Article image Article image

Title: Frankie goes to Birmingham
Author: Eleanor Levy
Source: Record Mirror
Publish date: April 6, 1985

And so, a year on, Frankie take to the British stage for their first tour. Thus, it is now the time for the Liverpool big mouths to try and prove that they really are a pop group and not just a highly profitable glint in some producer or hype master’s eye.

Will the British public take them to their hearts? Will they make enough money to keep them in expensive suits? Will Holly’s swelling head (bless him) allow the others to fit on stage? In short, can Frankie make it, and do we really care?

Answer: yes on all counts. Music wise — ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘Relax’ can still blow away all opposition on the dance floor. Yet questions remain. The excessive money the faithful were asked to pay for ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’, the whole host of high price official Frankie merchandise and finally, the release of ‘Pleasuredome’ as the fourth single, seem to have blown it.

The powers pushing Frankie took the music biz ways, pumped them up, exaggerated them to a higher form and sold product in excessive amounts — beating them at their own game. Now, all they seem to be doing is seeing just how far people can be, pushed into parting with their money. The joke isn’t funny any more.

But, for the moment, Frankie still rule the world, with the latest single crashing straight into the top five and providing a much needed kick up the jacksie to the ‘nice ‘n’ easy complacency of a chart that can put Babs and Elaine at number one.

Frankie have a new found respectability, and it’s now hunky Mark O’Toole who’s a sex symbol. Those eyes! That soft, down-like hair clinging to that handsome boy scout face! That laddish behaviour! What hot blooded heterosexual female could fail to fall?

In Frankie’s latest guise of glamour and good looks for the screaming girls, he fits the bill perfectly. So, in image at least, Frankie have become Spandau Ballet — with a lot more personality… and a lot less flab. And so to Birmingham…

The first thing you notice is the audience. Young, predominantly female; don’t dance, just shout. Actually, they scream… very loudly when Mark reveals his chest. How they could scream louder for that than when Paul Rutherford wiggles that fine, manly bottom of his I’ve no idea, but louder they do. Some people have no sense of aesthetics.

Frankie think the world of themselves. Tonight, it’s not the usual ‘thanks Birmingham, you were wonderful’ of most performers, but a resounding ‘Thank us Birmingham, WE’RE wonderful’.

And they are. Everything comes together — the lights, unobtrusive when they need to be; visible on demand, creating an overhead scene reminiscent of the space ship coming in to land in ‘Close Encounters’.

Two screens carry highly pretentious visuals, oozing with phallic symbols — looking good. The sound is perfect — every breath and syllable being audible, every tinkle and bang exquisite in the extreme. The siren at the start of ‘Two Tribes’ is too lifelike for comfort and reverberates right inside you.

The human part of the performance is just as strong. ‘War’ starts in first gear as the five figures emerge from the mist. Holly is static, posing, contorting his face — using that well known finger to point up, then down, then wiggle it round so delectably. It is possibly the most talented finger in pop.

Paul Rutherford is as mobile as Holly is not. He brings the real style to FGTH — bounding around, wiggling his bum, punching the air, wiggling his bum, twisting round, wiggling his bum and… wiggling his bum. He also sings a bit and generally looks wonderful.

Mark O’Toole grins (he really does look like a muppet you know) and he and Gnasher run about like real rock stars. Ped drums a bit. ‘The Power Of Love’ shows Holly’s voice off to its fullest — with just a little help from the echo machine — and takes on anthemic proportions as members of the audience sway from side to side.

‘Relax’ is introduced as "what you all came here for" and is accompanied by much groin moving glee and images of real bums with no clothes on and legs splayed on the screen. They’re pretty wild these Frankie boys.

When Holly does his ‘Romans In Britain’ act on Mark O’Toole it is with the sweetest grin on his face. With dimples, fluffy topped head, Bazooka Joe cap and what looks like a white romper suit, he ends up bouncing about like a rampant, sex-crazed baby. Lots of screams, two encores — and then they’re off.

Frankie present such a mix of an image. Clean boys, healthy, smiling, arrogant — but with constant references to the ‘hard’ sex image they grew to fame on, veiled in gloss and laddish grins to make it acceptable to a ‘Saturday Superstore’ audience. All part of the master plan to change the face of pop? I don’t think so. Subversive? Hardly. What Frankie are, are the only one of the new breed of glossy pop elite worth bothering with. And what bums, too!