Seven and the Ragged Tiger
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Duran Duran first entering the charts and lodging themselves in the popular consciousness as the biggest British pop phenomenon since the Beatles.
However, it's easy to forget that success was fleeting for the so-called fab five. Their light shone bright for barely three years, as they bombarded the world's radios and MTV with one synth-based confection after another. The spotlight began to dim when, tiring of the 'pop' tag, they tried to up the artistic ante with a 'serious' third album, Seven and the Ragged Tiger.
Not quite a concept album, Tiger was certainly birthed with a concept in mind: the demands of fame and touring brought on by the huge worldwide success of their first two albums had left singer Simon Le Bon and his bandmates exhausted and frayed at the edges. The next record, they decided, would reflect that but also try to rebuild the gang mentality that had brought them together in 1978.
'The 'Seven' is for us - the five band members and the two managers - and the 'Ragged Tiger' is success,' Le Bon would tell Rolling Stone magazine that year. 'Seven people running after success. It's ambition. That's what it's about.'
Success in Tiger's case would be elusive. Drawing on early influences such as the New York Dolls and new-wave aesthetists Japan, Le Bon, bass player John Taylor, drummer Roger Taylor, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and guitarist Andy Taylor moved away from the instant pop formula that had made them the biggest band in the world and instead experimented with new sounds, darker lyrical themes and even an instrumental.
Songs including Seventh Stranger, Shadows on Your Side and (I'm Looking For) Cracks in the Pavement were downbeat, moody and more considered than the chart-topping fare from debut LP Duran Duran and its mega-selling follow-up, Rio.
At the same time, the band were moving away from pop towards a dance sound, mirroring a similar development in the music of David Sylvian's Japan.
The results were met with almost universal vilification. Particular venom was reserved for the instrumental Tiger, Tiger - a sax- and bass-driven number that so resembled Japan that many fans (this reviewer included) wondered if Sylvian had a hand in its making.
The flak Tiger attracted served only to inflame already strained relations in the group. Soon after its release drummer Roger Taylor quit the band, ostensibly to spend some time recovering from the rigour of touring, but in fact to retire to the countryside. Bassist John Taylor reportedly threatened to quit after an argument with one of the album's production team.
Tellingly, after touring duties for Tiger had come to an end, the remaining band members took time out to pursue solo projects and collaborations with other artists. Their lifeless performance at 1985's Live Aid concern only deepened speculation that the band were on their last legs, a suspicion that seemed to be confirmed when Le Bon and Co finally returned with the awful comeback single Wild Boys a year later.