Finally, I get my chance to dive into the celebration surrounding Duran Duran’s second and most successful album, Rio. May 10th marked the 35th anniversary of the album’s release. Since then, many articles have been written, many videos have been viewed and many personal celebrations have been shared. It is like a Duran holiday! Woohoo! On the anniversary, I couldn’t do much to mark the special occasion as it was a work day for me. I did what I could, though. Before and after each class period, I showed a video of a song from Rio. Many of my students didn’t know anything about the band but some did come in with knowledge about the band and this album. Still, I felt good about sharing my favorite band with my high school students. They need a good music education, right?
Since that date, I did have a chance to listen to the oral history posted on the band’s official fan community’s website. They called this longer version a “night version” just like the night versions of the band’s singles in their earlier days. Overall, I found the oral history fascinating! Not shockingly, I ended up taking copious notes as I didn’t want to miss anything. In thinking about blogging about this, I decided to treat like just like a regular Katy Kafe, which means that I’ll give some highlights. I recommend, though, that you listen to it yourself and as there is much that I didn’t get to in this blog!
The oral history began with each member sharing about the album as a whole before diving into each track individually. I liked being able to hear all of their voices about each track. While I appreciated this easy-to-follow format, I’m going to describe the highlights in a slightly different way based on themes or highly fascinating statements.
In the beginning of the oral history, each member discusses the feel of the album as a whole, including the title. Much of what they mentioned, I knew. For example, I knew that the trip to America for that first tour impacted the band and that the song “Rio” is a reference to America. I found it interesting that Simon said it symbolized the love they have for America. Of course, there is more to it as Rio, Carnival and South America also were ingredients on the album and title.
For many of the tracks, the band described specific influences. For example, Roger mentioned Quiet Life by Japan for Rio and Michael Jackson for My Own Way. Both John and Roger stated that the fretless bass on Lonely in Your Nightmare was similar to Japan’s. Simon talked about Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read my Mind in connection to Hungry Like the Wolf. Early hip hop was brought up with New Religion. I appreciated hearing all of those examples and am thinking about checking out those songs next to the Duran ones to see if I can hear those influences.
Behind the Scenes:
As much as I loved to hear about the influences, I loved the behind the scenes scoop even more. I loved hearing about how My Own Way is a “problem child” according to Roger because the single version was too fast. Another behind the scenes story that really caught my attention was the discussion around Hold Back the Rain. As many know, this song’s lyrics were written by Simon about John partying too much. Both John and Simon openly talk about this in the oral history. I appreciated their openness and being willing to share with all of us. It made my heart feel full when I heard John describe the song as “bittersweet” which is a “punch in the face” with a hint of sadness. Indeed. I might not be able to listen to that song in the same way again.
There were many times when a band member would say something profound, meaningful or even jarring that I had to pause and write it down. Sometimes, those quotes were about the album as a whole or about a specific song. One example of this is when John talked about how the album was a kind of narrative about these suburban kids who had left their comfort zone and were now experiencing fame. I have never thought of Rio in that way, but I have often thought fame was a big theme in both Seven and the Ragged Tiger and Notorious. It makes me want to look at all three in order to see if there is a running undercurrent of a storyline.
Got Me Thinking:
One thing about Duran that I have always loved is that as much as they entertain me and provide me with an escape from real life, they also make me think. They don’t beat me over the head with intellectualism but it’s there and I love it. Funny enough, Simon even got me thinking about Hungry Like the Wolf in a different way. He talked about why it is “THE” wolf as opposed to “A” wolf. He wanted to get people thinking, “Which wolf?” He likes getting people to ask questions as that means that they are engaged. I couldn’t agree with him more.
Speaking of agreement, I also found myself nodding along when John talked about how Simon is underestimated as a lyricist and that New Religion was a “lyrical tour de force”. Interestingly enough, John shared that Simon used to describe that song as a dialogue between ego and alter ego. Hmm…
By the time, the band got to discussing this track, I had taken two and a half page of notes. I started to put away them, figuring that I had heard all the stories about this song before. I knew about Simon’s time in Israel, that it was the last track recorded, and that Roger and John come in late on the track. There was no surprise when John described as dark and “underground” Duran. What did catch my attention is how he stated that it is the song for intellectuals. In fact, he said that a friend of his says that there must be at least one track on every album to appeal to intellectuals. For Rio, it is the Chauffeur. That really got me thinking. Do not be surprised if there is an additional blog about that coming up soon!
Let Roger decide the setlist:
Roger stated that the band should dust off New Religion and bring it back into the set. Ummm…YES, PLEASE!?! He also said that the Chauffeur should be played more live. Seriously, can we let Roger decide on the setlist? Please…
Overall, I found the entire oral history to be well-worth the time to listen (and to take notes!). I learned a lot by listening and was able to fill in some gaps. Now, I’m tempted to go pull out my copy of Classic Albums: Rio DVD and compare what they said there about the various tracks. One thing is clear. The album, Rio, was a real game changer. Not only did it change the band in ways that cannot be measured but it changed the lives for so many fans all around the world. Truly, May 10, 1982, the ground shifted for those five guys and the fans that would follow. Every time I listen to it, I recognize it as the masterpiece it is, which leads me to feel nothing but extreme pride to be able to call myself a fan.