“Cherry ice cream smiles”: Revisiting Duran Duran’s visually-stunning, imaginative videos

By on November 30, 2017

Night Flight’s “Duran Duran Video Profile” — which originally aired on August 11, 1984 — featured a half-dozen of their visually-stunning, imaginative videos, a format perfectly designed to sell Duran Duran to salivating pop fans around the world. Watch ‘em all again on Night Flight Plus.

England’s “Fab Five” (according to Rolling Stone, anyway) certainly might have been less successful, at least in America, had they not made any music videos.

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With their haircuts and high cheekbones, not to mention the music — a lot of synthesized dance beats and gibberish lyrics like “Moving on the floor now, babe, you’re a bird of paradise/Cherry ice cream smile, I suppose it’s very nice” — the video format proved hugely successful, even if they weren’t always easy to make.

Simon Le Bon — in Rob Tannenbaum’s and Craig Marks’ I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution — even said this:

“The thing about videos is, they’re awfully long days. At midday, a big glass of whiskey or a fat line of coke seems like a great idea. But come 8pm, when you’ve been on the set for hours, it’s awful. You can see which Duran Duran members were getting too high. They’re usually covered up with sunglasses.”

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Duran Duran — Le Bon (vocals), Nick Rhodes (keyboards), John Taylor (bass), Andy Taylor (guitar) and Roger Taylor (drums) — arrived on the Birmingham, UK-area music scene amid the “New Romantic” furor, a flouncy New Wave sub-genre notable for fashionable clothing accessories like headbands, sash belts, and frilly, foppish shirts with billowy sleeves.

Released in March 1981, “Planet Earth,” the band’s successful first UK single, was then followed up by another hit, “Careless Memories,” which peaked in the UK Top Forty.

Then, “Girls on Film,” their biggest-selling hit that year, soared into the Top Five, and their fourth single, “My Own Way,” returned them to the Top Twenty once again.

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In America, though, it was quite a different story, as all of these singles had failed to dent the U.S. charts.

The highly photogenic band were getting a lot of exposure in glossy teen-oriented music magazines, sure, but their self-titled debut Duran Duran had only charted at #150 on the Billboard album charts.

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Then came MTV’s full-time video programming, debuting in North America on Saturday, August 1, 1981, just a few months after “Night Flight” had premiered.

Suddenly everything — particularly the band’s own fortunes — had changed.

Read more about Duran Duran’s videos below.

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Their scandalous video for “Girls on Film” — directed by Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, and filmed at Shepperton Studios in July 1981 — hadn’t received any BBC airplay in the UK, but it was actually meant to be played in nightclubs anyway.

It did get some airplay on the Playboy Channel and cable TV shows like “Night Flight.” (Read our previous blog post).

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Then, a year later, in August of ’82, the band’s first manager, Paul Berrow, coerced Capitol/EMI to invest a reported $200,000 to send Duran Duran with a celebrated video director, Russell Mulcahy, to Sri Lanka for two weeks in order to shoot three videos: “Lonely in Your Nightmare,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and “Save A Prayer.”

Footage was filmed in various locations, including the Amangalla Hotel in Galle, 75 miles south of the capital city, Colombo, and at the 10th Century Buddhist temple ruins at Polonnaruwa. The beach scenes were shot seven miles southeast of Galle, at Unawatuna.

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By this point, Duran Duran had upgraded their androgynous glam pirate look for casually and colorfully fluorescent Antony Price silk suits (looking like a bunch wannabe Brian Ferrys), which gave them the more desirous look of wealthy jet-set playboys.

They occasionally still wore eyeliner, rouge and lipstick, though (we suppose it’s difficult for some to strip off the big sister makeup after looking pretty in the mirror for so many years).

The look they seemed to be going for now in their videos was that of men of mystery (explorers, secret agents, etc.) with apparently lots of cash to burn at variously mostly-tropical vacation locales.

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For their “Rio” video — also shot in May 1982 — they cavorted around on a two-mast ketch yacht named “Eilean,” surrounded by the lovely Reema Ruspoli, posing as a body-painted vixen.

The yacht scenes were actually filmed on the English Harbour bay, while the beach scenes were lensed on the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda. (Read more here).

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Less than two months after their video-shoot sojourn to Sri Lanka, Duran Duran’s brazen “Hungry Like the Wolf” — a Raiders of the Lost Ark spoof which finds an Indiana Jones-ish Le Bon and female companion bungling in the jungle to the strains of her orgasmic sex moans (“I’m on the hunt, I’m after you”) — was in heavy rotation on MTV.

The two-pronged promotional exposure of video/radio helped propel Duran Duran into the Top Ten in the U.S.

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Rio hadn’t charted in the Billboard Top 100 chart at first, but after four months of MTV airplay, the album was suddenly perched at #2 on the charts and selling more than a million copies.

Their next single, “Is There Something I Should Know?,” simply couldn’t fail, and entered the top of the UK Singles chart in April of ’83.

When the single was released in the U.S. in August of that year, it shot to #4, and certainly its Russell Mulcahy-directed video — shot in March of ’83 in England — had helped sales too.

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Our “Duran Duran Video Profile” also features their videos for “Union of the Snake” (directed by Simon Milne in Sydney, Australia, September 1983) and “The Reflex” (the live footage was directed by Russell Mulcahy at Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, March 1984).

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Watch Night Flight’s “Duran Duran Video Profile” — and other video profiles — over on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.