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. Note how Nick, always sleek and slim, is angling his body to look even slimmer.
Great video. Makes Sri Lanka look like the most epically beautiful place on earth. Outstanding.