Among Duran Duran’s many achievementsselling 85 million records, redefining the possibilities of the music video, setting exciting new standards in eighties fashionperhaps the greatest is that the band brought a new word to the lexicon: Duranie, a noun that describes a zealous fan, a person for whom no shirt can be too frilly, no lyric too overblown. One particularly zealous Duranie has just sent an e-mail to Simon Le Bon, the band’s singer, who’s a year shy of his 50th birthday, and it has brought unalloyed joy to the recipient. “He runs a gay club in London,” Le Bon says, hunched over his MacBook in the sitting room of his southwest London house. The e-mail is an invitation, and the details of it have the singer mesmerized: an evening for 1,000 gay men at his club. Duran Duran all night long. Dress code: Wild Boys.
“Can you imagine it?” Le Bon asks with wide eyes. “I’m really tempted to go along. I’ve already got the jacket.”
Le Bon seems to be giving the invitation serious consideration. And if he goes, will the adoring Duranies recognize him with his heavier-set frame and the tender flesh beneath his chin? Almost certainly. For Le Bon and his band have refused to go away, as much as we might have hoped they would in the past. They survive against the odds, against fashion, against falling record sales. Once there were “Girls on Film,” “Rio,” and “The Reflex” (the higher the hair, the higher the chart entry), but then the world turned. Hip-hop, grunge, techno, and emo each overtook their brand of pop, but still they would not call it a day. Duran’s album sales fell from 12 million (1983’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger) to 400,000 (2000’s Pop Trash), and still they would not lay down their instruments. Band members came and went and came again, united in the belief that Duran Duran were a family and should stick together through eternity and the financial trials that eternity brings.
For this alone they deserve some sort of accolade. Eighties acts that have continued to put out new albums are an endangered specieson this particular late-August morning, Le Bon struggles to think of more than a couple. There are U2, Madonna, and not many others who haven’t broken up or given up at some point. But Le Bon is in a buoyant mood and seems convinced the band’s self-belief during the downturn is to finally going pay off.
Between now and Christmas, they hope to engineer a comeback that will create a whole new generation of Duranies. Le Bon talks of “a catalyst that got us really firing,” of “finishing lyrics in a day that might otherwise have taken three months,” of a new sense of urgency, a vitality that has inspired him “to a new level.” In other words, he talks of the things spoken of by every past-his-prime pop star. With one notable difference: Le Bon sounds as relieved as he does excitedas if some part of him once thought, as so many others did, that the band was finished.