There’s a scene in the 2016 critical darling “Sing Street” where a Dublin family circa 1982 is mesmerized by Duran Duran’s music video for “Rio,” which pretty much characterizes how many in the U.S. and U.K. felt at the time.
Formed in Birmingham, England in 1978 and comprised of singer Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor, guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor (although none of the Taylors are related), the English band personified new wave music for the mainstream audience, building a reputation through glamorous looks, catchy songs and eye-candy videos that made them international stars.
In a world before social media, fans still tracked the band’s every move and the frenzy around them rivaled that of The Beatles.
“It was more peaceful in one way because we didn’t have all the emails or texts or mobile phones, but it was totally crazy in a different way because we had this whole teenage audience that wanted to rip us apart,” Roger Taylor said. “We didn’t really see the cities we performed in because we could never leave the hotels. It’s amazing to be able to go back now and see them all and appreciate them.”
Over the band’s noteworthy career, it has charted 21 Billboard hits and sold more than 100 million records, with songs like “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Notorious,” “Union of the Snake” and “Save a Prayer” all becoming mainstays on the radio.
“I think the songs were a little underrated in the beginning because there was so much dressing around the band with the videos and the clothes and the look, so they may have gotten overlooked a little bit,” Roger Taylor said. “The songs represent a great period of time. It was such an exciting time to live in, and I think today, they take people back. Plus, the quality of songs really has stood the test of time.”
1985 saw the band members go in two directions. Andy and John formed Power Station with Robert Palmer, while Simon, Nick and Roger went on to start Arcadia, although all claimed Duran Duran would be back. It was, but the regrouping didn’t have that same magic and over the course of the next 15 years, the band would have different lineups with members of the group coming and going.
At the turn of the 21st century, the classic lineup of Duran Duran came together again to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its formation and its world tour was one of the most attended three years running. That led to a new album called “Astronaut,” a new No. 1 hit in “(Reach Up For the) Sunrise,” and a new legion of fans discovering the band.
“We ended up making a good record and had some great tours, but it took a while to readjust to the different personalities again, as we hadn’t spent any long time together for almost 15 years,” Roger Taylor said. “The music was fairly immediate though. As soon as we plugged in again, that came straight away.”
Andy left the group again in 2006, but the rest of Duran Duran has stayed intact over the course of the last decade and it continues to record and tour.
Last year, its 14th studio album—“Paper Gods”—was released and the song “Pressure Off” became the group’s latest hit. Many feel the songs on the new recording capture the duality and sense of conflict at the heart of Duran Duran’s early music.
“We are very grateful for our audience that they have stuck with us, particularly in the U.S.,” Roger Taylor said. “We’ve never been forgotten and we seem to be able to come back whenever we want and we really appreciate that.”
Duran Duran will welcome 2017 with two shows, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, at the Theater at MGM National Harbor.
“The fact that it’s New Year’s Eve; it will have a special atmosphere. It’s one of the shows we love to play each year,” Roger Taylor said. “It will be similar to the show we’ve been taking around the world the last couple of years, so it will be a fun night, that’s for sure.”
Fans can expect a mixture of old and new songs, which he admits can be a delicate thing to get just right.
“We like to showcase some of the new records, which has been doing really well, but we have 35 years of catalogue to pick from so we’re often still trying to decide the set just before we go on stage,” he said. “We’ll play all the hits and the songs from the early ’80s, the big comeback songs from the ’90s and stuff from the whole career.”
Over Duran Duran’s amazing career, the multi-platinum superstars have been honored with multiple Grammys as well as an MTV Video Music Lifetime Achievement Award and a 20th Century Style Icon award from the City of Milan. It also recently received the Spotify UK Lifetime Achievement Award.
“It’s the songs that we are going to leave behind. I think people will hear them on the radio in 50 years time and say, ‘that was a cool song’ and that will be our legacy,” Roger Taylor said. “It wasn’t just about the videos and glamour, but we were about the songs.”
Courtesy Fairfax Times