz, Duran Duran were wizards at manipulating MTV, the new 24-hour music television on basic cable. For the young ladies, there was plenty of scenes of lead singer Simon Le Bon, keyboard nymph Nick Rhodes and the Taylors — John, Roger and Andy (no relation) — running sweaty through the jungle and strutting on yachts in linen. For the young men, there were plenty of cutaways to scantily-clad women rolling around in boxing rings or doing provocative dances near limousines.
(And, thankfully for me, this was back at a time when working parents didn't know they had to monitor the video entertainment latch-key kids were visually digesting after-school. When I was 13, videos for "Girls on Film" and "The Chauffeur" single-handedly taught me most everything I originally knew about getting to second base — and pondering stealing third — with a girl.)
And then something completely probable happened (since it eventually happens to almost every pop star): The band started fighting, fractured into side projects (raise your hand if you remember Arcadia and The Power Station?) and the hype machine jumped the track. By 1986 nobody cared what Duran Duran was doing. After selling tens-of-millions of albums and reaching fans from Iceland to South Africa, the band seemed to be washed up before any of the remaining members were even 30 years-old.
Except they weren't washed up.
Unlike many flash-in-the-pan 80's stars who have since drifted into obscurity to marry other has-beens and snort pharmaceuticals off the spines of porn stars ("Winning!!!"), Duran Duran insisted that they weren't done making music that mattered. And, periodically over the last quarter century, they have been right.
In 1993 they had a massive radio resurgence with hits "Ordinary World" and the haunting ballad, "Come Undone." In 2001, with the classic quintet playing together for the first time in 25 years, Duran Duran enjoyed an international revival that included a hit album, Astronaut, and dance single, "(Reach Up For The) Sunrise."
Of course, these mini-victories have been pocked with miserable failures — the God-awful 1995 covers album, Thank You, and 2007's aptly-titled Red Carpet Massacre stand out— which brings us to Duran Duran's latest creation, the just-released All You Need Is Now. It resembles the group's classic sound washed through a maturity that the former five lil' Justin Beibers could've never understood.
I don't want to jinx a new comeback, but I note that the new songs have been reviewed pretty favorably and the group is playing a lot them on this tour — always a good sign when a band likes its new music enough to perform it.
For the rest of the story you'll have to be at Warehouse Live on Wednesday night to see Duran Duran live. I know I'll be there.
Duran Duran, Wednesday 7:30 p.m., Warehouse Live