Duran Duran Still Creating Musical Art

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Published: 8/12/2012 2:22 AM
Last Modified: 8/12/2012 4:59 AM

Visit the official Duran Duran website at http:/duranduran.com

PLUS! Watch a roundup of iconic Duran Duran videos at Tulsa World reporter Jennifer Chancellor’s blog.
Duran Duran may have helped define the look and sound of the 1980s, but it's done a lot more than that.

The synthpop act led the charge of the "Second British Invasion" and ushered in a dramatic change to America's aural and visual landscape.

Today, they're still leading the charge, with co-founding members bassist John Taylor and keyboardist Nick Rhodes, singer Simon Le Bon, drummer Roger Taylor and touring guitarist Dom Brown.

These days, though, one thing has remained somewhat constant. In the '80s and '90s, band members were often questioned more about their videos than their music, John Taylor said during a recent telephone interview.

It still happens.

Duran Duran has always been as much as an artistic aesthetic as it was a musical expression.

"It got really frustrating for a bit," he admitted. "But Nick gave us all the right perspective. He reminded us that we had an opportunity to make more art. We kept that in mind with everything we did, not just in videos and music, but in concert and with our album covers.

"Even our concert programs are beautiful. We help create all of it."

Back then, their groundbreaking videos were often shot with "real" movie cameras on elaborate sets with models and actors, a first for the early MTV-era. Duran Duran's album artwork for "Rio" was created by Art Deco-esque Playboy magazine artist Patrick Nagel. It's self-titled debut cover was designed by Malcolm Garrett (Simple Minds, Magazine and Peter Gabriel).

"We've realized that with each thing we do, 'This has got to be really great and thoughtful,' " he said.

The strategy has worked. Sort of.

They're still asked about their videos. A lot. After all, they've helped the band sell more than 100 million albums, and their quirky fashion has helped them win many years atop People Magazine's annual list of "Sexiest People."

But these days, unlike the early days of the MTV generation (you know, back when the channel only showed music-related programming), the band is now much freer to express itself - and it does.

It has outgrown what he calls the "inhibiting" genre of "promotional videos." Oh, they still make very buzz-worthy videos.

Taylor said the band now has more control over how they're made. Their 2011 live CD-DVD/Blu-ray release, "Duran Duran: A Diamond In the Mind Blu-ray," features the band in leather and silk and lit with elaborate strobes and spotlights, film loops repeating behind them as they grin ear-to-ear during disco-like reworks of their classics and electrified versions of new tunes.

"That's not really a problem any more," he said of efforts spent to "control" and "distribute" an image. From their earliest New Romantic (read as "puffy shirt") outing in "Planet Earth" some three decades ago, Duran Duran helped hone all their expressions into distinctive works of art.

The latest music video, er, art concept, is Duran Duran flipped on its well-coiffed head.

Instead of uberhot models boxing each other or painted beauties riding on sailboats, their latest - "Girl Panic!" - has supermodels become the band, giving interviews in documentary-style. It's lavish and over-the-top, and includes "cleverly placed sponsorship" to pay for the pricey video.

"With a concept like that, we really had to find a way to make it happen," Taylor said.

With stars like Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Eva Herzigova and Helena Christensen warbling away in them, who wouldn't ask about their videos?

More than 30 years later, he said, Duran Duran still happily straddles the line in discord and rhyme.

All their videos aren't that expensive. For example, the title track for "All You Need Is Now" only cost $5,000 to make, Taylor said.

He's fine with both.

"We know now that once we release a video we have no control over it. It is immediately in the public domain and it takes on a life of its own. ... We don't own it, our fans do."
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: The Joint inside The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa

Tickets: Must be 21. $85, $95, $115 available at tulsaworld.com/hardrockcasino, the venue box office or by calling 918-384-ROCK.

Greatest hits
Well, our favorite Duran Duran hits:

1. "Girls on Film"

2. "All You Need Is Now"

3. "The Reflex"

4. "All She Wants Is"

5. "I Don't Want Your Love" (Shep Pettibone 7" Mix)

6. "Is There Something I Should Know?"

7. "Hungry Like the Wolf"

8. "White Lines (Don't Do It)" (aka "White Lines '89 - Part II" featuring Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel)

9. "The Wild Boys"

10. "A View to a Kill"

11. "Come Undone"

12. "Girl Panic!"

13. "Rio"

14. "Ordinary World"

15. "Notorious"

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: The Joint inside The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa

Tickets: Must be 21. $85, $95, $115 available at tulsaworld.com/hardrockcasino, the venue box office or by calling 918-384-ROCK.

Courtesy TulsaWorld