Too Much Information: ‘Duran Duran’ at 30

Duran Duran’s second self-titled album offers some belated glories

Duran Duran Duran Duran, Capitol Records 1993

By 1993, it was believed that Duran Duran were beyond their prime.

When the group released their second self-titled album (dubbed The Wedding Album by some due to the wedding photos of the band members’ parents that graced the cover — and the fact it needed to be distinguished from the group’s self-titled debut), the band indeed had the chips stacked against them in the face of a robust alternative rock market.

That’s hardly surprising; after the initial success scored by the singles “Girls on Film,” “Rio,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “A View To the Kill,” “The Reflex” and the like, it would have been hard, if not impossible, to match the energy and enthusiasm they inspired early on. The fact that they had sold millions of albums worldwide, scored practically every award imaginable and become teen sensations of Beatle-esque proportions only made the bar seem higher and the comparisons all the more auspicious. 

In fact, between the time of its release on February 11, 1993 and their last truly successful album, Notorious, in 1986, the band appeared to be running on fumes. Two of the members named Taylor — drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor had left the band (leaving bassist John Taylor as the only remaining member with the same surname) — and a pair of splinter bands, Arcadia and Power Station, found various bandmates taking a sabbatical, the latter with singer Robert Palmer. Once one of the most popular bands worldwide, pioneers on the fledgling MTV and the object of affection for radio programmers and their hordes of eager listeners, it seemed the band’s days of glory had come to an inglorious end.

 

VIDEO: Duran Duran “Ordinary World”

Happily then, Duran Duran managed to breathe some life into the group’s dwindling fortunes. It achieved top five status in the U.K., top ten chart placement in the U.S. and spawned two successful singles, “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone,” both of which brought the band back to the top of the Billboard pop charts. Another of the album’s offerings, “Too Much Information,” made a respectable mid-chart showing.

It proved to be a sweet victory, one that proved the naysayers wrong and gave the band another lease on life.

However, even aside from the band’s revival of good fortune, it was the determined approach of the album overall that showed the band’s creative flame had yet to be extinguished. A collaboration with Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento showed the group’s willingness to venture well beyond their commercial comfort zone. The track “Sin of the City” detailed a decidedly dark subject, the arson fire that killed 87 people in a New York City nightclub. “Shotgun” found them retracing a classic instrumental hit from the mid ‘60s by Jr. Walker and the All Stars, just as a remake of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” showed them offering reverence to their roots. 

 

VIDEO: Duran Duran “Come Undone”

In fact, the band purveyed a more serious tone overall, a far cry from the pop pandering of their earlier releases. Both the hits, “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone,” seemed to be spun out of darker designs, thanks to a sound that was far more cautious and considered. It paid off; “Ordinary World showed such marked maturity it was gifted with a nomination for the prestigious Ivor Novello award for songwriting. At least some of the credit can go to co-producer John Jones, who not only helped oversee the recording, but also filled in on drums, keyboards, bass, programming and engineering. It also brought new guitarist Warren Cuccurullo to a place of greater prominence, both as a cowriter on the album’s two hit songs and also as an arranger and genial personality whose skills could be traced back to his work with Frank Zappa and Capitol Records label mates Missing Persons. 

Despite a subsequent tour that took the band to practically all parts of the globe, the success the group sustained was destined to be short-lived.  A follow-up album, Thank You, was a collection of ill-conceived covers and did nothing to help elevate their profile. Subsequent efforts, save for 2021’s Future Past, received a dismal reaction as well.

Duran Duran’s 2022 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seems to have secured their legacy, proving that contrary to the titles of those aforementioned singles, there was nothing ordinary or undone about the success they achieved in their prime. 

 

 

 

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

3 thoughts on “Too Much Information: ‘Duran Duran’ at 30

  • February 15, 2023 at 9:21 am
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    “Subsequent efforts, save for 2021’s Future Past, received a dismal reaction as well” – that’s a bit debatable given that their cover of Perfect Day was a hit in 1995 and then they had Electric Barbarella and Out of My Mind in 1997. Their 2004 reunion album was a sizable success (even if the album itself plays it safe). For all its faults, Red Carpet Massacre had Falling Down in rotation. 2010′ All You Need is Now was legit critical and commercial success (The Man Who Stole a Leopard is like top 10 all-timers) and generally considered a return to form. They even got a David Lynch-directed concert film out of this era (the best of the bunch of the Staged series). 2015 was very impressive update of their sound and they even had some fun colab with Janelle Monae and Kiesza.

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  • February 15, 2023 at 5:13 pm
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    One of their best albums. I have been a fan since April 3rd 1984 and i love all their songs but this album to me was one of their best

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  • February 20, 2023 at 5:27 pm
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    Been a fan since forever…loved the early Duran style and sound though.

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