Nearly 40 years into their recording career, New Romantic pioneers Duran Duran are still making waves. Their 14th and latest studio album, Paper Gods, reached the number 10 spot on the Billboard charts earlier this month, making it their first top 10 hit since their self-titled 1993 album (a.k.a. The Wedding Album). The band is also currently touring the world in support of the album—a catchy, dancey collection of tunes that proves the Fab Five still know how to bring their A-game. In celebration of their continued success, here are 10 things you might not know about the suave, stylish pop icons.
1. THEY HAVE AN ENTIRE ALBUM THAT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD.
Before original guitarist Andy Taylor left the group for the second time in 2006, Duran Duran recorded the shelved album Reportage with him, then regrouped to create 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre. Nick Rhodes later told Details that the initial album’s worth of songs was angrier and more political than the band’s usual fare, and that it was not well received by Sony, who did not hear any lead single contenders. At the suggestion of their label, they began working with producers/songwriters Danja and Timbaland, while Justin Timberlake sang on two tracks of the subsequent Red Carpet Massacre album. There have been rumors over the years that at least nine unreleased Reportage tracks will come out, with titles including “Transcendental Mental,” “48 Hours Later,” and “Criminals In The Capitol”.
2. THEY WERE CENSORED ON MTV IN THE ’80s AND ’90s AND BANNED BY THE BBC.
While they were the darlings of MTV back in the day, Duran Duran actually found themselves nearly banned from the network in 1997 because of their risqué video for “Electric Barbarella,” which had to be edited due to its racy content. The video, which features Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, and Warren Cuccurullo purchasing and programming a sexy female robot (a scenario reminiscent of the movie Cherry 2000), was banned from the BBC and pulled from MuchMusic in Canada. While not quite the hypersexual clip that “Girls On Film” had been back in 1981 (which was banned on MTV and the BBC at the time), it still generated some controversy for the band at a quieter point in their career. Incidentally, their name comes from the moniker of the villain in the Jane Fonda movie Barbarella, to which the 1997 video is a nod. The song, in turn, inspired the name of the ill-fated MTV reality show girl band, the Electric Barbarellas.
3. NICK RHODES ORATED A SONG INSPIRED BY SIMON LE BON’S DENTAL SURGERY.
The 1997 album Medazzaland is the only one to feature vocals from keyboardist Nick Rhodes. In this case, it is a spoken word performance on the trippy title track, which was inspired by a visit Le Bon made to the dentist. He returned to his bandmates after taking the intravenous drug Midazolam, which allegedly removed all traces of the surgery experience from his memory. His sluggish state prompted at least one of them to say, “You’re still in Medazzaland, buddy.” And a quirky song was born.
4. THEY HAD THEIR OWN BOARD GAME.
At the height of their 1980s fame, Milton Bradley released the Duran Duran board game Arena, the title drawn directly from their hit live album from 1984 and released in conjunction with the 1985 video version. Designed for two to four players, the objective was to collect video cards and band member cards and accumulate as many points as possible. The person who finished with all the required cards and the highest score won. You can find it selling on eBay for around $45.
5. ROGER TAYLOR IS THE ONLY BAND MEMBER WITH HIS OWN DOCUMENTARY.
Duran Duran aficionado Aaron Barnett premiered his documentary, Searching For Roger Taylor, in 2000. The pet project, which does not seem to be available commercially but can be streamed on the director’s website, is both a quest to find the group’s drummer—who quit the band and the music industry in 1985 but returned full-time to Duran Duran in 2001—and a look back at the New Wave movement of the early 1980s.
In related work, an hour-long documentary about Simon Le Bon’s former yacht, Drum—The Journey Of A Lifetime, was narrated by the singer, featured a solo song from him, and is the companion piece to the book he co-authored. It came out in 1988.
6. NICK RHODES HAD TO FILL IN FOR HIS CHEMISTRY TEACHER.
When he was in school, Rhodes’ chemistry teacher used to go put bets on horses for his students, and would leave the classroom to do so. “It was not a good room to be in because people lit up paper darts on Bunsen burners and threw them around the room,” Rhodes told American Way in 2007. “I’m amazed that the school never burned down. And I used to get left in charge.”
7. SIMON LE BON STARTED HIS CAREER IN THEATER AND TV.
Before he made it big with Duran Duran, frontman Simon Le Bon embarked on an acting career when he was young. He appeared in a Persil soap commercial (among others) and made his West End theatrical debut in Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Those acting chops certainly paid off with all of the group’s flashy music videos as well as a “Rio”-inspired Sasson commercial in 1986.
8. JOHN TAYLOR IS MORE PROLIFIC THAN YOU THINK.
Bassist John Taylor has been involved in nine studio albums outside of Duran Duran. When the Fab Five briefly splintered off into two side projects in the mid-1980s, he joined the popular quartet The Power Station, which included Robert Palmer, Tony Thompson, and Duran Duran bandmate Andy Taylor. They scored a top 10 album and hit (their cover of T. Rex’s “Bang A Gong (Get It On)”). John Taylor did not rejoin the band for their 1996 reunion album, but he has nine co-songwriting credits on it. He recorded one self-titled album with Neurotic Outsiders in 1996; personnel included Taylor, Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, Duff McKagan of Guns ‘N Roses, and Matt Sorum of Guns ‘N Roses and The Cult.
Between 1996 and 2002, Taylor released six solo albums along with two live releases and numerous EPs and singles. In 2006, he and Rhodes curated a collection of ‘80s New Wave songs called Only After Dark that was meant to recreate the musical vibe of Birmingham, England’s famous Rum Runner club, where the band got their start.
9. NICK RHODES AND WARREN CUCCURULLO’S TV MANIA PROJECT TOOK 16 YEARS TO GET RELEASED.
During the Medazzaland recording sessions, while Rhodes and Cuccurullo were waiting for Le Bon to come up with vocal melodies and lyrics, they embarked on a project called TV Mania that was later called a “triptych opera” that foretold the coming of reality television. The dancey music ranged from atmospheric to almost industrial in nature, with samples of TV shows ranging from a fashion program to The Outer Limits being the only “vocal” approach. Ultimately a single disc set entitled Bored with Prozac and the Internet? was released in 2013 after the project, which had languished due to label non-interest in the late 1990s, was unearthed by Rhodes in an old drawer.
Thursday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Guitar Kits, Memory-Foam Pillows, and Smartwatches
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Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer married at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Wednesday, July 29, 1981. The ceremony was one of the decade’s biggest events—and for good reason. Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest son Charles was (and still is, of course) first in line to the throne, which made the day a landmark moment in the life of the presumptive future King of England.
With the early days of Charles and Diana’s relationship now immortalized in Netflix’s The Crown, here are some more facts and figures behind one of the 20th century’s most famous relationships.
1. Prince Charles met Diana while he was dating her sister.
Charles was romantically involved with Diana’s elder sister, Sarah Spencer (now Lady Sarah McCorquodale) when he first met his future bride-to-be. His and Sarah’s relationship wasn’t quite as harmonious as it’s portrayed in The Crown; Sarah later said that she wouldn’t marry Charles whether “he were the dustman or the King of England." Nevertheless, it’s through Sarah that Charles was first introduced to Diana while on a grouse hunt at Althorp House, the Spencer family's ancestral home, in 1977. Diana was just 16 at the time—six years younger than Sarah, and more than 12 years younger than Charles.
2. It was love at first sight for Charles and Diana …
Charles seems to have taken an immediate shine to Diana, telling The Daily Telegraph in 1981 that he remembered thinking, “what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16-year-old she was” after they first met. For her part, Diana reportedly told friends that she was destined to marry Charles after her first encounter with him—adding (not so prophetically) that “he’s the one man on the planet who’s not allowed to divorce me.” (Divorce laws for royals used to be a lot more stringent than they are today, and weren’t fully relaxed until 2002.)
3. … or maybe it wasn’t love at first sight for Charles and Diana.
Long after their relationship had broken down, Diana revisited her first impression of Charles—this time with the benefit of hindsight. In 1992, she told her biographer Andrew Morton that her actual first thought after meeting the future king was, “God, what a sad man.” Ouch.
4. It took a while for things to get going between Charles and Diana.
No matter what their first impressions were, it took a long time for Charles and Diana to become a couple. It wasn’t until 1980, shortly before Diana’s 19th birthday, that the couple finally got together. In the three years in between, Charles’s relationship with Sarah Spencer fizzled out, after which he reportedly proposed to Amanda Knatchbull, the granddaughter of Earl Mountbatten, his mentor. Knatchbull turned him down.
At the same time, rumors began swirling that Charles was still romantically involved with his long-term sweetheart Camilla Shand, despite her having married Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973. (Camilla is now the Duchess of Cornwall, Charles's second wife. The couple tied the knot in 2005.)
Charles had, in fact, intended to propose to Camilla years earlier, but their relationship crumbled when the royal family allegedly deemed her an unsuitable match for the heir to the throne.
5. Prince Charles’s schedule often got in the way of his courtship with Diana.
The problem with being heir to the world’s most powerful monarchy is that it doesn’t leave you a lot of time for romance. Reportedly, Charles and Diana only met in person, at most, 13 times before Charles proposed on February 3, 1981.
6. Charles did get down on one knee when he proposed to Diana.
Charles proposed to Diana in the nursery of Windsor Castle. Unlike what is stated in The Crown, Charles apparently did get down on one knee to ask for Diana's hand. (Also unlike The Crown, Diana’s immediate reaction was apparently to laugh.) The engagement was kept a secret for three weeks while arrangements for an official announcement were made; their betrothal wasn’t made public until February 24, 1981.
7. Diana picked out her own engagement ring (and it’s still in the family).
Charles didn’t pick out a ring for Diana; rather, Diana picked her own from a selection made by Garrard & Co., the official Jewelers to the Crown, The ring she chose—an 18-carat white gold band featuring a Ceylon sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds—is now worn by Prince William’s wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. Nevertheless, it proved a controversial choice: because the ring came from the Garrard’s public catalogue, it wasn’t a unique bespoke design which many in the royal family believed would have been more suitable.
8. Charles and Diana’s wedding was hastily arranged.
Charles and Diana had only been dating for around six months by the time Charles popped the question in February 1981, and it took barely another five months to arrange the big day—they were wed in July 1981.
9. Charles and Diana’s rehearsal dinner was almost as big as the main event.
The couple held a rehearsal ceremony at St Paul’s two days before the big day, then headed back to Buckingham Palace for a lavish celebratory dinner and party. The Queen hosted the event, which was attended by 1400 invited guests. Alongside dignitaries and famous faces like the First Lady, Nancy Reagan, the list of rehearsal dinner invitees also included many of the palace’s staff, who had been in the couple’s service throughout their relationship.
10. The rehearsal dinner was big, but Charles and Diana’s wedding was still bigger.
A congregation of 3500 people were invited to St. Paul’s Cathedral for the royal couple's wedding day, with more than 2 million well-wishers lining the streets of London outside—and a further 750 million people believed to have tuned in from home to watch the events on television, in more than 60 different countries. The broadcast remains one of the biggest television events in history for a non-sporting event.
11. There were almost as many musicians as guests at Charles and Diana’s wedding.
There were three separate choirs and a further three orchestras arranged inside St. Paul’s Cathedral for the ceremony, including the British Philharmonia Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the entire orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Add to that the official fanfare ensemble of the Royal Military School—plus the New Zealand operative soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who sang Handel’s Let The Bright Seraphim as part of the ceremony—and you’ve got almost as many musicians in attendance as invited guests.
12. Charles and Diana’s guest list was suitably impressive.
Besides the immediate royal family—plus Diana’s family, the Earl and Countess Spencer—among those also invited to the wedding were then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her husband; President Mitterrand of France; countless other European and Commonwealth heads of state; royal representatives from the monarchies of Japan, Jordan, Nepal, and Thailand; and a select handful of more personal invitees, including Prince Charles’s favorite comedians, Spike Milligan and Sir Harry Secombe, and the staff and parents of the nursery Diana had worked at before she began dating Charles.
13. Charles and Diana did have a few notable no-shows at their wedding.
Famously, King Juan Carlos of Spain declined his invite because the couple’s honeymoon plans included an overnight stay in Gibraltar, which has long been the subject of a territorial disagreement with the UK. Patrick Hillery, the president of Ireland, also stayed home in protest over the status of Northern Ireland. And while his First Lady was in attendance, President Reagan wasn't able to attend the wedding as he was scheduled to chair an economic summit in Ottawa the previous day (though it’s been speculated that he actually snubbed it because he didn’t want his first official visit to Europe as president to be a purely social one).
14. Charles was related to a lot of the people attending.
Thanks to many of Queen Victoria’s nine children and 42 grandchildren marrying into most of Europe’s other royal dynasties—lending her the title of “Grandmother of Europe”—today almost all of Europe’s royal family trees are all intertwined. (Incredibly, Diana was the first ordinary British citizen in 300 years to marry an heir to the throne.) So on his wedding day, Charles—as one of the foremost figures in the British House of Windsor—was related to most of the other royals in attendance. The King of Norway, Olav V, was his first cousin twice removed; Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was his fifth cousin once removed; Prince George Valdemar of Denmark was his second cousin once removed; King Baudouin of Belgium was his third cousin once removed, as was King Carl XVI of Sweden. And both the deposed King Michael I of Romania and his wife, Queen Anne of Romania, were Charles’s second cousins. Even Charles and Diana were related—albeit distantly: Both were descendants of Henry VII, which made them sixteenth cousins once removed.
15. Diana reportedly liked watching herself on TV.
On the morning of the wedding, Diana’s dressing room at the palace was a flurry of excitement. But in the midst of it all, Diana was oddly quiet—and was reportedly mesmerized by watching herself on television. According to bridesmaid India Hicks, “there was a small television on the side of this dressing table, and Diana was seated in front of it ... dressed in her jeans.” If any of the dressers, designers, bridesmaids, florists, hairdressers, or make-up artists who were in the room got in the way of the screen, Diana would shoo them away, “because, obviously, she was very excited to see herself on television.” It was only when the commercial break came on that Diana finally began to dress for her big day.
16. Diana’s wedding dress stole the show.
While Charles wore his traditional full-dress naval commander uniform, Diana wore an ivory-colored taffeta wedding gown, decorated with handmade lace and finished off with 10,000 hand-sewn pearls and a 25-foot silk train. The dress was the work of designers Elizabeth and David Emanuel, while Diana’s shoes—a bespoke, low-heeled pair of wedding slippers (low-heeled so that no one could tell she and Charles were both 5’ 10”)—were designed by shoemaker Clive Shilton, who personally adorned them with a further 542 sequins and another 132 pearls. (It took Shilton about six months to make the shoes.)
The designers all added a number of personal touches to Diana’s outfit, too. The Emanuels (a favorite designer of Diana's) sewed a diamond-encrusted horseshoe and a secret blue ribbon into the lining of her dress for good luck, and Shilton hand-painted a hidden “C” and a “D” onto the arches of her shoes. The designers were prepped for everything, too: In case it rained on the big day, they had prepared a lace-trimmed ivory parasol to shield the bride from the worst of the British weather.
17. Diana’s wedding dress broke all sorts of records.
Diana and the Emanuels (who were compelled to install a safe in their studio to keep their designs secret ahead of the big day) are said to have intentionally wanted her bridal gown to have the longest train of any royal gown in history—and they reportedly broke the previous record by a full 60 inches. In fact, Diana’s silk train proved too long to comfortably manage at home, forcing the Emanuels to eventually relocate from their studio to a seldom-used wing of Buckingham Palace to unroll, measure and construct the enormous garment in full. Though it was the train that stole all the headlines, that wasn’t even the dress’s biggest extravagance: Diana’s veil was made from a single 153-yard length of white tulle.
18. Diana had a dress disaster just before the wedding.
The French perfumiers at Houbigant (the oldest fragrance company in all of France) created a special perfume just for Diana's wedding day, which they called Quelques Fleur. Unfortunately, while getting ready Diana for the ceremony, Diana spilled some of the perfume on the front of her dress. She can be seen covering the stain with her hand in some of the wedding footage from that day.
19. Diana messed up Charles’s name while reciting their wedding vows.
Unfortunately, Diana's perfume disaster wasn't the only gaffe of the day. While reciting her vows, Diana famously muddled up the order of Charles’s full name, calling him “Philip Charles Arthur George” instead of “Charles Philip Arthur George.” In return, Charles fluffed his lines too, referring to “thy goods” rather than “my worldly goods” in his nuptials.
20. Diana refused to say she'd "obey" Charles in her wedding vows, which started a new royal tradition.
The Anglican Book of Common Prayer has provided the basis of the Church of England’s traditional wedding vows (whether royal or not) since the 17th century—and it’s this book that includes the famous line, “to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part." Diana, however, left out the “obey” part of that line in her wedding vows, prompting some eagle-eyed viewers at the time to assume it was just another nervous mistake. Not so, as it was later revealed that the couple (with the backing of the Dean of Westminster himself) had mutually agreed to ditch the “obey” part of the ceremony, arguing that it was outdated thinking.
When it was revealed that the line had been intentionally removed, the couple’s decision caused a sensation. Nevertheless, it has since become a tradition, with both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle omitting the word obey from their vows in 2011 and 2018, respectively.
21. Charles and Diana’s post-wedding breakfast was a much smaller affair than their wedding ceremony.
Of the nearly 4000 guests invited to the ceremony, barely 100 were invited back to Buckingham Palace for a private wedding breakfast after the event.
22. Charles and Diana’s kiss on the Buckingham Palace balcony established a new tradition.
Charles and Diana appeared on the famous front balcony of Buckingham Palace just after 1 p.m. and their wedding day and delighted the enormous crowds below with an impromptu kiss. Kissing on the balcony has since become a traditional high point of all royal wedding days, maintained right up to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's wedding in 2018.
23. Charles and Diana had 27 wedding cakes.
A number of high-profile chefs and patisseries were asked to produce cakes for the wedding, including Food Network regular Nicholas Lodge and legendary Belgian pastry chef SG Sender (known as the “Cakemaker of the Kings,” due to the number of European royal weddings he was involved in). In total, some 27 different cakes were baked for the occasion—although the official wedding cake was made by David Avery, the head baker of the Royal Naval School of Cookery. Reportedly, Avery spent 14 weeks preparing the cake, which was a 5-foot tall, tiered fruitcake that weight 225 pounds. In fact, Avery made two cakes (in case one got damaged) so, really, there was really 28 cakes.
24. Some of Charles and Diana’s wedding gifts were quite unusual.
What do you get the couple who (truly) has everything? How about one ton of high-quality West Country peat? At least, that’s what a local village in the English county of Somerset decided to send to the royal couple to celebrate their big day, so that Charles could use the peat to fertilize the gardens on his new Gloucestershire estate, Highgrove House. Besides a host of gold and silverware, jewelry, antique furniture, and priceless art, some of the couple’s other wedding gifts included two four-poster beds, a carpet, a silver mousetrap, a case of Scottish whisky, a first edition of The Complete English Traveller (1771), a 100-year-old set of antique silk mittens, a $20,000 fully-equipped kitchen, and a handmade paperweight created from the same limestone used to build the Tower of London.
25. Charles and Diana’s marriage may not have lasted, but their wedding day was a triumph.
While Diana famously came to (understandably) take very different view of her wedding day, at the time, to her and everyone else involved it was a triumph. “It was heaven, amazing, wonderful, though I was so nervous when I was walking up the aisle that I swore my knees would knock and make a noise," Diana proclaimed of the day. As for Charles? He confessed to a cousin that, "There were several times when I was perilously close to crying from the sheer joy of it all."