Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day! (Rio at 35, Part II [Behind the scenes])

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“My Own Way” was the very first Rio single to be written and recorded, in October ’81. It was released as a single the next month, in a very different style from the album version. The other eight tracks were recorded in early ’82, produced and engineered by Colin Thurston, at London’s Air Studios.

The massively overplayed “HLTW” was the second single, released 4 May 1982. “Save a Prayer” became the third single on 9 August 1982, and the title track was released as a single on 1 November.

In September 1982, record label EMI released the EP Carnival, featuring the Night Versions (extended dance remixes) of some of the band’s hit singles. The Dutch and Spanish version contained “HLTW,” “Rio,” “Planet Earth,” and “Girls on Film,” while the Canadian and U.S. version had “HLTW,” “Girls on Film,” “Hold Back the Rain,” and “My Own Way.” The Japanese version had “Rio (Part II),” “Hold Back the Rain,” “My Own Way,” “HLTW,” and “New Religion.”

Carnival was very successful, leading Capitol Records to start marketing them as a dance band instead of New Romantics. Seizing the moment, the band compelled Capitol to re-release Rio in the U.S. In November, they got their wishes, and this new version (with the first five tracks re-mixed by David Kershenbaum) went to #6.

The international success of the album and its four singles was due in huge part to the newly-mainstreamed artform of the music video. While music videos had been around for quite a long time, they were typically done only as promotion prior to MTV. They weren’t a carefully-considered artform in the old days.

Who could imagine any Eighties band, artist, or song without the music videos? They’re such a quintessential aspect of my childhood decade. While music videos are still being made (shocking as it is to discover), the modern ones are nothing like the classics from the Eighties.

Music videos were made for the title track, “HLTW,” “Lonely in Your Nightmare,” and “Save a Prayer” in Antigua and Sri Lanka. Also filmed was a very weird music video for “Nightboat,” from their first album.


Warning: Video NSFW or under 18!

A video album was released in 1983, featuring the four singles from Rio, plus album tracks “Lonely in Your Nightmare” and “The Chauffeur.” Also included were four songs from their début album and the March 1983 single “Is There Something I Should Know?”

The album cover was designed by Malcolm Garrett and famously painted by American artist Patrick Nagel, and went on to become one of Nagel’s best-known images. His alternate version of the cover was finally used in 2001 for a limited edition remaster. Most of his works were female figures in a style inspired by Art Déco and initially based off photographs.

Copyright EMI or Patrick Nagel’s estate; used solely to illustrate the subject and consistent with Fair Use doctrine

Rio frequently makes those incessant “best-of” albums lists, for British albums, Eighties albums, and greatest albums of all time. The album has not only remained popular and relevant over the last 35 years, but also influential on many other musicians. It’s not an album anyone could go wrong buying.

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Rio at 35, Part I (General overview)

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Released 10 May 1982, Rio was Duran Duran’s sophomore album and reached #2 in the U.K. and #1 in Australia. Initially, it didn’t do well in the U.S. (far from the first time a British band has been much more successful in their native land than across the pond). Only in 1983, after Durandemonium broke in the U.S., did it reach #6 on Billboard.

This is one of those quintessentially perfect albums, the album by which all other releases from an artist or band are judged. While I personally have grown to prefer their eponymous 1981 début, there’s no denying Rio is an absolutely perfect album from start to finish.

This is also my cold weather album for the car stereo. When I hear Eighties songs, I automatically picture the music videos. Thinking of the music videos in warm climates like Sri Lanka and the Caribbean makes me feel at least psychosomatically warmed up.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks on the 2009 two-disc CD version:

“Rio” (#9 in the U.K. and Ireland, #3 in Canada, #14 in Finland, #36 in New Zealand, #14 on U.S. Billboard, #5 on U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock, #14 on U.S. Cash Box Top 100)
“My Own Way” (#14 in the U.K., #10 in Australia, #20 in Ireland, #1 in Portugal)
“Lonely in Your Nightmare” (my favourite track)
“Hungry Like the Wolf” (#1 in Canada and on the U.S. Billboard Top Rock Tracks; #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100; #4 in Ireland, South Africa, and New Zealand; #5 in the U.K. and Australia; #25 in Poland; #32 in Italy; #36 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play; #50 in The Netherlands)
“Hold Back the Rain”
“New Religion” (another favourite)
“Last Chance on the Stairway” (also love this one)
“Save a Prayer” (final line on the album version shorter than the music video version) (#1 in France, #2 in Ireland, #2 in the U.K., #56 in Australia, belatedly #16 in the U.S. in 1985)
“The Chauffeur” (such a sexy, sensual song and music video, back when “sexy” wasn’t synonymous with, pardon the misogynistic expression. “video hos” bumping and grinding in next to no clothes, accompanied by lyrics about horniness and cheap, tawdry sexual exploits)

“Rio” (U.S. album remix)*
“My Own Way” (Carnival remix)*
“Lonely in Your Nightmare” (U.S. album remix)*
“Hungry Like the Wolf” (U.S. album remix)*
“Hold Back the Rain” (U.S. album remix)*
“Last Chance on the Stairway” (Manchester Square Demo)*
“My Own Way” (Manchester Square Demo)*
“New Religion” (Manchester Square Demo)*
“Like an Angel” (Manchester Square Demo)*
“My Own Way” (original 7-inch version)*
“The Chauffeur” (Blue Silver) (early version)*
“My Own Way” (Night version; i.e., an extended dance remix)*
“Hungry Like the Wolf” (Night version)*
“Rio” (Night version)*
“New Religion” (Carnival remix)*
“Hold Back the Rain” (Carnival remix)*
“My Own Way” (instrumental version)*
“Hold Back the Rain” (alternate remix)*

I absolutely love this album, as obscenely overplayed as the title track and “HLTW” are. Everything holds up unbelievably well after 35 years, both the songs themselves and the incredible music videos.

I got it on vinyl in 2007 because it was only $2 and I wanted to indulge my Eighties nostalgia. It didn’t do much for me at first, which wasn’t helped by how I thought they were just a bunch of prettyboys who were only around in the Eighties, a boygroup like NKOTB or Backstreet Boys.

The respective sparks created by both my Eighties childhood and listening to this album a few times finally burst into a beautiful flame when I became a Duranie in early 2011. I can’t believe it’s already been six and a half years since I fell in love with this band!

“I wish I could stop, and start it again”

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In loving memory of John Alec Entwistle, 9 October 1944–27 June 2002

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

In honor of John Entwistle’s upcoming 15th Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I decided to review his awesome solo album Too Late the Hero. Some of the material is edited from my old Angelfire posts. Though I own several of his albums on vinyl, this is the only one I’ve gotten around to listening to so far.

TLTH was recorded from 1979–May 1981, and released 23 November 1981. This was his only solo album of the Eighties, though he tried to release The Rock in 1986. Instead, The Rock released in 1996.

TLTH went to #71 on the U.S. Billboard 200, his highest-charting position since his 1971 solo début Smash Your Head Against the Wall. This was also his last album to chart before his untimely death.

The single “Talk Dirty” went to #41 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart, with the B-side of “Try Me.” (I’m sure many of my younger readers don’t even know what a B-side is!) The other single, title track “Too Late the Hero,” charted at #76 on the U.K. NME (New Musical Express) chart, and #101 on the U.S. Billboard chart. “Fallen Angel,” while not a single, also received much radio play on album-oriented rock stations.

TLTH was John’s first solo album in six years, since 1975’s Mad Dog. He felt he’d been going in the wrong direction musically, and wanted to get away from that old-style rock and roll with its “shoo-bop, shoo-bop” stuff. With this album, John returned to his previous style of songwriting. (Read more in a 1981 Rolling Stone interview.)

Critical reception over the years, both then and now, has typically been rather underwhelming or negative. A rare positive review came from venerable music critic Chris Welch of Melody Maker.

I’ve always absolutely adored this album. It’s pulsing with so much musical energy, and as a proud Eighties kid, I can’t resist that trademark Eighties production style!

It’s been said that John’s voice was never this top-notch again after this period.

Track listing, with stars by the CD reissue bonus tracks:

“Try Me”
“Talk Dirty”
“Lovebird” (so lovely and poignant, with John’s voice sounding particularly pretty)
“Sleeping Man”
“I’m Coming Back” (catchy and upbeat, though veers a bit dangerously close to filler)
“Dancing Master” (claims to not be a disco song, but so obviously is, even if it’s more of a spoof!)
“Fallen Angel” (has some very insightful lyrics about how cynical and fickle people can be towards those who are no longer on top)
“Love Is a Heart Attack” (an eerily prophetic song he played at all his solo shows)
“Too Late the Hero” (so beautiful, epic, and haunting, with John’s voice sounding not only very pretty, but delicate)
“Sleeping Man” (demo)*
“Dancing Master” (demo)*
“I’m Coming Back” (demo)*
“Love Is a Heart Attack” (demo)*
“Overture” (unreleased outtake)*

I’m sorry I waited to long to get this album. There was a $3 or $2 copy at Mystery Train Records in Amherst for quite some time, along with Smash Your Head Against the Wall, but I always hesitated, since I wasn’t enough of an established, longtime, serious Who freak to be ready for solo work. But when I found it for $1 at the (now out of business) Saratoga branch of Last Vestige Records, I hesitated no more.

In spite of the many lacklustre reviews, I’d strongly recommend this album to someone interested in John’s unique solo work. Though he only had eight solo albums, it’s quality that matters, not quantity. Ideally, one should also be well-versed in a solo artist’s band of origin before branching out into solo work.

All these years later, I’d still rate it a 4.5.

Déjà Vu Blogfest—Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day! (My fandom story)

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DL Hammons is once again holding his annual Déjà Vu blogfest, wherein participants revisit a post from the past year which didn’t get the audience one expected, or that one wishes to run again. I chose a post I originally published on 10 August 2016, “Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day! (My fandom story).”

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Since taking this photo several years ago, I’ve added the lovely, underrated Big Thing (1988) and the spin-off The Power Station (1985) to my vinyl collection, but I didn’t feel like reshooting this picture!

To mark Duran Duran Appreciation Day (a fan-initiated holiday falling on the anniversary of Simon’s near-drowning experience in 1985), I decided to finally share my story of how I became a fan. It’s hard to believe this year makes it five years since I’ve been a Duranie. My path to fandom wasn’t the typical one, since it happened so many years after their greatest wave of popularity, I wasn’t some screaming teenybopper, and I’ve always most gravitated towards classic rock and pop.

To quote the lesser-known song “Beautiful Colours,” “Life isn’t standard-issue, it’s customised.” Not everyone has the same reasons for joining and staying in a fandom. I also like to discover bands, books, films, actors, writers, etc., long after the heyday has passed. I’m getting into them for my own reasons, not because of massive hype.

I’d actually bought Rio in July 2007, after finding it in the $2 stacks at a Northampton record store which has since gone out of business. At the time, I justified it to myself as indulging my Eighties nostalgia, a guilty pleasure I only had to part with $2 for. I listened to the album a few times, but it didn’t do much for me. It wasn’t the right time for me to become a fan.

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I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this now, but for a long time, I dismissed the band because I thought they were just a bunch of prettyboys who were only around in the Eighties, just some talentless boygroup for mindless teenyboppers. It took awhile for me to realise they’re a real band, and just happened to be heavily marketed to teenyboppers the way my belovèd Monkees were a generation earlier. Real fans stuck around after their heyday, while the fairweather fans moved on to the next big thing pimped by the media.

As some readers might remember, in November 2010, I finally went back to my long-hiatused book Little Ragdoll from scratch and memory. Around this time, I seriously started using YouTube, and began making playlists to listen to while writing. One of those was my Hollies’ playlist, which was my majority soundtrack for writing the book. I also made soundtracks for The Four Seasons, The Monkees, several other bands and artists, and the Eighties.

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 Of course, I searched out several Duran Duran songs for the lattermost playlist, and ended up clicking on a lot of their other recommended videos. As 2010 turned into 2011, I found myself liking and listening to them more and more. I’d “liked” the band’s official Facebook page by early February 2011, since I remember there was a post celebrating the 30th anniversary of “Planet Earth” shortly after I joined.

Then on Valentine’s Day, the page asked about fans’ choices for most romantic songs. A number of people named “Come Undone” as super-romantic and babymaking music, and I looked up the video on YouTube. I ended up watching and listening to it over and over again, hooked. That’s the song that really threw the switch and made me realise I was a real, active fan, not just disinterestedly indulging Eighties nostalgia. I consider Valentine’s Day my anniversary of becoming a Duranie.

During this early period, while watching their videos and listening to their songs, I found myself thinking, “Wow, the blonde dude [Simon] is really handsome!” This was pretty noteworthy for me because I’m almost never physically attracted to blondes. I’ve always been all about the dark hair and eyes, and consider blonde hair and blue eyes a rather boring, cliché look. A guy with those features has to be really, really special for me to pay attention to him.

On 23 March 2011, the band did a YouTube-broadcast concert for American Express, with truly bizarre video work by David Lynch. I was getting more and more into them, and starting to feel really self-conscious about it. That summer, I began writing the first draft of The Twelfth Time, and often listened to them as my writing soundtrack. All the while, I felt weird when I caught myself listening to them too much. I didn’t want to admit to myself I’d become a real fan and fallen in love with them so deeply, since I was afraid of being made fun of.

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Then I remembered, I’ve always cared less when people trash my belovèd Monkees and accuse them of being only for shallow, brainless teenyboppers with poor taste in music. I know the real story behind their origins and evolution, and love their music no matter what. Sometimes good bands get famous really quickly, and are heavily marketed to teenyboppers. As a result, they develop a stigma it can take decades to shake, and many people don’t take them seriously as real bands. Why was I being such a hypocrite about loving a band with a similar story?

I finally admitted to my head what my heart already knew, and no longer felt ashamed or self-conscious about how much of their music I was watching and listening to. Five years later, I’m not embarrassed to admit I sleep under a vintage framed poster of the band or to go out with a vintage button on one of my purse straps. My fave rave is Roger, though my giant stuffed frog is named Simon because I already named my stuffed tiger after my first Roger, the handsome Roger Harry Daltrey.

I’ve used lines from some of their lyrics as inspiration for chapter and part titles in my books, and narrative lines in general. Favourite songs include “The Seventh Stranger,” “Secret Oktober,” “Out of My Mind,” “Lonely in Your Nightmare,” and “To the Shore.” My favourite music video is the long version of “Wild Boys” (so deliciously macabre!)

And, of course, “Come Undone,” the song that made me come undone.

The Monkees at 50, Part IV (Enduring legacy and popularity)

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Little could anyone have predicted, back when those 437 hopeful young men showed up to audition in September 1965 or when The Monkees débuted in September 1966, what a huge, enduring popularity and legacy was being created. A TV show about a fictional band turned into a cultural icon not only of the Sixties, but of all time.

When Nez let the cat out of the bag about them not being allowed to play (most of) their instruments or write their own music, the powers that be were stunned, but real fans didn’t care. The true-blue Monkeemaniacs weren’t under any illusions about this being a real, organically-created band who lived in that groovy beach house. They knew it was a TV show with actors.

Had The Monkees stayed just a fictional TV band, they never would’ve remained so popular for 50 years. They became a real band, and made some truly wonderful music once they were given the bulk of creative control. Prior to their rebellion, they’d also had a lot of great songwriters, like Neil Diamond and Carole King.

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All bands have an initial shelf life, and it seemed as though Monkeemania had ended by 1969. Head was a flop (both due to how weird it was and how most of their fanbase weren’t old enough to see an R-rated movie); the show was cancelled after two seasons; first Peter and then Nez left; and different types of bands and musicians were rising in popularity while many longtime chart staples were seen as unhip and past their expiration date.

This phenomenon was very similar to many silent stars’ decline in popularity during the early sound era (which I’ll be discussing in much greater detail during next year’s series on The Jazz Singer at 90). It wasn’t that they had horrible voices or couldn’t make the transition well, it was that their shelf life was naturally ending anyway, and a whole new crop of talent was coming up.

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However, Micky and Davy continued making music and touring together for awhile (albeit without much commercial success). The show also ran in reruns Saturdays on CBS, from September 1969–September 1972, and on ABC from September 1972–August 1973. In September 1975, all 58 episodes were sold to local markets, and mostly appeared on indie stations.

On 23 February 1986, MTV (which actually was a music-oriented channel once upon a time) ran a marathon. Within months, a lot of other channels were airing the show too, Nickelodeon among them. This was Nick’s golden age, much as my younger friends who grew up during the Nineties would heartily disagree with me.

This second wave of Monkeemania during their 20th anniversary year was what snared me and my dearest, oldest friend. I can’t believe we’ve now been fans for 30 years!

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The band went on tour during 1986–7, and my best friend and I went to see them when they played in Albany in the summer of ’87. Weird Al was their opening act, and Nez wasn’t with them. As my mother explained to my 7-year-old self, he had a job he felt was more important than The Monkees. Now that I’m an adult, I better understand his reasoning behind not being more involved with the various tours and reunions over the years.

As a kid, I thought he was more boring and adult than the other three, kind of a harbinger of his spotty involvement with the band since 1970. Now, I feel like Nez would’ve been my fave rave had I gotten into them when I was a lot older than just six. Given my personality and interests, he, not Davy, seems the obvious choice, but it feels sacrilegious to switch fave raves when it comes to my first musical love. Of the three surviving Monkees, Nez is my favourite.

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MTV tried a spin-off, The New Monkees, in 1987, but it quickly bombed. The attempted comeback album, Pool It!, also wasn’t exactly their strongest material. Due to personal conflicts, the reunion came to an end.

Micky and Davy reconciled, and began another reunion tour in ’94. For their 30th anniversary in ’96, Micky, Davy, and Peter did a reunion tour, and all four Monkees created the album Justus, on which they did all the songwriting and instrumentation.

There have been various other reunion tours over the years, most recently this year, to mark their 50th anniversary. Their new album, Good Times!, is their best work in years.

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The TV show is such a quintessential cultural icon of the Sixties, really showcasing the music, fashion, attitudes, and culture of 1966–8. Many future musicians grew up watching the show, both in its original run and in reruns, and it had a huge impact on them.

Artists who’ve done Monkees’ covers, or songs written by Nez, include The Sex Pistols, Minor Threat, Linda Ronstadt, Run-D.M.C., Smash Mouth, George Benson, and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Other artists who cite the band as an influence include The Beach Boys, Nirvana, U2, R.E.M., and Glen Campbell.

The show is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray, and Head has been given the master treatment by the prestigious Criterion Collection.

Many Monkees’ songs have been used in movies and other TV shows over the years, and the band, their music, and the TV show have been referenced in a number of other shows and movies.

Not bad for a band that started out as fictitious.