1981 ➤ The day Duran’s fortunes really took flight

❚ HAPPY 30th ANNIVERSARY to Planet Earth. On March 5, 1981, Duran Duran made their first appearance on the nationwide TV show Top of the Pops, a vital consequence of their debut single hitting the UK Top 40. Along with Spandau Ballet and Visage, Duran were the third British band to confirm the gathering force of the New Romantic movement, and TV’s pop flagship was to showcase a rush of new bands as springtime blossomed. Duran’s strongly contemporary electronic style is attributed to producer Colin Thurston, who had co-engineered David Bowie’s “Heroes”, and on his death in 2007 John Taylor paid tribute to Thurston as “a major catalyst for the 80s sound” which he was to reinforce on the band’s first album. “Without Colin’s depth of vision, we would never have become the band we became.”

Duran Duran, Simon Le Bon, Rum Runner, 1980, New Romantics,Planet Earth, video

Simon Le Bon: live on video at the Rum Runner in 1980

In the Planet Earth video mix above we see original footage of DD performing in 1980 at the Rum Runner, home of Birmingham’s then underground New Romantic scene.

The futuristic and stylish official video, shot later in a studio by director Russell Mulcahy, has been spliced in, all overdubbed with the audio track recorded at EMI’s Manchester Square studio with lyrics refreshed opportunistically to include the line Like some New Romantic looking for the TV sound (available as the Manchester Square Demo on the debut Duran Duran album remastered in 2010). One of Duran’s earliest songs, Late Bar, completed the B-side of the single released on Feb 2, 1981. An alternative arrangement of Planet Earth was also released on a 12-inch extended remix as what DD called a “night version” for the dancefloor. The single spent 14 weeks in the chart, peaking at No 12 in late March.

Among comments at YouTube, Jeremy Thirlby, musician and school friend of Nick Rhodes, points out that the dancers we see during the filming at the club were “drafted in actors” because for some reason “most regulars were excluded”! Unknown to everyone at Birmingham’s Rum Runner the very week when Duran were being filmed in July 1980, London’s ITV station was to air its 20th Century Box documentary about the Blitz club house band, Spandau Ballet. Bang! This was the starting gun that signalled the record-industry race to sign up the first of the New Romantic bands.

New Romantics, Duran Duran, Rum Runner, video, 1980, Planet Earth

New Romantics in full fig at the Rum Runner in July 1980: note the tell-tale moves in the Planet Earth video, such as the Ballet sway at 1:20, crucial handpasses at 2:18 and Pierrot’s wonky head at 3:06


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