While back in England visiting friends and my wife’s family, we took a cold, evening drive to have dinner at her dad’s house in Stokenchurch. This perfect little village was not only home to my future wife as a teen, it is also where synth-pop hero Howard Jones grew-up. So, when her dad opened his record cabinet, I hoped that in those rows and rows of wax that a treasure might await, like an early demo from HoJo or, perhaps, a Duran Duran artifact. Well, I sort of struck gold.
Between the Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley singles, a few 80s gems began to appear from Human League to the first Adam Ant 7″ in a black and white sleeve! As I looted my father-in-law’s record cabinet of any records that belonged to my wife or her sister, I slowly lost hope of finding a Duran treasure until I came across a handful of flexi-discs, the flimsy plastic records that came inside magazines.
One of them promised a Merry Christmas wish from all the Smash Hits stars. Knowing the magazine’s fixation with the Fab Five, I looked closer and saw them listed on the label. A little unsure if the flexi-discs would still play, I packed them in the bag and now you can hear what I heard last night when I put it on.
Not exactly a well-scripted moment…..and that is perfect! It sounds fun. And that is what the band and the world started to lose by the end of the 80s. MTV started to become a well-oiled machine and everyone had expensive, boring videos that aspired to be “Rio” or “Hungry Like the Wolf”. The era was winding down.
It took a little stumble but when Duran Duran returned on a mission with the Wedding Album, the videos had style and looked modern. The band were ahead of the pop-culture curve again. In “Come Undone”, John and Simon are wearing the infamous Seinfeld pirate shirt before the episode had aired! Kidding (sort of).
Everyone gives U2 credit for making the creative leap from the masterpiece of Joshua Tree to the equally brilliant Achtung Baby but it was harder for Duran Duran to get to the Wedding Album. The band had to convince an audience, and themselves, that there was a place for them in music a decade after ruling the world. As the bad-ass commercial proves, they were ready for the new decade.