Duran Duran – Notorious
October 20, 1986 was a highly anticipated day in the teen pop world. A new song was being broadcast on the radio with the related video, announced for days. Strange feeling, very high expectations also because we had been waiting for a long time, and that subtle fear that it could be not up to the previous ones (a feeling that was then repeated for decades). Because of course, we knew that this name was a guarantee, but we all knew that in the last few years a lot had changed, and therefore anything could happen. And so, seeing the video and hearing Duran Duran’s Notorious was an absolutely crucial moment.
It had been three years since the days of Seven and the Ragged Tiger and The Reflex. In between there was the happy parenthesis of Arena and The Wild Boys, but there was also A View to a Kill and the approach to Live Aid, with the not satisfying performance in Philadelphia, which seemed to announce the separation and the dissolution of the group.
Lost two of the three Taylors, Duran Duran were left in three. Their producer was Nile Rodgers, the king of funky, who had nevertheless proved to be a certainty since the remixes of The Reflex and The Wild Boys, and it was therefore clear that the album that would be released in a month’s time would be a very very funky record. And indeed, from the very first notes, Notorious was a great piece, much more refined and mature than the previous songs. Three seconds are enough, not so much for the choir at the beginning, but for that syncopated electric guitar round: it was like hearing the riff of Le Freak!
Of course, Andy Taylor’s irrepressible guitar was missing, but there was this Cuccurullo guy who had still had a good success with Missing Persons, and today we know that later in his life he would have had several other artistic inclinations, let’s say.
Notorious‘s lyrics were certainly captivating, but not easy to understand, as was often the case with songs written by Simon Le Bon. The upcoming album was certainly inspired in some way by the works of Alfred Hitchcock, also because three songs were titled like three films by the great director (but one later came out with a different title), but other than that, the lyrics were often hermetic. And after all Simon Le Bon not only did not like to explain in detail the meaning of his lyrics, but often argued that sometimes they were just the sounds of words that went well together, and that there shouldn’t necessarily be a mysterious meaning.
And so, to this day we know little about this woman manipulator of witnesses and prophets that is spoken of in the refrain. We know a little more, however, about the woman who appears in the video of the song and in the cover photos of the album: she is the top-model Christy Turlington, a great friend of Jasmin, Simon Le Bon’s wife. The video was shot by directors Peter Kagan and Paula Greif, who had recently shot Steve Winwood’s video of Higher Love with similar techniques: lots of black and white or sepia images, color filters.
Notorious was a huge success and topped the charts in many countries. The latent Duranmania for three years was coming out with arrogance. In fact the whole album Notorious was a great success, but according to many it was also the album that signaled the beginning of the decline of Duran Duran. On the opposite, I think Notorious is an even better album than Seven and the Ragged Tiger, musically, where Duran focused more on songs and arrangements than on hairstyles and clothing as was sometimes the case on previous albums.
A more mature album, you can hear it from various songs, and on the other hand, after the separation and with three more years on our shoulders, we could really say that Duran Duran had grown up!
Duran Duran on Wikipedia