Title: Frankie goes to war
Author: Betty Page
Source: Record Mirror
Publish date: April 21, 1984
Frankie Goes To Hollywood Soap, Episode One: ‘Relax’: sexcess… sex sells… excellent. Excel at selling sex… fetish fun gay flirtation shock horror controversy… top of the prurient pops... platinum platter.
Frankie Soap, Episode Two: ‘Two Tribes’: postcoital outrage? Of course — violence! Militaristic chic… wargames… Russkies vs Yanks… guns… bazookas… phallic symbolism… dontcha just love a man in uniform…? power equals sex equals power… into battle.
Frankie on the front line… who’s in my firing line? Paul Rutherford, perhaps the man most responsible for summing up the visual sauciness of ‘Relax’, has hidden his backless leather bondage chaps beneath a gabardine trenchcoat — another classic macho image turned topsy turvy.
The campaign to set public tongues a-wagging as to what naughty Frankie will do next has ‘b8en carefully orchestrated, with — yes! - military precision. So, Paul, are we still, shockable? Are we to be titillated, enraged, provoked, amused or frustrated?
Forget the pipes of peace, it’s once more into the breach, dear friends. Fire!
A silken white shirt, black buckled chic. A delicate handshake, a nice smile, a warm nature. That’s Paul Rutherford — the sweetest thing. On a sun-drenched patio, we sit on suitably delicate white garden furniture to discuss something much heavier — Frankie’s latest battle plans for their May 14 released, much awaited second single, ‘Two Tribes’. They’re having a war, but they don’t want you to come…
Was it difficult to decide how to follow the last look — is the military style a conscious effort to totally depart from what you’ve done before?
I think we try to do that anyway. Like when we were on ORS, we basically wore our own stuff, but everyone thought we’d planned that cos everyone looked similar — we obviously share the same taste! Just cos the single’s called Two Tribes’, it obviously had to be something strong, and it’s about war, so… it had to be that kind of thing.
I think it’s really boring all this leather bit, it just gets shoved down your throat all the time, everyone determines your whole life by it. I really like all that stuff, but they just think that’s it, the top and bottom of it. I’m not saying I won’t wear it ever again, but we always wanted to change, to come up with something different, I’m sure we’ll do it again. We don’t wanna get bored.
It sounds silly saying it wasn’t an image, cos it is such a strong image, but it wasn’t a conscious effort to say we’re like this heavy S&M band, ‘cos it’s just not like that at all. They were just clothes, very trendy this year, too!
It’s just when you hit people with that image first of all…
I think we’ve done it harder than anyone else, more believable. People were a bit more scared of it cos it looked more honest. They’re so used to women wearing thigh length boots and showing a bit of body, but they’re not really used to guys…
It must’ve been unbelievable when it did all work out exactly as you’d imagined…
It was in the back of our minds all the way along, obviously, it was in mine and Trevor’s anyway. So when it was banned we were really shocked, cos we’d got away with it for so long no-one noticed what it was on about. It didn’t upset me, I’m really not bothered, personally I don’t give a f**k about it. Basically cos my taste lies in line with things like that, that would get banned most probably or wouldn’t get airplay… the only thing that upset us was that we didn’t get to go on TOTP! The first time we did it was a good laugh, dead funny, we’d just like to have done it again.
Probably everyone thought you’d ticked off a box on the masterplan when it got banned.
If they wanna feel that they can, but we were surprised.
It was obvious people were looking for something exciting to happen, because of the reaction it provoked.
I think music has got a bit staid again — once again. It goes in very short cycles — it gets exciting for six months and then it disappears. This whole white funk trip everyone got on, everyone decided to go a bit dancey, a bit happy — and it’s just not really that real, it’s great at first cos it makes you smile — Kid Creole, great, then it does grate on your teeth after a while. So I think we came along at a really good time — that’s why we worked so well — a lot of it was luck for us, the timing was perfect.
I think everyone thought after ‘Relax’ that there’d be this big explosion of bands dressed up in bondage gear!
They were expecting this drastic change in 1984, we’re all waiting for it, this bloody big change, everyone’s still thinking like that. But it’s a bit of a laugh, it’s fun.
But what happened — ‘Relax’ was a monster, and then nothing! So now everyone’s watching your every step cos there’s no-one else.
They’re all expecting us to do it again. I hope we do. It’s a good single, the cover’s good. It steps on toes, which is quite good. This time it’s really moral, though, it’s anti-war — so moral it’s untrue. There’s a great picture of Reagan and Thatcher on the back of the sleeve and one of Lennon on the front, and underneath the picture it says ‘We don’t want to die’. And there are all the nuclear statistics on the back, where all the weapons are placed and all that.
So it’s still going to upset people?
Hopefully — it won’t upset mothers this time, hopefully it’ll upset people in much higher places. Apparently there’s going to be a real heavy campaign on it, Paul’s got some real heavy slogans.
It’ll be interesting to see how the BBC react this time.
I think they’ll try to be so f**king liberal this time it’ll be sickening. They’re all really apologetic now, which is dead nice of them, fine, but they’re going to do their best this time, they’re going to play it. It’ll probably get about 900 plays a day to cover up their embarrassment, people will sicken of it in a week!
It’s quite exciting, aggressive. I know when we used to play it live it was like the most manic number in the set. We used to do a short version at the beginning, it used to knacker us, but it was such a good opener, and we used to do the long version at the end cos everyone could give it everything and leave the stage. Cos it’s about 100mph, it’s great. We’ve always seen it as our anthem, the boys and Holly and I.
Well, the next thing that upsets people after sex is violence, guns, quite a logical step really.
Where do we move after that!
The danger is that people think you’re doing it deliberately to outrage, which in a way I suppose you are.
It’s something we’re obviously worried about, that we think about, we’re not trying to worry the public. It’s more to do with them up there, getting up their noses.
That’s always sparked people’s imaginations, the fact that they’re in on something that’s a bit naughty.
It’s always been like that with artists, stepping on their elder’s toes, being reactionary.
I suppose dressing up in Russian uniforms is quite reactionary!
Specially when you’ve got New York as a backdrop! I felt really stupid in that Russian coat, it felt like I was wearing my mother’s coat, I hated it. I managed to get the smallest bloody one, and no-one would swop with me, it was really short on me and dead long on them. That hat was so dirty as well. But we had a good laugh.
Presumably the Russians vs Americans aspect is just one of the many meanings you can take from ‘Two Tribes’.
Oh yeah, it’s about any confrontation. To give you the glorious saying ‘we won’ is really shallow. It’s far more noble to be able to say we’re not offended by you and we don’t really want to fight with you. We value our lives much more than we value an argument. But it can mean many things, it can mean relationships as well.
Someone I know’s got this letter, a declaration of peace that Yoko Ono wrote just after Lennon died, it’s really quite moving, saying how strong it is to be able to lay your weapon down.
The whole thing is so basic — literally, stop, it doesn’t matter, we can work it out, it is that simple. But they say it’s not — it’s basically all money that’s the problem. I’ve always said better Red than dead, I’m afraid I believe that, I’d rather live.
I’m sure I can find my little room somewhere and have my little good time, no matter if they take my stereo away, I’m sure I’ll find something even if it’s gazing at bloody walls.
Paul asks what music I like. I say everything from Prince to Eno and back again. I’m not a snob. I don’t say ‘God it’s them, it must be awful’.
I’m like that with Kajagoogoo actually. I can’t bear them. He doesn’t like us, Nick Beggs, he thinks we’re morally wrong. I think he’s a f**king idiot, the guy’s a fool, I think he should go and give himself to God totally and prove he’s really a man. If he’s pushing his values at people, he should become a monk or a priest or something, if God’s the closest thing to him, he should do the closest thing to him.
You can use God as a ploy, and Catholics don’t really buy records, you don’t get many priests buying records. And I suggest he puts his head in the lion’s mouth cos it’s f**king ugly. No, I don’t like the guy at all — who is he to pass judgment on anybody? He isn’t the Lord, if there is such a thing. He should realise all this is not evil at all.
I don’t think you can corrupt people, really.
I don’t think you can at all. I think people have pretty much made their minds up — music’s only a small part of it, what about the rest of the media? The papers are more poisonous than anything. It’s hard to say what’s wrong and what’s right. Obviously you do draw the line at certain things, but it’s hard to say who’s moral and who’s immoral.
Censorship’s really strange, it’s a weird one. Another person who doesn’t like us is Boy George. The guy’s an idiot. If overt things freak him out… how can he say that if he’s got bloody eye make-up on.
I don’t think he can say he’s moral — tell that to a nun, I’m sure she’d think he was the oddest ball that ever roamed the earth. If they’re so bloody moral why don’t they make a true stance and be so honest with the rest of the world? That’s not helping anybody along.
The music business is well weird, very strange. They’ve all become little judges. It’s all sour grapes as well cos ultimately you’re stealing their audience — the reason a lot of them don’t like us now is because we did that, they’re buying our records now as well, we’re a little threat to them. They should just say well yeah, there’s a lot of money in the world, let somebody else have a share of it, you can only spend so much in your bloody life. He never need work again, he doesn’t need to bring another record out.
I think the note you’ve struck with people is that they realise the same thing — that the button could be pushed any day, so you might as well enjoy yourself.
Everyone’s got this unspoken fear and no one’s provided a channel for people’s feelings on that score.
I hope ‘Two Tribes’ helps that along. You need the whole world behind you on something like this, you need every person, every household, not in a high position, but everyone who matters in between. Like that old slogan what would happen if they threw a war and nobody came. Well, let’s find out! We need everyone behind us.