Skin Trade (song)

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"Skin Trade"
Single by Duran Duran
from the album Notorious
B-side"We Need You"
Released31 January 1987
RecordedJune–September 1986
StudioAbbey Road (London)
  • 4:26 (radio cut)
  • 7:36 (Stretch mix)
  • 5:58 (album version)
Producer(s)Nile Rodgers
Duran Duran singles chronology
"Skin Trade"
"Meet El Presidente"
Alternative cover
Cover of the original banned "Skin Trade" single
Music video
"Skin Trade" on YouTube

"Skin Trade" is the second single from Duran Duran's Notorious album, and the band's 15th single. A seductive ballad with traces of R&B, the song showcases a new sound for Duran Duran with lead vocalist Simon Le Bon singing in a Prince-like falsetto, and with a powerful brass section, courtesy of the Borneo Horns.

Released in January 1987, "Skin Trade" was the band's first chart disappointment, missing the UK Top 20 at #22 and barely making the Top 40 in America. The single has continued to receive radio airplay and is now remembered as a fan favorite of the band's discography of the late 1980s.


The music for "Skin Trade" was written long before Le Bon finally finished the lyrics. The title for the song was derived from the Dylan Thomas book Adventures in the Skin Trade which John Taylor had on him during recording of the album. It was shortened to "Skin Trade" and Le Bon eventually wrote the melody and lyrics for the track while spending an evening in John's Upper West Side Manhattan apartment. The lyrics reflect on how everyone is selling themselves, and "there's a little hooker in each of us".[1]

The single was a departure for the band. Le Bon sang in falsetto, saying he was channeling both Prince and the Rolling Stones' lead singer Mick Jagger on their song "Emotional Rescue". A horn section played a prominent role in the track, as played by the Borneo Horns. Steve Ferrone and Warren Cuccurullo played the drums and lead guitars respectively, as Roger and Andy Taylor had left the band by the time the song was released. Nile Rodgers has also played some rhythm guitar lines on the song.[citation needed]


In a contemporary review, Cash Box praised Le Bon's "Prince-like vocal" and Rodgers' production.[2]

Max Bell of the British magazine No. 1 said the song "started like a tribute to Prince—a cracking good rip-off it is too—'Skin Trade' rolls out like a luxurious carpet, light and springy and soft on the toes. Le Bon's singing is top notch, Nile Rodgers's production is fleet footed and despite the absence of 'flakey bandits' the taste is addictive."[citation needed]

In a retrospective review of the single, AllMusic journalist Donald A. Guarisco praised the song. He wrote, "The music lends contrast to the angry tone of the lyrics by creating a sultry, mellow melody that juxtaposes verses with a soft, hypnotic ebb and flow with an ever-ascending chorus that revs up the song's inherent drama. Duran Duran's recording is fuelled by funky but gently layered guitar textures and subtle drum work that push its groove along, plus some atmospheric synth textures on the chorus."[3]

Music video[edit]

The "Skin Trade" video which was released in February 1987, was the second filmed for the band by directors Peter Kagan and Paula Greif, after "Notorious" and would receive medium rotation on MTV. Film of band members performing was treated with a rotoscope-like effect, adding vivid colors to details like a person's eyes or jewelry. Like so many other Duran Duran videos, "Skin Trade" included a beautiful woman—in this case German supermodel Tatjana Patitz. Her image was rotoscoped for some scenes as well, and her dancing figure was superimposed on several different vividly colored abstract backgrounds. Drummer Steve Ferrone and guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, who would later become a full member of the band in 1989, appeared in the video, although their faces are not often seen.

B-sides and remixes[edit]

The B-side to "Skin Trade" was the only original B-side released during the Notorious era. Entitled "We Need You", it was written and recorded in 1986 while the band awaited the return of Andy Taylor. It was the first recording to feature just the three remaining members of Duran Duran—Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Simon Le Bon.

Two further mixes of "Skin Trade" (S.O.S. dub & Parisian mix) were completed, but not released commercially during the "Skin Trade" release cycle. They appeared on a US 12" promo and on a UK 12" promo, backed with remixes of the next single "Meet El Presidente". The "Parisian" mix was also released on the promo-only Master Mixes EP.

The "Parisian" mix was finally released commercially in the UK and in the US on the "All She Wants Is" (1988) 3" CD single.

Formats and track listings[edit]

7": EMI / TRADE 1 United Kingdom[edit]

  1. "Skin Trade" (radio cut) – 4:26
  2. "We Need You" – 2:49

12": EMI / 12 TRADE 1 United Kingdom[edit]

  1. "Skin Trade" (Stretch mix) – 7:36
  2. "Skin Trade" (album version) – 5:58
  3. "We Need You" – 2:49)
  • "Stretch mix" remixed by famed producer Larry Levan
  • These tracks were also released on cassette (TC TRADE 1) in a video style box with the banned bum cover.

7": Capitol / B-5670 United States[edit]

  1. "Skin Trade" (radio cut) – 4:26
  2. "We Need You" – 2:49

12": Capitol / V-15274 United States[edit]

  1. "Skin Trade" (Stretch mix) – 7:36
  2. "Skin Trade" (album version) – 5:58
  3. "We Need You" – 2:49

CD: The Singles 1986–1995 box set[edit]

  1. "Skin Trade" (radio cut) – 4:25
  2. "We Need You" – 2:49
  3. "Skin Trade" (Stretch mix) – 7:36
  4. "Skin Trade" (album version) – 5:58

Chart positions[edit]

"Skin Trade" was the first chart disappointment in Duran Duran's career as it failed to get the Top 20 on either side of the Atlantic, only reaching number 22 on the UK Singles Charts and barley reaching the Top 40 in America. Not only did it fail to repeat the huge success of "Notorious", it was the first single ever since their early releases that failed to make a huge impact. Surprisingly, it was a commercial success in Italy as it rose up to number 3 on the charts.

The commercial disappointment of "Skin Trade", combined with poor sales of the Notorious album would consequently shadow the band for years to come until the success of 1993's "Ordinary World" as Duran Duran struggled to sustain their mainstream success. However, "Skin Trade" continues to receive radio airplay and would later become a favorite of the band's discography of the late 80s, but the more mature style and direction that the band was striving for proved to be surprising for many fans at the time.


Duran Duran

Additional musicians

  • Warren Cuccurullo – guitars (bridge sections)
  • Nile Rodgers – guitars
  • Steve Ferrone – drums
  • The Borneo Horns – horns
  • Curtis King – background vocals
  • Brenda White-King – background vocals
  • Tessa Niles – background vocals
  • Cindy Mizelle – background vocals




  1. ^ From an interview for SkyArts' Songbook series
  2. ^ "Single Releases" (PDF). Cash Box. 31 January 1987. p. 9. Retrieved 8 August 2022.
  3. ^ "Skin Trade - Duran Duran | Song Info". AllMusic.
  4. ^ "Duran Duran – Skin Trade" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  5. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 13, 1987" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  6. ^ "Duran Duran – Skin Trade" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  7. ^ "Duran Duran – Skin Trade". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  8. ^ "Duran Duran: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  9. ^ "Duran Duran, HSI". Billboard. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  10. ^ " – Duran Duran – Skin Trade" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  11. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1987". Ultratop. Retrieved 18 December 2020.