Duran Duran are virtually synonymous with the Eighties. Name a buzz-phrase from that decade – nightclubbing, nouveau riche, new romantic – and it has an attachment to Duran; quite a turnaround for a band who formed primarily in Birmingham, hardly a hotbed of glamour. John Taylor and Nick Rhodes got together in 1978. Enamoured of punk, they would go and see the likes of The Sex Pistols and The Clash at a local venue named Barbarella’s; the place was named after a Sixties sci-fi movie, and the band found their own name amongst the film’s list of characters.
Originally, their lead singer was Stephen Duffy, who later enjoyed solo success as Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy and then with the folk-infused The Lilac Time; their bassist was Simon Colley (at this formative stage, John Taylor was on guitar), and they had a revolving-door policy when it came to frontmen. They also had a lot of Taylors: it was the arrival of Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor – and finally Pinner boy Simon Le Bon – in 1980 that signalled the true emergence of the Fab Five.
With a keen eye for avant-garde style during this most fashion-forward of periods, they worked with designer, i-D magazine editor and, later, manager of King, Perry Haines, as well as Anthony Price, who had been responsible for affording Roxy Music one of the defining looks of the previous decade. In a way, after getting the new romantic look out of their systems, Duran became the Roxy of the Eighties, all suave élan with a distinctive yuppie edge.
If they had arty imaginations, they also managed to ride the era’s musical changes. They began as prime movers on the synthpop scene along with Depeche Mode, Soft Cell and Human League, with hints of disco and electronic funk, as purveyed by ABC, Spandau Ballet and Heaven 17. Before long, they were dominating the singles and albums charts and becoming key players in the MTV revolution. And they were almost alone – Depeche being one of the few other exceptions – in making the transition into the Nineties and beyond. With 14 Top 10 UK singles and an alleged 100 million total record sales worldwide, Duran Duran have earned their place in the pantheon of all-time pop greats.