30 Years Ago: Duran Duran Makes a Comeback With the Wedding Album
In February 1993, Duran Duran released their second self-titled LP, which came to be better known as the Wedding Album. The record sparked a massive resurgence in the Birmingham-formed band and introduced them to an entirely new generation of music fans.
Before the Wedding Album’s release, Duran Duran was in a tough spot. Their previous LP, 1990’s Liberty, was a commercial disappointment in both the U.S. and the UK. “The '80s had ended and a lot of people wanted to lock the door and close Duran Duran in that decade, too, I think,” keyboardist Nick Rhodes said in a 2013 retrospective piece.
Rhodes was also acutely aware of how much music had changed since Duran Duran had broken through and that the band needed to evolve if it wanted to stay relevant. “At the end of the '80s, music changed considerably,” Rhodes said. “We had grunge, techno and rave culture, which left us in a place where we felt we had to make ourselves relevant to the times. We weren't about to make a grunge or techno album, but we had our songwriting. We very much went back to basics.”
That approach extended to the Wedding Album’s recording locale. The band settled in at guitarist Warren Cuccurullo’s home studio, Privacy, and wrote songs every day.
“That’s basically where the Wedding Album started, right there,” John Jones, who co-produced the album with Duran Duran, told Forbes in 2023. “I would say [the band members] trusting each other, being able to work together in that room with one mic in the middle, all of us wearing headphones, clapping, singing, whatever — it was just so brilliant.”
Watch Duran Duran's 'Ordinary World' Video
The songs sounded strikingly modern without losing the essence of what makes Duran Duran great: danceable grooves, pop hooks and well-crafted songs. The slinky “UMF” is a Prince-like funk and R&B number; “Drowning Man” drew from the sounds and textures of the underground rave scene; “None of the Above” was an upbeat contemporary pop song with nimble guitar work; and “Love Voodoo” was a sleek, languid electro seduction.
Duran Duran paired these moments with songs aligned with another of their strengths: introspective ballads. The lush first single “Ordinary World” was already a massive hit by the time the Wedding Album arrived in stores, while a dreamy cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” added introspection and “Breath After Breath” is a beautiful collaboration with Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento.
The agony (and ecstasy) of romance crops up several times as a theme, although singer Simon Le Bon wrote the lovely, vulnerable lyrics for the trip-hop-influenced “Come Undone,” another big hit from the album, for his wife, Yasmin. Jones recalled the song came together quickly in just a few days and was based on a sinewy riff and drum loop.
“Come Undone” also benefitted from backing vocals by Tessa Niles, who told Rolling Stone in 2020 that she recalled session co-producers Rhodes and Cuccurullo were “asking me to jump through various vocal hoops and try different things on the chorus and try it in different ways. My initial idea for the female vocal was quite soft and breathy and sexy. I think at one point, Nick said, ‘Listen, unleash the diva. Just go for it. Bring her out and let’s see what you got.'”
The Duran Duran lineup for the Wedding Album included Rhodes, Le Bon, Cuccurullo, and bassist John Taylor. Drummer Sterling Campbell, who had played on Liberty, was no longer in the band, which also affected the album’s sound. “We were down to the four of us again, which meant using a lot of drum machines!” Rhodes said. Duran Duran were no strangers to technology: From their very early days, they had embraced new mediums and ways of constructing music and video.
However, Le Bon especially saw how much technology was influencing his work on the Wedding Album. “We were standing on the edge of a technological revolution,” he said in 2013. “For the first time in our careers, we recorded directly onto a hard drive. I began putting finished lyrics into a handheld computer - a PSION Organiser to be precise - this so that I'd be able to print them up to sing in the studio when it came time for the vocals to go down.”
Watch Duran Duran's 'Come Undone' Video
“Too Much Information” — a classic Duran Duran keyboard-propelled rock song — addressed this phenomenon obliquely, through the lens of the ways technology has enabled information overload. Le Bon’s lyrics target familiar figures (“Destroyed by MTV / I hate to bite the hand that / Feeds me so much information”) and touch on the pressures of being perfect for fame.
These weren’t the only lyrics touching on current events. Other songs referenced the political climate at the time. “It is, in many ways, an album of its time, with the Gulf War going on as we wrote the songs,” Le Bon said in 2013. “We were looking out at a world of ‘holy war and holy need’ and reflecting it.”
Buoyed by the success of “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone,” the Wedding Album was a big success for Duran Duran, praised for its sophistication and landing the band back in bigger venues. And it marked the first time the band had a Top 10 album in the U.S. since 1984's concert LP Arena, peaking at No. 7.
“The success of this album gave us tremendous confidence,” John Taylor said in 2013, “and the idea that we still had vitality and something to offer the world, after having had a few years of banging our heads against the wall, trying for reinvention.”