• Twenty seven years after the formation of Duran Duran, the five original members: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor, are back together again - long after they parted company to pursue other projects.

    With the same undeniable musical chemistry and signature style that propelled them to the top of the charts, the band reunited in 2001 to record a new album that was released late last year to worldwide critical acclaim. With wonderfully infectious songs, excellent musicianship, thrilling arrangements and raw and edgy vocals, the band's latest album - 'Astronaut' (Epic Records) - is quintessentially and unmistakably "classic Duran Duran for the new millennium".

    Duran Duran have sold over 70 million records to date and have had an extraordinary career that has made them one of the most successful groups of the past few decades. They fused pop music, art and fashion to an unprecedented degree and single-handedly transformed music video production, taking the medium from a simple marketing tool into what is now one of the music industry's most valuable assets. With exotic locations, beautiful girls and stunning visuals, Duran Duran set a whole new standard. Their success followed years of hard work and relentless touring. Good looks, great style and a wealth of confidence completed the package.

    They wrote classic, timeless pop songs combining rock guitars with compelling melodies and memorable lyrics. They played to sold-out audiences around the world and broke box office records everywhere they went. The media compared them to the Beatles as hysteria preceded them, both on stage and off. Rolling Stone magazine called them 'The Fab Five'. They tapped into the mood of the times and captured an army of adoring fans.

    Now they are back together to do it all again.

    Formed in Birmingham, England in 1978, by keyboardist Nick Rhodes and bassist John Taylor, Duran Duran's sound was inspired by the soul music of their youth, the vibrant New York underground music scene of the 70's (the New York Dolls and Velvet Underground), the iconic David Bowie and avant garde bands like Roxy Music. At the time, John was at art college and Nick was finishing up at high school.

    The first incarnation of the band was rounded out by fellow art student Stephen Duffy and another friend, who was at catering college - Simon Colley. Simon played clarinet and bass. Nick had one small synthesizer and a drum machine. John played guitar and Stephen sang and played a fretless. The local college circuit became their practice ground, but before too long Simon and Stephen moved on to pursue other opportunities and Nick and John were left looking for replacements.

    Over the subsequent months, a number of new faces came and went before Roger Taylor joined the band on drums. He was more experienced than many of his predecessors in the group, having played with local punk heroes, The Scent Organs. With Roger on board, John took up the bass and the newly christened Duran Duran (named after a character in Roger Vadim's sci-fi classic, Barbarella) started to develop a funky style, that was less about punk rock and more in tune with some of the up-and-coming bands of the day, like Simple Minds and Japan.

    Although still newcomers, John, Roger and Nick were keen to find a label for themselves, so quickly started to send out their demos, visit London-based record companies and find higher profile gigs that they thought could further their cause. As part of this process, they approached the local Rum Runner nightclub - a fashionable spot where they were confident they would go over well.

    Listening to their demos, the owners of the Rum Runner, Paul and Michael Berrow, saw something in the band that they were sure they could make successful. Immediately the band became residents at the club, writing and rehearsing in an empty room during the day and DJ'ing and working in the club at night.

    Auditions for new band members followed - with Andy Taylor answering an ad in Melody Maker and Simon LeBon joining shortly thereafter, having been introduced by his ex-girlfriend, who bartended at the club. Unlike the rest of the band, Simon came from the South, but was studying drama at Birmingham University.

    In the months that followed, the band worked tirelessly - writing and recording, and playing live whenever and wherever they could. By 1980, after supporting Hazel O'Connor on tour, their efforts were rewarded as the buzz built and a record company bidding war erupted. Eventually EMI Records came through, putting the band immediately into the studio with producer Colin Thurston.

    Their eponymous debut album sold more than 2.5 million copies in 1981, staying on the charts for an astonishing 118 weeks and spawning the hit single 'Planet Earth'. That same year, they became the first pop act to do a 12" remix (also 'Planet Earth') and to release a controversial video (directed by Godley and Creme) for the dance mix of 'Girls on Film', that was subsequently banned by both MTV and the BBC.

    With hindsight, it seems strange that the band so rapidly became the poster-boys for a new generation of teenagers, as 'Duran Duran' was the antithesis of a traditional pop album. The lyrical themes were obviously adult-orientated; the music - while pop-tinged and dance-fueled - had a much darker quality. As they themselves had initially stated, there was a hint of early Damned to their sound; a shadowed, European twist that filled the album with an almost gloomy atmosphere.

    Songs like 'Careless Memories' and indeed the entire second side of their first album weren't far removed in mood from post-punk bands like The Cure, the Psychedelic Furs, Echo and the Bunnymen and many other precursors of the whole Goth movement. What spared Duran Duran from living entombment, however, was their dance-inducing rhythms and Rhodes' very experimental electronics.

    Duran Duran shot to fame as part of the "Second British Invasion" of the 1980s that included groups like Spandau Ballet, Human League, Ultravox and Culture Club - and yet, they always stood apart - delivering an electric live show, pushing the boundaries of new technology and enduring longer than any of their peers.

    Classic chart-toppers such as 'Hungry Like the Wolf', 'Rio' and 'Save A Prayer' followed on their multi-platinum, sophomore release 'Rio', as the band shot to another level of success with their exotic and groundbreaking videos. It was during this time that Princess Diana declared Duran to be her favorite band, and friends like artists Andy Warhol and Keith Haring lent their support. By now the music had traveled outside the UK and the band were enjoying global success.

    By 1983 'Hungry Like the Wolf' (which was filmed in Sri Lanka by director Russell Mulcahy) had become one of the most played videos on MTV. Later that year 'Is There Something I Should Know' went straight to #1 in the UK and hit #4 in the US.

    The band's third album, 1984's 'Seven and the Ragged Tiger' earned Duran Duran their first Stateside #1, with 'The Reflex'. That same year, Rolling Stone magazine christened the band "The Fab Five", as their single 'Union of the Snake' exploded around the world.

    By now, the band were playing sold-out arenas and breaking box office records everywhere they went. Awards, hits, and global branding became the norm. As one successful single followed the next, it seemed like they could do no wrong.

    In only three years they had done three world tours, an unprecedented number of interviews and TV appearances galore. On this schedule there was no respite from the press, the pressure, the demands or the fans. The problem, however, was that although they wanted to pull back, the offers just kept coming - getting better and better all the time.

    In 1985 an invitation to write for the movie 'A View to a Kill' earned the group another first when their song became the only Bond theme tune to make it to #1 (an accomplishment that still stands today).

    With Duran's success still riding high, the label wanted another album. For the first time in years, the band said "no", needing time to draw breath and regroup creatively. Unable to take a total break, however, John and Andy teamed up with Robert Palmer, former Chic drummer Tony Thompson and bassist Bernard Edwards to form the Power Station; while Nick, Simon and Roger embarked on a side project: Arcadia, with guest performers Grace Jones, Sting, David Gilmour and Herbie Hancock.

    While the Power Station's self titled album found Andy and John moving further afield from Duran Duran's signature sound, with an intriguing hybrid of funk and glamrock, Acardia's album 'So Red the Rose' was a sublime reaffirmation of the mother ship's style. Pulling threads of darkness from 'Duran Duran', and adding shades of pop from 'Rio' and 'Seven and the Ragged Tiger', the album's first single, 'Election Day', was dark electro-dance-pop at its very best.

    In July 1985, after some time apart, the five members of Duran Duran got back together to play in Philadelphia at the historic Live Aid concert. Although no one knew it at the time, this would turn out to be the final performance of the original lineup and would mark the end of an era.

    In early '86, John was approached to write the theme for the film 9 1/2 weeks. In April, his solo effort for the film, 'I Do What I Do', charted on both sides of the Atlantic, as plans started to take shape for Duran Duran to begin work together again in the studio. And then the bombshell came… with Roger Taylor's announcement that he wanted another year off and would be retiring to his Gloucestershire farm for the foreseeable future.

    Stunned, the four remaining band members returned to the studio in June to start writing and recording, but before long Andy Taylor was following Roger out the door, wanting to give himself a few more months away from the project before starting an album cycle all over again. With hindsight, he says his departure wasn't fuelled by a desire to embark on a solo career. This was, however, the outcome. Following his relocation to Los Angeles, Andy wrote and recorded 'Thunder' with Sex Pistols' guitarist Steve Jones, before taking up the producer's reigns on a string of successful records, including Rod Stewart's comeback release 'Out of Order'.

    With Andy gone, and Roger officially resigning shortly thereafter, things seemed to be taking a very serious downturn for Duran Duran. Then, in August, the band were contacted by guitarist, Warren Cuccurullo, whose own band, Missing Persons, had recently folded, and the line-up started to take shape once more.

    Later that year Duran Duran 'Mark II' teamed up with producer Nile Rodgers, to record the funk-based album, 'Notorious'. The album's title track topped the charts, propelling the record to multi-platinum status. Fourteen years later, the same song was sampled by Sean "Puffy" Combs on the posthumous Notorious B.I.G. release, 'Born Again'.

    But the band's immense success did not end there... 'Notorious' was followed by 'Big Thing' (in 1988), and the release of 'Decade' in 1990 - celebrating their previous ten year's work. Their sixth studio album, 'Liberty' came out later that year - with new drummer Sterling Campbell replacing two-time collaborator Steve Ferrone.

    In 1993, Nick, Simon, John and Warren went back into the studio to record a new album, 'Duran Duran 2'. Better known as the 'Wedding Album' (because the album artwork featured photos of their parents' weddings) the CD spawned the award winning smash 'Ordinary World' and its equally acclaimed follow-up 'Come Undone'. Released the following year and garnering them some of the best reviews of their career, and the prestigious Ivor Novello songwriting award, the 'Wedding Album' sold more than four million copies around the world, and brought the band a new generation of ardent 'Duranies'.

    'Thank You' Duran Duran's covers album followed 'DD2', and gave the band a chance to pay homage to many of the great artists that inspired and influenced them over the years. The album included tributes to Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Led Zeppelin, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, amongst many others, and received rave reviews from both fans and the artists themselves.

    Later that year, Le Bon performed with tenor superstar, Luciano Pavarotti, at the War Child benefit concert in Italy. Other festivals and tours followed, but in between, John Taylor also found time for the Neurotic Outsiders - a quartet comprising former Sex Pistols' Steve Jones, Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum. Originally formed to play a benefit gig in LA, their impromptu onstage jam turned into a viable project that was later signed to Maverick Records and released its eponymous album in 1996.

    In 1996, after two decades of being with Duran Duran, John Taylor officially left to pursue various solo projects. The following year, the band contributed, 'Out of My Mind' to the film version of 'The Saint' and released 'Medazzaland', which Taylor had played on before leaving. The album featured 'Electric Barbarella', the first song ever to be sold in a download format across the Web.

    In 2000, after the release of two Duran tribute albums (featuring artists as diverse as Kylie Minogue, and Ben Lee on one and the Deftones and Goldfinger on the other), Hollywood Records put out the critically acclaimed 'Pop Trash' CD, which the band supported with an extremely successful international tour, that featured the first use of 'augmented reality' technology in a live concert. At the end of the tour, Warren left the group to return to Missing Persons.

    With the most recent world tour behind them, Simon took a well-earned break at the start of the new millennium, while Nick joined long-time friend and collaborator Stephen Duffy, as The Devils, to work on their debut album, 'Dark Circles' (released in late 2002).

    Over the years many people tried to encourage the original members of Duran Duran to reform to capitalize on the obvious chemistry that existed between them. While they were busy pursuing other, individual interests, however, this never happened. In 2000, with the band's silver jubilee fast approaching, the timing felt right and conversations were initiated. At first the talk was only of a reunion tour, but once in a room together again the creative juices started to flow. As 2001 rolled around Duran's original 'Fab Five' went back into the studio to embark on the writing process for their first album together in almost eighteen years. Charged by the challenge of "taking back their crown", Simon, Nick, Andy, Roger and John worked hard to complete the new material in time for a release late last year ('Astronaut' was released on Epic Records on October 11/12).

    When you add up their chart successes, the awards, the album and singles sales, the number of concert tickets they sold, the stadiums they filled, the ground-breaking videos they made, and the influence they've had on generations of musicians, theirs' is a story that only a handful of artists, such as U2, the Rolling Stones, and Madonna, can tell.

    As both individuals and founders of one of the world's most influential pop groups, the five band members have always pushed the boundaries and set new standards. Looking to set trends, rather than follow them, they have taken risks that others would have shied away from. The results speak for themselves.

    Like all bands, Duran Duran have had their share of highs and lows - both personally and professionally. Unlike many bands, however, they have been able to maintain a clear vision of who they are, and continue to write great pop songs that will stand the test of time and enthrall generations of fans to come.

    With the phenomenal success they have already enjoyed and their intense commitment to the future, Duran Duran are uniquely positioned. They are a household name around the world - a recognizable and respected brand to generations of music lovers. They have a rich and colourful past. They have an equally exciting and dynamic future.


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