“I don’t remember quite how I met you, was it long ago?” These are the opening words of “Last Chance On The Stairway” from Duran Duran’s iconic Rio album. I have a similar relationship with Rio. I can’t say I remember the exact day I bought [the album], which is quite unfortunate. In fact, I may have bought my copy of Rio from the Columbia House Record Club sometime in late 1983 or early 1984. No matter how I acquired Duran Duran’s sophomore set, it started a love affair that has lasted over 30 years.
Rio was released worldwide in May 1982 and reached #2 in the UK charts. The original Rio album, marketed as “New Romantic” music, received lukewarm reception when released in the US in November 1982. After being remixed, remastered, and remarketed as “dance music” to the American market in early 1983, Rio managed to climb to #6 on the Billboard 200 album chart and remained in the chart for 129 weeks. At the same time, the lush videos for “Hungry Like the Wolf”, “Save a Prayer” and title track “Rio” were in heavy rotation on the burgeoning MTV Network (Yes, Virginia, they did play music videos once upon a time.)
I have to say that it wasn’t actually Duran Duran’s good looks that hooked me either. You see, at the height of MTV’s popularity, most of Philadelphia didn’t have access to cable TV. Although I had been buying the latest copies of Tiger Beat, 16 Magazine, BOP, and Teen Beat since the days when Shaun Cassidy was in The Hardy Boys, I somehow didn’t realize the glossy full color pictures of the guys with the eyeliner and coiffed hair were actually Duran Duran! Even though Duran Duran were now being played in heavy rotation by Barsky in the Morning and Terry Young in the afternoon on Hot Hits 98.1, I never associated the music with “those guys in eyeliner”. In fact, I used to rip all the Duran Duran photos out and trade them to my friend Colleen in exchange for Ralph Macchio and Rob Lowe. It literally took Colleen saying “That song “Hungry Like the Wolf” that you like so much…THAT’S those guys in eyeliner” to make me realize who Duran Duran actually were!
When I first heard “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” on the radio, I can’t even explain what it was that caught my attention. Was it the driving bass line, the tight drums in perfect sync with the bass, the lush synths, or just the melodic and smooth vocals that compelled you to sing along? Perhaps it was the imagery the lyrics conjured up in my mind – I could picture a beautiful model pirouetting in circles across the sands (of the Jersey Shore) or a guy smitten by a girl that he saw just once, chasing her around in unrequited love. Whatever it was, the songs were fun, they were catchy, and I was hooked.
In 2013, after far too many years of being a completely underrated bass player, MusicRadar named Duran Duran bassist John Taylor at the top of their list of the 60 greatest bass players of all time. (In comparison, Bernard Edwards of Chic, one of Duran’s biggest influences, was ranked at #13). In the song “Rio,” John Taylor pulled off one of the most technical bass lines ever written at the young age of 21. Not bad for a self-taught bass player who started his musical career playing guitar at the age of 18. You can listen to the isolated bass line from “Rio” here to get an idea of exactly how complex it is.
Though Rio has often been named one of the “must have” albums to own, it has continued to be an underdog in the musical world. In fact, Duran Duran continues to be dismissed as one of the “pretty boy” flash-in-the-pan bands from the 80’s despite the fact that they have never officially broken up and have continued to record and release albums consistently over four decades. In 2015, they released their fourteenth studio album, Paper Gods for which they are currently touring. If you have never listened to the entire Rio album, it’s about time that you did. If you’ve never seen Duran Duran live, or always wished you had, you can catch the Paper Gods Tour in Philadelphia on Thursday, July 21 at the BB&T Pavillion in Camden. Or, if you’re like me, and can’t wait until July, you can catch Duran Duran on Tuesday, April 5, at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, PA.
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