Classic Pop’s top 10 Duran Duran songs
By Classic Pop | May 15, 2020
It was almost impossible, but we selected our top 10 Duran Duran tracks for you to enjoy. Listen along on Spotify.
10. Come Undone (1993)
Duran Duran had dropped off-radar before Ordinary World and this brooding classic heralded a fresh purple patch. The song evolved from Cuccurullo’s heavily-flanged riff, originally intended for a side-project with Bush singer Gavin Rossdale. The addition of a drum loop from The Soul Searchers’ Ashley’s Roachclip was inspired, while session star Tessa Niles delivered a perfect vocal counterpoint. Despite the seemingly morose imagery, Le Bon wrote the lyrics for his wife as a birthday present.
9. The Wild Boys (1984)
Written for Russell Mulcahy’s film adaptation of William Burroughs’ novel The Wild Boys: A Book Of The Dead, this took on a life of its own when that project fell through. Nile Rodgers was armed with a brief to concoct an “extreme drum sound”, so he gathered raw audio and samples to put through his futuristic new Synclavier sampler. Thanks to Mulcahy, the band inherited a wealth of ideas to use in the ambitious video. The sole studio track on the Arena live album, it made No.2 on both sides of the pond.
8. Girls On Film (1981)
It’s viewed as the track that helped secure stratospheric fame, but Girls On Film was fashioned earlier in the band’s history, and the original demo (made with ex-singer Andy Wickett) has recently surfaced. While that gritty post-punk jam displays the band’s innards, the later reboot shows Le Bon in career-best form. The notorious Godley & Creme video might suggest otherwise, but behind the sexual imagery lie lyrics that call out the fashion industry for exploitation of women. An MTV staple, it made UK No.5.
7. Save A Prayer (1982)
The third, most sophisticated single from Rio was a masterstroke of cool – and the first ballad they’d unleashed. With the fuzzy mise-en-scène of a fl eeting dalliance and another MTV-friendly video, it was a surefire hit, only denied the UK summit by the imperishable Eye Of The Tiger (we’ll forgive them that one). The song was released by Eagles Of Death Metal in memory of the victims of the Paris terrorist attack in 2015. Duran Duran donated all the royalties they gained from the cover to the campaign.
6. Ordinary World (1993)
This epic ballad introduced a bold new chapter as the initial transmission from ‘The Wedding Album’. The lyrics found Le Bon at the height of his powers. “We’re surrounded by the desire for the super ordinary – super man, super life, video game explosion,” he told VH1. “I wanted to say that the ordinary world is actually the most beautiful thing.” The world agreed and a US No.1 spot beckoned, as did a mismatched duet with Pavarotti, who belted it out with Simon in Modena with full orchestral backing.
5. Notorious (1986)
Dubbed “the survival song” by the band, Notorious announced a new phase of their career. With the caustic circumstances surrounding Andy’s departure and a burnt out Roger also out, things could have gone south. Instead, this stoic riposte not only weathered the storm – while supposedly poking fun at Taylor (“Who really gives a damn for a flaky bandit”) – but also helped the three-piece emerge triumphant. Exposing their funkier influences with ‘The Hitmaker’ Nile Rodgers at the helm was a masterstroke.
4. Planet Earth (1981)
This sci-fi-loving debut announced a band transmitting miles away from Terra Firma. Commandeering a headline (about Spandau Ballet) entitled “Here Come The New Romantics”, Planet Earth installed the five-piece as white-hot poster boys for the movement. After EMI won the bidding war, Birmingham’s high hopes went direct from tourbus to studio. Colin Thurston came in to man the controls off the back of successes with David Bowie and The Human League, and a Blitz club classic – and a UK No.12 – was born.
3. Hungry Like The Wolf (1982)
The first US hit shows the rocky intentions of a band in the throes of a world takeover. Conceived by Le Bon and Rhodes at EMI’s demo studio with the use of cutting-edge tech (supposedly while suffering hangovers), it was finished in record time – or, as John Taylor surmised, “it was probably written by cocktail hour”. Simon’s Red Riding Hood-inspired narrative traces the guitar motif, a Jupiter-8 synth orbits its popcorn arpeggio, and Simmons and Roland 808 drum machines underpin an animalistic groove.
2. The Reflex (1983)
The Reflex blended club-bound rhythm, jagged chords, errant (slightly out-of-tune) steel drum synth sounds and Raphael Dejesus’ percussive genius with a disorientating narrative that even Simon Le Bon didn’t understand. The label wasn’t convinced, but Nile Rodgers’ pioneering revamp brought the whole thing to fruition. “It blew my barn doors off,” Le Bon told Billboard. The single snatched the UK No.1 from Lionel Richie (Hello), and toppled Cyndi Lauper (Time After Time) for the US crown.
1. Rio (1982)
The eye-wateringly decadent yacht video somehow defined the Eighties (and the band), but none of that overblown escapism matters a jot. Rio’s verses were adapted from early track See Me Repeat Me, while the chorus took inspiration from Birmingham peers TV Eye. The end result is an effervescent clash of arpeggiated synth, rhythm-clinging guitar stabs and an intricate, wandering bassline inspired by Sly & The Family Stone. Add in Le Bon’s dynamic lead and lyrics, and it’s one killer calling-card.