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The MARK of GREATNESS

SUPER-PRODUCER MARK RONSON HAS HELPED CRAFT TWO 2010s ALBUMS FOR DURAN DURAN THAT HAVE BEEN CELEBRATED AS AMONG THE BEST OF THEIR ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER…
Simon Le Bon with superfan and super-producer Mark Ronson at the Lovebox Weekender, 2009: “We knew there was more to his game than that vintage/retro thing.”

The world was certainly not ready for one, let alone two great albums to be made by Duran Duran in this decade… but that’s exactly what they’ve given us. Not only did they rejuvenate their vintage sound with hotshot producer Mark Ronson their ever-willing – and everintuitive – conduit, but only a few years later, they raced away into the future with a second, unusually collaborative and characteristically bold triumph that took them to even higher heights. It’s 2018, and Duran Duran are cool again.

Simon Le Bon was, of course, right on the money when he told TIME magazine: “You can’t really stay around for this long and still be crap” (over 100 million record sales can’t be wrong, after all) – but it’s fair to say that Ronson, amongst others, played a significant role in initiating this new purple patch. When, in 2011, the Atlantic-straddling DJ-turnedproducer came along to launch his “return to Rio” manifesto, Durannies the world over were fist-bumping under the table, no doubt delighted at the prospect of this “imaginary follow-up” to what, for many, was their favourite Duran album. But finding a fresh, younger audience in their fourth decade as a band was always going to be a big ask.

Their 13th studio album would turn out to be a stunning return to past form, and the LP that followed – made under the guidance of yet another pop sophisticate – would give them their most successful album in well over 20 years… and turn the heads of those youngsters.

ALL UP TO YOU

In January 2010, plans were afoot. Lengthy discussions took place at an initial get-together with Ronson, where tracks and ideas were reviewed. Eerily, just as the two parties aligned for their much-touted Rio follow-up, a different kind of restoration was also under way. Since the Rio single, the 70ft yacht from the video had ended up submerged in the mangroves of Antigua. Now she, too, was being reclaimed – and Eilean would soon set sail again.

With Mark Ronson at the helm, the band were to go through a similar reboot. He had helped elevate both Lily Allen (Alright, Still), and Amy Winehouse (Back To Black) with his seemingly untouchable production skills; credibility wasn’t an issue. But after the Red Carpet Massacre project with Timbaland (and Timberlake) had misfired a few years earlier, no-one was interested in more oil-meets-water experimentation. For John Taylor that project was “a f***ing nightmare”, and the critics hadn’t held back. “Time for another rethink,” yelled NME. Pitchfork called it a “wan culture grab”, while Spin lamented “Au courant emptiness is a cardinal virtue”.

Instead, Ronson gently applied the brakes to any zeitgeist-chasing desires still harboured by the band. “Mark’s way of working was completely the opposite,” Nick Rhodes explained to Stereogum. “It felt very much like the early days of Duran Duran, where it would just be all of us in a room slaving away for hours until it was done.” The four originals were reminded that they were already relevant. “Mark got us to look at ourselves a bit,” Roger told The Quietus. “He said: ‘Everybody else is in your ground that you occupied in the early Eighties, doing your thing. You should go back and own that territory again!’”

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About Classic Pop Presents

In the latest 132-page special edition of Classic Pop Presents, we celebrate 40 years of Duran Duran. Inside, we explore the band's roots in the New Romantic movement and take an in-depth look at their phenomenal success in the Eighties when they defined the decade with a string of chart-topping hits across the globe. We also tell the story of their critical and commercial rebirth in the Nineties and bring things bang up-to-date with the band fully enshrined as elder statesmen of pop. Elsewhere, we profile the band's best albums including the timeless Rio, Seven And The Ragged Tiger and Notorious plus we look through the lens at their blockbuster videos that shaped the MTV generation. We also hear from the band themselves through numerous archive interviews as well as a rare chat with former member Stephen Duffy. For your ultimate Duran Duran playlist, Classic Pop serves up the band's Top 40 greatest songs. The music. The videos. The style. The decadence – it's an unmissable treat for any Duran Duran fan.