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Come Undone: How Duran Duran Tied Off Another Hit Song
In Depth

Come Undone: How Duran Duran Tied Off Another Hit Song

There was a lot riding on Come Undone. Could Duran Duran deliver a second hit song after the comeback of Ordinary World?

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No one had limitless confidence, but the revival of Duran Duran in 1992, with Ordinary World, might have been a one-off were it not for the charismatic Come Undone. Consolidating the group’s grip on the singles charts, the song powered Duran Duran’s self-titled 1993 album (aka “The Wedding Album”) to the band’s strongest sales since the 80s. Here is the story of how Come Undone kept things together for Duran Duran in a new era.

Listen to the best of Duran Duran here.

The backstory: Surviving during challenging times

Like many of the New Romantic bands they’d come up with, Duran Duran had been going through a challenging patch in the early 90s, and there was no guarantee that the tectonic shifts in the music scene, with dance and club culture so dominant, plus Britpop and grunge making increasing inroads, were about to offer any respite. The band, now including guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, were recording new material in Cuccurullo’s London home studio, and while their then record label, EMI, remained supportive, they were also tightly policing Duran Duran’s progress for the first time.

The recording: “Simon very quickly made it his, or himself a part of it”

Coming up with Ordinary World gave everyone confidence to continue, but Come Undone was one of the last tracks recorded for what would become “The Wedding Album”. “It was something that Warren and I started writing alongside some other stuff that we’d been playing around with,” said keyboardist Nick Rhodes, 20 years after the album’s release. “Simon [Le Bon, singer] came in and heard what we were doing. He said, ‘Wow, I love that!’ And so it became a Duran Duran song. [Simon] came up with a really great melody – we already had the ‘Can’t ever keep from falling apart’ section – and he very quickly made it his, or himself part of it.”

The band weren’t all living in the same country at the time of recording, and so long-standing bass player John Taylor didn’t even feature on what would become one of the best Duran Duran songs. “Maybe I wished I’d played on Come Undone,” he told the BBC. “I’d gone back to LA. We’d put that album to bed, and I said: ‘I’m not coming back for one more song.’ Maybe it would have been a different song if I’d been there, maybe it wouldn’t have been such a great song. But I’m not one for regrets.”

The release: Sealing a remarkable comeback

Ordinary World had made it to No.6 in the UK and a staggering No.3 in the US. Released on 29 March 1993, Come Undone did almost as well, peaking at No.13 in the band’s homeland and No.7 in North America. With a Julien Temple-produced video set in an aquarium, the song sealed a remarkable comeback.

Come Undone, with lyrics written by Le Bon, inspired by his wife, Yasmin, is perhaps a less instant proposition for pop radio than the majestic ballad that had preceded it, but the powerful vocal from Tessa Niles, who provided backing for dozens of acts across the era, adds considerable gravitas to a looping riff that might have emerged from The Cure. While Ordinary World was the worldwide pop hit, Come Undone actually secured greater radio play in the more rock-oriented US market.

The legacy: A unique picot point that would keep Duran Duran afloat

During the world tour the band organised to consolidate the success of its parent album, Taylor found his place on Come Undone, and the song has remained a setlist staple for Duran Duran ever since. The group even enjoyed a critical renaissance to match the revival of their commercial fortunes, with commentators praising the noticeable energy of a band so associated with the decade that had just passed. There was no call for the 80s revival circuit just yet – and, in fact, Duran Duran resolutely avoids that draw to this day, releasing albums that continually flirt with their classic formula but don’t entirely retrace former glories.

Hardcore fans can’t keep any band alive forever. But while few back catalogues are as broad and successful as Duran Duran’s, Come Undone marks a unique pivot point where the 80s supergroup proved they truly had that enigmatic blend of rock grit and pop space dust that would keep them afloat in the challenging musical climate of the 90s – a decade in which audiences would segment and radio programming would become more conservative than ever before.

Find out where Duran Duran rank among the best 80s musicians.

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