Arcadia – The Flame
Never put my trust in fate suprises do arrive so late
Why should I be surprised by you
Straight to the heart straight for this precious shining
How do you dare step into my flame
The topic of fear was not uncommon in 80s videos. Many videos had horror scenes, and of course the first of all was Thriller, but I must say that in general then music exorcised everything, and terror generally vanished in fun or great humour. The theme of Thriller and zombies is taken up by Rockwell in Somebody’s watching me, moreover with Michael Jackson himself in the chorus, and in the end just when everything seems normal, the hand of the postman is actually that of a zombie.
Also in Midnight Man of Flash and the Pan we start from the terror of a strange and supernatural presence that enters the girl’s bedroom, terrifying her, and then the presence turns out to be a giant hand in a white glove that forces her to leave the routine and her loneliness, and to go have fun. Then of course, later we saw the whole line of The Cure, whose anxieties and fears became songs and a real trademark.
There were also several very ironic videos, and one of the funniest (although unfortunately it didn’t have great circulation at the time) was The Flame, by Arcadia. We need some background, now! In 1985, at the end of the great world hysteria aroused by the album Arena and The Wild Boys, Duran Duran find themselves at a fundamental point in their history. Yes, because after recording A view to a kill for the James Bond film, and after attending Live Aid with one of their worst performances ever at the JFK stadium in Philadelphia, Duran Duran split up and members went for different roads. Of course, Live Aid’s performance was certainly conditioned by these decisions, but contractual commitments had to be respected.
And so, John Taylor and Andy Taylor leave the group to join The Power Station, with Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson, drummer of Chic. They will find notoriety with Some like it hot and Get it on (Bang a gong). The three remaining members of Duran Duran, Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor, launch a new project, and create Arcadia. In the fall of 1985 they release the outstanding album So red the rose, preceded by the single Election Day. Goodbye is forever (only in the United States) and The Promise (only in the United Kingdom) were also released, and in July 1986 they released the fourth single, The Flame.
Arcadia made some beautiful songs, this is a fact, often embellished with great collaborations, like the voice of Sting in The Promise. The Flame is perhaps the song on the whole album that comes closest to the pure Duran Duran style. And it starts with a big cameo, the voice of Grace Jones (whom they met on the set of A view to a kill) saying in Spanish “I come from the land of fire, be careful when you call my name”. Grace Jones already sang in Election Day, after all.
As we said, the video is a funny little masterpiece. It was directed by one of the absolute masters of 80’s video, that Russell Mulcahy who had directed all the great videos of Duran Duran, such as Planet Earth, Rio, Save a prayer, Hungry like the wolf, The Reflex and The Wild Boys, but also other famous videos such as Video killed the radio star, Vienna by Ultravox, Bette Davis Eyes, Total Eclipse of the Heart, True by Spandau Ballet, Jeanny by Falco and many others. In short, an absolute master.
The video is somewhere between a Rocky Horror Picture Show, and a film from an Agatha Christie or Hitchcock novel. Simon Le Bon is a clumsy nerd who arrives by chance with his girlfriend in a mysterious mansion where a slightly slimy guy (Nick Rhodes) is having a dinner or a party with various guests. Nick’s partner is played by the beautiful model Denice D. Lewis, who would also appear in the 1990s video for Without a woman, by Zucchero and Paul Young, and in Too Sexy by Right Said Fred. At every step Simon Le Bon risks his life, but he is always saved by luck or sometimes helped by the landlord. Something happens at every frame, at some point he also finds himself on a train, but in short, he comes out alive. This video was the punishment that Nick Rhodes inflicted on Simon for seriously risking his life during a regatta, the Fastnet Boat Race, where the boat Simon was on capsized and Simon was saved by a miracle. Well, Nick told him… you have to be more careful, because with every step you take you really risk your life!
There is another particular point of the video: at a certain point a door opens and a well-known face appears who proposes to sign a contract: John Taylor. It was a clear signal: John Taylor as we know had left Duran Duran and was part of Power Station, so what was he doing there? Well, actually they were giving us news: John would be back, and the Duran Duran would be reforming. And in fact, about three months after this song, Notorious was about to come out, again under the name of Duran Duran. However, it would not have been the complete line-up, because Roger Taylor needed to take a period off the scene, and Andy Taylor decided not to return, and to play with the Missing Persons, which opened the doors for the arrival of Warren Cuccurullo, guitarist of Missing Persons and man of many other talents, as guitarist of Duran Duran.
For the return to the complete original lineup, however, we will have to wait another eighteen years, until the release of Astronaut in 2004.
Arcadia on Wikipedia