Nearly two weeks ago, Duran Duran’s induction into the 2022 class of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was announced and now there’s even more cause for celebration. Shortly after that, it was the 40th anniversary of the release of the band’s groundbreaking second album Rio. The album resulted in the boys from Birmingham landing their first two US Hot 100 hits with “Hungry Like The Wolf” hitting #3 and the title track “Rio” peaking at #14. In this week’s edition of What’s Going On, we’re going to look at why Duran Duran is more than worthy of their place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Duran Duran formed in Birmingham all the way back in 1978. Coming up in that DIY art school scene that birthed the new romantic movement and spawned many flash-in-the-pan bands, Duran Duran has outlasted most of their contemporaries. Despite the usual ups and downs that come with being around this long, lineup changes, side projects, and radical experimentation, they’ve never lost their core audience and have only amassed more Duranies (the name of their fanbase) across generations. Their most recent album, 2021’s FUTURE PAST, was not only released 40 years after their self-titled debut, it stands as a testament to how vital the band still is, with cutting-edge production from Erol Alkan, Mark Ronson, and Giorgio Moroder and fresh feeling features from Swedish pop sensation Tove Lo and Japanese rockers Chai among others.
Another element that helped Duran Duran become a global smash was their mastery of the medium of music videos. Whereas a lot of acts in the early 80s were not sold on what making videos would do for their careers, British acts took to them like water, including Duran Duran. With MTV still in its infancy, the splashy Russell Mulcahy-directed clips for the songs “Save A Prayer”, “Hungry Like The Wolf”, and “Rio” that saw the photogenic lads in exotic locations like Sri Lanka and Antigua were instant hits on the burgeoning channel and set the stage for the band to become synonymous with the golden age of MTV. The flashy style and striking imagery would carry through the rest of their career with all of their music videos holding a special place in the heart of their fans.
While a lot of early press wrote Duran Duran off as being just a group of pretty boys or all style and no substance, the band always understood how to write a great pop song. Whether steeped in new wave like much of their early material, toying around with dance music and disco rhythms or working with the best and brightest in contemporary R&B, you can always count on Duran Duran to deliver expert musicianship, catchy melodies, big hooks, and memorable lyrics. Thirteen of their singles have hit the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 over the course of the ’80s and ’90s, further proving just how well Duran Duran’s songs connected with listeners.
What’s the legacy of Duran Duran? Their albums have been singled out by tastemaker outlets Pitchfork and Q as some of the Top 100 Albums of the 1980s and100 Greatest Albums of All Time. The striking Patrick Nagel artwork for Rio has gone down in history as one of the album covers most emblematic of a generation. When it’s all said and done, Simon LeBon will go down in history as one of the most charismatic frontmen of all time. Hall of Fame-worthy indeed!
The 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony is taking place on November 5, 2022 in LA and will be aired on HBO and HBO Max at a later date. Be sure to stay tuned to Biff Bam Pop! over the coming months for more Rock Hall coverage.