May 1982: Duran Duran Release RIO

Monday, May 10, 2021

Rio was the flashpoint. Duran Duran had already made plenty of noise in the band's home country of England, with three top 20 singles and one, "Girls on Film," that peaked at #5. When it came time for album number two, the concept emerged from the mind of the group's bass player.

"John Taylor came up with the title 'Rio,'" remembered keyboardist Nick Rhodes in an oral history of the album. "It immediately hit a good note with everybody, and stuck."

"I'd never been there," Taylor explained. "We'd been around the world behind the first know, we'd been to the U.S., and we'd been to Europe, but there was something about Brazil and Carnival... the color, the energy... the little that I knew about it, that was the energy I wanted to tap into."

The album's title track emerged after John Taylor announced that the band needed to write a "really good show opener that's going to explode at the beginning of the set," drummer Roger Taylor added. "It was literally like everybody walked in one at a time and just did their part. We just wanted to write a set-opener. We really created a monster there, didn't we?"

That same creative energy permeated the nine tracks that made the final cut for Rio: "I mean, all of the songs on this album, they're really as good a bunch of songs as we ever wrote," the bass player admitted.

Released on May 10, 1982, Rio was an immediate smash in England, where the album soared to #2 on the charts. The record that blocked Duran Duran from #1: Complete Madness, the first greatest hits compilation from the ska band, Madness.

In America, however, Simon Le Bon and company would take a different route to success: music videos. John Taylor's Rio concept had inspired the band to team up with director Russell Mulcahy and decamp to Sri Lanka in order to produce a series of promotional videos. In a classic case of timing being everything, MTV had just launched in August 1981. One fateful in the MTV boardroom, the clip for "Hungry Like the Wolf" was the key.

"We had our weekly meeting to hear new music on Tuesdays," recalled Les Garland, who was MTV's senior executive VP during an interview. "Back then it was a fledgling industry: We'd get maybe 10 videos a week, and everyone would gather and sit through them all. I remember our director of talent and artist relations came running in and said, 'You have got to see this video that's come in.' Duran Duran were getting zero radio airplay at the time, and MTV wanted to try to break new music. 'Hungry Like the Wolf' was the greatest video I'd ever seen."

Duran Duran issued a remixed version of Rio to America in November 1982, followed by "Hungry Like the Wolf" being reissued in the States December of the same year. Thanks in large part to MTV blasting the video out in heavy rotation, the track peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 for the week of March 26, 1983. The two tunes ahead of Duran Duran: Michael Jackson's "Beat It" (#1) and Culture Club's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" (#2).

Rio the album climbed the Billboard 200 to peak at #6 for the week of March 12, 1983. The album held that #6 position for six week straight. The #1 LP in America that week: Michael Jackson's Thriller.