Duran Duran has never been a political band.
Unlike U2 singing at Bill Clinton's library opening or Green Day bashing George W. Bush, Duran Duran has maintained pop music neutrality even as the world has become more splintered around political rhetoric.
“We made a fairly conscious decision to not use the band as a political springboard for our views because I think firstly whatever we think is somewhat personal,” Nick Rhodes, Duran Duran’s keyboardist, said recently in an interview. “We are not politicians and I don’t think it’s necessarily right for us to influence other people’s opinions.”
But Duranies, as the British band’s fans are called, especially in the United States, are political. As they matured in the 1990s, fans put away their posters and shelved their albums to become engaged in their communities and, in turn, develop political opinions. Their Duran Duran obsession cooled.
Duranies quickly united. They found each other – strangers who shared one passion– in Facebook groups and the band’s fan club message board. The band also found their fans with Simon Le Bon and John Taylor taking to Twitter while drummer Roger Taylor prefers Facebook. Rhodes mainly stays away from social media except for dabbling in Duran Duran’s Second Life world, which he masterminded.
In turn, politics entered the Duranie world.
Most Duranies fell in love with the band as teenagers during the Reagan ‘80s. They didn’t care about Ronald Reagan’s GOP policies; they – and I was one – only focused on whether bassist John Taylor dyed his hair a new shade of red or singer Le Bon dated a new girl. They knew the late Princess Diana loved the band as much as they did. But what member, if any, was a Tory or Labour supporter? Who knew? Who cared?
As adults, Duranies soon learned that their pin-ups had views and intelligent insight into myriad topics. They were far more than pretty faces on the wall.
John Taylor, who splits his time between England and the United States, was an Obama supporter. In 2008, he made a YouTube video as a Brit who supported Obama. He still has an affinity for the president.
“If I had a vote, I'd stick with him for another term," said Taylor, who has also tweeted about the need for more gun control in the United States.
Fans discovered that Le Bon often tweeted about many political issues that led to them to investigating the troubles of Julian Assange or more recently, the drama around Russian punk rockers Pussy Riot.
“Interestingly the band as individuals and collectively all have strong and sometimes differing political viewpoints both in Britain where we live and internationally,” Rhodes said. “We often discuss things privately.”
But Rhodes acknowledges that social media serves as an outlet for the band’s political viewpoints.
“Occasionally, if you look far enough comments that people feel strongly about on a political issue end up being a tweet or in an interview like I’m doing with you now,” he said. “It happens.”
One Duran Duran song where politics enters the arena is the 1993 hit “Ordinary World.” On any given night while on tour, Le Bon will dedicate the song to current events of the day. At an Olympics performance prior to the opening ceremonies, he dedicated it to peaceful games. On the current tour, he dedicated it on various nights to human rights, climate change and Pussy Riot.
The song, Le Bon always says, is ultimately about hope. Rhodes concurs.
“I think hope is certainly something all human beings inherently favor,” Rhodes said. “What happens in life often is that hope gets shattered and broken and it’s easy for cynicism to set in when things become as difficult as they have over the last few years. Simon’s message, and the band’s message, is ‘don’t give up hope because we don’t have anything else.’ The alternative isn’t anything better.”
That message woos fans.
In Duranie forums, the conversation often turns on any day from John Taylor’s hair dye in the 1980s to political topics such as home schooling, Mitt Romney, the war on women and gay rights. A debate can often ensue before someone throws out a white flag – usually in the form of a Duran Duran music video or a random question about the band.
At shows, fans from various socio-economic backgrounds and political persuasions come together. For two hours, politics evaporate even if a raging debate about Obama and Romney has just occurred at the venue’s bar.
“I have often disagreed with other Duranies on those eternally-controversial topics of politics and religion, but at a show, we all feel the energy and excitement collectively. It’s something that just can’t be replicated elsewhere,” Maya Garcia, a 30-year fan from Chicago, said. “Duran Duran has the ability to make all women feel beautiful, and appreciated, no matter who they are, or where they come from.”
Now, if only politicians could take a lesson or two from Duran Duran’s songbook.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker