After the Christmas break, the cycle of articles Famous Albums, linked to the BBC television show of the same name, returns. This time we will grind into 1982 and look behind the scenes of the album “Rio”, the second studio recording of the British Duran Duran. How did it affect the following decades in music?
The British Duran Duran could not have appeared at a better time. Britain was recovering from the economic crisis and the Falklands War in the early 1980s, and everyone was hoping for change. There was punk in the music, the heavy weights of progressive rock like Pink Floyd, which is basically darker music, still had their power. “As teenagers, we instinctively longed for fame and improved our living conditions,” recalls keyboardist Duran Duran Nick Rhodes. “At the same time, we wanted to shed some light on the lives of others, to try to create a warm and satisfied relationship between us.”
And it was the band, founded in 1978 in Birmingham – which, paradoxically, also the birthplace of heavy metal – that was founded by Nick Rhodes and John Taylor, became one of the heralds of optimism and color that became typical of the 1980s. The group closed in 1980 with the arrival of the singer and author of the lyrics, Simon Le Bon. At the same time, the band, which was already famous for following fashion trends (later collaborating with Vivienne Westwood and Giorgi Armani), began to gain the attention of critics, and even the rivalry between the two record companies. And not just any – the British EMI and the Dutch Phonogram were vying for the group’s favor. In the end, patriotism and love for The Beatles won out, and Duran Duran signed with EMI. The eponymous album was released the following year and attracted attention mainly with erotic and sexual fetishes, full of music videos for the song “Girls on Film”. And there was a clear marketing intent. “The band’s management has clearly told us that it is supposed to be a very seductive and erotic piece that will be screened in clubs where it will not have to be censored just to attract attention and people talk about it a lot,” the creators of the film and music duo Godley & Creme recalled the strict assignment. And it worked – despite the heavily censored version, which ran on the then-fresh MTV in the United States, where the band soon went on a club tour.
But Duran Duran only gained world fame thanks to the second album “Rio”. She managed to hit the aforementioned optimistic mood of the 1980s and in many respects predestined it. The transformation brought by the five musicians was well captured by photographer and director Denis O’Regan. “I really enjoyed shooting punk. He was very imaginative and, in my view, black and white. I shot all my punk films in black and white. I changed color with Duran Duran. Society was going to make a similar change. The Falklands were all preparing for the return of color. That was the main contrast, I think. “ describing. And the emphasis on color images full of yachts, beaches, jungles, holiday well-being and adventure in video clips clearly proves him right. “Rio”, released in 1982, is a relaxed work even after four decades, which is full of catchy ideas and playful vocal harmonies. She managed to capture her time very well – not only with her atmosphere, but also musically. It is based on the transition between rock and synth pop. The distinctive keyboards are based on rock, live drums, albeit characteristically played on drum pads – after all, the sound that Roger Taylor managed to create determined in many ways the sound of the drums of the eighties. The sound is enriched by bass, which breaks down straight rock or punk stereotypes with syncopated rhythms, and the whole thing is spiced up by guitar and vocals. At the time, the recording explored new paths and prepared a sound palette and styling options for the next decade.
The mania surrounding the Birmingham band didn’t take long, music journalists even came up with the nickname The Fab Five, a clear allusion to The Fab Four, The Beatles. Four singles from the album – “My Own Way”, “Hungry Like a Wolf”, “Save a Prayer” and “Rio” – made it to the British Top Twenty charts, with Princess Diana calling Duran Duran their favorite band. Success overseas was more challenging, the first release did not work, it helped to remix the album according to American customs and its presentation as a dance. And MTV also played a part. As Rolling Stone magazine noted at the time: “Duran Duran are the first rock band to ride a video wave.” And they knew how to use this new medium. “Rio” is a record that is still considered one of the best examples of pop in the eighties.
A detailed behind-the-scenes look at Duran Duran’s “Rio” recording, including how the music of MTV on one side of the street can affect the success of musicians, is another part of the Famous Albums series. It was broadcast by ČT art on Friday, January 7, 2022. The series continues for a week by telling the story of the album “Coming Up” by Suede.
A series of articles is created in cooperation with Czech Television.