By Bart Van Bemmel
Let’s do a little experiment…
Go get all your Duran records and sprawl them out on the floor. I know you’re ranking them — it’s hard not to. I do it too. Maybe you’re one of those fans that doesn’t count anything that John Taylor didn’t play on, yet it was somehow okay if Roger and Andy didn’t. Or, maybe that’s a whole other blog post. But I can tell you’re already frustrated because your order may have changed since last week — mine does all the time. Where to put All You Need is Now… This might take another glass of Malbec. Okay, now I want you to grab Duran Duran, Rio, Seven and the Ragged Tiger, and Astronaut. Now, as for the rest — pretend they never existed. POOF — gone! Would you be okay with that? This could very well mean that there goes the soundtrack of your life. And there also goes Duran Duran’s career. And with that folks, is my argument that WHEN Duran gets immortalized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that Warren Cuccurullo goes in with them. I’m not sure my argument can be defeated. Come at me. I know, I know. Duran isn’t even on the ballot yet, but one day they will be. And with Duran’s 40th Anniversary coming up — we’re all crossing fingers. But this issue for some reason has been eating at me for a while. Warren better get the call.
The second British invasion may have been led by the original members of Duran in all those Sri Lanka videos that dominated MTV, but there’s no denying Warren Cuccurullo’s crucial and powerful impact on Duran’s career. Through the highest of times to the leaner years, Warren Cuccurullo helped steer this mighty ship. From his work on seven studio albums, countless hits, tours, MTV Unplugged, TV appearances, and more — his tenure in the band was much longer than Andy Taylor’s. The band also produced more hits and released more singles during Warren’s Era. However, this isn’t about Andy vs. Warren, this is about what’s right. Cuccurullo helped successfully navigate the band through the Grunge Era undertow that killed countless bands of the 80’s. It was Warren’s songwriting and producing that help resurrect the band to land them their biggest selling album and tour to date with The Wedding Album. There’s a reason on their past Paper Gods Tour that several Wedding Album songs made it into the set: Ordinary World, Come Undone, Too Much Information, and Love Voodoo (OW and Come Undone are always mainstays). And so, we have reached my second argument in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame vs. Warren Cuccurullo debate. Would Duran be here today — with their most recent album landing in the top ten on Billboard, without the hit song Ordinary World? The answer is NO. According to the band’s Songbook performance, even their record label was gun shy about spending money on the band at this point in their career until they heard this song. As for the music video — it’s known as one of their most iconic to date. I should probably also mention Ordinary World also won the prestigious Ivor Novello songwriting award. Duran of course went on to have even more hits after this with Warren — not to mention the first band to ever release a digital downloadable single with Electric Barbarella.
Now it’s time to see the potential Rock and Roll Hall of Fame side of things.
Duran Duran was known as the second coming of the Beatles — the Fab Five. That means Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, Roger Taylor, John Taylor, and Andy Taylor. All instant heart throbs, icons, and musical prodigies. Sorry, but Warren Cuccurullo wasn’t in the band back then during that initial chaos and debauchery. With one member you have to have the other. Imagine if the Beatles replaced Ringo or George? Wait — Duran are guilty as charged. So let’s face it, people. When we think of Duran — we think of them in those fancy suits on that sailboat singing Rio. Or — that ginormous tidal wave crashing down over the audience in the Reflex video. Plus, Warren was a glorified hired gun until he became an official member after the Big Thing Tour. So, this means mega hits such as Notorious, Skin Trade, I Don’t Want Your Love, and All She Wants Is will not be credited to him. You could say we can be naive to think he didn’t have a hand in the arrangements of these songs, but we’re checking the songwriting credits. And not to stick the knife in deeper or anything, but even Funko is about to release toys of the original band. Warren didn’t make the cut as a Pop figure. So thank you Warren for your time, but this case is closed. You’re not getting in to the Rock Hall.
If the Rock Hall doesn’t recognize Warren Cuccurullo’s tenure in Duran, then why did Vivian Campbell from Def Leppard also get inducted? I mean no absolutely disrespect towards Viv or Lep (big fan over here), but his impact on that band was nowhere near what Warren’s was with Duran. Leppard rarely even puts a Vivian Era song in their regular tours, whereas half of Duran’s set list is from the Warren Era. Many haters disagreed with Viv getting in (for the record — I thought he more than deserved to be there). And now throw in Pete Willis from Def Leppard. He got in and only played on two and half of Leppard’s albums. But the bottom line here is will the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognize Warren Cuccurullo as a member of Duran Duran if and when they get inducted? Jon Bon Jovi wrote a letter to the powers that be at the Rock Hall about the importance of Hugh McDonald that replaced Alec John Such on bass throughout Jovi’s entire career. McDonald got in. Will Simon, John, and Nick have to write their own letters? Will they even want to is something else entirely. Or maybe the Rock Hall will already consider Warren a lock. Warren’s personal views on life and his choices off the stage have nothing to do with the music. If we were to do this then most of the rock stars who have been inducted already shouldn’t be there.
And so, I will leave you with this. I play in the touring Duran Duran tribute band — Wild Boys: The Duran Duran Experience. I don’t play Andy or Warren, I portray Dom Brown on guitar. We’re the only tribute that has the Dom role and we stand by it for countless reasons. By presenting ourselves as the Duran of today means we can play their entire catalogue, as well as their continuing on-going legacy that they create (from Planet Earth to Pressure Off). And I can tell you right now that if we didn’t include the countless Warren Era hits in our show then we would be fact checked and discredited as a Duran tribute in every shape and form. To push this fact even further — our most requested song to play is Serious off Liberty. So if we were to go back to our original experiment of throwing out the Warren Era records, I think I just proved my point again.
So where do you stand on this case? Does Warren deserve to be in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Duran Duran? I’m so looking forward to your thoughts in the comments!
For those who do not know Bart, here is his biography from the Wild Boys website!
Playing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on VH-1 is something an artist can only dream about. Well, that dream has already become a reality for former Dallas singer/songwriter Bart Van Bemmel. Bart’s song Something (Afterglow) took home first prize in the VH-1’s “Rock Across America” Songwriting Contestwhere he and his band got to share the stage with rock legend John Fogerty. Soon Bart and his band would go on to work with Grammy nominated engineer/producer Chris Bell (Destiny’s Child, Fuel, Polyphonic Spree, Erykah Badu, Kenny Wayne Sheppard), Billboard Award-winner Redbeard (Nationally syndicated show In the Studio), and producer Alex Gerst (Ellie Goulding).
But we have to go back to the beginning. Once Bart saw Duran Duran’s video for PLANET EARTH on MTV – it would forever change his life. It was Duran’s New Romantic sound that made him want to start playing music. As he grew older – Bart meticulously studied Duran’s sonic rock and funk stylings as he did his best to nail their sounds. As luck would have it – just a few years ago, Duran Duran guitarist Dom Brown shared his guitar rig rundown with Bart to help assist him with his mission to conquer all things Duran.
By the time Van Bemmel was 15 years old he and his band were playing clubs, getting their demo on Texas Q102, and winning Z-Rock’s Battle of the Bands where they won a slot opening for Sony recording artists Dirty Looks. As he continued in high school – his band went on to open for several national recording artists from Sony, Atlantic, MCA, and more – eventually catching the eye of producer Tim Miner (Paula Abdul/Steve Perry from Journey) making demos for him and Eric Andersonfrom Sony Records.
As the years passed some of Bart’s songs would ed up landing him invites to play several festivals in Texas and on the East Coast including SXSW, the Dallas Music Festival; Mainstream radio airplay in Texas/New York/Canada; Securing top spots in songwriting contests – including runner-up in the final round of the We are Listening Singer/Songwriter Awards where the songs were reviewed by judges including: KK (Producer-Dido/Nelly Furtado), Steve Williams (Producer-Sting/Seal/Eric Clapton), and Carly Vermes (Music Supervisor-Paramount pictures); Landing second place in the John Varvatos Free the Noise on SPIN Earth contest, and more.
Even though Van Bemmel is no longer chasing elusive record deals, he’s switched over to the film business where he has two feature films in development with named talent attaching.
But in the meantime – Van Bemmel will never forget his roots in music – which is why he joined Wild Boys. Because each time he and his bandmates play Duran Duran — he doesn’t know who has the better experience: himself or the fans.