The sessions for Notorious were an embarrassment of riches for Duran Duran. With Andy Taylor gone, Nile Rodgers and Warren Cuccurullo picked up their guitars and helped push the band into new territory musically. However, it was the quiet man on the skins who perhaps had the greatest impact in shaping the band’s funky new sound. Steve Ferrone arrived with an impeccable resume and only added to it in the years since Notorious. When you listen back to this pivotal album in the Duran Duran story, it is impossible to overstate how critical the drums are to what the band achieved.
Starting with Average White Band, Ferrone was a known and respected drummer who could pick and choose the artists he worked with. In the 80s, that included Chaka Kahn, Mick Jagger, Scritti Politti, and Paul Simon. When he joined Duran Duran, he brought serious talent to a band fighting to be taken seriously. The resulting album did just that. Notorious marked the moment when Duran Duran’s music stole the spotlight from their notoriety and Ferrone certainly helped in that endeavor with his incredible grooves.
After Notorious, he was never far from the Duran Duran world, appearing on Big Thing, Thank You, and the Wedding Album but it was on Notorious where he did his best work with the band. His late 80s work with Eric Clapton yielded some of my favorite Clapton live albums (including a classic tour with George Harrison) and then he assumed the throne behind Tom Petty as a full-time Heartbreaker. However, my favorite Ferrone album remains Notorious. Songs like “Hold Me” and “Skin Trade” could not work without his rhythm and the entire album holds up impressively well these days thanks in large part to his work.
Here is a few clips of this legend at work including him teaching another drummer the secrets to “So Misled”: