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Duran Duran snapped at the legendary Paradise Garage club in New York City, 1981

Like so many of Britain’s biggest bands, a spirit of experimentalism borne out of art-school beginnings planted a fire in the bellies of Duran Duran.

When schoolboy friends Nick Rhodes (then Nicholas Bates) and John Taylor (previously the rather less rockist-named Nigel Taylor) formed Duran with collegemate Stephen Duffy, it was with a mission statement to fuse the rock energy of the Sex Pistols with the discofied style of Chic, although at the height of the ‘Disco Sucks’ movement, the band’s love of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards’ work was decidedly unfashionable. However, throwing the studied synth-pop dynamics of Japan and art-rock ambitiousness of Berlin-era Bowie into the stew, the band knew they had a ready-made formula for success.

Duran played their first show at Birmingham Polytechnic on 5 April 1979 – a 30-minute set to just 20 people. A later support slot to fellow Birmingham band Fashion at the Barbarella’s venue attracted a certain Roger Taylor to the audience. “I just thought this band could be the next big thing out of Birmingham. I don’t know why I had that feeling”, the drummer explained.

As the resident band of Birmingham’s Rum Runner club, Duran were perfectly placed to immerse themselves in the myriad influences of the burgeoning New Romantic movement. Key to their learning curve was the influence of the Berrow brothers, who managed the band in their early years and also ran the Rum Runner. “My brother and I were importing all the new Giorgio Moroder-style records from New York,” Paul Berrow explained to the Guardian. “We’d been to Studio 54 and heard how dance music was changing. The Duran aesthetic was influenced by that.” Their association with the Rum Runner – John Taylor worked the door and Nick Rhodes DJ’d – meant that the band could use it as a rehearsal space and refine their act. Duran also paid close attention to the club’s regular jazz funk night, mining its sounds for inspiration.

When Stephen Duffy left the band (John Taylor originally played guitar with Simon Colley taking on bass duties), Andy Wickett replaced him as lead vocalist. Wickett, who worked nights at Cadbury’s Birmingham factory while in Duran, contributed to writing Girls On Film, although he is not credited on the final studio version. His vocals were also found on demos presented to EMI before the band were signed that were recorded at Bob Lamb’s studio in Cambridge Road, Birmingham; the first two albums were almost entirely demoed initially in Lamb’s studio.

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About Classic Pop Presents

In our latest Classic Pop Presents special, we immerse ourselves in the flamboyant world of the New Romantics. From the scene's origins as an underground movement born out of the Blitz Club in Soho through to the worldwide surge of popularity that led to mainstream success for some of the major players who made their musical mark, such as Boy George, Spandau Ballet, Visage and Duran Duran. Inside we tell the story of the Godfather of the scene, Steve Strange, and explore his pioneering band Visage with the help of Blitz DJ and band member Rusty Egan and fellow band-mate Midge Ure, who moved on to front Ultravox. We chat to Spandau Ballet's Steve Norman, who guides us through the making of their game-changing debut album Journeys To Glory, plus we head up to the Midlands to the Rum Runner club, which gave rise to another of the scene's major success stories, Duran Duran. This issue has plenty more to be enjoyed, including an exploration of David Bowie's influence on the movement plus eye-opening interviews with some of the scene's faces to get their side of this fascinating era, including Toyah, Princess Julia and Mark Shaw. Raconteur, author, DJ – and Soho's Wag Club founder – Chris Sullivan shares his hilarious memories of the times, and we strut the cat-walk with Blitz Kids, fashion designer Judith Franklin and photographer Graham Smith for our New Romantic fashion feature. Also inside, there's our Top 40 Essential New Romantic playlist, the design styles and artwork of the scene's many fine releases, and all with stunning photos throughout!