Listen to this track by former Fab Five New Romantic chart toppers from Birmingham Duran Duran. It’s “Ordinary World”, a single as taken from their self-titled 1993 album, often known as The Wedding Album due to its cover. The song was looked upon as a comeback single, helping the band reclaim their place in the top ten all over the world after a period in the desert, commercially and artistically speaking.
By the time this song was written and recorded, Duran Duran were pulling themselves out of a loss of pop chart mojo. Disappointing sales returns from the late-eighties and early into the nineties was one sign of their descent. Another was the loss of their classic line-up that brought them their best artistic and commercial returns. Guitarist Andy Taylor went solo. Drummer Roger Taylor left the music business entirely. Their bedroom wall pin-up status was getting pretty old, too. Their “duranie” fans had grown up, ready for a new decade and with newer bands to appeal to their new levels of maturity. Duran Duran had scored a number of memorable hit singles in the eighties, but by the nineties even these were looked upon as guilty pleasures by many instead of as building blocks to a lasting career. Even the video age that helped birth them into the world-beating hit machine they were was on the wane by the early nineties. Times had changed.
Yet, Duran Duran still had gas in the tank. This song met those new levels of maturity their older fan base demanded, and even enabled the band to re-invent themselves for newer fans. Because all the while, Duran Duran had grown up, too.
One measurement of growth by 1993 was their line-up change. This included American guitarist and former Frank Zappa/Missing Persons member Warren Cuccurullo, who’s acoustic and electric guitar parts help to define this song in a more contemporary, rock-oriented vein, along with the more familiar contributions of singer Simon LeBon, keyboardist/programmer Nick Rhodes, and bassist John Taylor. Another sign of their growth is an embrace of a more direct approach to lyrics. The “why-ya-ya-ya don’t you use it“s of the past are replaced by narratives that are relatable, and less evasive. This is a song about mourning, and having to carry on with the quietly grueling business of living one’s life after a loved one has gone. It was a more mature work than many of their past singles, dealing more seriously with personal experiences. The band had evolved.
The challenge at the time was convincing the radio industry, who perhaps understandably associated the band with the excitable, hormone-fueled teenage years of music fans who had since moved on. Yet, when this particular song was leaked by their label (Capitol) to select radio markets in the US, listeners responded favourably, initiating an official single release. It seems like melancholic power ballads had a place on American radio by 1993, even if it was from a band primarily known for early-to mid-eighties lipstick-and-hairdo looks and new wave/disco hybrid sounds. The result was prime chart placements on pop and alternative charts internationally, and even an Ivor Novello award in Britain. They even performed this song on stage with Luciano Pavarotti of all people. The success of this single would pave the way for yet another on the same album in “Come Undone”, which had similar showings on the charts. Maybe it wasn’t cool to like Duran Duran by the early nineties in the same way that liking Blur was. But, it was easier to take them seriously.
Duran Duran would continue to make a positive impact on the charts later into their career, although more personnel changes along the way and later dips in fortune in terms of sales and reviews made it a bumpy ride. It would never be easy for a band associated with a very specific era, and who had never been critical darlings when it came to the mainstream rock press. But, by the early two-thousands, the classic line-up would reunite for a time with very successful results, proving that even one-time pin-up dreamboats can reach middle age with unique grace. And it also proved that their early singles remain to be bona fide favourites by millions all these years later, seeped into the cultural consciousness without any guilt mixed in with the pleasure derived from them.
These days, Duran Duran are a quartet of classic members in LeBon, Rhodes, and also John Taylor back on bass after his own late-nineties to early two-thousands departure. They also include a returning Roger Taylor behind the drums. You can update your durannie dreams at duranduran.com. Their new album Paper Gods is out now.