Do you like to read books about Duran Duran? It is probably not shocking that I do and always have. Looking back at my childhood, I remember reading and rereading and rereading paperbacks about Duran, such as Bop Magazine’s 700+ facts. These days, the books and magazines surrounding the band are a little more sophisticated. Obviously, fans who like to read have been lucky enough to enjoy both Andy and John’s autobiographies in recent years. On top of that, in 2005, an unauthorized biography called Notorious by Steve Malins was published.
As I’m sure you are not surprised, I read that book as soon as I purchased it and have even read it more than once since then. Rhonda and I have had a few conversations about the book. In general, I think the book is stronger in the beginning, about the band members’ childhoods and the early days of the band. As the book moved closer to current day, the sources were clearly all secondary sources, meaning that the information came from published articles, etc. as opposed to any real life individual. This, of course, is common with unauthorized biographies. The band did not share or get interviewed for the project. I would say that in many cases the information in the book is common knowledge for many Duranies.
That said, when I saw that there was an updated version out, I had to pick it up. The updated version, called Wild Boys, contains an additional chapter, surrounding both the Red Carpet Massacre era and the All You Need Is Now cycle. What did I hope to learn from this additional chapter? I won’t lie. I hoped to gain some insight about Andy’s departure as well as behind the scenes for Red Carpet Massacre as I suspect that there is a lot more that went on that fans have been in the dark about. What did I find out?
Interestingly enough, the book dedicated about two paragraphs to Andy’s departure. Literally, it mentioned that the album, Reportage (the one Duran wrote and recorded after Astronaut but shelved), was stalled by “legal issues with Taylor”. I’m not sure what the source of that was. The author describes reports about the album that claim that the album was “edgy and contemporary” (Malins 283).
Then, in the next paragraph, Andy’s departure was summarized by describing the official press release on the band’s website as well as how Andy described it in his book. According to this book, the band claimed that there was ‘an unworkable gulf’ and Andy suggested that there was tension between him and management. Clearly, I was hoping for a lot more as I knew both of those statements already. I read the official announcement when it was posted in 2006 and read Andy’s book as quickly as it came out as well. Now, I realize that an unauthorized biography will not have as much insight as an authorized one where the author is getting the scoop from the celebrity him/herself. That said, I am surprised that there was not even any speculation on the author’s part on how this major personnel change would affect the band. Instead, there was no analysis, just those statements.
Despite the lack of analysis on Andy, the author does mention Dom Brown a number of times. The first time was right after talking about Andy’s departure. Here the author says, “Duran Duran soldiered on by installing Dom Brown, who had toured with them before, as their new guitarist. He has remained with them ever since, playing an increasingly valuable role” (Malins 283). Later in the chapter, Dom’s contribution is described during the writing and recording for All You Need Is Now, stating how he co-write most of the songs on that album. What I found fascinating by this is that if I didn’t know better, I would read this chapter and assume that Dom is a permanent band member. Yet, that is not the case. He is in some weird limbo between a touring guitarist and a band member. Malins does not explain that at all. Likewise, there is no explanation of when and why Dom toured with the band before RCM.
Red Carpet Massacre:
As for the album created following Andy’s departure, Malins chose to focus on an article/interview from The Quietus that came out, not during the RCM cycle but afterwards during AYNIN. According to that interview, Nick stated how they knew that RCM would be a risk with the fans. Simon followed by stating that the fans left “no doubt” about how they felt about the album (Malins 293). Again, though, outside of the quotes from the band, there is little explanation about why the fans might not like RCM. On top of that, as someone in the fandom at the time, those brief statements don’t really explain what was really going on with the fans at that time. It is and was far more complicated than that as many fans actually liked it, creating a wide division within the fan base.
All You Need Is Now:
The focus of the All You Need Is Now discussion surrounded Mark Ronson’s vision for the album and the Girl Panic video. On one hand, I always appreciate reading and hearing about how Mark is a fan and pushed the band to really try to embrace their true selves and to occupy their rightful place in the music industry. On the other hand, I am not really sure why there was so much focus on the Girl Panic video. While I get that they used models who were pretending to be the band, I still found the discussion about it superficial. Why did they use models? I don’t know. Why did they show fame in the way they did with luxury hotel living, fans surrounding them, bottles of champagne, etc? I don’t know.
This, of course, is the argument I make about the entire project. I want more of an in-depth, behind the scenes sort of analysis. Perhaps, my frustration is unfounded. I already know a lot about the band so I didn’t learn anything. Others reading this book might learn a lot. For them, maybe, the book serves the perfect function. It does give a rough outline about the band’s history from formation through All You Need Is Now.
Has anyone else read this book? What did you think about it?
Malins, Steve. Notorious. London: Andre Deutsch, 2005.
Malins, Steve. Wild Boys. London: Andre Deutsch, 2013.