Rio - Duran Duran - 80sneverend - Five on a yacht

Five on a yacht

Duran Duran – Rio

Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand
Just like that river twisting through a dusty land
And when she shines, she really shows you all she can
Oh Rio, Rio, dance across the Rio Grande
#Rio #DuranDuran

November 1, 1982 was a very important day for the pop musical iconography of the 80s, thanks to the release of a single and a video that really marked the culture and imagination of us teenagers of the time, and we are of course talking about Duran Duran’s Rio.

Let’s be clear: the song was certainly not new on that day, because we had already known the whole Rio album since May 10 of that same year, and Rio was the first track, so it was impossible not to know to it. With the release of the single, however, and above all of its video, Duran Duran’s success began to take on a global, planetary dimension, and the five boys from Birmingham (Andy is actually from Newcastle) became the absolute icons of the ’80s .

Their first album, which was simply titled Duran Duran, had certainly made them known in England and partly also in Europe. The new romantic style with laces and fancy clothes of songs like Planet Earth, and the wild pop of songs and videos like Girls on Film and Careless Memories had made them the group of the moment, but the definitive leap in quality was still missing, in music but especially in their image, because in the 80s the look was even more important than today.

The change of look was evident right from the cover of the new album, designed by the great artist Patrick Nagel in his very personal and recognizable style, a mix between Japanese anime and art deco. Nagel was a symbolic artist of those years, and his illustrations of women often appeared in more or less glossy magazines or in Playboy, and the woman on the cover of Rio contributed to making him a true myth. Nagel unfortunately died very young in 1984, but his art went well beyond the 80s.

For the cover, Nagel had prepared two illustrations. Duran Duran had no doubts, and chose the one that, in their opinion, best represented the protagonist of the song Rio. The second illustration was later used for an edition reprinted in 2001. And who was she, Rio?

As in all masterpieces, there is a double reading, according to Duran Duran themselves. She certainly is a beautiful girl met in tropical paradises, if it is true that the refrain says that “her name is Rio, and she dances on the sand”. And in fact the girl is also the main topic of the video, but there is also a more subtle and more concrete reading.

Duran Duran had one goal: to break into the American market, and become as famous in the United States as they were in England and now in Europe. So the elusive, exotic and mysterious protagonist of the song actually also represents that success that the boys were chasing, which they certainly perceived as now close and attainable, but which still required effort and a bit of effort.

In fact, Rio, an unusual name for a girl, represents all of America, or at least all of the United States. Certainly influenced by the name of the city of Rio in Brazil, it is also taken up in a verse that says “from mountains in the north, down to the Rio Grande”. But this is precisely the description of the United States, the country where they were trying to succeed, since the Rio Grande forms the border with Mexico!
Moreover, success will also be mentioned in their next album, personified by the tiger in the famous title Seven and the Ragged Tiger (five members and two producers).

A curiosity regarding the beginning of the song, where we hear some strange sounds obviously created by the “controller” Nick Rhodes, as they call him in concerts when they show up for the final farewells. To obtain these sounds, Nick even started by putting metal rods on the strings of a piano, recording the sound and then playing it backwards! I think that before finding the right sound he had to make thousands of attempts!!! The laugh we hear at the beginning of the song was from a girl named Cheryl, Nick’s partner at the time, the same girl who laughs and sighs in Hungry Like the Wolf.

Although the song was set in dreamlike atmospheres, the first verses were actually written by Simon Le Bon in a restaurant in Birmingham, where he was inspired by a waitress who moved gracefully and quickly on the floor of the restaurant.

Speaking of Rio, we must naturally mention one of the iconic instruments of the 80s: the saxophone. Duran Duran didn’t have a saxophonist (like Steve Norman for Spandau Ballet, for example), and called in the great Andy Hamilton, who played sax on many great songs of the 80s, like I’m Your Man and The Edge of Heaven by Wham!

Of course, we cannot talk about Rio without commenting on the video, which made a fundamental contribution to the diffusion and fame of the song. As we said, the album had been out for about six months, but after the videos for My Own Way, Hungry Like the Wolf, and the beautiful Save a Prayer, Rio obviously had to be the final shot of this beautiful album, even if actually they released at least one other fabulous video without the single being released, and that was The Chauffeur (Sing Blue Silver).

The director was the great Russell Mulcahy, the first great director of the 80s, who shot all the great Duran Duran videos but also other masterpieces such as Video Killed the Radio Star by Buggles, Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler, Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes, Vienna by Ultravox and many others.

Duran Duran were on holiday in Antigua, all together, when the production decided to send the crew and director there and shoot the video in Antigua, in the Caribbean. The story takes place on a yacht rented for the occasion, named Eilean, which was built in Scotland in 1936 and then during the 80s and 90s was for rent in the Caribbean. Close to being decommissioned in the early 2000s, the boat was restored by a well-known luxury watch brand, and today is a symbol of regattas in the Caribbean.

Nick Rhodes didn’t like the idea of traveling on a yacht: as he commented several times, he only loves boats when they are docked in port and you can get on them to have a nice dinner or a drink without any other movement. Andy Taylor, on the other hand, had no particular problems, except perhaps when John Taylor, intentionally or not, threw him off the yacht. Some have read this scene as a preview of Andy’s exit from the group, but I don’t think that in 1982 Andy was already thinking of leaving. Roger’s problem was a crab pinching his feet in a scene of the video.

The first thing that catches the eye is that Duran Duran are dressed very elegantly: they wear expensive silk suits by fashion designer Antony Price, known as the designer of the stars. Nick was worried not only by the swinging of the boat, but also by the effect of sea water on silk clothes.

Duran Duran were also criticized because Rio showed the idea of a luxurious and wasteful glamor style, excessive for young people. In fact, Duran Duran would later be the ambassadors of glamour for many years, but they responded to the criticism by saying that Rio wanted to create an absolutely dreamlike and surreal atmosphere, not a model of style to imitate.

In addition to the band, the great protagonist of the video is the girl who appears with them on the yacht like an unattainable vision, with her body painted in various colors. The girl was a very famous model in London, of Middle Eastern origins, named Reema Medawr. During her life she married an Italian prince, and today Princess Reema Ruspoli lives in Tuscany with her three children.

Thanks to all these elements, Rio‘s video quickly became one of the most played on MTV, and it’s hard to say whether television helped the band, or whether in this case Duran Duran gave MTV some shine, given that there weren’t that many videos in 1982. In any case, this helped spread their fame and success even in the United States, as they had long hoped.

In short, the history of Duran Duran certainly had a turning point with the release of Rio, intended either as an album, as a song and as a video. More than forty years later, the cover style is still very trendy, and the video is often shown as an absolute example of the style and glamour of the 80s. And the song, well, it’s still the final song of every Duran Duran concert, and I’d say that’s enough to call it an absolute manifesto of the ’80s.

Duran Duran on Wikipedia

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