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A Short Biography

      Arcadia was the pop group formed in 1985 by Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor of Duran Duran, during a break in that band's schedule. However, Roger Taylor appeared in only a few band photographs and in none of the music videos, and stated he was only to be involved in the recording side of the project (he also had minor involvement in The Power Station, the other Duran Duran splinter group).
      Arcadia recorded just one album, the platinum-selling So Red the Rose. It peaked at number 23 on the US album chart, and featured the Top 40 singles "Election Day", "The Flame", "The Promise" and "Goodbye is Forever".
      One famous review described So Red the Rose "the most pretentious album ever made", while All Music Guide called it "the best album Duran Duran never made".
      Musicians who contributed to the album include guitarists David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) and Carlos Alomar, pianist Herbie Hanthingy, Sting (who provided backing vocals on "The Promise"), Grace Jones (who provided backing vocals on "The Flame" and "Election Day") and bass player Mark Egan (Pat Metheny Group) who added his distinctive sound to the LP (in particular to "El Diablo" and "Lady Ice") and David Van Tieghem, an incredible percussionist from New York.
      The band also recorded the single "Say the Word" for the Playing For Keeps movie soundtrack.
      Arcadia continued the Duran Duran tradition of a slick image, tasteful fashions and hair-dos. For the Arcadia incarnation of their ever-changing band aesthetic, Rhodes, Le Bon, and Roger Taylor donned an upmarket 'gothic' look of black tuxedos, vintage formal wear, and bow ties. The three also dyed their hair black, as seen when they performed (as Duran Duran, with Andy and John Taylor) at the 1985 Live Aid concert in Philadelphia.
      Arcadia did a variety of promotional appearances on television, but never toured.
      Arcadia was dissolved in late 1986 when Duran Duran re-formed with LeBon, Rhodes, and bassist John Taylor to record Notorious. Drummer Roger Taylor retired from the music business for almost 20 years shortly after the release of the Arcadia album, but returned to rejoin the original Duran Duran line-up in 2001.

Origins Of The Name

      The name Arcadia was choosen from a Latin phrase "Et in Arcadia ego" that was stuck in Simon Le Bon's mind when they were running out of time to find a name for the project.
      "Et in Arcadia ego" is actually an incomplete Latin sentence, because it lacks a verb. It should really read "et in Arcadia ego sum", which means "And I am in Paradise".
      "Et in Arcadia ego" is a Latin phrase that most famously appears as the title of two paintings by Nicolas Poussin (15941665). They are pastoral paintings depicting idealized shepherds from classical antiquity, clustering around an austere tomb. The more famous second version of the subject, measuring 122 by 85 cm, is in the Louvre, Paris, and also goes under the name "Les bergers d'Arcadie" ("The Arcadian Shepherds").

Les Bergers d'Arcadie by Poussin

      The painting has been highly influential in the history of art and more recently has been associated with the pseudohistory of the Priory of Sion popularised in the books Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code.
      The phrase is a memento mori, which is usually interpreted to mean "I am also in Arcadia" or "I am even in Arcadia", as if spoken by personified Death. However, Poussin's biographer, Andre Felibien, interpreted it to mean that "the person buried in this tomb has lived in Arcadia"; in other words, that they too once enjoyed the pleasures of life on earth. The former interpretation is generally considered to be more likely. Either way, the sentiment was meant to set up an ironic contrast by casting the shadow of death over the usual idle merriment that the nymphs and swains of ancient Arcadia were thought to embody.

Guercino's 1622 version of the subject

      The first appearance of a tomb with a memorial inscription (to Daphnis) amid the idyllic settings of Arcadia appears in Virgil's Eclogues V 42 ff. Virgil took the idealized Sicilian rustics that had first appeared in the Idylls of Theocritus and set them in the primitive Greek district of Arcadia (see Eclogues VII and X). The idea was taken up anew in the circle of Lorenzo de' Medici in the 1460s and 1470s, during the Florentine Renaissance. In his pastoral work Arcadia (1504), Jacopo Sannazaro fixed the Early Modern perception of Arcadia as a lost world of idyllic bliss, remembered in regretful dirges. In the 1590s, Sir Philip Sidney circulated copies of his romance The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, which soon got into print. The first pictorial representation of the familiar memento mori theme that was popularized in 16th-century Venice, now made more concrete and vivid by the inscription ET IN ARCADIA EGO, is Guercino's version, painted between 1618 and 1622 (in the Galleria Barberini, Rome), in which the inscription gains force from the prominent presence of a skull in the foreground, beneath which the words are carved.

Poussin's 1627 version of the 'Arcadian Shepherds', depicting a different tomb with the same inscription

      Poussin's own first version of the painting (now in Chatsworth house) was probably commissioned as a reworking of Guercino's version. It is in a far more Baroque style than the later version, characteristic of Poussin's early work. In the Chatsworth painting the shepherds are actively discovering the half-hidden and overgrown tomb, and are reading the inscription with curious expressions. The shepherdess, standing at the left, is posed in sexually suggestive fashion, very different from her austere counterpart in the later version. The later version has a far more geometric composition and the figures are much more contemplative. The mask-like face of the shepherdess conforms to the conventions of the Classical "Greek profile".

The Possibility of Re-forming Arcadia

      "I confess it has crossed my mind, late at night, while seated quietly in a dark room that perhaps Arcadia should rise once more from the ashes. However, when I turn the lights on, it spoils my aspiration and right now i am rather busy doing other things. As they say though, never say never." - Nick Rhodes, Ask Katy, June 2002

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