Is Duran Duran’s Rio the seminal album of the 80’s?

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Duran Duran live 09/12/2015 BIC Bournemouth Paper Gods tour "Rio"

The Rio album is 35 years old this year. Surprisingly Duran Duran were once dismissed as one-hit wonders. After the debut single Planet Earth peaked just outside the U.K top ten, the often forgotten second single Careless Memories barely dented the top 40. For the five extremely good looking young men, it appeared that their critics may have been right. However, girls on film was an ultra catchy third single which saw the band break in the top ten, and had boys and girls both singing along in unison. The video courted so much controversy that it was banned by the BBC.

The first album sold well in the U.K but was largely ignored in the United States. For the second album, the band embarked on an all-out assault on the senses, and how that strategy paid dividends. The fourth single entitled My Own Way was moderately successful, but the fifth was the song that would provide a springboard to superstardom. Hungry Like The Wolf reached number five in the UK top 40. Its exotic video invoked images of Indiana Jonesesque adventures, where the musicians became actors in a mini movie that the fans could not get enough of. MTV featured the video on heavy rotation and it helped the band to obtain a huge new fan base in America. These were five great looking guys, who dressed well, played their own instruments, were likeable and they wrote amazing songs.

Save A Prayer was undoubtedly one of the most memorable ballads of the 80’s. It’s lyrics told of uninhibited sex without the need for commitment, and the bittersweet taste of the free spirit supposedly living without regret. It epitomised the carefree attitude being adopted by many twenty-somethings, who found that the 80’s had given them the birth of new opportunities to travel and to live lavish lifestyles as technology enabled society to become free from restraint. Again it had a video that still looks clean and fresh today.

The last single from the album was the title track Rio. The song became synonymous with excess and lavish spending, and it had those five men in the finest suits money could buy, sailing that boat into the wild sea of fame and all of its downfalls. A great deal of the public retained the image of that boat for a long time to follow. It was almost as if they expected the band to be constantly on board with a long line of models filling the cabins below.

The album launched the band to a level of stardom that few could ever dare to dream of. The band were re-labelled the fab five in America and pandemonium would soon follow whenever they would make a public appearance. Those three videos remain on constant rotational playlists even to this day. Rio was recently voted the best video of the 80’s too, but there was more to the band than just these single releases.

Rio was a truly world class album that was somewhat ahead of its time and was impossible to match. Every single song on the album had the potential to be a hit single. Each invoked different scenarios that you could actually visualise. From the guitar driven Hold Back The Rain, the haunting melancholy of Lonely In Your Nightmare the regret-laden pop of Last Chance On The Stairway to the simply stunning artistry of The Chauffeur. Each song on the album adds entirely to its worth.

It’s a testament to both the accomplished musicianship and the evocative lyrics of Simon Oe Bon, that Rio is the seminal album of the 80’s. It is still being discovered today by teenagers who are desperate for realism and truth in music in a world that has become cold and cynical. It speaks volumes to those who recall that point in time in their lives, or for those who seek a better understanding of the music of that era.

To still remain relevant thirty-five years after its release, only serves to prove how often underrated Duran Duran were to the critics who dismissed them simply because girls screamed at their concerts. 35 years later, they have never tried to recapture an earlier sound, or lived on the history of an impressive back catalogue. They continue to innovate and collaborate and create new music. Rio will always own a place in music history, and Duran Duran only now appear have achieved the critical acclaim that they always deserved.