Last week on Twitter the latest Cherry Lipstick poll stirred some debate. The question – when were Duran closest to their personal Doomsday Clock? In other words, when did they become closest to ending it all?
The choices, in chorological order, was as follows:
June 1979: Stephen Duffy walks out on John and Nick, taking Simon Colley and all their songs with him.
Just two months after their first show, and a triumphant gig at the prestigious Barbarella’s, John and Nick found themselves without a lead singer or any songs. But they did have the band’s name and their personal ambition and drive to succeed. That proved to be enough to get them moving again by recruiting a new band, including, within a few weeks, one Roger Taylor. It felt worse than it was. Youthful arrogance and resilience rode quickly out the storm.
January – October 1986: Roger and Andy quit.
You know this story, and the wreckage it caused to the fanbase, but was it ever going to be terminal for the band? The timeline gives clue – it was a slow-burning catastrophe. Roger slipped away at the end of the tempestuous 1985, fed up with the insanity and bitterness. The excellent Notorious diaries tracks the events of 1986. The Notorious recordings formally started in April with – crucially for this debate - never any suggestion they wouldn’t, even though Roger had already gone by then. By July Andy had recorded nothing, and Warren got in touch with Duran (presumably because Andy contacted his band Missing Persons about joining them). Andy eventually did some recording on his own in September before the official announcement that he had left came out in October, just prior to the record being released. Duran Duran survived thanks to the creative drive from Nile Rogers, and the commercial imperative of the record company. The situation was traumatic for the fan base, but the band’s survival came from the momentum of the earlier success.
November 1990: Serious charts at number 52.
In case there was hope that the second single from Liberty would turn things round… The big reboot with the big new band and the big new sound collapsed on first contact with the public. Now what? From a Doomsday perspective, this was one minute to midnight for a while. The inspiration that had kept Duran going from 86-89 had run out. What would prevent the life support machine being switched off? The answer lay in the determination of Warren to rally his band mates. They ditched the drummer, hunkered down in his house, and scrapped their way to inspiration – and survival.
July 2000: Pop Trash is released
There were other crucial moments – the dreaded Thank You reviews (April 1995), John quits (January 1997), or Medazzaland’s lack of European release (October 1997). The dates track the decline of Duran Duran that led to their nadir. Pared down concert sets, chart flops, intra-band arguments, a reliance on hits played by only two of the original members, a lyrically drained SLB, a steroid-fuelled Warren (who was having snarky songs sung about him without his knowledge). Duran Duran had become a pretty pitiful place to be. One second to midnight. From here it really was all over… but there was one final, drastic, escape button to press…
* More on Pop Trash coming up later this week at Cherry Lipstick *
Here’s what you had to say on Twitter:
@TikiJon10: They had nothing left in a way after the Pop Trash debacle. After Roger and Andy left they still had a big contract, media attention, loads of fans.
@AzCardsGM I couldn’t disagree more. I think pop trash is one of the best pieces of music they’ve ever done. John leaving put a big damper on them and I think it run its course with Warren but the music was still exceptionally phenomenal. But there’s no denying that something had to give after the pop trash tour. Continuing on with that wasn’t happening because you can clearly see Simon was done with Warren.
@TheAimercat Simon was fucking DONE and over it all. That 2000 tour was hell. You could tell Petty LeBon wanted to unleash on stage at WC in Columbus. I went home and cried after i saw them in 2000 in columbus cuz i thought...we done. that’s it.
@lhskarka: 1986 is a close runner up, but it’s the Pop Trash meltdown. In ‘86 they still had over half the band; the voice & both founding members. After the Pop Trash tour blow out between Si & Warren, if JT had said “No” to returning, and hadn’t brought back the Taylor trio, that’s it. Game over.
@editionsofme: Serious 1990. Take That managed quite well without Robbie commercially, so the Roger-Andy thing was survivable but Big Thing and Liberty were commercial disasters from which there seemed no return. By the time Pop Trash surfaced they had rejigged enough memories to last in some way.
@johnnyskinner21: Pop Trash - it was clear that Warren had annoyed Simon in his
personal life choices, porn for one & obvs the tour was not the DD vibe going forward, so no reunion or at least no JT then potentially game over. But Warren was and will always be a DD legend Pop Trash is an amazing album
@spydermage14 Pop Trash was the point. They hadn’t had a decent hit in years, they were at two original members, Simon wasn’t at his best lyrically, and Nick & Warren seemed apart from Simon. I honestly thought that that was going to be it.
@Horde_Lady4ever I took a long break from the band after "Thank You". It was my breaking point. Been playing some catch up since, but will die a Duranie.
@leeboy1886 Pop Trash - I've seen footage of live gigs & it isn't good viewing. To me this was when I truly thought the end was near. Thank Heavens they got through it and came stronger. The album was ok but I just didn't like the direction the band were heading back then.
@SuzanneG2019 I voted Serious! I had to Special order the CD & HAD TO WAIT 3 WEEKS for the album because the Record Stores didn't even know that it actually existed until I told them! 1990 sucked!
@dancingvalentin It's obviously when Andy and Roger quit. My friends and I thought
it was the end of the world. LOL
@marc3374 It got to Pop Trash and just had to change. The saddest sight was when they played at a rodeo somewhere in America in 2001 and they were driven t0o and from the stage in the back of a pickup truck. Let that just sink in..... Nick Rhodes in the back of a pickup truck. Very sad. Simon looked so crestfallen during the whole promo cycle. The absolute nadir was either the show filmed at Wembley where they performed in front of a glittery curtain for the office Christmas party crowd or the Hallucinating Elvis debacle on Children In Need. I just remember watching that and thinking I can’t believe they've been reduced to this.
which brings us to these two horror shows. just 9 minutes of your time - can you finish them?