‘Notorious’ Turns 30: How Nile Rodgers Conducted Duran Duran’s Reinvention
After losing two key members, the band discovered a new groove
By the time 1986 rolled around, Duran Duran was at a major turning point in its career. The year before, the group had splintered into two factions: the hard-rocking supergroup the Power Station, featuring bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor; and the art-rock outfit Arcadia, made up of singer Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, and drummer Roger Taylor. Both groups released their own albums (The Power Station’s eponymous debut, Arcadia’s So Red the Rose), which yielded Top 10 hit singles collectively. And if that wasn’t anti-climatic enough, Duran Duran scored its second U.S. №1 song with “A View to a Kill,” which all five members together performed at Live Aid for the last time until almost two decades later.
From 1981 to 1985, Duran Duran achieved huge worldwide success and fame at the dawn of the MTV era that earned the band the moniker of the ‘Fab Five.’ But the media and fan hysteria inevitably led to a feeling of burnout within the band. When Duran Duran eventually regrouped in 1986 to work on its next record, both Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor left the band. Those departures of two key founding members, further augmented by a changing music scene in the U.S. that was shifting away from British synth-pop and towards American guitar rock again, might have signaled the end of Duran Duran. But that wasn’t the case with Notorious, the band’s fourth studio album, released 30 years ago on November 21, 1986. Reduced to the trio of Le Bon Rhodes and John Taylor, Duran Duran made an album that heavily turned up the funk and R&B, resulting in perhaps one of the band’s finest — if almost criminally underrated — records on a par with the self-titled debut album and Rio.
A huge part of that creative spark and reinvention came in the form of Notorious’ producer, Nile Rodgers of Chic, who was hot off producing David Bowie’s Let’s Dance and Madonna’s Like a Virgin. Having previously worked with Duran Duran on the remix of “The Reflex” and “The Wild Boys,” Rodgers was the…