Lost Treasures #8: Hungry Like The Wolf
This, on the face of it, doesn’t seem very much like a ‘Lost’ Treasure, does it? Duran’s best-known song, their most played live song, and getting on for 40 years old. What new can possibly be said about Hungry Like The Wolf? Well, let’s try.
It began its life as the ‘real’ lead single of Rio. As recently mentioned, it is the blood-brother of Girls on Film. They both have pure pop sensibility, a classic guitar riff, and a dangerous lyric of sexual danger.
In the UK the song sealed the deal on the promise of 1981, and launched Rio to success and glory. Without that foundation, it took another year in the US for the video to send it and the band over the edge and into history. Hungry Like The Wolf was Duran’s first US chart hit in March 1983.
However, this story needs to tell you more than you already know. Because Hungry Like The Wolf has tracked the evolution of the band.
Following the Rio tour, Hungry Like The Wolf resurfaced for Sing Blue Silver as a full-on rock anthem. It was blasted along by the tide of cocaine and hedonism that comes with being on top of world. “Is anybody hungry?” growled le Bon, to which his answer was “Me!” Hungry Like The Wolf mirrored the band in having become bloated and over-blown. Something had to give.
Three years later, Hungry Like The Wolf, like the band, had had a make-over. Out went the fun pop song, and in came a funked-up chorus and horn section. With the rock element jettisoned, for the only time it was shunted down the set list as Duran started their attempt to distance themselves from their past. Elements of this re-make carried over to the 1988/89 shows, with Warren adding Big Thing-esque guitars, whilst the horns remained in place for the end of the song.
The journey of change continued on the next tour, in 1993. The popular MTV Unplugged series encouraged re-working of old songs, which matched Duran’s agenda. Hungry Like The Wolf was perfectly placed to be a showcase for this treatment. It is its most radical re-working and carried over into the world tour. It builds from an indistinguishable opening to a rousing climax that salutes the original in a way that is safe, wrapped as it is within the success of The Wedding Album. It is one of Warren’s triumphs with the band, as his talent re-casts the big hits in a most complimentary way.
The pendulum swung in 1995 for Duran’s hit-and-run 9-song set promoting Thank You in the USA. As Duran turned to honour their personal musical heritage, they resurrected and again updated their professional one. Hungry Like The Wolf was re-born as an apocalyptic grunge anthem, regaining the fun and danger that had been sacrificed for the band’s musical exploration. This marks the high point of its re-imagining.
1997-2001 saw Duran and Hungry Like The Wolf clinging on through various stripped-back shows. It limped through this period in something like its original form, yet remained ever-present on the set-list. The swipe at its past came artistically on the back cover of Medazzaland rather than in any change to its structure. With Duran’s innovation and experimentation directed elsewhere, it was played ‘straight’ for the first time since 1982. The extent to which Warren (or Simon) put his heart and soul into it may be an argument and question from a different age.
Hungry Like The Wolf emerged into the new century bright and breezy, unbowed and undaunted. The reunion breathed new life into it and the career of Duran Duran. Over its life, Hungry Like The Wolf has been cheered, roared on, shot at, and thrown out of windows by us fans. But it is absolutely cherished by the band. They continue to send it out to open the batting in concert as one of the three opening numbers, an honour it has had bestowed upon it almost continuously since 1982. So, let’s salute this over-familiar friend.
Like Duran Duran themselves, it is the great survivor.
Hungry Like The Wolf through the ages: