Duran Duran rediscovers success in the 'Ordinary World' of the '90s

July 26, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Is success sweeter the second time around?

Maybe so, but it isn't any better organized. And as much as Nick Rhodes and the other members of Duran Duran enjoy being back on top of the charts, they're a bit dismayed to find that things are just as crazy for them now as it was when they rode the first wave of Duranomania a decade ago.

"We'd thought we were better equipped for it, but it's getting pretty crazy out here," admits Rhodes from a tour stop in Charlotte, N.C. "When we looked at it on paper, this tour seemed beautifully routed and relatively civilized, as these things go.

"But then, of course, when you look at the harsh reality of the number of airplanes and how long some of them actually take, and the fact that you have to work on those days, it suddenly becomes a little more grueling than one would have imagined."

Then, of course, there's the weather. "This heat is killing us," groans Rhodes. "I actually look forward to thunderstorms."

Still, he's not complaining. Wouldn't even think of it, to be honest. In part, that's because the most important part of the tour -- the musical end -- has been great for the band. "I mean, apart from things like the travel and what have you, the shows and the audiences have just been phenomenal so far," he says.

But mainly it's because Rhodes knows what it's like not to have hits. Before "Ordinary World" charged up the charts earlier this year, Duran Duran hadn't put a single in the Top 40 since 1989. And though the band continued to tour and record, most people -- including the Durannies themselves -- figured the band had long since lost its place in the sun.

"Over the last few years, we'd been soldiering away, and we'd almost become settled in the belief that we'd got a cult following," he says. "And that was the level Duran Duran had been sitting at since about 1988 or something. We sort of locked into that, making our albums and exploring different territories and really being happy with what we were producing."

Of course, it's worth noting that the band hadn't expected mass-audience acceptance the first time around, either. "When we started out, really, we came from an art school background," says Rhodes. "The audiences we were playing to at the beginning of the '80s, even in America, were very much a college cult audience, for want of a better word.

"When we came over here the first time, we were playing all these tiny little clubs. I remember the first gig we ever did in America was Spit Club in Long Island -- I remember most of them pretty clearly. And we suddenly went from that to Madison Square Garden. It was a greater surprise to us than anybody else."

Was the success of this new album as much of a surprise? Not really, says Rhodes. "When it came to this album, we had a hunch that it would be more commercially acceptable," he explains. "Particularly a song like 'Ordinary World,' because of the reaction we got from almost everybody that heard it, whether it be the next door neighbor or somebody from the record company. It was, I suppose, not so much of a surprise to us that it did well at radio here."

And while Rhodes and his mates hadn't counted on the kind of continuing success Duran Duran has enjoyed, they made sure not to be caught unawares.

"Because 'Ordinary World' got leaked out to radio in advance, we had to start preparing ourselves for a different type of a show than we probably would have taken out," he explains. "We have a show designed by an opera designer from England out with us. It's incredibly unique, and quite elaborate.

"It's unlike any show any rock band's ever taken out before, that's for sure."

In addition to plenty of visual spectacle, Duran Duran's current show also delivers a healthy selection of hits. "When we were putting the set together, we felt that playing the new album and ignoring all the old stuff really wasn't what audiences would want to see," says Rhodes.

"Particularly when Duran Duran has existed now for something like 15 years. We've written a lot of songs, and I think your duty when playing live is to the audience, to give them a lot of what they want. So we're playing about four or five songs off the new album, and then the rest of it spans right over our career."

Still, Rhodes seems uncomfortable with the notion that some of the interest in his band's back catalog stems from the burgeoning wave of '80s nostalgia.

"It wouldn't surprise me that there is such a thing," he says. "But we've covered so much ground in the last 15 years -- and are still covering new ground -- that when people dig up old things and try and make it nostalgic, well . . . it just doesn't make any sense to us at all."

DURAN DURAN

When: 8 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion, Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia

Tickets: $22.50 pavilion, $16.50 lawn

Call: (410) 730-2424 for information, (410) 481-7328 for tickets

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