Duran Duran dispelled that notion of the difficult second album syndrome when they followed up a great debut album with an even better second one. Rio is Duran Duran’s best album. They have written many other wonderful songs since but, collectively, the nine tracks which make up this record ensure that it remains their finest release to date. Of course, it’s all about opinions and other Duranies might disagree, but, for me, everything about the album is just perfect – the music, lyrics and the album cover, which is an iconic image of the 1980s.
There is an element of sentimentality to my choice, as I was 16-years-old when Rio was released back in 1982, so much like the band’s debut album, it takes me back to simpler times, when I was just finishing fifth year at Turnbull High School and just weeks away from failing my Maths Higher exam. That wouldn’t have been an uncommon misfortune amongst my peers, though the fact that my dad was a Maths teacher did make for an awkward summer.
I like to think that I took some solace in listening to Rio during the summer of ‘82, and maybe I did. It might also mean that every time my dad hears a Duran Duran song on the radio, it reminds him of his son’s mathematical shortcomings.
It’s no surprise either that Rio has been re-released in June 2015, accompanied by demo versions and B-sides. It is like welcoming an old friend home.
The album begins with the title track, and it’s hard not to hear that song without picturing the band singing on a yacht in the Indian Ocean, all of them wearing garish-coloured suits. Duran Duran were one of the first bands to realise the power and potential of music videos on the MTV channel, and they had a number of memorable videos to accompany the single releases from the album, and the Rio video remains an iconic image from the ‘80s. And like many songs from that era, it also has a saxophone solo which, hearing it now, gives it a sense of time and place.
The second track on the album, My Own Way, was also the first single to be released from it, and it reached No.14 in the charts. The single version is different and faster than the album one, and I think the latter is the better version.
By the time you get to the third song on side one, Lonely In Your Nightmare, it’s becoming apparent that this is a special album, with every song a potential single. In the event, there were four single releases, and while Lonely In Your Nightmare wasn’t one of them, it remains a great track. I also think that, lyrically, it’s a really strong song.
Hungry Like The Wolf is another track with a memorable video to accompany it, and it is a brilliantly joyous song. I can also report that it also makes for a great karaoke song, as I recently discovered. It was one of the single releases, getting to No.5 in the charts. It’s also an instantly recognisable Duran Duran track, and it’s always one of my favourites when the band play live.
Side one finishes with Hold Back The Rain. This is a great tune, with some brilliant bass playing and the sort of chorus that gets an audience jumping up and down, and singing along – even an old curmudgeon like me.
New Religion kicks off side two, and it’s another strong song. Lyrically, it features two distinctive voices singing against each other. Both of them belong to Simon Le Bon, incidentally, and the sleeve notes describe it as ‘a dialogue between the ego and the alter-ego’. And I really love the start of this song.
Last Chance On The Stairway could easily have been a single, and it would have been a massive hit. It’s catchy, anthemic and it’s a song to tempt anyone up on to the dance floor, though since it is one of the facts of life that men over thirty can’t dance, that rules me out!
Save A Prayer is my favourite ever Duran Duran song. I love the acoustic feel of it, accompanied by the synthesiser hooks, and it’s a really strong song lyrically as well. Back in the day, this was the song which caused a whole arena to raise cigarette lighters in the air – now it’s mobile phones – and Save A Prayer, more than any other Duran Duran song, makes me remember my teenage years with unabashed fondness.
The Chauffeur is a stunning song to finish the album with, ensuring there is no let-up in the quality of the tracks. It was apparently another acoustic-driven song that Nick Rhodes transformed into a piece of electronic brilliance. Apparently, the lyric for this song was written by Simon Le Bon before he even joined the band, and it works brilliantly with the stripped-down simplicity of the music. It’s a great way to end a truly brilliant album. I thought that back in 1982 and I still do now, in 2015.
Favourite track: Save A Prayer