Before I analyze why/how Rio became a favorite, I think a little history lesson is due. Duran Duran started the Rio album in January 1982, not even a full year after the release of their first single, Planet Earth. The album was recorded in London and was produced by Colin Thurston, the same producer as their first album. Of course, before the album was even released, the band traveled to the island of Sri Lanka to film a few videos: Hungry Like the Wolf, Save a Prayer and Lonely in Your Nightmare. From there, they began a tour of Australia and Japan in April. Of course, the album was basically done by that point as Nick even stayed behind in London to finish the mix. He would travel to Sri Lanka after the rest of the band. By the time the album was released on May 10th, the band had an album cover that featured Patrick Nagel artwork and had already released My Own Way and Hungry Like the Wolf as singles. The Rio album did well in many places, the UK and Australia, in particular, but did not do well in the US until after MTV began airing their videos. The album was, in fact, re-released in November 1982. Then, it peaked at number 6 on March 12, 1983. Since the release, the album has reached double platinum status (2 million copies sold).
So, how come the album found so much success and managed to capture many of the fans’ place for the ultimate Duran Duran? The first and most obvious answer is that the music is good. Great. Fabulous. Many fans will say that they don’t hear a bad song or a filler on the album. As we all know, it is an album mixed with ballads like Save a Prayer, more atmospheric pieces like the Chauffeur, and more rockin’ songs like Hungry Like the Wolf. This album is what every other piece of Duran Duran music is compared to now. I think back to right before All You Need is Now came out and the statement that Mark Ronson made that got quite a bit of attention about how AYNIN is the real follow-up to Rio. Yet, I think there is way more to it than just the music. After all, many of us got introduced to the Duran Duran not through the music but through their videos.
I, personally, don’t remember the first Duran Duran song I heard. I don’t remember the first video I saw either but I can tell you that, as a kid, the videos were what got my attention. I remember a time when I was really, really horribly sick as a kid. My poor mother was staying up with me to take care of me. Back in 1983/84, there wasn’t much TV on at 3 in the morning and we watched MTV. I remember seeing the video for Save a Prayer over and over and over that night. Not only did I think the song was beautiful, not only did I think the band members were cute, the images shown were such that they were hard to forget. My goodness I think I still get goosebumps at the end of that video when they are all standing there looking up in front of the enormous statue with bare feet. I wasn’t sure what it meant but it had to mean something, I figured. Of course, I thought the same about Simon’s lyrics. I wasn’t sure what the heck he was singing about but they always made me think, made me want to figure them out. Anyway, the videos of this album really captured my attention and clearly captured others’ attentions as well since there was a very obvious connection between those places that had MTV and Duran Duran album sales. If you had MTV, you bought the album. If you didn’t have MTV, you didn’t buy the album. It was as simple as that. Yes, it helped that MTV didn’t have a ton of videos and that they aired Duran over and over and over again. We were also a captive audience. If we wanted to see videos, we had to see a lot of Duran videos. Many of these videos or images from these videos are still used today. It seems to me that 98% of interviews with Duran shows the image of the band on the boat during Rio or Simon running through the jungle in HLTW. At this point, you can’t separate these images from the music. Speaking of images, that album cover is still very popular and well-known. Do all of these images add to the specialness of Rio? I think they do.
The Rio era also saw two really important things take place. First, their popularity exploded during this time. Duran Duran started becoming a real household name, a name that got real attention in places beyond the UK, Australia and Japan. Duran got real worldwide success with this album. Second, for many of the original Duranies, this is when people became fans. It seems to me that whenever you become a fan, that time seems to be the best, most important time for that fan. Thus, if someone became a fan in 1993, s/he is not probably going to say that Seven and the Ragged Tiger was his/her favorite era. No, one’s favorite era is the time when that celebrity caught your attention and caught your attention in a way that was no longer easy to walk away from. A special memory is created then.
So, what is it that makes the Rio album so special? Honestly, I think it is the combination between the music, the videos, the images, the worldwide popularity and one’s own personal fandom. No matter the reason, it is hard to argue that Rio hasn’t made its mark with Duran Duran, with their fans and with the public at large. It is one of those must-know, must-own albums.