ARCADIA - The Duran Duran Side Project

By Mark Nobes and Hannah Johnson

Arcadia were formed as a temporary band by Duran Duran members Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor (Taylor never appeared in any videos), and are best remembered for their top 10 hit song "Election Day".

While the trio were enjoying a break from performing as Duran Duran between 1985 and 1986, the other two band members, John and Andy Taylor, were developing an interest for modern rock, and joined Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson for the bombastic supergroup The Power Station - Roger Taylor also had a hand in the percussion, making him the only member to perform in both groups.

The side projects were a wise move, and helped to ease any friction that was developing over the musical direction of Duran Duran. I guess, it allowed the band members to kind of reset and reassess the direction that the band should take.

"Election Day"

Penned by Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes, "Election Day" was Arcadia's first and best-selling single release from the album So Red The Rose, and reached No.7 in the UK and No.6 in the U.S. The single features vocals and speech from Grace Jones. The B-side included the track "She's Moody And Grey, She's Mean And She's Restless".
Two different 12 inch vinyl singles were released by Parlophone in the UK. 12 NSR 1 featured The Consensus Mix and Single Version of "Election Day", with the same B-side that was included on the 7 inch vinyl. 12 NSRA 1 did not include the B-side, instead featuring the Cryptic Cut No Voice Mix, Single Version and Consensus Mix.
The single also reached No.1 in Italy, No.4 in New Zealand, No.5 on the Irish Singles Chart, No.7 in Norway and No.8 in Canada. It was also a top 20 hit in Australia, Belgium, The Netherlands and Switzerland.
You can view the lyrics for "Election Day" at the end of this post.
In her scathing, no holes barred review of the single for Smash Hits magazine (issue 9-22 October 1985), Vici Macdonald wrote "This boasts quibbly radio noises, Grace Jones mumbling mardily in the middle, and a raunchy sax a honkin' away in the background, but still ends up sounding like a second-rate Duran album track - i.e. expensive, epic, but somewhat rambling and tuneless. It's about a zillion times better than The Power Station, but then what isn't? One wonders how long the various Duran factions can keep putting out this lacklustre stuff without going completey down the dumper". 

You can listen to a remastered version of The Consensus Mix in the video above. I particularly like the growling sax solo at the end - well worth waiting for!


So Red The Rose

Arcadia released just the one studio album during their short time together, which was the nine track So Red The Rose, and according to AllMusic, it was "the best album that Duran Duran never made". It was reissued in 2010 on a double CD featuring 28 tracks (which included remixes on the second disc) and a DVD.
An array of well-known pop artists performed on the album, and these included Sting (who sang backing vocals on "The Promise"), Grace Jones, Herbie Hancock and Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd, who played guitar on "The Promise". Indeed, this was one of the first pop music projects to feature a collaboration of guest artists. The Japanese singer/songwriter Masami Tsuchiya and Peurto Rican guitarist Carlos Alomar also perform on the album.
It was during the recording of the album when Simon Le Bon met his future wife Yasmin, so he was in a bouyant mood, and you can feel that in his emotive vocals on the album, although Le Bon also once stated that it was "the most pretentious album ever made". He's definitely being rather harsh on himself here, and it's clear that the creative juices were really flowing for this album, so it's all too easy to label creativeness as being "pretentious".
The album preserved much of the Duran Duran sound and has their trademark lavish production - the album cost an eye-watering £1 million to produce! However, it feels a lot more atmospheric and warmer, with the songs having real depth and sophistication. Nick Rhodes' synth mastery is prominent throughout the album and if you've never listened to it then you most definitely should do, right now, as it's one of the most underrated albums of the 80s!
The album was produced by Alex Sadkin and Arcadia. Sadkin had previously helped to produce the 1983 Duran Duran album Seven and the Ragged Tiger. He sadly died in a car accident in 1987, aged just 38.
The album performed quite poorly in the official UK albums chart, entering at No.30 on 1st December 1985, falling to No.37 the following week and spending a total of 10 weeks in the Top 100.
However, the album was certainly not a complete flop, and achieved Platinum sales in the U.S. and 2 x Platinum in Canada.
You can listen to the original 12" Extended Remix of the band's second single (in the UK) "The Promise" in the video above. 

Track Listing

1. Election Day - 5:29

2. Keep Me in the Dark - 4:31

3. Goodbye Is Forever - 3:49

4. The Flame - 4:23

5. Missing - 3:40

6. Rose Arcana - 0:51

7. The Promise - 5:30

8. El Diablo - 6:05

9. Lady Ice - 7:32

So Red The Rose cassette album by Arcadia
The elegant ink drawing of the flowery lady on the front cover was created by the American artist Tony Viramontes, who sadly passed away in 1988 from an AIDS related illness.

Other singles released from the album were "Goodbye Is Forever" (not released in the UK), "The Promise" (#37 - UK) and "The Flame" (#58 - UK). 

Arcadia released a fifth and final single in the U.S. entitled "Say The Word" which was from the soundtrack to the movie Playing For Keeps. Released in 1986, the comedy film was about a group of inner-city teenagers trying to turn a hotel into a rock music resort. Other well-known artists who contributed to the soundtrack were Phil Collins, Sister Sledge and Julian Lennon.

Hmm, not sure we remember that film, despite all the high profile artists on that soundtrack!

In his quite favourable review of the album for Smash Hits magazine, Tom Hibbert wrote "After the clanking monstrosities of The Power Station, this comes as quite a pleasant surprise. Okay, it's stuffed full of conceit - effete lyrics, some grotesque "singing" and a couple of ill-conceived "dream sequences", but strip that away and you've got some quite snug pop music. It's all finely-crafted (with the help of a lot of Americans) there are some proper tunes, and there's a couple of miraculous touches that make it almost jolly. A warmer and less clinical collection that anything yet attempted by... dare I say ut? (No, I daren't). 7 and a half out of 10.
In its gushing review of So Red The Rose, The blog brutallyhonestrockalbumreviews gave the album a score of 9/10 on July 5th 2021, stating "this is better than any album Duran Duran ever made". awarded the album 3 stars out of 5, with the average user rating being 4 stars. gives an average score of 3.45 out of 5.0 from 642 ratings.

"Election Day" 12 inch vinyl sleeve front (UK)

Lyrics for Election Day