Released today in 1982: Save A Prayer

EMI EMI5327

EMI EMI5327

The glamour of the 80s music video! Exotic locations, beautiful people, blue skies and sun, no expense spared… not one of the pop stars who was there at the time will confirm that that was how it was at all. In many instances, quite the reserve. Try asking Andy Taylor of Duran Duran what the filming of three promotional clips in Sri Lanka with Russell Mulcahy was like, for example. Punishing schedules, unfriendly locals, blistering heat and sensible budgets might be a more accurate summary.

Firstly, the cost. Some of the videos of the 1980s were genuinely big-budget affairs, of course, but clever techniques could be used to make the product look more expensive than it actually was. Taylor says (in his autobiography, Wild Boy: My Life With Duran Duran), “We did all three for about £55,000, which is cheap compared to what they would have cost if we’d shot them using old-fashioned film techniques. Save A Prayer and Hungry Like The Wolf are like mini-movies in their right yet they each cost less than £20,000, which illustrates how video allowed us to do things we otherwise could not have done. It helped us to connect with our audience, a bit like the way the internet helps new bands do the same today. I guess the flipside is a lot of people still thought we spent all our time messing about on yachts, but Russell was a superb and innovative filmmaker.”

The filming took place in April 1982, and Taylor and Nick Rhodes had to fly directly to the shoot from mixing the album Rio which EMI needed to start pressing if the intended international release date was to be met; the rest of the band had gone on ahead and Taylor and Rhodes arrived somewhat unprepared, not least for the change in climate. (It hadn’t even been warm in the UK when they boarded their plane.) Mulcahy had chosen Sri Lanka as a reasonably inexpensive location for filming, with some interesting historical monuments that could be used effectively. Some of the temples and ancient ruins available were particularly suitable for the vaguely spiritual ballad Save A Prayer, but not everyone was happy: some Sri Lankan Buddhist monks were uncomfortable with the band filming at some of the venues utilized. The band was obliged to move on on more than one occasion, although they made every effort to be respectful. This included removing their shoes near religious and spiritual buildings, a painful experience for the soles of their feet on the sun-baked ground.

The local livestock wasn’t always helpful either. In a scene in which the band members are mounted on elephant-back, a female elephant made a mating call and the male elephant carrying Roger Taylor charged downhill in search of her. Furthermore, the elephants used a lagoon that chosen as a location for one scene as a latrine, as elephants do. Perched on a tree branch to mime playing the guitar, Andy Taylor lost concentration and fell into the water below. “The lagoon was filthy. It had been a long drop and suddenly I was submerged and imbibing mouthfuls of the dirty black liquid. Believe me, falling into a lake that’s been used as an open toilet by elephants is not a pleasant experience, so by the time I crawled out of the water I was coughing and spluttering and wondering what the effect on my health would be.”

Initially, there appeared to be little effect. But later in the month, the band was in Australia for a series of concerts, and shortly before the encore of a gig in Sydney on 22 April Taylor was taken ill, vomiting behind an amp on the stage. His health deteriorated over the next 48 hours and he ended up in hospital with suspected malaria. On investigation by doctors in a private hospital, the cause of his sickness was believed to be a virus contracted during the dip in the lagoon. “The private doctors managed to get rid of it almost immediately, but I had to spend four days in hospital before I was fit enough to leave,” Taylor recalled. “I suppose there’s a lesson there somewhere, along the lines of ‘if you smoke dope and drink Jack Daniel’s in the tropical heat, don’t fall into a lagoon full of elephants’ urine and wash it all down with more booze and a bucket of chillies’. But I guess some people never learn.”

But it all looked wonderful. Jungle, beaches, an ancient fortress… if only there hadn’t been three videos to film, Duran would have loved it…

NEW SINGLES on sale from Aug. 9
DURAN DURAN Save A Prayer (EMI EMI5327)

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