Throughout the 1980s, The Cure were outliers in the mainstream music scene, and their presence was a refreshing one. Amid the wave of consumerism which ate up society thanks to Thatcherism and Reaganomics, Robert Smith was left feeling sick, and there was one band that he once said “represented everything we hated”.
A lot had changed since The Cure first emerged towards the back end of the previous decade, and Britain had become a radically different place. The birth of music television changed the industry, thanks to the invention of MTV, the packaging of an artist became just as important as the music itself, and this helped groups like Duran Duran immeasurably.
Although The Cure were publically fighting with The Smiths singer Morrissey and regularly went back and forth in the musical press, Smith didn’t dislike their music. In 2019, he even admitted he “never really understood” the feud, and Morrissey later uncharacteristically offered him a rare apology.
While The Smiths would have been the band you’d assume Smith would have despised because of the war of words between them, it was Duran Duran who riled the singer. They never said anything out of line about The Cure and were also huge fans of Smith’s group, but he couldn’t stop himself from viewing them as the antithesis of everything he represented.
Duran Duran were an embodiment of the ’80s and its obsession with excess. Everything about the group was grandiose, whether it was the extravagant music videos or their flamboyant dress sense. Much to Smith’s frustration, they were never out of the charts, and throughout their career, they have sold over 100 million records.
In 2019, Smith spoke to The Guardian about how The Cure had managed to carve out a niche and successfully operated outside the traditional bubble. They developed a resilient ‘Us vs Them’ attitude, and in Smith’s eyes, there was no act that catered for the masses more than Duran Duran.
Smith explained: “It was generally Duran Duran, which is really sad because they loved us and they used to come to our shows. But they represented everything we hated: the whole glamorous 80s, consumer bullshit; this horrorshow that we were up against.”
Duran Duran epitomised the attitudes that had crept into society. In videos, frontman Simon Le Bon waltzed around carelessly on a yacht in glossy clips while half the country was undergoing intense financial hardship.
In their defence, Duran Duran’s music was simply slick pop which didn’t have an overt political message. However, they were undeniably a product of their times, and whether the band liked her or not, they were an epoch of Thatcherism.