It was recorded in spring of 1982 at Air Studios in London, with producer and engineer Colin Thurston, on the Capitol/EMI label. The album's distinctive purple cover was painted by artist Patrick Nagel.
The North American version was released on Capitol's Harvest label, with rather poor sound quality, and didn't do well at first. EMI in England had promoted Duran Duran as a New Romantic band, but that genre was barely known in the US, and Capitol was at a loss about how to sell the band.
The band, however, had their own plans and ambitions for promotion. They reunited with director Russell Mulcahy (who had directed their first video for "Planet Earth"), and planned the release of a full length video album -- eleven videos for the best songs off of the Duran Duran and Rio albums. The band travelled to Sri Lanka and Antigua between tour dates to film the memorable videos for the singles "Rio", "Hungry Like The Wolf" and "Save A Prayer", as well as the lesser-known "Lonely In Your Nightmare" and "Waiting for the Nightboat" -- the latter a creepy zombiefest set on a deserted island.
While filming the tropical videos, guitarist Andy Taylor contracted malaria and was hospitalized on his return to England. This forced the delay of Duran Duran's European tour, and the record company decided to hold the release of the second single until the band was ready to promote it again.
Meanwhile, the band had worked with producer David Kershenbaum to create some new dance mixes for their twelve-inch club singles. In September, Capitol collected the remixes and released them on an EP called Carnival. It included "Rio", "Hold Back The Rain", "My Own Way", "Hungry Like The Wolf", and "New Religion", and was released in North America, Spain, the Netherlands, Japan and Taiwan. Deejays who heard the new mixes could not get enough, and started to put the dance mixes on the air. On October 2, Carnival became the first EP ever to make an appearance on the US charts, although it only sat at #98 for one week.
Following the success of the Kershenbaum remixes, Capitol changed its marketing strategy on Duran Duran from New Romantic to dance band. Unhappy with some of the original mixes, the band capitalized on the moment and pressed Capitol to allow them to issue a remixed and remastered version of the Rio album in North America. The company agreed, and brought Kershenbaum back to remix the rest of the album.
On November 1, the "Rio" single was released worldwide, backed with "The Chauffeur (Sing Blue Silver)" in the UK, and with "Hold Back The Rain" in the US and the rest of Europe. The single peaked at #9 in UK on November 13.
Also in November, Capitol re-released the Rio album in the US, with Kershenbaum's new remixes. The significant differences on this second pressing [matrix # (ST-1-12211-Z13-REI #1)]:
As the album began to take off, Capitol rushed a third pressing of the Rio album into stores, identical to the second, except that the "album version" of "Hungry Like The Wolf" was replaced with longer Kershenbaum "nite version". The third pressing is vastly more common than the second, and has a matrix number (ST-1-12211-Z16 #2).
On December 3, the Kershenbaum remix of the "Hungry" single was released in US, some six months after its initial UK release. The single included both the album version and the Carnival remix. It peaked at #3 in the US on Christmas Day.
Part of the continued success of the album was due to the very popular videos, in heavy rotation on MTV. The video album Duran Duran was released (on VHS, Beta, and laserdisc) to coincide with the North American re-issue of the "Rio" single on March 11, four months after its original release. This version included the Kershenbaum 7" remix (b/w "Hold Back The Rain (remix)"), and peaked at #14 in US on April 2.
In the end the Rio album peaked at number 5 in US (on June 5, 1983), and remained on the charts there for 129 weeks -- almost two and a half years. In 2003, Rio was listed at number 65 in the NME 100 Greatest Albums Of All Time. It went gold on March 1, 1983, and platinum on April 26.
It should be noted that all official versions of the album released on CD have been made from the original UK master tapes, and do not include any of the Kershenbaum remixes. This includes the release, in 2001, of a 20-year anniversary reissue, completely remastered from the original. The packaging on this release includes an alternate version of the famous Nagel cover painting, submitted by the artist along with the first when he completed the commission.
All songs written and arranged by Duran Duran.