In our first installment, we (me, Carlos Halston and Jesse) covered the beginning of Duran Duran’s career, when the Fab Five took over MTV and the world with their catchy (albeit maddeningly indecipherable) songs, their exotic good looks and their cinematic video clips. Thought Nick, Andy, John, Roger and Simon would stay together forever? Wrong!
The band temporarily split in 1985, with Simon, Nick and Roger releasing an album as Arcadia while Andy and John recorded and toured as The Power Station with Chic’s Tony Thompson and Robert Palmer (later replaced by Michael Des Barres). When the guys regrouped to record their next album, Roger decided to opt out. He was closely followed by Andy, who played on only a handful of tracks on Duran’s next album (contractual obligations) before bouncing for good. He was ultimately replaced by Warren Cuccurullo (who didn’t become an official member of Duran until 1990), while Roger Taylor was alternately replaced by drum machines, session drummers, and Sterling Campbell (who was a member of Duran Duran for about 3 minutes). Let’s take a look at the years 1986-1995 in Duran land…
…but before that, I have two words for you: Mitch Gaylord!
Carlos: Uh-oh. Members are gone (Andy to Belinda Carlisle cameos and moronic LA rock and Roger to… a farm?)… hair colours are traditional… suits are black. We’re now squarely in post-Live Aid “serious music times.” REM, U2, Peter Gabriel, Sting… you know the culprits.
Blerd: Their sound definitely became more traditional, starting with this album. I’m not sure whether the loss of Andy & Roger is to blame, or whether this is the fault of Nile Rodgers.
Carlos: Duran had to develop a conscious (involving coherent lyrics. say it ain’t so!)…
Blerd: Yeah! You finally know what they’re singing about!
Carlos: …play down their playfulness… and glumly accept their complicity in the frivolous pop era which was now dead. Duran would get used to doing penance for who they were/are, but this was a first. The lack of colourful NR keyboards makes this one a bit of a snooze for me. Enjoyable, but a bit characterless.
Jesse: And then there were three/the beginning of Cuccurullo era. Pretty solid all in all. “Vertigo (Do The Demolition)” and “Hold Me” were always standouts alongside the singles.
Blerd: You know what made this album special for me? It’s release marked the first and only time Duran Duran appeared on…Soul Train!!! Unfortunately, the video’s not up. Damn it.
Big Thing (1988)
Blerd: “I Don’t Want Your Love” is my favorite Duran song of all time.
Carlos: Things got a bit more fun here, if not considerably better. Duran discovers house music… and it works for them! “I Don’t Want Your Love” (in the Shep Pettibone mix) is a fantastic single… “All She Wants Is” is slight, but hot as hell.
Jesse: “All She Wants Is”. ‘Nuff said. I had this 45 and played the living hell out of it.
Carlos: Everything seemed dayglo until you hit the second side, with its spacey ballads (“Palomino” needs to be in the setlist), musical interludes and “Lake Shore Driving, a (shockingly dreadful) RAWK instrumental. Still finding our feet, it seems, then… (ooh, but this DID have “I Believe/All I Need To Know” as a b-side – and we know THAT song is perfect)
Blerd: I like this album a lot more now than I remember liking it then. So strange!
Carlos: Duran by numbers. Or maybe ‘Duran by INXS numbers.
Blerd: In some places, Duran by George Michael numbers.
Carlos: A lot of their character disappeared here, as they continued to run from themselves. There’s no way they could make an album without a couple of great songs though, so here we have “My Antarctica” and “Liberty.” The artwork for this was kinda awful, right?
Jesse: I remember watching the MTV Unplugged and seeing the interpretation of “Serious” and going back and falling in love with that song all over again. The rest of the album? Not so much.
Blerd: I have a soft spot in my heart for commercial dance-pop from the early Nineties. Most hardcore Duran fans hate this album-or at least disregard it. I kinda like it. Plus, it has Sterling Campbell!!
“Duran Duran 2 (The Wedding Album)” (1993)
Blerd: Sterling’s gone! (*sobs*)
Jesse: This was the ?rst cassette of theirs I picked up on its release day. “Ordinary World” was everywhere but I remember when I got the tape and “Too Much Information” came on, I was so excited. That song was so anthemic and such a proclamation and the (in fun) jabs at MTV were awesome. “Come Undone” was so great, too.
Blerd: “Come Undone” is probably my second favorite Duran Duran song.
Carlos: A welcome success (Duran always make infinitely more sense when successful), but a bit of a mess as an album. For every moment of magic like “Come Undone” or “Love Voodoo,” there’s a lumpen ROCK song that never develops into anything interesting (“Too Much Information”-nice hair in the video though!) or a fall outta yer seat laughable lyric that NO song could ever recover from (“Sin Of The City”). Somehow “UMF” manages to be amazing and incredibly naff at the same time… something they’d become quite good at with Warren in the band.
Blerd: You know, the thought of Simon LeBon rapping is awful, but “UMF” is much better than you’d figure a song like that would be. Besides, this album marked the first time I’d ever heard anything by The Velvet Underground.
Carlos: A collab with Milton Nascimento… a (quite poor) Velvet Underground cover… a political house track… Christ. As exhausting to write about as it is to listen to!
“Thank You” (1995)
Carlos: This album totally killed their recent comeback stone dead btw.
Jesse: “911 is a Joke” is all I have to say about this. “White Lines” wasn’t bad. There were some moments but all in all, especially as a follow-up to The Wedding Album, this was a ‘meh’ for me.
Carlos: (it’s) better than you’d think. Other than a handful of real snoozers (“Lay Lady Lay,” “Crystal Ship” and “Thank You”) and a couple of tunes that just plain don’t suit Mr. LeBon (“I Wanna Take You Higher” and “Ball Of Confusion”), you’re looking at half an album of B-level Duran goodies. Big ups to the VERY inspired takes on “White Lines,” “Perfect Day,” “Watching The Detectives” and “911 Is A Joke”!
Blerd: “911 is a Joke” was awful. Simon was trying to do Beck’s “Loser” all over again. The song was embarrassing, but the album wasn’t a total failure. Like Carlos, I think their cover of “Watching the Detectives” was genius. I can’t say I disliked “White Lines”, either. Or “Lay Lady Lay”. “Success” was good, too. However, there are certain songs that they tried that were just bad ideas. You’d think that they could easily improve on The Doors at least (one of the most overrated bands in rock history), but their cover of “Crystal Ship” was as boring as the original was.