20 Things You Never Knew About Duran Duran
Birmingham band Duran Duran has now been together for over four decades – and they’re still going strong to this day, with a new album currently in the works. The group counts among the best-selling artists of all time, having shipped over 100 million albums worldwide.
The band made waves in the 80s as pioneers of the emerging New Romantic movement, and both their music and fashion cemented their status as true pop culture icons. Here are 20 facts you might not have known about this iconic band.
20. One of their albums is still unreleased
Duran Duran fans will be pleased to know that the band are currently working on a new album, although production has been postponed due to the pandemic.
However, even the most dedicated Duran Duran fans might not know that they’ve actually already recorded and created a whole other album which is yet to be released.
*Credit: Richard Young/REX Shutterstock
Duran Duran recorded this shelved album, Reportage, back in 2006 before guitarist Andy Taylor left the group for good.
Keyboardist Nick Rhodes has since spoken about the unreleased work with Details magazine, claiming that it goes in a much different direction.
*Credit: The Times
Specifically, most of the songs on the album are angrier and more political than is usually the case for the band.
There’s been much speculation as to when – or if – Reportage will be released, but nothing has been confirmed by Duran Duran themselves.
19. Simon Le Bon nearly drowned on two separate occasions
Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon has had a few close scrapes in his time: there have been two occasions when Le Bon has nearly drowned.
The first time, Le Bon was strapped to a windmill while filming the video for Wild Boys when it malfunctioned and stopped moving.
*Credit: Getty Images
In what must have been a uniquely terrifying experience, this left Le Bon stuck underwater until the team of divers on hand could come and retrieve him.
Le Bon must have thought that this bad experience with water was a once-in-a-lifetime event, but unfortunately it was not.
*Credit: The Independent
The second time, Le Bon’s yacht Drum capsized during the FastNet Race in 1985. The singer and his five crewmates were trapped under the vessel but luckily survived thanks to an air pocket underneath the yacht.
Le Bon and the others under the boat were trapped for one hour before the Royal Navy was able to save them.
18. They were Princess Diana’s favourite band
When you think of the royal family, you probably don’t think of them blasting the radio, or looking back through their Spotify Wrapped.
With that said, every member of the royal family does have their musical preferences, and back in the 80s, it was common knowledge that Princess Diana loved Duran Duran.
Diana’s love of Duran Duran is so well known that it is even referred to in the latest season of Netflix’s The Crown.
One memorable scene features Diana rollerblading around Buckingham Palace while listening to Girls on Film on a Walkman.
Frontman Le Bon spoke at Diana’s memorial concert in 2006 and paid tribute to the late princess, saying: “We are honoured that she always referred to Duran Duran as her favourite band as she was certainly our favourite princess.”
The band were lucky enough to have met Lady Di in 1983 at the Prince’s Trust concert in London, which they claimed was one of the high points of their career.
17. Simon Le Bon starred in a Persil advert when he was 6 years old
Many future musicians find themselves gravitating towards the spotlight, even in the years prior to their band’s formation.
This tendency towards performing can take many forms, from writing and performing poetry to doing a lot of musical theatre as a child. Before Le Bon became a New Romantic icon, he appeared in a washing powder advert.
*Credit: Duranasty Webzine
As it was clear Le Bon had a natural talent for performing from a young age, his mother encouraged him to audition for a role in a Persil ad.
Le Bon confirmed the story in a 2015 interview with Birmingham Live, saying: “I was a drama school kid – not a stage school kid, but drama school.”
Le Bon went on to say: “I did that for 15 years and then I studied drama and theatre arts at the university [of Birmingham] in Edgbaston, and that’s when I met the band.”
“It was perfectly obvious to me the moment I met them I would be better as the lead singer of Duran Duran than as an out-of-work actor on my own.”
16. They had their own board game
As a general rule, the bigger a band or artist gets, the more merch you can purchase related to them.
Not only does the amount of merch increase in proportion to a band’s popularity, but the kinds of merchandise you can buy tends to get more and more esoteric.
Duran Duran reached the peak of their fame in the 1980s and, capitalising on this, games manufacturer Milton Bradley released a Duran Duran board game called Into the Arena back in 1985.
The title directly referred to their hit 1984 album Arena, and the game was designed to be played with two to four players.
The aim of the game was to collect certain cards in order to score as many points as possible, with stealing and shuffling functions and an extremely colourful, 80s design.
The game was widely available between 1985 and 1986, but nowadays they’re a rarity and can fetch high prices on auction websites such as eBay.
15. Two of their videos have been banned by the BBC
It probably comes as no surprise to learn that the raunchy video for Girls on Film was banned outright by the BBC and heavily censored by MTV.
The infamous 1981 video featured a lot of suggestive content and was unsurprisingly deemed too sexual to be broadcast on television without censorship.
What you might not remember is that another one of their videos was similarly banned from being broadcast on the BBC for being too risqué.
The 1997 promotional video for Electric Barbarella features the band playing around with a scantily clad female robot.
The video was also banned from being shown on MuchMusic in Canada and had to be heavily censored to be shown on MTV.
Electric Barbarella never became quite as infamous as Girls On Film, and hilariously, neither video would make such a splash if it were released today.
14. The band temporarily split in two in 1985
When a band has been together for a long time, chances are that they will have seen at least one significant lineup change over the years.
Duran Duran have been around for almost half a century, so it only makes sense that band members have switched out and been replaced in that time.
Duran Duran has seen members come and go over the last 40 years – in fact, keyboardist Nick Rhodes is the only member of the original line up to have stuck with the band since its inception in 1978.
But in 1985 the band essentially split in two, with John and Andy Taylor breaking away to form The Power Station, and Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes forming Arcadia.
Drummer Roger Taylor (not to be confused with Roger Taylor, the drummer for Queen) flitted between the two groups, playing the drums for both of them as and when required.
Le Bon, Rhodes, and John Taylor eventually regrouped as Duran Duran in 1986 – Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor both left the band at this point – and embarked on rebranding the group as ‘more mature,’ decisively moving away from their teen idol image.
13. Their name was inspired by Barbarella villain Dr. Durand Durand
One of the most common questions a band is asked throughout their time performing is: “where did you get your name?”
From Pearl Jam to Green Day, many band names have baffled both fans and critics until the band have explained themselves, or some serious fanatic has come up with their own correct theory on its origin while digging.
As for Duran Duran’s unique name, the explanation is pretty simple, it was directly inspired by a character from classic Jane Fonda film Barbarella: Dr. Durand Durand.
The real-life Duran Duran chose their name largely because they liked the psychedelic music that featured in the film, as well as the retro-futuristic aesthetic of the fashion.
Speaking on a BBC4 documentary about the band, drummer Roger Taylor gave an insight into their decision to name the band as such:
“it was while watching that late-night screening of the Jane Fonda sci-fi epic that members of a burgeoning Birmingham post-punk band decided the name of one of the film’s characters – Durand Durand – would make for a cool and unusual band name.”
12. Andy Taylor fell out of a tree while filming a music video
As far as dangerous jobs with multiple workplace hazards go, the life and career of a rockstar ranks pretty low down.
For the most part, the occupational dangers of being in a band are mostly self-inflicted, and accidents in the workplace are relatively rare.
With that said, when Duran Duran filmed the video for Save a Prayer at an elephant watering hole in Sri Lanka – what sounds like it should have been an amazing experience wasn’t at all for Andy Taylor.
The group’s guitarist recalled how he fell into the watering hole after climbing up a tree to get a good shot for the video in his autobiography, Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran.
*Credit: Chronicle Live
“I climbed up into a tree and perched on a branch about ten or fifteen feet above the water. It seemed like the perfect vantage point from which to mime playing guitar but I hadn’t accounted for the effect of the Jack Daniel’s on my sense of balance,” he writes.
“I wobbled and …. Splash. Believe me, falling into a lake that’s been used as an open toilet by elephants is not a pleasant experience.” Taylor later fell ill after falling into the dirty water but made a full and swift recovery.
11. They started off as nightclub employees
Duran Duran was arguably the biggest band of the 1980s, with every member becoming a household name by the time the mid-80s rolled around, but they also came from humble origins.
The group’s beginnings were pretty relatable, since they made their first live appearances at the Rum Runner club in Birmingham while also working there part-time.
*Credit: Fin Costello/Redferns
John Taylor worked on the door while Nick Rhodes DJed for £10 a night, and the band’s first managers were actually the owners of Rum Runner, Paul and Michael Berrow.
Duran Duran secured regular gigs by essentially working as the club’s ‘house band’, playing background music for the regulars and attempting to draw in new customers with their music.
*Credit: Finn Costello / Getty Images
The Berrow brothers encouraged the group to record a demo tape which they sent round to various record labels, resulting in a bidding war between record companies EMI and Phonogram.
The band were attracted to EMI – The Beatles’ label – and were quickly signed, though they have said in more recent interviews that they regret their connection to EMI. The rest is history!
10. The band used to enter their own lookalike competitions
Lots of bands and artists become famous every year, and that includes a percentage that are notable for their outlandish fashion choices.
With that said, only a few acts become so ubiquitous that their specific fashion choices become iconic, and end up defining an entire era.
Duran Duran has a coveted spot on that list, along with other artists like Dolly Parton and Cher.
The mark of succeeding in cultivating a universally recognised look is having lookalike contests based around your style, which Duran Duran certainly did.
*Credit: Rex Features
In fact, Duran Duran were so amused by pubs and clubs hosting lookalike contests in their honour, that they even began attending them and entering themselves.
The group has admitted to dressing up in their finest sequins, shoulder pads and 80s attire to compete, before revealing that they were the real deal when it was time for the prizes to be given out.
9. They’re a favourite of hip-hop artists
*Credit: Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame
There are many ways to measure a band’s success, from the number of awards they have received to the chart positions they have held over time.
There’s even the more obscure ways: measuring a band’s impact by how many fanzines they have inspired, or how many less-successful bands tried to capture their success.
However, one of the foolproof ways to judge a band’s legacy is to figure out how they are perceived by their musical peers.
Specifically, how many other artists respect and admire them enough, to want to incorporate their work into their own songs.
*Credit: Sky News
Like ABBA and Michael Jackson before them, Duran Duran have been sampled by many artists over the years, with many hip-hop acts, in particular, using their beats in their own tracks.
Most notably, Notorious B.I.G sampled the aptly named Duran Duran song Notorious for his own purposes, despite the two acts existing genres apart.
8. John Taylor’s real name is Nigel
For decades, it has been the standard practice for performers to change their names, with everyone from singers and dancers to old Hollywood starlets choosing to do so for different reasons.
Some choose a different moniker in order to keep their professional and personal lives separate, while others just want to change their name to something that sounds a little cooler.
Unlike Norma Jeane (Marilyn Monroe), Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (Lady Gaga) and others – one member of Duran Duran changed his band name simply to look cool.
Specifically, John Taylor only began going by such when the band was beginning to take off, feeling that his actual birth name just wasn’t rock and roll enough.
*Credit: Paper Mag
As for what his birth name actually was, John Taylor was originally Nigel John Taylor, which does sound a little less glamourous.
Unfortunately for everyone, John Taylor didn’t change his name to something that would make the band’s line-up less confusing, since it didn’t solve the problem of the multiple Taylors in the band.
7. Q Magazine called their 1995 release the worst album of all time
The longer a band manages to stick around in the public eye, the more likely it becomes that they will fall out of favour.
While some artists have managed to achieve longevity while also keeping the reputation of having never made a bad album, it’s a very rare state of affairs.
For most artists who have been around a few decades, the consensus ends up being that they have made both some brilliant and terrible albums over the years.
Similarly, it is accepted that Duran Duran have had their fair share of ups and downs over the course of their career, with 1995 marking an absolute low point.
*Credit: The Telegraph
In 1995, Duran Duran released their eighth studio album “Thank You”, which was comprised entirely of cover versions of songs by other artists.
The album was universally reviled, and almost killed Duran Duran’s career trajectory for good, with Q Magazine famously calling it the worst album of all time.
6. Nick Rhodes wrote a spoken word piece about dental surgery
Duran Duran’s ninth studio album, 1997’s Medazzaland, is unusual in that it is the only one to feature vocals from Nick Rhodes.
Nick Rhodes is the band’s keyboardist, and so up until that point in Duran Duran’s career, he had not contributed vocals to the band’s records at all.
For Medazzaland though, Rhodes didn’t just contribute vocals to the album, but wrote an entire song for it.
Specifically, Rhodes wrote the lyrics for the album’s title track and delivered the poetry-like spoken word performance of them himself.
*Credit: Spin Magazine
The title track of Medazzaland was inspired by a visit Le Bon took to the dentist, from which he returned still under the influence of the painkillers they had given him.
Loopy and babbling, Rhodes joked that Le Bon was “still in Medazzaland”, and so the ingenious and weird title track was born.
5. The main character of Devil May Cry is based on John Taylor
We’ve already discussed the fact that there are obvious ways to chart a band’s success across the decades, as well as more unusual ways.
As far as niche marks of success go, there are few honours as rare or as strange as having your likeness be the inspiration for something.
Not only were Duran Duran’s songs and fashion choices iconic, but John Taylor himself became instantly recognisable.
His huge 80s hair made him an instant poster boy and heartthrob for the decade, which might be why his likeness was chosen to inspire a popular video game protagonist.
It was John Taylor’s look and style specifically that inspired the aesthetic of Dante from Devil May Cry.
The popular video game series, which marked its fifth instalment in 2019, sees players help defeat an army of demons on Earth.
4. Roger Taylor is the only member with his own documentary
*Credit: Birmingham Live
Duran Duran have gone down in history as one of the most influential bands of the 80s, and they have an enduring impact even today.
With that said, not that much material has been produced about them in the way of documentaries or biographies.
In fact, only one member of Duran Duran has had a documentary made about him, and it is not the member you would probably expect.
Roger Taylor, Duran Duran’s drummer who left in 1985 but then returned to the band in 2001, is the subject of the only independent Duran Duran documentary.
*Credit: Modern Drummer
Searching for Roger Taylor was released in 2000, and is the pet project of independent director and Duran Duran fan Aaron Barnett.
It chronicles the time that Taylor spent away from the spotlight of Duran Duran, as well as the things that urged him to return.
3. Nick Rhodes was a total teacher’s pet
*Credit: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images
Considering Duran Duran were some of the biggest names in the entertainment world in the 80s, it can be difficult to imagine them as normal people.
When people become such household names, it’s easy to forget that they are also just normal people, who had their own mundane childhoods.
All of that makes it even funnier that Nick Rhodes was an attentive and interested student, who was given a lot of extra responsibility.
As unlikely as it may sound, Rhodes was such a teacher’s pet that he was even asked to take over some classes, and be in charge whenever the teacher left the room.
Speaking about being the best student in his school chemistry class, Rhodes said: “It was not a good room to be in because people lit up paper darts on Bunsen burners and threw them around the room.”
Rhodes went on to say: “I’m amazed that the school never burned down. And I used to get left in charge.”
2. It took 16 years for their TV Mania project to get released
It’s not unusual for albums or films to have their release dates pushed back by a couple of years, if there isn’t sufficient confidence from the studio or record label that it will do well.
With that said, most records are not held back from release for a full 15 years, which is exactly what happened to TV Mania.
TV Mania was a project helmed by Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo, which was conceptualised while Mezzaland was being recorded.
Allegedly, the pair were waiting for Le Bon to write melodies and lyrics for Mezzaland in the studio, and so they spent time conceptualizing their own album.
TV Mania was a concept album that blended traditional music with snippets from fake television shows, and speculated on the rise of reality TV.
A truncated version was finally released in 2013, after Rhodes found the original recordings sitting in a drawer in his house.
1. John Taylor has been involved with nine studio albums outside of Duran Duran
*Credit Amy Harris/Invision/AP/Shutterstock
There’s no doubt that John Taylor is best known for his work as the long-standing bassist of Duran Duran.
However, what you might not know is that he has a sprawling catalogue outside of his work with the Fab Five.
When Duran Duran temporarily splintered in the mid-80s, John Taylor joined The Power Station alongside Robert Palmer.
Not only that, but he also recorded one self-titled album with Neurotic Outsiders, and went on to release six solo albums.
*Credit: Birmingham Live
In total, John Taylor has been involved in some capacity with nine studio albums outside of Duran Duran. Not a bad legacy.