Duran Duran became so popular they were known as “The Fab 5”
(No. 39 in a continuing series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)
By Phill Marder
Whether the following two bands were responsible for the formation of new categories critics use to conveniently classify music or merely dominated the ones they were assigned to – one, New Wave, the other Goth Rock – is up for debate. But each was a musical giant of the 1980s and their popularity continues to this day, 30 years after their breakthroughs. They are two bands deserving of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, Duran Duran and The Cure.
There never again will be the hysteria that greeted Elvis or the Beatles, but now and then someone comes along reminding us of that fervor. Usually, it’s just a bunch of hype, but occasionally the talent is there to back it up. And it was/is with Duran Duran, which, using the fledging video age to their advantage, gave us 13 top 20 singles and eight top 20 LPs between 1982 and 2004 to earn the nickname “the Fab 5.”
Of course, those numbers apply to U.S. charts only. In their United Kingdom homeland, they did even better, charting 13 top 20 LPs, including “All You Need Is Now,” just released in December. On the UK singles chart, the group placed a whopping 22 into the Top 20.
“Is There Something I Should Know?” topped the charts in the UK and New Zealand, “Union Of The Snake” reached No. 1 in Finland, “The Reflex” got to the top in five countries, the UK, US, Ireland, The Netherlands and New Zealand, “Wild Boys” finished atop the German and Italian charts, “A View To A Kill” reached No. 1 in Italy and the US, and “Notorious” and “I Don’t Want Your Love” also topped the Italian chart.
The number of singles that stopped at No. 2 also was substantial.
Their 1981 eponymous debut shot to the No. 2 position in New Zealand and No. 3 in the UK, while its successor, the 1982 “Rio” album, was No. 1 in Australia and Canada and No. 2 in the UK. In 1983, “Seven & The Ragged Tiger” hit No. 1 in the UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand and No. 2 in Australia. Twice, the band just missed the top spot on the Italian charts, 1986’s “Notorious” and 2004’s “Astronaut” stopping in the runner-up spot.
Truly, Duran Duran was a force worldwide, not just in select pockets. Amazing achievements for a band written off by much of the music press as a collection of pretty boys. And if they were pretty boys, how much talent could they have?
“They were cursed by what we can call the Bee Gees curse,” said Moby. “Which is: Write amazing songs, sell tons of records, and consequently incur the wrath or disinterest of the rock obsessed critical establishment.”
I didn’t like Duran Duran, either. But not for the same reasons. I just couldn’t get passed Simon LeBon’s vocals, but, to my ears, even Roy Orbison would have had a hard time saving “Rio” and “The Reflex.” However, when so many love music I can’t stand, I’ll take a second listen or more figuring I must be missing something.
And I was. Eventually, I too became a fan. I still didn’t care for the above two singles, both of which were smash hits, but “Hungry Like The Wolf,” “Union Of The Snake,” “Notorious” and some others encouraged me to listen more and more closely. LeBon still wasn’t my favorite vocalist, but the instrumental prowess behind him was impressive and the songwriting was pretty good. And eventual side projects Power Station and Arcadia helped strengthen the group’s credibility.
My change of attitude had nothing to do with MTV, but the new video station’s impact on Duran Duran was immeasurable as the group’s stylish videos and their good looks instantly made them superstars. Yes, the hysteria reminded even the most jaded of us of what had greeted Elvis and The Beatles.
Tough to live up to, but Duran Duran, LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor, has endured, producing quality music even today. Guitarist Andy Taylor, was replaced for an extended stretch by Warren Cuccorullo before rejoining. But he was replaced again by Dominic Brown, who wrote much of the recent album, which reached #1 on the download charts of 15 different countries, including the UK. That was accomplished even though the tour supporting the release was interrupted when LeBon came down with laryngitis.
The Cure’s Robert Smith became a pinup for the Goth movement
While Duran Duran’s lineup has remained remarkably stable the past 30 years, The Cure presents a completely different picture.
Of course, there is the one piece that never has changed, that being lead singer, songwriter, guitarist and romantic favorite – Robert Smith.
Who else should be inducted? Bass player Simon Gallup certainly. He’s been there almost as long as Smith. Lol Tolhurst held down the drums from 1978 to 1984, when he moved to keyboards for close to another five years. In 1984,Boris Williams settled in for a 10-year stay on drums, his replacement, Jason Cooper, lasting since. Perry Bamonte started on keyboards, then switched to guitar, totaling almost 15 years of service. Keyboardist Roger O’Donnell was on hand for two stays, first in the late ‘80s, then again in the mid ‘90s. And not to forget Porl Thompson, keyboardist and guitarist in the original lineup and still present today. While all this was going on, Smith found time to play guitar for Siouxsie & the Banshees.
In 1992, Britain’s New Musical Express declared The Cure “a goth hit machine (19 to date), an international phenomenon and, yep, the most successful alternative band that ever shuffled disconsolately about the earth”. So successful that Smith, or references to Smith, have turned up in some far-out places, South Park, for instance, where Kyle reverently refers to “Disintegration” as “the best album ever!”
Does Kyle qualify as a music critic? Why not? The qualifications are rather minimal – know how to type and turn on a CD player or an IPOD or whatever. “Disintegration” did reach the top 10 in seven different countries, the 1989 release marking the first Cure LP to conquer the US, most of Europe and the Pan Pacific. And Rolling Stone ranked it one of the top 500 albums of all time as it did with the “Boys Don’t Cry” LP. The previous seven efforts had done well, but The Cure was not an overnight sensation like Duran Duran. They were more an acquired taste, and more acquired a taste for them with each release.
In spite of a three-year break after “Disintegration,” the follow-up, “Wish,” did even better, topping the charts in the UK and Australia and reaching No. 2 in the States. It hit the top 10 in five other countries, including Germany, where it established the band as a top seller. Never a band to produce hit singles, The Cure, nonetheless, broke Spain in 2008 with three No. 1s and a No. 2, all pulled from the group’s LP “4:13 Dream.”
Two bands from the same era – different but significant. Significant, but immensely popular, then and now.
So popular that The Cure, in its only 2011 European appearance, will be headlining the September Bestival on the Isle Of Wight. A press release for the event, which also features Brian Wilson, reads, “The Cure has inspired countless bands in the last three decades and whilst most of their contemporaries have fallen by the pop wayside they remain as relevant and vibrant as ever. As one of the Bestival crew’s collective favourite bands of all time, we’re all jumping for joy that The Cure is coming to the party to headline Saturday night at Bestival. September really can’t come quickly enough for us.”
There are others who should precede them into the Hall of Fame, but eventually Duran Duran and The Cure should be inducted. They merit the honor.