30 Years Ago: Duran Duran Strikes Gold Again With ‘Come Undone’
In contrast to the first single, the power ballad “Ordinary World,” “Come Undone” sounded more like the trip-hop that was popular in the early ‘90s. The song boasts watery keyboards, a circular guitar riff and one of Simon Le Bon’s most delicate, emotional vocal performances.
Contrary to what's been reported over the years, the laid-back drum loop was not a sample of “Ashley’s Roachclip” by the Soul Searchers but an original part.
As keyboardist Nick Rhodes recalled to Idolator in 2013, “Come Undone” almost didn’t make it on the Wedding Album. “It was the last piece of music to be added to the album, so it was really almost an afterthought: ‘Hey, we’ve written this and it’s pretty good. We should put it on the album.’”
Rhodes and guitarist Warren Cuccurullo had already been working on “Come Undone” along with some other music; singer Simon Le Bon caught wind of the song and helped it to the finish line.
“He said, ‘Wow, I love that!’ And so it became a Duran Duran song,” Rhodes says. “[Le Bon] 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.”
John Jones, who co-produced the album with Duran Duran, recalled to Forbes in 2023 that the song came together quickly, forming around the guitar riff and drum loop. But bassist John Taylor isn’t on the song because he was in Los Angeles at the time, and the recording took place in London.
“It’s one of the very few songs that we’ve ever written, certainly whilst John was in the band, that he didn’t play on,” Rhodes noted.
Watch Duran Duran's 'Come Undone' Video
But “Come Undone” does feature backing vocals by Tessa Niles, who has also worked with the Police, David Bowie and others. In 2020, she told Rolling Stone that session co-producers Rhodes and Cuccurullo were “asking me to jump through various vocal hoops and try different things on the chorus and try it in different ways. My initial idea for the female vocal was quite soft and breathy and sexy. I think at one point, Nick said, ‘Listen, unleash the diva. Just go for it. Bring her out and let’s see what you got.'”
Niles’ counter-singing indeed verges on diva, in the best possible ways. Her dynamic coos, croons and wails underscore the song’s theme: discovering a deep romantic connection with someone.
As it turns out, Le Bon wrote the lyrics for his wife, Yasmin, which explains why the song brims with lovely imagery and tenderness: “Mine, immaculate dream / Made breath and skin, I've been waiting for you … Happy birthday to you was created for you.”
“Come Undone” became another big hit for Duran Duran, reaching No. 13 in the U.K. and No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also charted well on the U.S. alternative charts — expanding Duran Duran’s fan base to a new generation — and became popular on adult contemporary radio.
The success of “Come Undone” also proved that the massive hit “Ordinary World” was no fluke. Duran Duran reminded everyone again that they were a contemporary act that had quite a bit to say and not just some retro band trying to reclaim past glories.