Apr 052013



So my efforts to walk through the ’80s with a perpetual (and optimistic) hard-on were thwarted. Is that reason enough to lock up the album cover for Duran Duran’s Rio? I say, yes, but perhaps you need a more compelling, musically relevant reason.

I saw this headline today on someone’s Facebook feed. This is what I’m talking about:

Marilyn Manson, Courtney Love, Kim Gordon, and Ariel Pink Model for Saint Laurent

I know many of you love Kim Gordon and worship her as an archetype of female-fronted punk rock cool, but when is enough enough? Let’s say she is cool (and although I’ve never worshiped at the Alter of Kim she is way cooler than the 3 idiots also signed onto this fashion campaign): if she were really cool wouldn’t she have better stuff to do with her rock superpowers than to associate with the 3 idiots also signed onto this fashion campaign?

Rock ‘n roll has always coexisted with the world of fashion, but rock ‘n roll was a little cooler; it promised (or at least imagined) a little more substance. As MTV and VH1 blurred the line between these worlds, rock ‘n rollers found it easier to simply sell out to modeling agencies and extend their shelf lives in ways artists of earlier generations could never imagine.

Courtney Fucking Love! What has she done of merit the last 10 years? Has she even OD’d or fallen out of a halter top in public?

Marilyn Fucking Manson! Did he ever matter? What can he possibly represent that is valid after all these years of not having done anything of merit? Andrew W.K. has given the world more, plus he’s actually good looking enough to be worth photographing. Does anyone get a hard-on over Marilyn Manson and Courtney Love?

I can’t comment on Ariel Pink. He looks like he’d be working in a file room if he wasn’t good at sampling other people’s records, or whatever the fuck he does. I can’t imagine getting stiff over him either. Watch the carbs and treasure that bleached mophead while you’ve got it, my friend. A hard rains-a-gonna-fall.

What does the fashion world get out of pretending that unattractive people are worth salivating over? I’m not suggesting, mind you, that I’m god’s gift to rock ‘n roll or sexual fantasies, only that I want my rock ‘n roll and sexual fantasies to be meaningful and perhaps just slightly out of reach—not completely out of reach, like the cartoon woman on the Rio album cover. (Shoot, who would that woman be if she did come to life, Sean Young? She turned out to be a deserving booby prize for the sexual fantasies of young men in the 1980s, no?)

It’s that just-out-of-reach quality that keeps us striving, isn’t it? We need greatness. We need people in the arts to be so great that they not only make us feel alive and that life is worth living, but that it may never be as good as we desire. Otherwise we’re setting ourselves up for a lifetime of watching MTV’s Rockin’ Fashion Awards and Excuse for a Garbage Reunion, or whatever they call that event. This lame rock-fashion marriage seems to me part of a grand conspiracy to lower our expectations for both our ideals of rock ‘n roll and beauty so that we can, as a nation, continue to get fatter, uglier, and have worse taste in music.

Getting back to my issues with those real and hypothetical girls (and again, I’m using the term I had the right to use when I was only a couple of years removed from being a “boy”) from the ’80s with the copy of Rio at the front of their album stack, I feared that their owning that album expressed not only taste in music I would be forced to endure if we ever felt a deeper connection on levels it might be argued were more important than music, but an identification with the self-absorbed, unattainable, mercurial behaviors suggested by that salon art-worthy drawing of the carefree, smiling proto-Sean Young. That type of girl already broke my heart—and I had to suffer through her playing that album in my presence before things got worse!


  12 Responses to “Rock Crime: The Cover Art for Duran Duran’s Rio Album”

  1. machinery

    And get off of Mr. Mod’s lawn too — you dang kids!!!

  2. I have to admit that I have soft spot for Duran Duran. Great memories of some girls I knew who would put on “Girls on Film” and attack me singing “Girls on Phil.” My first name is Phil.

  3. BigSteve

    The hard-edged portrayal of female sexuality (as opposed to the soft and inviting images you preferred) goes back to the Roxy Music album covers in the 70s, no?

  4. Certainly. I actually looked up to see whether the “best” Roxy album cover, Country Life, was shot by Helmut Newton. It’s verging on that style.

    (It was not shot by him.)

  5. The guy who did “Rio” was Pat Nagel, who was also doing “The Playboy Advisor” illustrations at the time. He’s the Mistral of illustrators. So very 80’s.

  6. Oh man, that’s perfect.

  7. cliff sovinsanity

    Geez, where to begin. You kind of lost me when you started talking about 90’s guys like Marilyn Manson in an 80’s thread.
    I might be echoing a point made by LMK in the 80’s music thread, but I think you’re boiling down a specific point from a vast decade of music and fashion. I tend to view the 80’s as one big progression and not a stagnant rut of synths and pouffy hair-dos. What I recall was that the 80’s started with the new beats of post punk and new wave. Some bands rode the keyboard wave as if that was the instrument of the future. Those bands represent a lot of what sucked about the time. Plus, all those bands died out by the end of the decade.

    Other bands abandoned the MTV sound and pursued their own sound. We’re talking American underground or college. Though not as popular, these bands sold A LOT of records to a teenagers looking for an alternative to the top 40 charts. Most of these bands survived the 80’s and some would achieve success in the early 90’s as part of the alternative movement.

    I was 12-13 years old when I first heard Duran Duran and Rio. I liked it at that time. I also liked the Clash, Devo and Blondie. I still listen to The Clash, Devo, and Blondie but not so much Duran Duran. It’s so inoffensive, that it’s not worth getting so worked up about it. It’s OK if you didn’t get it. You may never. What about Planet Earth? It’s still so damn catchy.

  8. cliff sovinsanity

    BUT, getting back to the point, here is some 80’s RIO era album art you might enjoy..

    Samantha Fox

    Kim Wilde

    are you familiar with the works of Lee Aaron

  9. That’s why I’m surprised at your association given our comparative ages! I think you were supposed to think “Playboy!” and not “hair salon!” when you saw that cover. (Which is dreadful, don’t get me wrong.)

    What I think we learned here is that Mr. Mod’s dad (not to be confused with The Modfather) was more of a Penthouse guy.

  10. misterioso

    Rio for me–at the time–signified The End of any hope that anything cool from New Wave would triumph in the mainstream, top 40 world. It was stupid of me ever to have thought otherwise, I know. I was younger then and was not yet fully aware that it is not the cream that rises to the top but, rather, something else. Anyway, fair or not, I blame Duran Duran for a lot, and that’s without even discussing Power Station. I curse them, bell, book, and candle.

  11. That’s funny. I don’t know what my dad, who left us for good as I entered my awareness of all these things, was into, but I suspect it was something I’m glad I don’t know about:)

  12. I was not familiar with the works of Lee Aaron. Only a small part of me is curious to hear that record!

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