“No band has dominated a 12-month period like Frankie ruled 1984, with three singles all at No 1. Yet today they rarely get cited by other musicians.”

That was the opening gambit to a piece on Frankie Goes To Hollywood that appeared in The Guardian almost exactly six years ago. It was followed with these words:-

It is August 1984 and Frankie Goes To Hollywood are in their pomp. They have just spent their ninth week at No 1 with Two Tribes, that ultimate cold war-era document with the annihilating bassline that sounds, in the words of Capital Radio DJ Roger Scott, “like the end of the world”. To celebrate their final performance of it on Top of the Pops they are wearing matching white wedding jackets with black trousers and bow ties. After all the controversy surrounding Frankie – their previous No 1, Relax, was banned for its “obscene” content, and the video for Two Tribes was banned for being indecent – even this choice of outfit seems like a provocative gesture.

To further playfully mark the occasion, drummer Peter “Ped” Gill and bassist Mark O’Toole have swapped instruments, while singer Holly Johnson, to the bemusement of the BBC cameramen, prefaces his performance – with a mixture of relish and disgust – by tearing up a copy of the Sun, the newspaper that has been doorstepping his parents in Liverpool for quotes about their gay son.

Meanwhile, Relax has just climbed back up the charts to No 2, making this the first time anyone has occupied the top two slots since Hello Goodbye and the Magical Mystery Tour EP in January 1968. It’s official: Frankie are the most scandalous affront to decency since the Sex Pistols and the biggest band, Liverpudlian or otherwise, since the Beatles. “It was more than we imagined it could be,” marvels Paul Rutherford, Frankie’s co-frontman and dancing clone, of their 1984 heyday. “We just couldn’t see it coming at all. But God, we rode it. There’s been nothing like it since.”

FGTH burned very brightly and intensely for a short period. A third number one, at Christmas 1984, would be followed by the multi-million selling debut album, Welcome To The Pleasuredome. Very little was heard of them, musically, in 1985 and much of 1986 until new single Rage Hard was released. It marked a new sound, one that leaned more towards a rock sound than pop/electronica, and the critics panned it and the subsequent album, Liverpool. The band split within six months.

One of the reasons that FGTH don’t get quoted much is that the debut album and hit singles are really seen as the work of uber-producer Trevor Horn rather than the musicians, while there is also a great deal of cynicism around the way that Paul Morley, a journalist and writer who was as much reviled as he was admired, had proven to been part of the band’s rise to fame with the way he had hyped things up and devised a range of shock tactics, including the radio and video bans. Horn had nothing to do with the second album and Morley had eased himself away from everyday activities at ZTT Records. Indeed, nobody was denying that the FGTH musicians hadn’t played much on the debut but were rectifying matters on the follow-up, enabling everyone to draw a clear line in the sand if they so wanted.

It may have largely been hype, but there surely can’t be any arguement that the two initial #1 singles were trailblazing in so many ways and still have the capacity to sound great when blasted loudly through a decent set of speakers.

mp3: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax (Sex Mix)
mp3: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes (annihilation)

Both taken from the 12″ singles. The former is 7:25 in length and the latter extends to more than nine minutes, complete with dialogue that mimicked the advice given in the UK government’s propaganda film about what to do in the event of a nuclear attack (as well as comedian Chris Barrie doing a tremendous impression of President Ronald Reagan).  As such it requires an interested listener to make some considerable time to take it all in. But trust me, it’ll be worth it.



A guest contribution from xxxjim


Hey JC

This is a change from an imaginary compilation, but I’m pretty sure I could do one for almost every singer/band mentioned – now there’s a challenge!

Anyway, a comment made a while ago got me thinking. It was on a Wedding Present / Cinerama related posting and it was along the lines of David Gedge being someone that the commenter, paulb3015 would most like as a friend.

I know it’s never a good idea to meet your heroes but I still think it would be great to spend an evening in the company of these musicians. I guess they all seem quite approachable to me and the sort of people that have a lot of stories and would be fun to be around.

So I give you the eight musicians I’d love to spend an evening with, be it for a beer or two or a meal all round a table, shooting the breeze. Eight seems about the right number – enough that you’d get to talk to everyone but not too many that no one can hear what anyone else is saying. And it would have to be the right mix of musicians – not too many egos.

They are not necessarily my all time favourite musicians or my favourite bands – in some cases they are – I just think they are all interesting people. One thing a lot of them have in common is that they like to tell a story when you see them live – I know that it can be the same story every night but as long as it seems like it’s off the cuff, I’m happy with that.

I haven’t worked out a seating plan but obviously there’s be two seats reserved for Mr and Mrs Vinyl Villain.

Kristin Hersh

Her music has been a constant in my life since I was about 18 – I’ve kind of grown up with her. I’m not an obsessive fan but I do try and see her whenever she performs. One of only two famous people to reply to me on Twitter (not that I use it very often), which makes her an all round nice person. (The other one was David Gedge)

mp3: Kristin Hersh – Sundrops (from ‘Hips and Makers’ LP)

Colin Meloy

Because he seems like a good bloke – a lot of The Decemberists’ songs are stories and he spins a good yarn on stage so I’m sure there would be plenty to talk about.

mp3 : The Decemberists – The Rake’s Song (from ‘The Hazards of Love’ LP)

David Gedge

I don’t need to explain this one – I’m pretty sure that every reader of TVV would want to have a beer with David Gedge.

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Give My Love To Kevin (acoustic) (from ‘George Best (plus)’ LP)

Leonard Cohen

I thought maybe Prince would be entertaining but I imagine everyone would just sit there dumbstruck thinking ‘Bloody hell – it’s Prince’ and no-one saying a word. Either that or he’d play ping pong with everyone and thrash them. But I thought it would be good to have an absolute megastar at the table, and someone much older – and someone who has been a hero of mine since my art student days. He’d bring a touch of wisdom to proceedings and his fantastic gravelly voice. And you never know he might feed us tea and oranges that come all the way from China.

mp3 : Leonard Cohen – Slow (from ‘Popular Problems’ LP)

Viv Albertine

A year ago she wouldn’t have been a dinner guest but her memoir ‘Clothes, Music, Boys’ is great – the best music book I’ve read this year – better than Kim Gordon and better than Eddie Argos (seriously). And she seems like a nice person – and normal. And because I love this song which is one of my favourite songs of the year (even though it came out a while ago, it’s new to me).

mp3 : Viv Albertine – Confessions of a MILF  (from ‘The Vermillion Borders’ LP)

Gruff Rhys

Because he took a puppet around America to try and find a Welsh-speaking tribe of native Americans. And he made a powerpoint presentation about it. And an album. And he weaves it all into a great story. And obviously because he is a Super Furry Animal.

mp3 : Gruff Rhys – Iolo (from ‘American Interior’ LP)

Holly Johnson

The first pop star that I really idolized – about 10 years ago I saw him in a shop and I was too star struck to go and say hello. His memoir is also worth a read.

mp3 : Frankie Goes to Hollywod – Relax (7” single)

Nicky Wire

The second Welshman – he’d make sure that it wasn’t all back slappery and coziness. Plus, if all else fails we can talk about sport – and he can give my daughter tips on applying eyeliner.

mp3 : Manic Street Preachers – Europa Geht Durch Mich (from ‘Futurology’ LP)

Anyway, I hope you like it – and it’s the sort of thing that fits in well on TVV.