Thursday, 11 August 2016
My Top Ten Rio Songs
The Rio Olympics reminded me that this blog is now four years old. The London Olympics were going on when I started My Top Ten (having carried the idea over from my previous blog, Sunset Over Slawit) and I celebrated with a number of Olympics-themed Top Tens. Back then, I'd convinced myself I could do a Top Ten with very little commentary, so if you happen to click back to My Top Ten Olympics Songs, you'll find that for some of the entries I didn't even say a word. Obviously that didn't last very long...
In last week's comments, The Swede said that "In terms of sheer musical quality, <My Top Ten Songs About Record Company Bosses> has to be up there with the very best of your top tens." I doubt he (or anyone else, for that matter) will have the same praise for this week's list... but you've got to take the rough with the smooth.
Still, ten songs about Rio de Janeiro... it's got to be do-able, right?
10. Duran Duran - Rio
OK, let's start with the obvious one again.
Is it possible to separate song from visuals? In the 80s, the answer to that one became a lot tougher. Russell Mulcahy's video to Rio is seen as the worst example of 80s excess with Simon le Bon and co. poncing about on that yacht in their Anthony Price suits. Yes, just watching the first 30 seconds on youtube makes me want to punch them all.
And yet... the song itself isn't that bad. Is it? It's got a terrific intro (the sound of Nick Rhodes chucking a bunch of small metal rods onto the strings of a grand piano, apparently) and a soaring chorus (based on the hook from the TV Eye song Stevie's Radio Station: a band fronted at the time by Andy Wickett, an early Duran Duran member who gave Simon le Bon singing lessons and eventually signed away his songwriting royalties for £600 when he quit in '79). I do own this album because google play were giving it away for 50p or something a while ago, and I certainly wouldn't turn Rio off if it came on the radio.
If it came on the TV though...
9. The Police - Regatta de Blanc
Contemporaries of Simon le Bon, yet The Police are still regarded as cool in many circles, despite Sting's later crimes against good taste.
Iffypedia calls the title track to their second album "an instrumental", however Sting.com lists the "lyrics" as follows...
Rio Rio Rioo
Rio Rio Rioo
Rio Riay Riayo
Rio Riay Riayo
Rio Riay Riayo
Rio Riay Riayo
Rio Riay Riayo Riayo,
Riayo, Riayo, Riay ay ay ay ay ay ay ay ay
He used to be an English teacher, you know. Just like me.
8. Quantum Jump - Over Rio
I saw an article recently claiming 10cc were "the British Steely Dan", an assertion which, I reckon, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of both groups. On the other hand, Rupert Hines' Quantum Jump (the band behind late 70s hit The Lone Ranger) have the smooth, jazzy sound and witty lyrics that Fagen and Becker did so well. They're nowhere near as good as The Dan, but they... well, I dunno, something. I like this one, anyway.
7. Violent Femmes - Jesus of Rio
This week's most mental song. Which, considering some of the competition, is a pretty wild achievement. Mere words cannot do it justice.
6. Pablo Cruise - I Go To Rio
You know when you see a track in your record collection and you have no idea how it got there and you think "well, I've obviously never even listened to that"... and then you listen to it and you think... shit, how do I know this song so well?
In my defence, I listened to a lot of Radio 2 in my formative years. This version of I Go To Rio was released in 1979, three years after Peter Allen's high camp original. The Muppets did a pretty cool version too.
I'll get mi coat.
5. Scott Weiland and The Wildabouts - Hotel Rio
What the lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots did next. A promising racket: a bit more rock 'n' roll than the more grungy stuff STPs became famous for, though sadly Weiland died of an overdose shortly after this album's release.
4. Hey Marseilles - Rio
Imagine the Decemberists crossed with the Polyphonic Spree with a smidgen of Mumford. If that sounds like your worst nightmare, don't click the link.
3. Citizen Cope - Dancer From Brazil
A gorgeous slice of laidback alt-country-soul from Tennessee's Clarence Greenwood. About as far from Julian as you can get and still be cool.
2. Barry Manilow - Copacabana
OK, this is a bit of a stretch, but I couldn't resist it. Barry's Copacabana is the hottest spot north of Havana, quite a distance from Rio's glorious Copacabana beach. But close enough for a Cuban cigar in my book.
A couple of the songs on this list, I might not admit to liking in polite company. However, I feel no shame for admitting my love for Tony and Lola's tragic tale. Much is made in the media of Barry Manilow (and this song in particular) being a "guilty pleasure", but I've never felt guilty about enjoying a bit of the old Bazzer boogie. Copacabana has everything I want from a song: a great story, witty lyrics, drama, panache and a great tune. Damn that Rico!
1. Michael Nesmith - Rio
Mike Nesmith has a fascinating story too... if you can be bothered to hear it out... from getting his job in The Monkees because the producer liked his wool hat to the being the first to quit the band in 1970, owing the record company almost $50,000 because he still had three years left on his contract. Thank god his mum invented Liquid Paper... when she died a few years later, the inheritance helped him pay off his debts. Probably the most musically gifted Monkee, he did write a number of their songs, including Listen To The Band and Different Drum (a hit for Linda Ronstadt). But Rio is by far my favourite of his songs, and the title track of a 2 disc Nesmith compilation I picked up a few years back.
It's only a whimsical notion
To fly down to Rio tonight
And I probably won't fly down to Rio...
But then again, I just might
The video's pretty crazy too, showing pretty conclusively that you can take the boy out of the Monkees, but you can't take the Monkee out of the boy...
But which one makes you go, "Rio Riay Riayo Riayo, Riayo, Riayo Riay ay ay ay ay ay ay ay ay"?