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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

10 Wild Facts About Duran Duran

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nearly 40 years into their recording career, New Romantic pioneers Duran Duran are still making waves. Their 14th and latest studio album, Paper Gods, reached the number 10 spot on the Billboard charts earlier this month, making it their first top 10 hit since their self-titled 1993 album (a.k.a. The Wedding Album). The band is also currently touring the world in support of the album—a catchy, dancey collection of tunes that proves the Fab Five still know how to bring their A-game. In celebration of their continued success, here are 10 things you might not know about the suave, stylish pop icons.

1. THEY HAVE AN ENTIRE ALBUM THAT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD.

Before original guitarist Andy Taylor left the group for the second time in 2006, Duran Duran recorded the shelved album Reportage with him, then regrouped to create 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre. Nick Rhodes later told Details that the initial album’s worth of songs was angrier and more political than the band’s usual fare, and that it was not well received by Sony, who did not hear any lead single contenders. At the suggestion of their label, they began working with producers/songwriters Danja and Timbaland, while Justin Timberlake sang on two tracks of the subsequent Red Carpet Massacre album. There have been rumors over the years that at least nine unreleased Reportage tracks will come out, with titles including “Transcendental Mental,” “48 Hours Later,” and “Criminals In The Capitol”.

2. THEY WERE CENSORED ON MTV IN THE ’80s AND ’90s AND BANNED BY THE BBC.

While they were the darlings of MTV back in the day, Duran Duran actually found themselves nearly banned from the network in 1997 because of their risqué video for “Electric Barbarella,” which had to be edited due to its racy content. The video, which features Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, and Warren Cuccurullo purchasing and programming a sexy female robot (a scenario reminiscent of the movie Cherry 2000), was banned from the BBC and pulled from MuchMusic in Canada. While not quite the hypersexual clip that “Girls On Film” had been back in 1981 (which was banned on MTV and the BBC at the time), it still generated some controversy for the band at a quieter point in their career. Incidentally, their name comes from the moniker of the villain in the Jane Fonda movie Barbarella, to which the 1997 video is a nod. The song, in turn, inspired the name of the ill-fated MTV reality show girl band, the Electric Barbarellas.

3. NICK RHODES ORATED A SONG INSPIRED BY SIMON LE BON’S DENTAL SURGERY.

The 1997 album Medazzaland is the only one to feature vocals from keyboardist Nick Rhodes. In this case, it is a spoken word performance on the trippy title track, which was inspired by a visit Le Bon made to the dentist. He returned to his bandmates after taking the intravenous drug Midazolam, which allegedly removed all traces of the surgery experience from his memory. His sluggish state prompted at least one of them to say, “You’re still in Medazzaland, buddy.” And a quirky song was born.

4. THEY HAD THEIR OWN BOARD GAME.

At the height of their 1980s fame, Milton Bradley released the Duran Duran board game Arena, the title drawn directly from their hit live album from 1984 and released in conjunction with the 1985 video version. Designed for two to four players, the objective was to collect video cards and band member cards and accumulate as many points as possible. The person who finished with all the required cards and the highest score won. You can find it selling on eBay for around $45.

5. ROGER TAYLOR IS THE ONLY BAND MEMBER WITH HIS OWN DOCUMENTARY.

Duran Duran aficionado Aaron Barnett premiered his documentary, Searching For Roger Taylor, in 2000. The pet project, which does not seem to be available commercially but can be streamed on the director’s website, is both a quest to find the group’s drummer—who quit the band and the music industry in 1985 but returned full-time to Duran Duran in 2001—and a look back at the New Wave movement of the early 1980s.

In related work, an hour-long documentary about Simon Le Bon’s former yacht, Drum—The Journey Of A Lifetime, was narrated by the singer, featured a solo song from him, and is the companion piece to the book he co-authored. It came out in 1988.

6. NICK RHODES HAD TO FILL IN FOR HIS CHEMISTRY TEACHER.

When he was in school, Rhodes’ chemistry teacher used to go put bets on horses for his students, and would leave the classroom to do so. “It was not a good room to be in because people lit up paper darts on Bunsen burners and threw them around the room,” Rhodes told American Way in 2007. “I’m amazed that the school never burned down. And I used to get left in charge.”

7. SIMON LE BON STARTED HIS CAREER IN THEATER AND TV.

Before he made it big with Duran Duran, frontman Simon Le Bon embarked on an acting career when he was young. He appeared in a Persil soap commercial (among others) and made his West End theatrical debut in Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Those acting chops certainly paid off with all of the group’s flashy music videos as well as a “Rio”-inspired Sasson commercial in 1986.

8. JOHN TAYLOR IS MORE PROLIFIC THAN YOU THINK.

Bassist John Taylor has been involved in nine studio albums outside of Duran Duran. When the Fab Five briefly splintered off into two side projects in the mid-1980s, he joined the popular quartet The Power Station, which included Robert Palmer, Tony Thompson, and Duran Duran bandmate Andy Taylor. They scored a top 10 album and hit (their cover of T. Rex’s “Bang A Gong (Get It On)”). John Taylor did not rejoin the band for their 1996 reunion album, but he has nine co-songwriting credits on it. He recorded one self-titled album with Neurotic Outsiders in 1996; personnel included Taylor, Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, Duff McKagan of Guns ‘N Roses, and Matt Sorum of Guns ‘N Roses and The Cult.

Between 1996 and 2002, Taylor released six solo albums along with two live releases and numerous EPs and singles. In 2006, he and Rhodes curated a collection of ‘80s New Wave songs called Only After Dark that was meant to recreate the musical vibe of Birmingham, England’s famous Rum Runner club, where the band got their start.

9. NICK RHODES AND WARREN CUCCURULLO’S TV MANIA PROJECT TOOK 16 YEARS TO GET RELEASED.

During the Medazzaland recording sessions, while Rhodes and Cuccurullo were waiting for Le Bon to come up with vocal melodies and lyrics, they embarked on a project called TV Mania that was later called a “triptych opera” that foretold the coming of reality television. The dancey music ranged from atmospheric to almost industrial in nature, with samples of TV shows ranging from a fashion program to The Outer Limits being the only “vocal” approach. Ultimately a single disc set entitled Bored with Prozac and the Internet? was released in 2013 after the project, which had languished due to label non-interest in the late 1990s, was unearthed by Rhodes in an old drawer.

10. SIMON LE BON NEARLY DROWNED. TWICE.

An avid sailor, Le Bon’s yacht, Drum, capsized during the FastNet Race in 1985, and he and five crewmates were trapped underwater but survived thanks to an air pocket beneath the overturned vessel. The Royal Navy soon saved them. The year before, the singer was strapped to a rotating windmill for the video shoot of “Wild Boys” when it unexpectedly stopped turning while he was underwater. Divers had to go in to save him. Does Simon have a hotline to Poseidon?

Additional sources:
Special thanks to social media guru and Duran Duran aficionado Katy Krassner for her valuable input.

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Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
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15 Must-See Holiday Horror Movies
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Families often use the holidays as an excuse to indulge in repeat viewings of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Elf. But for a certain section of the population, the yuletide is all about horror. Although it didn’t truly emerge until the mid-1970s, “holiday horror” is a thriving subgenre that often combines comedy to tell stories of demented Saint Nicks and lethal gingerbread men. If you’ve never seen Santa slash someone, here are 15 movies to get you started.

1. THANKSKILLING (2009)

Most holiday horror movies concern Christmas, so ThanksKilling is a bit of an anomaly. Another reason it’s an anomaly? It opens in 1621, with an axe-wielding turkey murdering a topless pilgrim woman. The movie continues on to the present-day, where a group of college friends are terrorized by that same demon bird during Thanksgiving break. It’s pretty schlocky, but if Turkey Day-themed terror is your bag, make sure to check out the sequel: ThanksKilling 3. (No one really knows what happened to ThanksKilling 2.)

2. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

Fittingly, the same man who brought us A Christmas Story also brought us its twisted cousin. Before Bob Clark co-wrote and directed the 1983 saga of Ralphie Parker, he helmed Black Christmas. It concerns a group of sorority sisters who are systematically picked off by a man who keeps making threatening phone calls to their house. Oh, and it all happens during the holidays. Black Christmas is often considered the godfather of holiday horror, but it was also pretty early on the slasher scene, too. It opened the same year as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and beat Halloween by a full four years.

3. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

This movie isn’t about Santa Claus himself going berserk and slaughtering a bunch of people. But it is about a troubled teen who does just that in a Santa suit. Billy Chapman starts Silent Night, Deadly Night as a happy little kid, only to witness a man dressed as St. Nick murder his parents in cold blood. Years later, after he has grown up and gotten a job at a toy store, he conducts a killing spree in his own red-and-white suit. The PTA and plenty of critics condemned the film for demonizing a kiddie icon, but it turned into a bona fide franchise with four sequels and a 2012 remake.

4. RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (2010)

This Finnish flick dismantles Santa lore in truly bizarre fashion, and it’s not easy to explain in a quick plot summary. But Rare Exports involves a small community living at the base of Korvatunturi mountain, a major excavation project, a bunch of dead reindeer, and a creepy old naked dude who may or may not be Santa Claus. Thanks to its snowy backdrop, the movie scored some comparisons to The Thing, but the hero here isn’t some Kurt Russell clone with equally feathered hair. It’s a bunch of earnest kids and their skeptical dads, who all want to survive the holidays in one piece.

5. TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980)

To All a Goodnight follows a by-now familiar recipe: Add a bunch of young women to one psycho dressed as Santa Claus and you get a healthy dose of murder and this 1980 slasher flick. Only this one takes place at a finishing school. So it’s fancier.

6. KRAMPUS (2015)

Although many Americans are blissfully unaware of him, Krampus has terrorized German-speaking kids for centuries. According to folklore, he’s a yuletide demon who punishes naughty children. (He’s also part-goat.) That’s some solid horror movie material, so naturally Krampus earned his own feature film. In the movie, he’s summoned because a large suburban family loses its Christmas cheer. That family has an Austrian grandma who had encounters with Krampus as a kid, so he returns to punish her descendants. He also animates one truly awful Jack-in-the-Box.

7. THE GINGERDEAD MAN (2005)

“Eat me, you punk b*tch!” That’s one of the many corny catchphrases spouted by the Gingerdead Man, an evil cookie possessed by the spirit of a convicted killer (played by Gary Busey). The lesson here, obviously, is to never bake.

8. JACK FROST (1997)

No, this isn’t the Michael Keaton snowman movie. It’s actually a holiday horror movie that beat that family film by a year. In this version, Jack Frost is a serial killer on death row who escapes prison and then, through a freak accident, becomes a snowman. He embarks on a murder spree that’s often played for laughs—for instance, the cops threaten him with hairdryers. But the comedy is pretty questionable in the infamous, and quite controversial, Shannon Elizabeth shower scene.

9. ELVES (1989)

Based on the tagline—“They’re not working for Santa anymore”—you’d assume this is your standard evil elves movie. But Elves weaves Nazis, bathtub electrocutions, and a solitary, super grotesque elf into its utterly absurd plot. Watch at your own risk.

10. SINT (2010)

The Dutch have their own take on Santa, and his name is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas travels to the Netherlands via steamship each year with his racist sidekick Zwarte Piet. But otherwise, he’s pretty similar to Santa. And if Santa can be evil, so can Sinterklaas. According to the backstory in Sint (or Saint), the townspeople burned their malevolent bishop alive on December 5, 1492. But Sinterklaas returns from the grave on that date whenever there’s a full moon to continue dropping bodies. In keeping with his olden origins, he rides around on a white horse wielding a golden staff … that he can use to murder you.

11. SANTA’S SLAY (2005)

Ever wonder where Santa came from? This horror-comedy claims he comes from the worst possible person: Satan. The devil’s kid lost a bet many years ago and had to pretend to be a jolly gift-giver. But now the terms of the bet are up and he’s out to act like a true demon. That includes killing Fran Drescher and James Caan, obviously.

12. ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE (2015)

Another Santa slasher is on the loose in All Through the House, but the big mystery here is who it is. This villain dons a mask during his/her streak through suburbia—and, as the genre dictates, offs a bunch of promiscuous young couples along the way. The riddle is all tied up in the disappearance of a little girl, who vanished several years earlier.

13. CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

Several years before Silent Night, Deadly Night garnered protests for its anti-Kringle stance, Christmas Evil put a radicalized Santa at the center of its story. The movie’s protagonist, Harry Stadling, first starts to get weird thoughts in his head as a kid when he sees “Santa” (really his dad in the costume) groping his mom. Then, he becomes unhealthily obsessed with the holiday season, deludes himself into thinking he’s Santa, and goes on a rampage. The movie is mostly notable for its superfan John Waters, who lent commentary to the DVD and gave Christmas Evil some serious cult cred.

14. SANTA CLAWS (1996)

If you thought this was the holiday version of Pet Sematary, guess again. The culprit here isn’t a demon cat in a Santa hat, but a creepy next-door neighbor. Santa Claws stars B-movie icon Debbie Rochon as Raven Quinn, an actress going through a divorce right in the middle of the holidays. She needs some help caring for her two girls, so she seeks out Wayne, her neighbor who has an obsessive crush on her. He eventually snaps and dresses up as Santa Claus in a ski mask. Mayhem ensues.

15. NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)

Because the holidays aren’t over until everyone’s sung “Auld Lang Syne,” we can’t count out New Year’s Eve horror. In New Year’s Evil, lady rocker Blaze is hosting a live NYE show. Everything is going well, until a man calls in promising to kill at midnight. The cops write it off as a prank call, but soon, Blaze’s friends start dropping like flies. Just to tie it all together, the mysterious murderer refers to himself as … “EVIL.”

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10 Surprising Ways Senses Shape Perception
The American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History

Every bit of information we know about the world we gathered with one of our five senses. But even with perfect pitch or 20/20 vision, our perceptions don’t always reflect an accurate picture of our surroundings. Our brain is constantly filling in gaps and taking shortcuts, which can result in some pretty wild illusions.

That’s the subject of “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience,” a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Mental Floss recently took a tour of the sensory funhouse to learn more about how the brain and the senses interact.

1. LIGHTING REVEALS HIDDEN IMAGES.

Woman and child looking at pictures on a wall

Under normal lighting, the walls of the first room of “Our Senses” look like abstract art. But when the lights change color, hidden illustrations are revealed. The three lights—blue, red, and green—used in the room activate the three cone cells in our eyes, and each color highlights a different set of animal illustrations, giving the viewers the impression of switching between three separate rooms while standing still.

2. CERTAIN SOUNDS TAKE PRIORITY ...

We can “hear” many different sounds at once, but we can only listen to a couple at a time. The AMNH exhibit demonstrates this with an audio collage of competing recordings. Our ears automatically pick out noises we’re conditioned to react to, like an ambulance siren or a baby’s cry. Other sounds, like individual voices and musical instruments, require more effort to detect.

3. ... AS DO CERTAIN IMAGES.

When looking at a painting, most people’s eyes are drawn to the same spots. The first things we look for in an image are human faces. So after staring at an artwork for five seconds, you may be able to say how many people are in it and what they look like, but would likely come up short when asked to list the inanimate object in the scene.

4. PAST IMAGES AFFECT PRESENT PERCEPTION.

Our senses often are more suggestible than we would like. Check out the video above. After seeing the first sequence of animal drawings, do you see a rat or a man’s face in the last image? The answer is likely a rat. Now watch the next round—after being shown pictures of faces, you might see a man’s face instead even though the final image hasn’t changed.

5. COLOR INFLUENCES TASTE ...

Every cooking show you’ve watched is right—presentation really is important. One look at something can dictate your expectations for how it should taste. Researchers have found that we perceive red food and drinks to taste sweeter and green food and drinks to taste less sweet regardless of chemical composition. Even the color of the cup we drink from can influence our perception of taste.

6. ... AND SO DOES SOUND

Sight isn’t the only sense that plays a part in how we taste. According to one study, listening to crunching noises while snacking on chips makes them taste fresher. Remember that trick before tossing out a bag of stale junk food.

7. BEING HYPER-FOCUSED HAS DRAWBACKS.

Have you ever been so focused on something that the world around you seemed to disappear? If you can’t recall the feeling, watch the video above. The instructions say to keep track of every time a ball is passed. If you’re totally absorbed, you may not notice anything peculiar, but watch it a second time without paying attention to anything in particular and you’ll see a person in a gorilla suit walk into the middle of the screen. The phenomenon that allows us to tune out big details like this is called selective attention. If you devote all your mental energy to one task, your brain puts up blinders that block out irrelevant information without you realizing it.

8. THINGS GET WEIRD WHEN SENSES CONTRADICT EACH OTHER.

Girl standing in optical illusion room.

The most mind-bending room in the "Our Senses" exhibit is practically empty. The illusion comes from the black grid pattern painted onto the white wall in such a way that straight planes appear to curve. The shapes tell our eyes we’re walking on uneven ground while our inner ear tells us the floor is stable. It’s like getting seasick in reverse: This conflicting sensory information can make us feel dizzy and even nauseous.

9. WE SEE SHADOWS THAT AREN’T THERE.

If our brains didn’t know how to adjust for lighting, we’d see every shadow as part of the object it falls on. But we can recognize that the half of a street that’s covered in shade isn’t actually darker in color than the half that sits in the sun. It’s a pretty useful adaptation—except when it’s hijacked for optical illusions. Look at the image above: The squares marked A and B are actually the same shade of gray. Because the pillar appears to cast a shadow over square B, our brain assumes it’s really lighter in color than what we’re shown.

10. WE SEE FACES EVERYWHERE.

The human brain is really good at recognizing human faces—so good it can make us see things that aren’t there. This is apparent in the Einstein hollow head illusion. When looking at the mold of Albert Einstein’s face straight on, the features appear to pop out rather than sink in. Our brain knows we’re looking at something similar to a human face, and it knows what human faces are shaped like, so it automatically corrects the image that it’s given.

All images courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History unless otherwise noted.

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