Duranalysis: Save a Prayer

Duran Duran’s 1982 video for “Save a Prayer” was directed by Russell Mulcahy and shot in Sri Lanka at the same time as their videos for “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Lonely in Your Nightmare.” I don’t know if Sri Lanka saw an upswing in tourism after this hit the airwaves, but it wouldn’t surprise me. It’s a land of majestic beaches, epic sunsets, and scantily-clad pop stars! Hard to resist any of that.

There's no plot, but there sure are a lot of pretty images. Let's get to it:

Simon loiters on a bench and sings to himself. Ah, this again: He’s shirtless under his nice suit coat, just like John in “Hungry Like the Wolf.” It looks somewhat more natural on Simon, probably because he’s indoors by himself and thus isn’t letting his nipples play peekaboo with the locals while he scampers amuck through crowded city streets. Maybe Simon just stepped out of a shower, felt a bit chilly, and threw on the first covering he could find. Perfectly understandable.

…I mean, it’s still not a good look, but I’ll give it a pass under these circumstances.

We get a lot of gorgeous shots of boats and fishermen and frolicking children as the boys stroll on a picturesque beach. Images dissolve into each other, hazy and dreamlike; it’s a lovely effect, although here it seems like Simon is lost in wistful daydreams about John, which was maybe not the intended result.

John strums his guitar on the sand while ghostlike Sinhalese children frolic in the background. Yep, John is shirtless underneath his peach linen suit. I’m ignoring it. It’s just better that way.

There are some astonishing aerial shots of Simon and Nick loitering around a stately hilltop structure (is it a temple? just a cool hangout carved into the top of a mountain?), surrounded by panoramic views. I only know that’s Nick and Simon because Nick, as is his wont, happily complained up a storm in interviews about being flown to this location by helicopter. (Nick complains a lot. As Duran Duran’s former manager Michael Berrow once put it, Nick “could be a bit of a whinger.” Because Nick is beautiful and magical, I find this endearing. My affections are illogical and capricious.) At this distance, though, it’s really impossible to tell who’s up there. Mulcahy could’ve dressed a couple of production assistants in immaculate white linen suits and dropped them on the hill, and viewers would be none the wiser.

Later, Simon dances with a leggy brunette while singing his famous lyric, “Some people call it a one-night stand, but we can call it paradise.” In the Classic Albums episode about the making of the Rio LP (which is well worth a gander, by the way -- chock full of interesting trivia), the boys all pretty much go crazy praising the romantic sentiment of that line, which… huh? Mind you, I think it’s a great lyric, catchy and evocative. However, it’s never struck me as an especially romantic lyric. He’s putting her on notice that this is a one-time deal: “We’ll have a mind-blowing evening, but just FYI, don’t create an awkward moment by slipping me your phone number in the morning, because I kind of do this sort of thing a lot.”

His date doesn’t appear to find the lyric all that romantic, either. As soon as he sings it, she stalks off, leaving him stranded on the dance floor.

“Hey! I even put a shirt on under my jacket for you!”

Durans in trees! Ah, now this video is really picking up steam. The boys hang out in the branches above an elephant lagoon. They look sort of glamorous and wild, like they’re posing for an ill-conceived Lord of the Flies-inspired fashion spread. I’m particularly enchanted by Nick’s pants-free Slutty Huck Finn ensemble, floppy straw hat and all. Nick, babe, you’re flashing an unprecedented amount of leg there. This has to be the most flesh he’s ever bared in a video, right? Nick tends to stay demurely bundled up, collar to cuffs, at all times.

(Anyone ever see that segment on a mid-nineties episode of MTV’s House of Style where Cindy Crawford takes Nick and Simon on an improbable shopping spree at Sears? When Cindy tries to convince Nick to model a tank top, he expresses horror at the idea of exposing that much skin. Fine stuff.)

According to Andy’s memoir (Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran, which, if anyone hasn’t read it yet, is a most excellent way to blow twenty bucks at Amazon), during the filming of this scene, Andy drank too much Jack Daniels, lost his balance, tumbled from the branch into the lagoon, swallowed some elephant-befouled water, and contracted a debilitating tropical virus, which ultimately resulted in a hospital stay and canceled gigs. Just another day in Duran Duran.

The guys slowly congregate around a temple. I know I tend to grouse about videos that don’t have plots, but in this case, it was the right call. It’s a dreamlike and meditative ballad. Throwing in mutants or zombies or setting it in a post-apocalyptic wasteland wouldn’t have worked nearly as well.

We take a break from all this contemplative reverie for some gratuitous Duran flesh. The head of this Speedo-clad Duran is cropped out of every frame, but by process of elimination, that torso can only belong to Simon: lankier than Andy, less gaunt than John, less muscular than Roger (who appears to be bobbing around in the background anyway), and less ethereal than Nick (who’d sooner amputate both his keyboard-playing hands than frolic about in the sun and water whilst wearing a Speedo). Ergo, that’s Simon.

You know, whichever of Simon’s delightful little bandmates nicknamed him “Lardo” on the basis of his physique during this time period deserves a firm swat on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. Lardo. Really.

I’m going to dip once more into Andy’s bottomless well of anecdotes about this video: It seems Andy refused to participate in a proposed scene featuring him getting sprayed with water from the trunk of an elephant on the grounds that it could be construed as homoerotic. Or, as Andy put it, “There’s no way I’m doing that gay thing with the elephant.” Oh, Andy, Andy, Andy. Gliding over the dense layers of wrongness in that statement, I’ll just say that John stepped up to the plate and, with assistance from nubile young Nick, did the gay thing with the elephant. And I’m ever so glad he did. The end result is the cutest damn shot in any Duran Duran video, ever. This is adorable. Look how happy they are!

As John later described it, "We've got these guys in eyeliner and crazy colored hair, and they're on the backs of elephants! It was so bizarre, but you know, it was kind of irresistible." Indeed it was, John.

On that high note, we now return to the meditative part of the video to wrap things up. The boys stand in silence at the base of a large statue carved into the cliff, lost in silent reverie. It’s a majestic shot, though Nick’s hand placement is a little odd.

Great video. Makes Sri Lanka look like the most epically beautiful place on earth. Outstanding.

Related Links:
Duranalysis Main Page


Ingrid Richter said…
Hey, who doesn't daydream about John? Another fine review, Morgan...

Was "Save a Prayer" the video where Duran Duran got in trouble with the local priests for shooting film on sacred land?
Morgan Richter said…
Was "Save a Prayer" the video where Duran Duran got in trouble with the local priests for shooting film on sacred land?

According to Andy's book again, yes. They had to clear out of the temple fairly quickly. And yet again, it occurs to me that the Duran Duran boys lead much more exciting lives than I do. I've never been thrown out of anywhere.
details-later said…
Hi! I've been enjoying your writing on your blog for some time now. This Duran Duran series has been particularly delightful!

I memorized Duran Duran's video album in the summer of 84, and can still memorize the order of videos to this day (Rio, Planet Earth, Lonely In Your Nightmare… and that's enough. Haha)

I started out as a John girl and the more interviews I read and the more I like their songs (yes, that really happened), I became a real Andy Devotee. I remain so to this day, and there's probably three of those on this planet. :) His autobiography cemented it even further!

One of the more famous stories about the "Say A Prayer" video was that they were on their bare feet in the standing up to the buddha portion. The pavement was hot hot hot, and they were suffering and couldn't wait to get off-shot!

I look forward to your reviews of (most) of the Duran video history!
Morgan Richter said…
Aw, thanks for the nice comment, details-later! I'm glad you've been enjoying the Duran reviews. Heh -- I hadn't heard that about the boys being barefoot on the hot ground. Poor guys.

I became a real Andy Devotee. I remain so to this day, and there's probably three of those on this planet. :)

Andy seems like he'd be a whole lot of fun to go drinking with. His autobiography is a hell of a good read.
Cheryl Kraynak said…
Love, love, love this song and video, one of my all-time faves!

We can forgive Simon for the "we can call it paradise" remark toward the lady in red because he looks so charming in his snappy suit--classy Duran. Plus, early on he was all paternal and adorable when he coaxed that little local boy to jump into his arms on the beach, which erases all doubt about Simon's character.

I always cringed at Nick's "Huck Finn" look in the jungle (and bad rhythm)...although, what's with the Tarzan top, Andy?
Nick's Huck look erases about 10 more years from his age (at least...looking back it seems to), so I have nothing but appreciation for his consistent covered-up suit style from that point forward.

But I do agree on the elephant spraying shot, being a good choice without Andy, which probably would not have worked with him in it. Nick and John have a kind of brother-like bonding in that scene...or is it that their bond emerges because of that scene?
It works better that Andy gets thrown over the boat in Rio.

Oh, P.S. - Yes, Simon seems to have an affection for Speedos. But "lardo" here? Not so much, not compared to that terrible 2008 tabloid photo of Simon "adjusting himself" in his Speedo on a Sardinian beach. YIKES!
(You can Google that for a look-see.)
Morgan Richter said…
(You can Google that for a look-see.)

Oh, dear. My sister and I just did that. I think we've been blinded. Poor Simon...

Love Andy's one-shouldered Tarzan top. They're all sporting some very, very dubious fashions while hanging out in that tree. And yeah, Nick looks about twelve with the straw hat/no pants ensemble.

Nick + John + elephant + water = magic.
details-later said…
You know Nick (or his stylist minion) made Andy wear that top. No way he chose for himself. When Andy left the band in 1985, one of his famous quotes about was that he was sick of being told NOT to wear jeans, that he needed to put on makeup, etc.

Andy never possessed that pixie magic, alas, and resisted attempts to be pixie-fied. He lost at first, but I guess he put his foot down. Haha.

I have to say, Andy looked his cutest, right before he got thrown overboard in Rio. Unless Morgan gets around to reviewing Lonely In Your Nightmare...

(Sorry for the Andy-centric post)
Morgan Richter said…
Poor Andy in those early videos -- "Planet Earth" in particular -- you can see he's really trying to be a good sport and fit in with the rest of the band, what with the frilly shirts and the makeup and all. And then, as you put it, he started resisting all further attempts at pixie-fication.

You know, Andy spends three hundred pages or so in his book trying to explain exactly why he and Nick had so many personality clashes -- I have a vintage BOP magazine from 1984 featuring a section on Duran Duran trivia that includes the line, "Nick doesn't like it when Andy wears jeans," which I think is the most succinct possible explanation of why these two have never really gotten along (and, y'know, I adore Nick, but I'm sort of on Team Andy on that one. Just let him wear jeans! It won't destroy the glamorous Duran image, and he's much happier that way!).
Cheryl Kraynak said…
If there's one thing I will say about Andy, is that you're right about him looking cutest before the overboard toss. I am sure once I get my hands on his Bio and learn some truths, my heart will (finally) soften toward him.
Cheryl Kraynak said…
OMG Morgan, we posted at the same time! ha ha! I agree with you on the Andy control. Nick's influence might be/have been a bit unnecessarily heavy.
Morgan Richter said…
Cheryl, I hope you get your hands on Andy's book soon. It's fun! I hope the rest of the boys follow suit and publish their own individual memoirs as well...
Morgan Dodge said…
I have the sudden urge to visit Sri Lanka, despite the danger of a speedo sighting experience.

This has always been on of my favorite songs of theirs and I never noticed how homo-erotic the video is before. Anyone for a frolic under the trunk of an elephant? Anyone?
Morgan Richter said…
I have the sudden urge to visit Sri Lanka, despite the danger of a speedo sighting experience.

I think Sri Lanka's Board of Tourism should've somehow licensed the rights to this video and used it in commercials (remember Paul Hogan's "throw another shrimp on the barbie" commercials for Australian tourism?), because, yeah, the whole country looks gorgeous and amazing. Added bonus: soaking-wet and half-naked Durans frolicking around!
khanada said…
“Hey! I even put a shirt on under my jacket for you!”

i also love simon daydreaming of john. this video has been ruined forever for me now, but in a wonderful way of course.
Karen said…
I have just discovered your site and spent many hours reading and sharing some of the videos with my 13 year old daughter. I was a HUGE Duranie back in the day. Loved John and my best friend loved Nick. I always thought it was John and Nick on the top of the mountain. Did you read that it was Simon? LOVE this and it cracks me up because we would watch these videos frame by frame and analyze every shot. :)
Morgan Richter said…
Hi, Karen -- thanks for commenting! As to the question of who's on the mountaintop, in the episode of Classic Albums devoted to Rio (which is well worth seeing, if you haven't yet -- great interviews with the boys), Nick says it was himself and Simon up there (though I have no idea if he has his facts straight).
Ashley Pomeroy said…
I like to think that Simon Le Bon's socklesness made suburban Britain aware that men did not have to wear socks.

And that a new generation had already chosen to wear socks much less frequently, and indeed sometimes not at all.

I can't imagine how transgressive the video must have seemed in the UK in 1982. Also, on a tangent, Miami Vice gets all the props for introducing floppy suits (and no socks), but Duran Duran were blazing a trail a good eighteen months before Michael Mann came along.
Christine McClain said…
Hi Morgan! Oh my, I have had some real laugh out loud moments reading your blog and Duran commentary!!! I have always been a huge Duranie (or I wouldn't be here, right? haha), but I have recently become re-obsessed - if that's such a thing - going back and watching everything old and new online, and thus finding your blog.

Thank you for turning me onto the "Classic Albums - Duran Duran Rio" - it's just fantastic!
Did you notice - in the extra footage for Save a Prayer, they show the extra same Speedo Torso shot, but with Roger! You see his face really clearly when he lands back down in the water, but he's a bit more tan than my Simon. (I do agree that the one used must be Simon, by process of elimination. ;)

Keep it up - Can't wait to read more!
Morgan Richter said…
Thanks so much, Christine! I love that Classic Albums episode on Rio, too -- it's loaded with all kinds of fun information. So glad to hear you've been enjoying the Duranalyses.
Morgan Richter said…
(Ashley Pomeroy -- just now saw your comment, very sorry that it took me, oh, a year and a half to respond. My site went through this odd spell where it decided I didn't need to be notified when people commented, and thus your comment slipped through the cracks. My apologies. Yeah, you're exactly right -- the Duran boys beat Miami Vice by a significant margin on the floppy pastel suits and loafers without socks.)

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