Tinted hair with headbands, sport jackets over expensive T shirts and lots of eye makeup.
That was the much-buzzed-about Duran Duran on its first U.S. tour in 1981 at Duffy's in south Minneapolis.
"I think I remember it," Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon said. "It was more like a large bar."
Indeed, pale green on the outside, totally rocking on the inside in the back room, which music fans reached after walking past a long blue-collar neighborhood bar.
Did Le Bon ever think that more than 40 years later Duran Duran would be headlining U.S. arenas and amphitheaters?
"In the beginning we weren't looking at anything 40 years down the line. We were looking a month ahead at the most," Le Bon said last week from London. "One of the things about music and the whole job, it really keeps you in the moment."
Duran Duran will kick off its North American tour on Friday at Treasure Island Resort & Casino amphitheater in Red Wing. It will be the band's first U.S. date as newly voted members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
"It's a club we never thought we'd get invited to, being English New Romantic pop stars, as we've been called," said Le Bon, 63, whose band made it into the Rock Hall in its first year on the ballot, though the group was eligible 15 years ago. "We're actually very, very proud of it. It's the closest you can get to rock 'n' roll knighthood."
Duran Duran, Princess Diana's favorite band, is treated like royalty in the U.K., where they just performed at the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II.
"We play for royalty," Le Bon clarified. "It doesn't make us royalty."
The group has a new album, aptly named "Future Past," which touches on the past but looks ahead. There are elements of neo-disco, modern pop and synth balladry. It sounds like classic Duran Duran with a contemporary vibe.
"Beautiful Lies" is irresistible old-meets-new disco.
"It's exactly what you thought you would get if Duran Duran and Giorgio Moroder collaborated," the singer said.
The power ballad title track finds Le Bon singing those high notes again, just as he did on the early hits "Girls on Film" and "The Wild Boys."
Emerging from the so-called New Romantics movement in England in 1981, Duran Duran has never really stuck to one particular sound over the course of 15 studio albums. Part of the reason is a revolving door of guitar players since Andy Taylor left in 1986 (though he returned in the early '00s for a few years). Among the guitarists on recordings have been Warren Cuccurullo, Nile Rodgers, John Frusciante and Blur's Graham Coxon, on "Future Past."
"I think it's worked in our favor," Le Bon said of the rotating guitar slot. "It's helped set the different tones we have on our albums. We don't want to make the same album twice."
Rodgers, who has produced several Duran Duran projects and will open for the group at Treasure Island, agrees.
"It's a major factor because every guitarist that's been with Duran has added a very strong musical element when it comes to composition," Rodgers said in a separate interview.
"And let's give a whole bunch of credit to Simon Le Bon's sense of melody and harmony."
Rodgers on Duran, Dylan, Prince
Rodgers, who landed in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 in the "award for musical excellence" for his legacy as a producer/songwriter, has worked on countless recordings — Sister Sledge's "We Are Family," David Bowie's "Let's Dance," Madonna's "Like a Virgin," Diana Ross' "Upside Down" and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," to name a few. And he co-wrote "Cuff It" on Beyoncé's new album "Renaissance." He also leads his own hit band, Chic, of "Le Freak" and "Good Times" fame.
"Duran Duran is like my other band," said Rodgers, who will likely sit in for a couple songs with Duran Duran at Treasure Island. "As Simon Le Bon said the other day when we played the Queen's Jubilee, 'Nile is like the other member of Duran.' "
Rodgers has worked with Minnesota's two most famous musicians, Bob Dylan and Prince.
He produced Dylan singing Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" for the soundtrack to the 1996 movie "Feeling Minnesota."
"Most records fail [commercially]. At least if you give the artist a great experience and a good time and you do the best work you can possibly do, then you've done your job. We were having so much fun. [Dylan] said: 'Did you ever think you'd be working with a guy named Robert Zimmerman?' I said, 'Did you ever think you'd be working with a drummer named Omar Hakim?'"
Rodgers never recorded with Prince but they were onstage together at the Essence Festival in 2014 in New Orleans during Bowie's "Let's Dance."
"We have a routine where we get people to jump. This time the response was insane. I looked to my left and there was Prince. You can go on YouTube and see it. Prince never took it down. It was just somebody in audience filming. You know how he'd always take things down. Prince reposted it that night and said no words."
Hybrid of Chic, Sex Pistols
When Duran Duran formed in 1978, the band was inspired by "the Studio 54 scene."
"The real funky disco is such an important part of what made Duran Duran Duran Duran," Le Bon said. "We like to say we'd like to make a hybrid out of Chic and the Sex Pistols."
As much as any band in the early '80s, Duran Duran benefited from the rise of MTV. The video of its third single, "Girls on Film," was shot two weeks after MTV launched in 1981, but it had to be edited for daytime TV. Duran Duran set new standards — and hearts aflutter — with clips for "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Rio" from its second album, in 1982.
It wasn't just a case of having creative directors like Godley & Creme and Russell Mulcahy. Le Bon studied drama at the University of Birmingham.
"There was a kind of self-consciousness and campness to a lot of [music acts' videos]. But you could always see they were acting. Whereas when we did something like 'Hungry Like the Wolf,' I was able to do that sort of 'Raiders of Lost Ark' character and look like I meant it. I think that was a big part of our success with videos."
During the pandemic, Le Bon became involved in another medium, as co-host of "WHOOOSH!," a Sirius XM program on which he talks music.
"It's really opened my horizons. I really cherish new music now," he said. "It's taken a couple of skins off my musical sensitivity. I'm enjoying music more. I bring some of those ideas into the Duran Duran world. A lot of the sounds on the track 'Future Past' I owe to my obsession with a track by Tame Impala remixed by Four Tet. Big bold synthesizer sounds."
A love of music — new and otherwise — is what keeps Le Bon and his Duran Duran mates Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Roger Taylor (no relation) going.
"We're held together by the fact that we are much more creative with the four of us than if the four of us did solo work. We like working together. We inspire each other. We surprise each other. We like each other. When we're not on tour, we see each other socially. We've developed a real respect for each other over the years."
And there's another big reason they stay together: "We split all the income equally between us."
Opening: Nile Rodgers and Chic.
When: 7 p.m. Fri.
Where: Treasure Island Resort & Casino amphitheater, Red Wing.
Tickets: $39-$159; ticasino.com
Courtesy Star Tribune