Number Ones: #86


  • DURAN DURAN Notorious (EMI)
  • Week Ending 8th November 1986
  • 1 Week At #1


They’re BACK! BACK!! BACK!!!

Yes, the trawl through the idiosyncrasies of my personal Top 40s finally returns after a summer hiatus, but we could just as easily be talking about the release of Duran Duran’s first single in over 18 months.

That previous record, the Bond Theme for A View To A Kill, was a significant hit (#2 in the UK, #1 in the US) but effectively heralded the end of Duran Mk.I, as the five members splintered off in different directions with side projects The Power Station (John and Andy) and Arcadia (Simon, Nick and Roger).

By the time Notorious emerged in October 1986, five had become three as Andy and Roger bailed out. The surviving trio, who comprised the dominant two-thirds of Arcadia, unsurprisingly sounded quite a lot like Arcadia. A little less artsy, perhaps, but there wasn’t an awful lot to differentiate between Election Day or The Flame and this comeback track. It’s Duran Duran, but not quite as we knew it.

Nile Rodgers was on production duties again, and it’s obvious the departure of the band’s drummer and lead guitarist allowed him to bring a lighter touch, and a funkier precision, to the arrangement. Duran’s oft-cited desire to be a cross between Chic and The Sex Pistols has by this stage seen them effectively ape a purely Chic-esque sound with genuine conviction thanks to Rodgers’ involvement and influence.

Lyrically, it’s business as normal with LeBon’s talent for clunky couplets and naff wordplay very much intact, creating an impenetrable fug of pretentious twaddle (“don’t monkey with my business”, “lies come hard to disguise” etc). It’s something of a surprise to discover that “who really gives a damn for a flaky bandit?” isn’t about a well-known chocolate biscuit bar of the day, but a veiled attack on ex-guitarist Andy Taylor.

Notorious as a song title stemmed from an idea, during the recording sessions for the album, to name tracks after Alfred Hitchcock films; thus on the Notorious album itself we also got Vertigo (Do The Demolition) and Hold Me (The Trouble With Louise), the latter an homage of sorts to The Trouble With Harry.

None of this played especially well to the Smash Hits crowd, who were now interested in Pet Shop Boys, a-ha, Five Star and Madonna. Fanbase loyalty saw the single debut at #14 (their worst entry position since New Moon On Monday famously flopped in January 1984), climb to #7, and then perform a rather hasty descent from the Top 75. Curiously, this mirrored the Top 40 fate of Arcadia’s first single Election Day some 12 months earlier. Not even a studio performance on Top Of The Pops – which had that strangely familar feel of “yesterday’s men” to seasoned observers watching formerly unstoppable chart acts lose their lustre – could boost its fortunes.

Pop music was having one of its regular clearouts, and another changing of the guard was taking place. Duran Duran were by no means the only New Wave giants to suffer.

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