With its distinctive happy-smiley painted smile and triumvirate of powerhouse hits, Rio is the album that generally comes to mind when one thinks of Duran Duran. The fusion of glamour, sex, new wave-influenced rock and big melodies was a perfect storm that elevated the group to superstardom and jump-started a sensational run of transatlantic hits for the band.
After oh-so-many years of donning their girlfriends’ make-up and fusing glam-rock with punk and funk, by the time Rio’s second single Hungry Like the Wolf became a global hit in 1982 (and, belatedly, their first Top Ten hit in the US, peaking at No.3 in March 1983), Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, and Andy Taylor were the right Bowie boys in the right shade of rouge at the right time.
Opening with a mischievous female giggle, the song is built on electric guitar lines that mirror Simon LeBon’s brazenly sexual delivery, feathered by a jittery keyboard riff, and anchored by a steady rhythm section.
Lest we forget, MTV was just starting, asserting the primacy of ‘look’ over technique. The quartet obliged by stuffing their increasingly aspirational, exotic videos with yachts, chicks, beaches, cocktails. Plenty of cocktails. And the Hungry one’s expertly helmed by my buddy, Aussie director Russell Mulcahy, featuring that Apocalypse Now-style emergence from the muddy Mekong tribute.
Sex, intrigue, cinematic sweep, John Taylor in a headband – this video has it all. And if Duran Duran were essentially an electronic New Romantic outfit with a heavy rock guitarist bolted on, then Hungry Like The Wolf was the sound of a throbbing pop track with the more visceral, rockier elements within the camp winning (the battle rather than the war).
It even resonated with the grunge generation, with Hole releasing a cover as the B-side of Doll Parts in 1994: “This is the best song ever written that you all pretend not to know,” drawled Courtney Love at the outset of the live recording.
Powerhouse drummer Roger Taylor (always my favourite Duran, cough cough) recalls the initial reaction to the band in America:
“We’d go to Alabama or Texas and the girls would be screaming, and the guys in cowboy hats would be looking at us with clenched fists. I don’t suppose they’d seen so many guys in make-up pouting before.”
On the other side of the
gulf pond, “I really like Simon Le Bon’s new hair colour, auburn, ginger and blond,” enthused classmate Joanne White, after catching the band’s studio performance of the song on Top Of The Pops.
Hungry Like The Wolf peaked at fifth position in Britain a week later, on the chart dated 26 June 1982, which was, handily, my 13th birthday. I celebrated the ascent into teendom with five whole English pounds, which my mother generously donated so I could treat three friends of mine to a slap-up Saturday lunch at the slightly unglamorous surroundings of McDonalds Milton Keynes.
Not quite Rio, I know.
And before you go, A View To A Kill at 35 is right here