Monday, 26 March 2012

In touch with the ground I'm on the hunt I'm after you Smell like I sound, I'm lost in a crowd And I'm hungry like the wolf

Pick of the Week

“Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran (1982)

My sister once shared an elevator with Duran Duran - that is as close as I ever got to this ‘Second British Invasion’ band of ‘80’s fame. With their slick designer clothes, professional production videos and pretty-boy looks, they were Princess Diana’s favorite band at one point.

The first real attention they got in 1981 was with their third single, “Girls on Film”. Directing duo, Godley and Creme told the management to do something erotic that would get people’s attention and that would be played on the new big screens that were starting to appear in night clubs. The video showed girls mud wrestling, fighting a sumo wrestler, and other suggestive images. The song went to number 3 in the U.K. and the voice of Simon Le Bon was starting to be well known in the U.K. Unfortunately some of the stops on their second tour coincided with riots; tension over unemployment and racial unrest.

The core band in 1981 was Simon Le Bon (vocals), Nick Rhodes (keyboards), John Taylor (bass), Andy Taylor (guitar) and Rodger Taylor (drums). (None of the Taylors were related and there is no relation to the drummer of the band Queen.)

By May of 1982 they release their second and most well know album “Rio” with songs “Hungry Like the Wolf”, “Save a Prayer”, “My Own Way” and title track “Rio”. They toured Australia, Japan and then opened for Blondie on the American tour.

The ‘Rio’ album did not do so well in the U.S. at first. The band was labeled as being ‘new romantic’, and it just did not work. They were more than Spandau Ballet or Adam and the Ants weren’t they? The British press had already dubbed them the ‘Fab Five’ comparing them to the Beatles. What was wrong?

At wits end as to how to sell Duran Duran in the U.S. Capital records hired famed producer David Kershenbaum to remix the songs more in the style of the popular EP dance track ‘Carnival” that was gaining popularity with DJs in the U.S. That was ticket. Appearing on a U.S. dance show performing “Hungry Like a Wolf” and “Rio”, the rerelease in November of 1982 finally kick-started the U.S. market.

The band were forerunners in a number of respects. The remixes of their own songs was cutting edge as well as the videos that were professionally made with 35mm film. The band were naturals for MTV and got heavy rotation. “Rio” ended up peaking in the U.S. at number 6, but stayed on the charts for an astounding two and a half years! It is very much exemplary of this time period now for sure.

In 1983 the band rereleased its first (self titled) album in the U.S. with an additional single “Is There Something I Should Know”. The single went to number one in the U.K. and number four in the U.S. In the U.S. the band was now getting mobbed with their popularity soaring. Bands like the Eurythmics, Culture Club, Thomas Dolby and even the U.S.’s  Stray Cats were hard pressed to compete with their popularity at the time.  

The new album in late ’83, “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” was conceived and recorded when Duran Duran were tax exiles in France. The album itself, recorded in Sydney spun out the first single “Union of the Snake” to eagerly awaiting fans that threw it up to the top twenty immediately. Interestingly it was released on video and played on MTV first. It was a full week later before it was released on radio. (See my articles on MTV part 1 and 2). The next single “Reflex” was remixed by famed Nile Rodger of Chic (who is practically single-handedly responsible for the funky groove popular in disco songs and beyond).

A world tour in 1984 was driven by the single “Wild Boys”. The band appeared on the cover of February’s Rolling Stone magazine. They also took home two Grammy awards that year and filmed the live concert effort called “Arena”.

By the end of 1985 Duran Duran were ‘on hold’. They had a few side projects that seemed to be the real end to a wild ride. I think the side projects got them away from each other and found that they liked it. They regrouped in 1985 to do the very successful soundtrack for the James Bond film “A View to a Kill”, (still the only Bond soundtrack to be #1 in the U.S.). John and Andy Taylor left the band which was fracturing from fatigue and infighting.

Somewhat of a manufactured boy-band they did make some significant contributions to music. The influence of their videos, self-penned and remixed dance songs, and style has been noted by artists like Elton John,  The Bangles, Pink, Gwen Stefani, even Dido and The Killers.  

Say what you like, they had a groove! As long are there are big bad wolves chasing little red riding hoods at the night club, Duran Duran will live on.

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