35 Years Ago: Duran Duran Members Enlist All-Stars for Arcadia
In 1985, the members of Duran Duran took time away from the band to focus on side projects. Bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor launched the glammy rock group Power Station, while singer Simon Le Bon, drummer Roger Taylor and keyboardist Nick Rhodes formed an artsier combo called Arcadia.
On Nov. 18, 1985, the latter band released its first (and, to date, only) album, So Red the Rose. Although the LP has a few obvious nods to where Duran Duran were at the time — the occasional burst of "A View to a Kill"-esque synth stabs, some gentle funk nudges — the album hews more meditative and experimental.
"It's a very different album from anything you've heard from Duran," Le Bon told the Knight Ridder News Service in 1985. "It's quite opposite from the Power Station stuff as well. It's atmospheric, a bit jazzy as well. There are a lot of acoustic instruments rather than electric; we're not seeking to be the standard rock 'n' roll combo of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards."
That's no exaggeration: The LP includes a harpist, while "El Diablo" begins with evocative violin. Arrangement-wise, So Red the Rose boasts towering hooks, but shies away from the obvious. The atmospheric "Lady Ice" is suspense-filled and sounds like it could be used in a horror movie, "Missing" is a towering, delicate ballad and "Goodbye Is Forever" is slinky and funky.
In many ways, So Red the Rose resembles Roxy Music's moody, glassy atmospheres — appropriate, given the fact that band's saxophonist, Andy Mackay, appears here. He's far from the only star on the LP, however. Grace Jones, of whom Rhodes was a big fan, notably added backing vocals to "Election Day."
Instrumentally, David Bowie collaborator Carlos Alomar added guitar, and former Pat Metheny Group member Mark Egan contributed bass. Percussionists David Van Tieghem — who played on Talking Heads' Speaking in Tongues — and Manu Katche, who would soon appear on Peter Gabriel's So, also appear, as does drummer Steve Jordan (Keith Richards, Stevie Wonder).
Watch Arcadia's 'Election Day' Video
And the brisk, prog-pop standout "The Promise" includes the inimitable guitar tone of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, as well as keyboards from Herbie Hancock and keening backing vocals from Sting.
At the end of the day, the album sounds like it's predicting several late-'80s trends — the sophisto-pop movement and nuanced, danceable synth-pop — but doesn't necessarily fit neatly into a box.
"To describe it absolutely is really hard," Le Bon noted in the Knight Ridder News Service interview. "I do wonder whether it will broaden the horizons we've covered with Duran or whether it will be too much for a lot of fans to listen to."
Fans did embrace So Red the Rose. The album peaked at No. 23 in the U.S. and went platinum on the way to producing two top 40 hits: the No. 6 single "Election Day" and "Goodbye Is Forever," which hit No. 33.
Still, Arcadia's existence was relatively short-lived. The group appeared on several TV shows (including Top of the Pops) and also had a song, "Say the Word," released on the soundtrack to 1986's Playing for Keeps. However, Duran Duran regrouped that same year for the Notorious LP, which kept the band busy.
Arcadia haven't been forgotten, though. Duran Duran played "Election Day" on tours during the late '80s and even dusted off the tune in 2009 and 2015, with performances that revealed the song still sounded ahead of its time.