On This Day in Duran Duran History: "Notorious" and Arcadia's "So Red the Rose"

 JUNE 01: Nick Rhodes, Simon Le Bon, John Taylor of Duran Duran (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)
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Duran Duran 1987 (The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

By 1985, Duran Duran had spiraled out of control. The band's stratospheric success caused all sorts of friction with the "Fab Five." As a way to reset, the group split into two camps: John and Andy Taylor would team up with Robert Palmer and Chic drummer Tony Thompson to form the bombastic rock band Power Station. Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor would launch Arcadia.

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Arcadia highlighted the more atmospheric and esoteric side of Duran Duran, calling in a cavalcade of superstar guests, including David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Sting, Grace Jones, Herbie Hancock and Carlos Alomar to make the band's debut album.

"I did a lot in Arcadia, and a little bit in The Power Station. Was it cocaine-fueled? Yeah," Roger Tayor would admit in an interview years later. "It was the two ends of the band really, wasn't it? You had the arty end and the rock end. A kind of parting of the waves. I think Arcadia has stood the test of time better, maybe. The feeling was that The Power Station was more successful at the time. It was a bigger commercial success. Arcadia was probably cooler."

Arcadia arrived with first single "Election Day" in October 1985, and it was an instant hit. The moody track sauntered to #7 on the Hot 100, and came with an appropriately surreal music video.

Arcadia's one and only album, So Red the Rose, was released on November 18, 1985. The record did brisk business over the holiday season, peaking at #23 on the Billboard 200 in January 1986.

The album's second single, "Goodbye is Forever," would sneak into the Top 40, reaching #33.

When Duran Duran would return in October 1986 with the song "Notorious," the band was now a trio. Roger Taylor had left citing exhaustion, while Andy Taylor battled with the remaining members before ultimately also leaving.

The slimmed down version of Duran Duran came with a heavy dose of funk in the form of new producer, Nile Rodgers: "I remember him playing some notes up the neck of his guitar and it was the riff from 'Notorious," Simon Le Bon recalled in a 2011 interview. That was the first time that any of us had ever heard it. We just said, 'Man, we've got to have that.'"

The new look Duran Duran was a hit, as "Notorious" cruised to #2 on the Hot 100. The Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian" would block the song from hitting the top spot.

It was on November 18, 1986--exactly one year to the day after the release of Arcadia's So Red the Rose--Duran Duran released Notorious.

The album marked a comeback for the band, hitting #12 on the Billboard 200. The second single, "Skin Trade," doubled-down on the funk feeling of "Notorious," just barely hitting the Top 40 at #39 on the Hot 100.

Duran Duran would release a third and final single from Notorious: "Meet El Presidente." The live performance video would reveal the band's new guitarist: Warren Cuccurullo, formerly of Missing Persons. Handling the drums was session giant Steve Ferrone. 

"Meet El Presidente" sputtered out at #70 on the Hot 100.

Duran Duran would spend most of 1987 on the "Strange Behaviour Tour," which would wrap up with a pair of shows in Brazil January 1988. During the final show, the band would play the song "Rio" for the first and only time on the entire tour.

 

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