Duran Duran’s "Rio" – One of the toughest bass lines you never knew about

Duran Duran is not the first band you think of when it comes to bass lines. In fact, some of you might even think, “Duran Duran counts as a band?”

Oh yes, they do.

Duran Duran’s bass player is John Taylor, and he did play the bass line for the song Rio. Unfortunately, that song, while hugely popular, was a bad mix where John’s bass could barely be heard.

Below is Rio with the bass track isolated. Unless you knew beforehand, I guarantee you would never guess it was this complicated.

And yes, it has a very Entwistle-esque vibe to it.

114 thoughts on “Duran Duran’s "Rio" – One of the toughest bass lines you never knew about

  1. Entwhistle? More like Bernard Edwards. Great bass line, and I don’t think it’s buried in the mix too much. I’ve dug it since I was a kid and listened to this album daily.

    • No, it is very Entwhistle, too. They used him as an example to get rock snobs to read the article. Most rock snobs don’t like Chic, either.

    • Totally agree. I’ve always heard the incredible baseline in this song, and it absolutely is what makes this song so damn sexy! The band on the whole is extremely underrated. They played their own instruments and played them well. Underneath the flashy music videos, was a solid group of musicians.

      • Damn sexy! You hit that right on the head and I can prove it. I was at Rockfest Caddot Wisconsin late 80’s and my friends said man how do you get chicks to our campsite? I said I’ll teach you once, crank Duran Duran. Of course they didn’t believe me, but when I came back a half hour later, 60 – 70 babes drinking and dancing at our campsite. All of my friends have never forgotten that and they are all huge DD fans now till this day!

  2. This is no ordinary player, my bet is a session bass player, really good one. John Taylor can play but not of this standard. This sounds like a seasoned studio musician,

  3. I’ve heard him play it live, and it’s just as good. I’m married to an excellent bass player and even he admits JT is way under rated

  4. This guy could ALWAYS play the crap out of the bass guitar. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong. Do you remember The Power Station??

    • Power Station – the Taylor brothers with Bernard Edward’s drummer and take-no-prisoners vocals. Never figured why that didn’t go platinum. Nobody mentioned where this triplet syncopation started – James Jamerson.

      • Ha! Someone beat me to the no members if the band were related. All 3 Taylors were a coincidental thing. Including Andy and John in the power station. And of course John was/is a great bass player and Bernard Edwards is regularly mentioned as having been a huge influence on him and his playing- part of the reason it was such a big deal for him to get to be in Power Station with him (Tony Thompson and of course Nile Rodgers) all from Chic.

      • John Taylor and Andy were not brothers although they had the same last name. I was a very fanatical Duranie in the 80’s. JT was my fav.

      • The Power Station was once quoted by Robert Palmer as “that’s John’s baby” I think thats when John Taylor proved himself as a recognized bass player..because you could hear him on the whole Power Station album. Tony Thompson was the drummer…the most underrated drummer and phenominal. Bernard Edwards , the bass god , Robert Palmer who had that smooth r&b tone and Andy Taylor, who was impressive. John created his version of what he actually wanted. Roxy Music and Chic was two huge influences on him…and it showed on the Power Station record. None of the Taylors were related in Duran Duran. Most people think that, I did too when I first became hooked on Duran…but its just a coinky dink. Anyways, the bass solo was done by Bernard Edwards in the Bang A Gong track that Power Station covered (originally by T-Rex) and I always assumed it was John. Thats how influenced he was by Edwards. In fact , Bernard had given John a bass of his as a gift. He still owns it. Unfortunately, Tony Thompson, Robert Palmer and Bernard Edwards all died a few years or so ago. Such an incredible band . John Taylor Is an incredible bass player. True musician hands down,

    • Heard them all through my youth and they were a great band and really deserve a listen – even if you’re not so keen on their style of music. A few real pop gems in there though.

  5. Fantastic to hear it with such clarity… Love to know the tool used for that, or was it from multi-tracks ? Either way, a great piece of playing… no surprise as the guitarist (warren C) from Duran Duran cut his teeth with Zappa’s band, so I always believed John Taylor was an excellent player in good company with other fine musicians…. 🙂

  6. If you ever watched the classic album programme on the making of Rio you would see its JT. Totally class player and a lovely guy too.

  7. if you play bass and don’t know he is a fantastic player, you need to brush up on his work, he is a great player! Always has been!

  8. Used to play this in a covers band I was in…glad to hear I got it mostly right! Yes, John was a very underrated bassist, the pin up good looks meant a lot of musicians didn’t take the band seriously…they were great…

  9. You should also check out the basslines on New Religion, also on the Rio album. And more recently, on Safe, which can be found on All You Need is Now. They are still a great band.

  10. For the “Rio” and “Seven and the Ragged Tiger Albums”, he mostly used an Aria Pro II SB-1000. (Though on the songs “Lonely in Your Nightmare” and “Tiger Tiger” he used a fretless bass of some variety, the make/model of which I have no idea.)

  11. Let’s talk about the band Japan, and how DD lifted pretty much anything we love from them then improved upon it. Also, DISCO bass lines which really is the root of the discussion here rather than DD. I love DD much more than Japan, but if you put them side by side it is glaringly obvious DD took a band that should have made it and turned their ideas to gold.

  12. I think BASS PLAYERS know that John Taylor is always on the top 5 list of favorite bass players, including my list. It’s the general public that doesn’t know. I’d even go as far as saying even guitar players may overlook him. John Taylor is a killer bass player !!

  13. John Taylor is the Brad Pitt of bass ; Because he’s good looking people overlook that he has WICKED chops. AND he plays a Cirrus, and Aria Pro II. What more do you want ?? !!

    • People forget or are not aware that John Taylor is the perfect ugly duckling story.Simon said when he met John he was an tall awkward dude with glasses and cigarette stained fingers.I am willing to bet he wasn’t out with tons of girls to distract him from practicing alot! I wholeheartedly agree with your comment!

  14. Actually not a terribly difficult tune. The interesting thing to me is that he plays slightly ahead of the beat as a good jazz player does to drive the beat. He has good time.

  15. I really like Duran Duran, always did as a teenager. However as much as I’d love to believe that’s JT, I simply dont think it’s him. Got nothing against him. However, the guy himself used to admit his short comings as a bass player quite openly in interviews, expressing his inability to play Planet Earth which is as.simple as it gets with his fingers. Yet months later hes now fingering his way thru this line? Also, seeing Duran live quite often in their Rio heyday and being a budding bassist myself it was obvious that he was playing a simplified version of the song live, which he does to this day. Check out any live vid. Still, whoever played it, JT, his good friend and hero Bernard Edwards (my bet), whoever it was, it’s a killer bass line!

    • Actually Join and Bernard had yet to meet during the recording of Rio. And in the interview where he talks about using a pick for Planet Earth he says that he couldn’t do the galloping pattern with his fingers yet. Same goes for hold back the rain; fingers in verses, pick on chorus, which he mentioned was difficult to do live. Seeing them live just a few years ago and having early live albums I can say without a doubt that he did record the song and he does not simplify it live.

    • I’ve seen JT perform Rio several times with DD and also as a solo artist here in the So Cal area. I can assure you, he plays this bass line as you hear it on the record. Highly underrated bass player and, in my opinion, one of the best.

    • Listen to the BBC shows from this period (they’re out there). It’s John. Bernard is better than this.

  16. As someone who spent many of my youthful years painstakingly studying DD and they’re creative process, I can assure any of the naysayers in this thread that every pluck of bass you hear on every DD album ever made is most certainly JT. His “shortcomings” as you put it were merely a reflection of his humility in interviews, as he was known to be when it came to accepting accolades for his playing prowess. John Taylor is quite simply one of the best bassists rock/pop music has EVER produced, and it’s high time he was recognized as such. His early career was spent slaving over Chic basslines, and learning them note for note, which was the perfect platform for the style he perfected. Seeing him during his coke-addled Rio days would have undoubtedly produced some simplified versions on stage, as the amount of stuff going up his nose would have incapacitated most musicians.

    • “every pluck of bass you hear on every DD album ever made is most certainly JT” – Except for 2/3 of Medazzaland and all of Pop Trash, where Warren played after John left.

    • Actually, it sounds like it was a punch in on the track. It’s passing, in key, and certainly doesn’t take away from the amazing bass line.

  17. Well, if this were session player, why this does not keep time but goes here and where? Definitely this is just John… an excellent bass player, but no session musician…

  18. John Taylor ‘s basslines are really good and catchy . They are various in type of sounds and genre. I worked with a producer who also worked with JT and also his opinion is that he’ s a good bassplayer

  19. In 2008 when Duran played V Festival in Sydney , a jazz session musician from New York who was standing next to me commented that the Rio bass line was awesome. And john Taylor was underrated !

  20. He did’nt play on Come Undone, thats Warren…JT did’nt want to leave L.A and go to London for one song, He regret it ever since

  21. DD had the post disco vibe during that time. JT played it all come on people especially in those days as they were not even on the radar of having session musicians play stuff as they were a young band cutting a record. Andy Rourke from The Smiths had to have the same influences as Barbarism Begins at Home has the similar style to the bass line.

  22. JT did a lot of great work. His bass lines were what I enjoyed about DD. Lately I’ve noticed a great bassist by the name of Lexxi Foxx (Travis Haley) of STEEL PANTHER. He is an outstanding live performer is actually a very talented bass player.

  23. It is still amazing to me that after all their diverse catalog, people still do not believe they play their own instruments. Get real. And JT, for all his “good looks”, worked hard to get as good as he is, especially working with masters such as Nile Rodgers. There will always be naysayers, but it is still annoying to this day that they are so clueless even when the proof is in the pudding.

  24. It’s hard to believe in our current world of American Idol and “boy band auditions next Saturday” that this band all met by chance and were a proper live-club gig eduacated group, and just happened to be good looking… They were (are) the real thing… its not a surprise that after the band fired thier original managers, the managers said “we are getting out of the band management business.what are the chances of finding another group of pretty boys that are legit talented musicians?” those managers were smart enough to know they had one the lottery these guys could play and write very well. even if the singer can be cheesy at times…

  25. The mix really does push the bass a bit too far back. It’s audible, but it’s not as present as it should be for such leading bassline. Old DD could generally use a remixed and remastered reissue box set. I’d pay.

  26. cocaine does not make any musician play slow or crap, it makes it faster,plenty of proof are legends and never stopped then,his coke times did not affect him playing bad. He has always been a great player.

  27. This does not sound like the recording and it sounds too fast. And like an earlier post asked it sounds lime he hit to strings and the response was it was a punch-in. Nah, this is someone’s internet magic.

  28. JT is definitely an awesome player. He uses a lot of muting to add intricacy and color. I do t know the is the case, but I suspect because he started as a guitar player. I absolutely love the bass line in “New Religion” on the same album (Rio).

    • He did start out as a guitarist. It was when their drummer, Roger Taylor joined that he switched to bass around the age of 19 I believe.

  29. Bernard Edwards rated him enough to bequeath him his Stingray bass. I met JT once and asked him about it he said he ‘plays it all the time, a beautiful instrument’. I always thought DD were underrated as musicians. Agree about New Religion, I’d also add Girls On Film, Meet El Presidente and The Valley – funky as fook.

  30. Oh, Duran Duran’s the best band to ever exist and John’s a bass GOD.. Anyone who even wondered whether DD’s a band CLEARLY has NO taste in music WHATSOEVER

  31. I hate to burst your bubble, but the bass line to “Rio” was played by Mark Egan.

    This takes nothing away from the fact that yes, John Taylor is an amazing player In Duran Duran is one of the best bands of all time. I’ve seen them performe twice, and I got to meet Simon and hang out with him – unbelievably, he and another member of the band showed up at the Capitol Records employee picnic way back in the day.

  32. For those that don’t know John Taylor, he was once rumoured (formally asked?) to replace John Deacon in Queen around 1985.

  33. I would totally believe this totally IS John Taylor playing. What it certainly ISN’T though is performed in one complete take. I can hear where the overdubs and punch ins have been done… It’s impressive playing for however old he was at the time. It was actually one of the first bass lines I ever learned to play. Great band.

  34. The whole Rio album as many have pointed out is full of outstanding basslines. My Own Way, New Religion, but I’m partial to Hold Back the Rain. JT still doesn’t get the respect he deserves among critics and fans, but most musicians know he’s among the best.

  35. As a career musician (bass & keys) I remember hearing this song on the radio for the first time and begging my dad to bring to the record store to buy it. That day I was 13 years old and had only been playing bass a couple of years (I originally started on piano/keys). Louis Johnson and Duran Duran’s Rio album are huge part of bass becoming my natural instrument and keys my secondary. John Taylor put on a bass clinic on this album. Later on I read in an interview with him that he’d only been playing like 3 or 4 years when he laid these tracks. He sounded like a seasoned session pro. Some people are just born with a gift to do certain things and his is definitely playing bass.

  36. A musician myself, both live and recording bass player since 1985 . Mr Taylor was the guy who I totally idolised from then to the present day. Absolute top drawer player. My second Bass was an Aria Pro 2 SP 1000 same as John used in his 80s world tours . Very distinctive sound that John made his own with his unique funky pop rock style . Some of the above questioned whether JT played on the early stuff claiming it was session players. If you have ever listened close enough on the first album and also RIO you will hear slight blips …. mistakes .. only tiny ones! RIO and also ” Anyone out there” in the middle there is a missed harmonic just before it comes back in to the last chorus! as a session player myself you would never get away with those imperfections as a session player. Believe me! JT played every track on those albums apart from The Chauffeur! (synth bass) Plus… Hold back the Rain actually had 2 bass lines running for most of the song . One finger and slap and the other with a plectrum. Again remembering hed only been playing 3 or 4 years. Also Anyone who has never seen them live . You Really need to . Front row preferably ! They are awesome ! even today! especially JT, You are the Man

  37. John Taylor’s basslines were so catchy and punchy, that they caught my attention, as a young black boy, listening to the random music programs on an airplane enroute to Rhode Island in the early 80’s. I was hooked when hearing the base line of Rio, and by the time I heard Save a Prayer, i was setup for the knock-out punch of New Religion. I thought they were always a band you could groove on and loved how you could hear each of their parts pretty solidly. Never have and never will believe John or any of them needed session musicians– except when two Taylors left. They just did the hard work. Go see the performance of “Do the Demolition,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0FhUk3DZpU on Youtube, and see how well adapted they are to playing with a drummer like Steve Ferrone. John plays so well with him there.

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