Last month I received an email from Andrew Golub, wondering if I’d consider Duranalyzing his book, Beautiful Colors: The Posters of Duran Duran. This was the best idea I’d heard in a very long time.
Andy—well-known in Duran fandom by the irresistible portmanteau “Durandy”—is the world’s leading archivist of Duran Duran memorabilia: posters, photos, books, magazines, press materials, you name it. Much has been written about his collection in publications like The Stranger and The Examiner; I don’t really have a good way to wrap my head around the vastness of his personal archive, but from what I understand, a storage locker is involved. Durandy collects Duran Duran memorabilia the way Nick Rhodes collects art, or Simon Le Bon collects fine wine, or Andy Taylor collects grudges. In other words, it’s a serious business.
Beautiful Colors made waves upon its release in late 2013 for obvious reasons: It’s gorgeous. It’s a heavy, glossy, 260-page hardcover book, impeccably designed and filled with hundreds of full-color images. It’s my new favorite thing in the world.
And yes, the band members are fans, as well they should be:
(As an aside, Durandy—seen below supervising the production of Beautiful Colors at the printing press—is a delightful and charming human being. Not only is he one of the foremost Duran experts out there, he’s also funny, generous, and kind. In short, Durandy rocks. I’m a fan.)
Beautiful Colors is structured chronologically, beginning with the band’s earliest gigs at Birmingham Polytechnic in 1979 where John Taylor was enrolled as an art major and continuing all the way through 2012’s All You Need Is Now tour. The images are interspersed with useful snippets of information, which means the book pulls double duty: It’s a comprehensive portfolio of Duran Duran’s visual library, and it’s also a de facto biography of the band.
I’m going to take a quick look at a few of the images found in Beautiful Colors, reprinted here by kind permission of Durandy. First up is this Japanese promotional poster from 1981. Note the silhouetted figures at the bottom, which provide the steps for learning the bizarre New Romantic dance featured in the “Planet Earth” video. 1981 was a crucial year for the band, both for how it burst onto the public stage in a big way (Duran Duran’s self-titled debut album, which spawned two big hits with “Planet Earth” and “Girls on Film”, was released in June) and for the way the band members began to develop and refine their soon-to-be iconic personal style. As you can see from this poster, they’re not quite there yet—they’re still dressing like cast members in Birmingham Community Theatre’s production of The Pirates of Penzance—but they’re already moving toward the polished, glamorous image they’d perfect by the following year.
There are two utterly bizarre things going on in the above photo:
- It’s difficult to tell Andy and Nick apart.
- Andy’s hairstyle is more flattering and stylish than Nick’s.
After 1981, neither of these statements will ever be true again.
Here’s a Malcolm Garrett-designed 1982 poster promoting the Rio tour, which features a snippet from the Patrick Nagel painting featured on the Rio album cover. The current whereabouts of that very famous painting, by the way, are unknown—or, more to the point, they’re known only to Simon, Nick, John, and Roger. The painting used to hang in the office of the band’s then-manager, Paul Berrow, until the band members absconded with it. Andy Taylor ruminated on the topic in his memoir: “I haven’t got a clue where it is at the moment, although I wish I knew because as a piece of pop art it must be worth millions—and I still own one-fifth of it.” Let me don my amateur detective hat right now and clear that mystery up for you, Andy: Nick has it. Obviously Nick has it. I mean, I don’t know that for a concrete fact, but he’s far and away the likeliest culprit: He’s the owner of a world-class art collection, and as the band’s resident control freak, he’d make sure that painting was securely in his dainty and well-moisturized hands. There’s nowhere else it could be.
Shameless corporate promotion! In 1984, the boys shilled for Whisky Q from Japan’s Suntory distillery. In addition to print ads, the band’s Whisky Q campaign also included some deliriously entertaining and surreal commercials; you should probably stop whatever you’re doing and watch them, right now. Click here and here.
Your life is better for having watched those, right? Yep. Mine, too.
Beautiful Colors also features other endorsement efforts, such as an ad for Korg keyboards starring Nick (tagline: The Greatest Artist Plays the Best!), and John and Nick looking totally jazzed about that Yamaha music sequencer in the image below. Over the past three and half decades, the band’s been pretty choosy about the products linked to its name and reputation. A minor kerfuffle arose in 2014 after the band members discovered “Hungry Like the Wolf” had been licensed without their permission for use in a Yoplait commercial; some cried hypocrisy about the band’s firm anti-yogurt stance—after all, at the same time, Duran Duran songs were being used in commercials for both Dior Addict (“All You Need is Now”) and Michael Kors (“Girls On Film”)—but I’m totally Team Duran on this one. Maintaining a consistent brand identity is an important thing, and Duran Duran is not a mass-market yogurt kind of band. $35-per-tube high-end lipstick? Sure. Yogurt? Not so much.
Ah, now we have a jewelry-bedecked Nick, looking stern and glacially beautiful in an Italian poster for the 1987 Strange Behaviour tour. It’s a familiar image; I’m pretty sure that photo is featured somewhere in the pages of my collection of era-appropriate issues of Bop! and Tiger Beat. Which reminds me: Durandy’s website features hundreds of images from his archive. Need an awesome way to kill some time? Click through his gallery of vintage teen-magazine pinups of the boys, which run the gamut from gorgeous to hilarious. Sometimes you want to see Duran Duran looking their dreamy, well-coiffed best, and sometimes you want to see them looking like a gaggle of dorks.
So in 1988, while touring to promote the Big Thing album, Duran Duran played a surprise show in London, hiding the Duran Duran name and billing themselves as the Krush Brothers to, as Durandy puts it, “…maintain initial anonymity and allow people to sample the new material with an objective ear.” This is a cool idea!
Er… was the above “Krush Brothers” poster—you know, the one featuring the very beautiful, very famous, very recognizable faces of John, Nick, and Simon—actually used to advertise the concert? Because if so… you all see where I’m going with this, right?
Here’s a poster promoting a televised musical festival in Argentina. This was part of the Astronaut tour, which featured Duran Duran’s full original lineup—hi, Roger and Andy!—reunited at last. It’s a really beautiful image: great color, great composition, and the Durans all look gorgeous and glamorous and appropriately decadent.
Only… let’s look a little closer at the boys:
Ah. Yeah. It’s the ongoing Astronaut problem, the gloomy sunglasses-wearing elephant in the room. Serious question: Has anyone, anywhere, at any time, seen an official Astronaut-era photo or poster or flyer where Andy doesn’t look like he’s waiting to stand before a firing squad? This poster is from 2005; Andy quit the band for the second and presumably final time in 2006, and honestly, I’m surprised he lasted that long.
This is a poster from the 2007 Red Carpet Massacre tour, and that’s Paris Hilton, which: Sigh. This is exactly the same sort of impulse that led Duran Duran to invite Lindsay Lohan to perform on “Danceophobia” on the Paper Gods album. I get it: The boys have a soft spot for attractive pop-culture train wrecks, and while I don’t share their Hilton-Lohan fascination, I suppose it stems from the same place that leads me to binge-watch seasons of America’s Next Top Model. Therefore, I won’t judge. (I will point out, though, that “Danceophobia” would be a vastly improved song minus the weird Lohan spoken-word contribution. That’s just a fact.)
As I alluded to above, the band members are supporters of Durandy’s work. Here’s a photo of John, Simon and Roger looking over Beautiful Colors backstage after a concert (Simon always has the best t-shirts). Fun fact: Shortly after this photo was taken, the guys all joined in to help Durandy propose to his partner, photographer Christine Born, who photographed all the images from Durandy’s archives that were included in the book. There’s a video of the proposal at his website. It’s all very surreal and wonderful, with Simon stepping forward to hand over the ring, and it sets the bar for this sort of thing very high; in the event anyone ever proposes to me, I want to have Nick Rhodes hovering right there at my elbow, looking sleek and posh and terribly invested in whether I’m going to say yes.
Beautiful Colors is available at Amazon from various third-party sellers, including Andy Golub himself, who is selling new copies for $75.00. Or you can buy a used copy from an ambitious seller for, ahem, $724.72, but $75.00 seems like the better deal.