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.
This part of the game started with two album tracks off the self-titled first album: Sound of Thunder and Friends of Mine. It seemed that most people preferred Friends of Mine. Yet, when thinking about Duran Duran, Sound of Thunder has a more significant history. I’m sure that I’m not telling anyone anything new but it was the very first song that the Fab 5 wrote together. The legend has it that the band wrote the song as soon as Simon came and auditioned. On top of that, I remember reading, maybe in an Ask Katy question, that Sound of Thunder captured the sound that they hoped to create. After all, Duran Duran was designed to be a combination of punk and disco, right? I have heard that John wanted to combine the sounds of Chic’s Good Times with the Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant. Apparently, they thought that Sound of Thunder did that the best. As for Friends of Mine, I do know that Georgie Davis is a real person who was sentenced to prison and recently got out, I might add. Yet, that story doesn’t strike me as much as Duran’s first song or the perfect combination of influences does. Thus, in terms of sentimental value, Sound of Thunder wins the competition, hands down. What do you think, Duranies? Would you still vote on Friends of Mine? Obviously, that’s cool if you would. You might just think that the song sounds better.
Then, yesterday, I asked about Last Chance on the Stairway and Hold Back the Rain. Many people talked about how Hold Back the Rain was played at a gig where it was actually raining. Some mentioned about how NASA used it in the hopes of keeping a storm away in order for the space shuttle to land. Yet, a few more mentioned about Simon wrote the song about John. Here’s a clip from a documentary that explains the story:
Like the story behind Sound of Thunder, as a Duranie, I can’t ignore it. It tells so much about the band. It shows how much Simon cares about John. It shows how far John Taylor has come. It shows what life must have been like for them at this time with the partying and the women. This history, this feeling speaks to me. Of course, many people have personal connections to Duran songs. Memories, feelings become attached to songs. I can’t help but to think of touring life whenever I hear this song. Specifically, the lyrics: “No time for worry cause we’re on the roam again”. For me, then, the personal connection combined with the Duran history puts this song way at the top of my list of favorites. Of course, I think it sounds good as well! 😉
Maybe, my desire to know the story behind the song is strange. Perhaps, I’m the only one who cares about stuff like this. After all, I do have a history degree so I do tend to think about what is historically important. Obviously, in my opinion, both Sound of Thunder and Hold Back the Rain are important to the Duran story. What do you think? Do you think the story behind a song matters? How much does it matter? Does it change the way you view a song? Does it change how much you like or don’t like a song? Then, do you think these two songs are important in understanding Duran Duran?
A little background on The Devils is probably necessary…and it’s the beginning, which is a very good place to start. (Be careful or I’ll start singing Do Re Mi from Sound of Music. A frightening thought by any means.) In 1978, Nick Rhodes and Stephen Duffy started writing music together, and ran into John Taylor who was performing with a group called Dada. At some point later Stephen walked to art college, and met up with John Taylor, who was not doing anything at that time – and Duran Duran was born. The music that we know as The Devils is basically the first album that Duran Duran would have made had the original original original (yes, that wording IS necessary at this point) stayed together. (does anyone else ever get the feeling that the constantly changing lineups is just part of what makes Duran Duran, Duran Duran?!?) This my friends, is why every Duran fan on the planet, every single Duranie, should know The Devils. No, of course you don’t have to like what you hear and I’m the last person to condemn anybody for not loving something Duran has done…. but I do think you have to know where they started to truly appreciate the band they’ve become.
I’ve posted both parts of the EPK that Nick and Stephen produced – they’re on YouTube. (and I’m extremely thankful for that!) For the first EPK, my advice is to watch the whole thing through, and then take special care to listen from about 13:20 to the end again several times. The song is called Big Store, and if you don’t hear Duran Duran in there, listen again. I have a deep appreciation for the dark and innovative sound…if only they had more clarinet in there…
(psst, Nick!! I’m free…and I can really play clarinet!!)
One of the more amusing and interesting things on this first EPK are the slides that are interspersed throughout. They are from John’s geography field trip, and there are several from streets in Birmingham. What tickled me personally was that I could actually identify several of these shots and where they were taken. I guess that first trip to the UK back last May was beneficial in many ways!
On the next EPK, it opens with Dark Circles. This song would have EASILY fit on the first album. I love it dearly, and what’s more – it reminds me of why I fell in love with Duran Duran in the first place. Then we get to hear what Nick coins as being “the most goth sound on the record”. This is the darkest, scariest song that I think I’ve ever heard, and chances are – I’m going to have nightmares with this song as the soundtrack for the rest of my life. I think you’re right about the goth thing Nick, and the video makes it even scarier!
(note to self: do I really ever hear music in my dreams?? Good question!)
I’m not sure how much Duran I hear in that particular song, but Nick’s innovative mind is right there, and Stephen’s voice is downright haunting. Take a listen to Barbarellas and even the Tinsel Ritual, and really look at those old slides – that was the Birmingham from which the band emerged in 1978. (which is really not all that unlike the town *I* came from here in the states, which is probably why I felt so at home walking around.) They have come very, very far.
And now that you’ve come up to breathe after that long trip down memory lane, here’s some Neurotic Outsiders to wake you up!
The Neurotic Outsiders is a band that John was in during the time he was not a member of Duran Duran. The other members included Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, along with Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum of Guns n Roses. I feel as though this band held much of his healing – as of course did his solo work. In some ways it seems as though Neurotic Outsiders helped him see that being in a band could still be fun. Their music was as much hard, dirty rock as The Devils was all about art, experimentation and the bridge between punk and alternative in 1978. If there was ever to be a cosmic opposite to The Devils, Neurotic Outsiders would be that band.
The next one is live….
Sorry for the quality, but to get a good idea of what Neurotic Outsiders was like I think you have to see them. I have to say, they rocked it, and I love that about them.
What is fascinating to me…and should really be to the rest of you as well, is that yesterday we asked if you’d rather listen to Arcadia or Power Station. To the best of my count, Arcadia won that question by a landslide. So far today, however – Neurotic Outsiders fans far exceed those of The Devils. One could argue that The Devils and Arcadia are similar types of music, very “art school”, very experimental; and of course conversely, Power Station and Neurotic Outsiders are both rock, although Neurotic Outsiders comes from a far heavier place. So, is it that The Devils just isn’t well known? Is it that Simon isn’t singing?? Even better – what about John Taylor fans out there?!?
Watch the videos, take notes, because at some point, there might even be a test! Enjoy!!
I have some ideas of essential elements or objectives that need to be taught. One element is obviously video since video did play such an essential part to their commercial success and did grab so many fans’ attention. It is a part of Duran that has existed from the first single to current times. Another element that needs to talked about, I think, is their commitment to the complete package. Duran isn’t just music or video. They are a complete package from artwork to fashion. The images they created from their album covers to their merchandise are long lasting and captured our attention. I would, obviously, include all of those fabulous photographs of the band members, themselves. Then, of course, we have the proof of their success. This objective would include information about album sales, awards received, and media attention. While the fans could be a part of this object, I think we deserve an objective all by ourselves. While we had direct impact on their commercial success, especially “back in the day”, we are still an essential part of the story by continuing to follow them, buy their products, and more. I also think there needs to be an objective on Duran’s philosophy. While Duran has never clearly come out to state a “philosophy” or “mission”, I think that there is one. After all, this is the band that declared that they wanted to be playing when the bomb dropped in their first interview. It is also the band that states frequently at shows that they are the band “designed to make you party”. Clearly, the band isn’t about politics!
Now, that we have the goal of proving Duran is great and our objectives of their musical spectrum and quality, video, packaging, commercial success, fans, and philosophy, we have to decide how to present them. In education, this could be called the procedure. One way, we could present the material would be through the differing musical styles. Thus, we would pick songs that both represent a certain style of music and represents one of the remaining objectives. For example, Save a Prayer might be used to showcase their ability to write and play ballads while also showing the use of video. Another way, we could present the objectives could be through the band’s story. Their story now spans over thirty years and I’m willing to bet that each major piece to their history could be explained through their music. Thus, lesson one might be on forming the band. I could then explain how the different members came to join the band. I could play the song, Late Bar, to showcase this time in their history and also lead the students to questions regarding their philosophy through analyzing the lyrics. Hopefully, they would get that an all-night party means that they wanted for everyone to have a good time! A later lesson could be how the critics did not appreciate them despite or because of their commercial success, which would be accompanied by the song Notorious.
In case you are all wondering, I have put together a list of songs that best represent Duran’s history and those essential elements that make up who Duran is. I could share it, if people are interested. What I would like to know is how you would teach Duran Duran. Would you just focus on the music? If so, what songs would you include? Would you focus on those other elements that I referred to as objectives? Maybe you would talk about some of those elements but not all of them. Perhaps, I forgot something essential to understanding Duran. Would you then organize the lessons like I would, through Duran’s history and music? If not, how would you do it? Then, I would also love to know if anyone has tried to actually teach someone about Duran. How did you do it and how did it go?
Another new piece to the Daily Duranie is a little game that we are starting that will go from today until February at this time! It seemed to us that many people liked the Daily Duranie Challenge we did a while ago. To that end, we tried to come up with some fun question to ask everyday. We are calling this little daily game, “Would You Rather…?” The game is pretty simple. We will give you two options about something related to the band. You pick your choice and tell us why. Simple and fun. 🙂 We will post it here, on our twitter and on our facebook. The first question is:
Would you rather be a band member’s best friend or a band member’s personal stylist?
My answer: I would rather be a best friend. I would be able to share everything with that band member (John. LOL.) as opposed to just clothes, hair, accessories, etc. A best friend is able to hang out, talk, get to know to the other person, get to be there for him/her. If I was his personal stylist, I would only interact in order to deal with his style. While it is appealing to be able to throw out clothes that I think are silly or unflattering, that isn’t enough of a draw from me. Now, your turn. What would you rather be?
Now, on a different note, another element we have added to our blog is the Today in Duran History piece. I am constantly amazed and in awe over the band’s history and the fact that I have been around to see most of it! Okay, I’m a little scared of that, too! 🙂 Today’s day in Duran’s history relates to the Neurotic Outsiders, a side project that John was involved with in the mid-1990s. When we did the Daily Challenge a few months ago, I discovered that many fans had not been aware of this project. I hope that some of them checked them out and enjoyed what they found. That said, this made me think about my own personal fandom.
Now, I know that this is going to shock many of you when I say that I like to know as much as I can about my fandom. In Duranland, this includes their side projects and solo work. Of course, I have various opinions about these other projects. Some of them appeal to me more than others but I still want to know about them. In fact, as a kid, when I discovered Duran, I read as much as I could about them. Obviously, some of the information about them included their influences. How many 9-year- olds do you know that go out of their way to hear records by Chic and by the Sex Pistols? Yep. That was me. I am happy to say that this “research” actually helped me to find other music that I enjoy and enjoyed. Other people seem to just be content with whatever part of their fandom they find. I can understand that, too. It is supposed to be fun and many people don’t enjoy research. The fact that I do enjoy research probably explains why I have a history degree, am writing a book on fandom and write this blog, huh?
So, where are you on the spectrum of fandom related research? Are you like me and have to learn as much as you can as fast as you can? Are you the opposite in that you want to just sit back and enjoy the Duran you know and love? Maybe, you are somewhere in between. If you have a chance to find out more, you do but stop if you find you aren’t enjoying what you find. I loved to know where other fans are with this so let me know!!!
This is the reality. Duran Duran has been one of the biggest bands in the world. They have sold a ton of albums (I have heard 70 million to 100 million), played thousands of gigs, won awards including lifetime achievement awards and have become part of the public psyche. Say the name Duran Duran to anyone of a certain age here in the States and that person would have heard of Duran. In most cases, that person could also name a song or ten and might be able to name a band member or 5. Duran was huge and still is often referenced in movies, TV shows and books because people know them and the reference makes sense. For example, a couple of years ago the TV Show, House, mentioned Duran and their song, New Moon on Monday. I read a book not too long ago by Tiffanie Debartolo in which the main character was told that her true love was going to die at an early age. This character worried about John Taylor. These references show how big Duran was and is. They show how their presence was and still is felt in the world of popular culture.
As a fan, I have seen and felt this impact. On one level, I have to admit to feeling like I have been a part of something huge, something important, something monumental. The only other times I have felt a part of something this huge was during the Obama campaign in 2008 and during the Wisconsin protests that took place this past winter and spring. As a fan, I helped to make Duran huge. I bought their albums, went to their concerts, bought their merchandise and more. Without people like me, they wouldn’t have become so huge, so important. John Taylor, himself, has recognized this and acknowledged it. I remember seeing a clip on Behind the Music in which he talks about how songs like the Reflex and Save a Prayer aren’t theirs anymore but belong to the public psyche. He’s right. He goes on to say that to be a part of that is a gift. Well, I feel the same way. I feel like I have been able (along with millions of others) to be a part of something much bigger than myself. Thus, the fans have had a serious impact on the band members’ lives. We helped them make an impact. In turn, they impacted our lives as well.
I have been a Duranie for over 27 years. I have been a Duranie for a lot longer than I haven’t been. I have been a Duranie for so long that I can’t remember not being one or what it was like to not be one. They have helped to form many of my opinions, my likes, my dislikes, my interests and more. For example, I love contemporary art. Yes, my mother is an artist but I doubt I would love it as much if I didn’t find myself exposed to art through the band. Another example is that many Duranies, including myself, have found themselves being attracted to a certain type of males. I may or may not be attracted to guys who have similar characteristics to John Taylor just like my partner-in-crime may or may find herself attracted to men who are similar to Roger. Did the band might have had an influence there? I suspect that they did. They have opened my eyes to books, movies and music that I’m sure I would have never even heard of without them. On top of all of that and most importantly, they have brought me some amazing experiences, some absolutely fabulous times and some meaningful friendships, ones that I can’t imagine not having now. My world would have been a much smaller, much lonelier place.
The simple fact is that I can’t imagine my life without them. Obviously, now, my daily life is filled with checking in on what is happening with the band and their fans. It is filled with writing or reading this blog. When I’m lucky, my days are spent planning, preparing and going on tour. Duran Duran is always present in my world, in some shape or form. The truth is that us, fans, have impacted their lives and they have impacted ours. Together, we have created and sustained something big and meaningful. I, for one, am grateful that I have been and continue to be a part of it.
I find it fascinating that there is not somewhere, some place to find all of the Duran related locations and how to get to them. Obviously, I know that some of the sites are no longer there since the band hasn’t lived there for a long time, but still. For example, I plan to go to the site of where the Rum Runner once stood. I want to acknowledge their beginnings. I want to be able to say that I was there. Other fandoms seem to have this. For example, fans of TV shows and movies often travel to the locations of where the shows or movies were filmed to see the locations. As a fan of Roswell (the old TV show), I was able to go to the area in California where the show was filmed and follow an online tour to see where various scenes, episodes and locations were shot. This online tour not only described where to find the places but also gave an order about which places to see in order to be most efficient. The guide also described what was significant about each location in case I could not remember. Why isn’t there something like this for Duranies in relation to Birmingham? I cannot imagine that Rhonda and I will be the first fans to go there wanting to see places that have/had meaning in the band’s history.
I know that as part of the Live from London DVD, Nick, Roger and John walked around different parts of the city and talked about what happened, where. This does not necessarily help me. Did they provide addresses? Directions on how to get there? Not so much. I have been going through articles and their unofficial biography to write down any locations that were meaningful and then will do searches to figure out exactly where they might be. This is a lot of work. Now, I don’t mind doing it, to some extent. I am, after all, a researcher at heart (I have a history degree.), but I also have a ton of other things to do. I also worry that my research will not result in me having all of the really important places. For instance, I have seen pictures of the guys’ childhood homes. Do I have any chance of really finding them? Probably not. I just don’t want to miss this opportunity, especially when I don’t know if it will ever come again.
Maybe there is some guide out there. Maybe some fans have something like this and have never shared it publicly. If this is the case, then, I urge you to make it public or to, at least, send it to the Daily Duranie at firstname.lastname@example.org. If people do have information and want to share it with us, we would gladly take the help. Our hope with this type of visit is to simply embrace the band’s history and to learn a little bit more about where they came from.