Single Stories: Duran Duran, RIO

Thursday, April 1, 2021

By early 1983, Duran Duran was on the cusp of breaking big in America. While they were already pop stars in their native England, Simon Le Bon and company were still slugging it out on the US club circuit, with the added bonus of spending some time in 1982 opening for Blondie across North America.

Duran Duran's career trajectory suddenly took off like a rocket, thanks to the advent of MTV. With only so many videos to choose from, the group's glitzy clip for "Rio" quickly stood out. The band decked out in dashing suits cavorting on a yacht across some exotic locale made the Duran Duran "lifestyle" look pretty cool to American teens.

"'Rio' wasn't a lifestyle, it was total fantasy," Le Bon would tell Q magazine. "You don't wear a silk Antony Price suit on a boat with some painted chick running around. It was a comedy video. None of us had boats. It was a greedy reaction to the hard times that had gone before."

It was a comedy that launched a million fantasies and new world of fans in America, which ironically is what the song is about: Duran Duran's obsession with success in the US.

Making the "Rio" video was more fun for some members of the band than others, as keyboardist Nick Rhodes explained to Observer Music Monthly in 2008.

"We were on holiday in Antigua, staying next to each other, like the Monkees. We were rung up and told, 'Stay there, we're bringing a film crew.' I only like boats when they're tied up, and you can have a cocktail without spilling it," Rhodes joked. "We were initially going to shoot the video for 'Rio' indoors, and we'd had Antony Price make these beautiful suits for us. I remember thinking: 'Oh my God, that sea water, it's going to ruin all this silk.' With a sail boat, you're off into the distance and it takes a while to turn round. I was glad to get off. Simon Le Bon loved it, climbing as far as he possibly could along the prow. He always had an action man side."

Released November 1, 1982, in the UK, the single officially landed in America on April 2, 1983--just a week after "Hungry Like the Wolf" peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 for the week of March 26 of that same year. "Rio" went on to be the band's second US hit, peaking at #14 for the week of May 14, 1983. The #1 song in in the country that week: Michael Jackson's "Beat It."