The ‘Exotic, Erotic’ Album That ‘Put Us On The Map — And Kept Us There’

Duran Duran's 'Rio'

‘Rio’ by Duran Duran, released May 10, 1982.

Was there ever an album that epitomized all things grand and glamorous about the escapist, outrageous, exotic, erotic, ambitious ’80s more than Duran Duran’s Rio† The vibrant cover art alone – the pale Patrick Nagel creature, with her seductive cherry ice cream smile, sort of Mona Lisa for the new romantic era – lent the album instant icon status. And the nightclub-meets-Club-Med classics in it were as smooth as a Fashion magazine cover or a shiny new lip gloss.

But Rio — which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this week, just days after Duran Duran celebrated their highly anticipated induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — has never been about style over substance. Impeccably produced by Bowie/Iggy engineer Colin Thurston, the album still holds up, from the primal pop of the jungle love breakthrough single “Hungry Like the Wolf” to the wistful, whistling one-night-stand ballad “Save a Prayer”. ‘, to the poignant, noir-esque, David Lynch-approved outro ‘The Chauffeur’. And the sound has been replicated and revered by everyone from the Killers to Mark Ronson to the new AFI/No Doubt supergroup Dreamcar.

“Obviously, with every new album we make, we always have to believe in it and feel like we’re on the right track. But when we were done with the Rio album, I looked around and I knew we had done something special,” recalls Duran Duran keyboardist and co-founder Nick Rhodes. “I didn’t know what the hell was going to happen to it, whether it was going to be a hit or a flop or whatever, but I knew when I listened to it, ‘Yep, this has really strong songs on it, and this one just feels Turn right

Rhodes admits Rio was hard to top. “It’s something that’s been a double-edged sword for us because it was such a powerful record, and maybe the images from the videos stayed in people’s minds. Then came the late 1980s and people wanted to open the door.” shut us down.” But bassist/co-founder John Taylor is thankful Rio Duran enabled Duran to eventually build a career that lasted well into the 1980s, with 15 albums and over 100 million in record sales. “It was such an amazing trip, and I think Rio is probably why we can actually still do what we do today,” Taylor says. “This is the album that put us on the map — and kept us there.”

For members of the original MTV generation who wear gum cards, Rio will forever be inextricably linked to sorbet-colored music video scenes of sexy hunting adventures and champagne-fueled, grown-up good times. Despite being from the gray and decidedly unexotic city of Birmingham, England, in the West Midlands, with rio, Duran Duran sold a jet-setting, island-hopping fantasy. (“There was something about Brazil and Carnival, the color, the energy. … It felt like that was the energy I wanted to tap into,” Taylor, who named the album, recently told SiriusXM.) both sides of the pond definitely bought what Duran Duran sold. Cynical music journalists emerging from the bleak, raucous protest punk of the late ’70s, however, weren’t so enthralled.

“I think it was just the time, really,” Taylor told Yahoo. “We received a lot of criticism for that ambitious aspect. This was in the wake of the punk rock thing and Thatcher. But from a creative standpoint, we’d have to go in a different direction – we couldn’t go down the road where the Sex Pistols had fallen, or the Clash had fallen. We had to find our own mood and our own job.

“I suppose we were criticized for selling people a dream. I remember when Heaven 17 released their album The luxury gorge† [critics] said, “Well, a luxury gorge – that’s what Duran Duran sells, this fantasy to people who can’t afford it!” But I never thought about it that way,” Taylor continues. “For me, I loved music and art when there was something untouchable about it, something exotic, something erotic. I think these are the kind of artists that I’m drawn to, that we’re drawn to. Of course we were going to do that.”

“There were many [music critics] who didn’t like the concept of there being a new way of doing things,” Rhodes says. “It wasn’t the way of a lot of the 1970s, although a lot of the artists I liked — David Bowie, Roxy Music, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones — all took care of their visuals and their creative vision beyond just the music to… Only when it became more part of something, you had to do, if you wanted to be on the front lines of music, which some people have started to object to.”

Music journalists, of course, have flocked to Duran Duran—along with Class of 2022 Rock Hall honors and esteemed writer Annie Zaleski’s 33 1/3 book about Rio‘s Legacy, the band’s 15th studio album Future Past, featuring collaborators such as Blur’s Graham Coxon, emerging Japanese post-rock duo Chai, Swedish pop sensation Tove Lov, Bowie pianist Mike Garson, UK DJ/producer/remixer Erol Alkan, super producer Mark Ronson and even the legendary Giorgio Moroder, has been critically acclaimed. But critics were quite unkind to Duran Duran in 1982, mainly because of the fashionable band’s young female fan base. (“Music intelligence has always been very male-dominated, a boys’ club, and they like their music in a way,” Taylor shrugs.) Helped turn Rio into an international, multi-platinum sensation.

“I really don’t think I would have done anything differently in any way,” Taylor emphasizes. “I don’t regret it at all. I mean, I don’t know how we would have evolved as musicians if that had never been part of our story, but I do know that that thing that we had gave us strength, and it allowed us to work on the way we wanted to work. I mean, if we hadn’t had the teenage girl fans, maybe we wouldn’t have had careers after the mid-’80s, you know?

Still, John Taylor admits that he and the original “Fab Five” – ​​Rhodes, vocalist Simon Le Bon, guitarist Andy Taylor (who will reunite with the band on November 5 at the Hall of Fame ceremony), and drummer Roger Taylor, and — were unprepared for how the undying worship of Planet Earth’s teenyboppers would alter and strain relationships within the then-nascent group.

“I think the teenage thing caused us to get into a bit of a fight because it got pretty competitive,” muses John. “We hadn’t really thought about that — that it was going to be ‘John fans’ and ‘Nick fans’ and ‘Simon fans,’ and that we would be involved in this kind of popularity contest, this ‘love contest.’ That can get in the way a bit because it puts you under a different kind of pressure, especially for Andy – many of us actually, but especially Andy – he was like the… musician in the band, but he was probably the least popular in the band with fans. I think that was quite frustrating for him, because he had never thought of that [his looks] maybe even significantly. For him, it’s all about his musical skills; that was what empowered him as an individual. The fact that he may not be as popular as I am was very frustrating for him.”

Back then, a typical reader survey in 16 or Tiger Beat usually John named John as the most popular member of the group, followed by Simon, Nick, Roger and, always last, poor Andy. “There were definitely rankings, yes,” Taylor says remorsefully. When asked how he feels about his palpitations, he replies with a weary sigh, “I don’t even want to think about it anymore, to be honest.” (Andy Taylor left Duran Duran in 1986, rejoined in 2001, and retired for good in 2006; John and Roger left the band at various points, but have been back in the lineup since 2001, alongside Le Bon and Rhodes.)

Part of Rio‘s appeal to female fans was undoubtedly its pro-female imagery. Along with the aforementioned Nagel cover, the band’s daring video clips—the sassy Bond heroine who portrayed Roger in a fishing net in “Rio,” the tigress wrestling with Le Bon in “Hungry Like the Wolf”—were always strongly portrayed. , confident women, almost like Nagel ladies coming to life. This was a welcome contrast to the usual video vixens with other exploitative clips from the era. “No, the women were manipulating” us† You know, in ‘Rio’ or ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ we hunt them† They are the ones with the power. They are on the pedestal – as it should be,” Taylor grins.

Both Taylor and Rhodes accept that their music videos were critical to the success of Rio (which came out less than a year after MTV’s debut), perhaps as much as the music itself. “I think it’s part of our history and I’m trying to come out and have a more balanced view,” Rhodes said. “I think it’s a fair point. We were clearly an important part of the MTV generation, and I think we’ve done a lot with video that other people hadn’t, a lot of groundbreaking things like shooting videos on location, digital technology and using effects that people hadn’t thought about. So it doesn’t surprise me, and it doesn’t bother me that it comes up.”

“I think we were lucky to have contact with [director] Russell Mulcahy, and I think Russell was very cinematic in his vision,” says Taylor. “He Would Look At” Apocalypse NowBee Raiders of the lost ark, and he said, ‘Yes, I can. We can do that with your three-minute epics. How much can we get out of these things? Let’s leave the studio. We’re going to make these mini-blockbuster videos that will take people to another place, a place they’ve never been before, and it’s going to be exotic, dangerous and sexy.’”

“I’m very grateful that our timing — our chance timing – with the advent of music video was so coincidental,” Rhodes says. “Had we been five years later, I think the exciting part would have been over; if we had been five years earlier, we would have been usurped by newer, younger bands. It just happened that we were in the right place at the right time.”

Taylor agrees that Duran Duran were “the right guys for the moment” when asked to determine what caused it Rio came into contact with each other at such a high level in the early 1980s. As he told SiriusXM’s Richard Blade, “If the… Rio coverage would have been different, if the Rio cover would have been a picture of the band, maybe it wouldn’t have affected the same way. If we hadn’t gone to Sri Lanka with Russell Mulcahy, if that ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ video had been another studio video in London, who knows if it would have been connected?”

“You can’t predict these things,” Taylor modestly tells Yahoo Music. “You don’t even notice when it happens. You just notice when it stops happening.”

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