Title: Chain reaction
Author: Max Bell
Source: No. 1
Publish date: Aug 4, 1984
Frankie Goes To Hollywood are what’s been happening while we’ve been away. They’ve been at No.1 with ‘Two Tribes’ and at No. 2 with ‘Relax’. Even their T-shirts are selling like there’s no tomorrow.
Max Bell talked to Holly and the boys about fame, fortune and their forthcoming trip to America. As he found, it’s just on thing after another…
Just in case you hadn’t noticed…
The sound is everywhere. The sound is the summer of 1984.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood, on every chest, on every jukebox, on every dancefloor from Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads.
You cannot escape it.
Not even if you hide yourself.
A typical day at ZTT. Trevor Horn wanders around the studio in a pair of hideous satin shorts beaming at nobody in particular from behind his Trevor Horn glasses. Well, it’s his 36th birthday.
Paul Rutherford and Ped (Peter Gill) are chuntering and worrying at each other. Ped is in his usual happy-being-miserable mood.
“It’s got dead boring being at No. 1,” he lies. “They’ve told us to do ‘War’ on Top Of The Pops this time. Sod that. They can play ‘War’ and we’ll mime ‘Two Tribes’.”
Ped rushes off and deposits a chewed Kentucky Fried spare rib on the ZTT receptionist’s desk.
Ped decides he wants a minder – “a bad cush” – to keep off the gurls.
“Ever since you wrote that thing about the White Flash, all the gurls known where we live,” he beams. “In fact the White Flash died the other week. It’s dead. The lads have got a new motor now, the Orange Go Mobile. Another Capri.
“Anyway, why aren’t you talking to us three lads? Won’t be any good talking to Holly. Timid sod.”
Paul Rutherford butts in through a mouthful of cherry cheesecake.
“If I had a fiver for every interview I’ve done, I’d have ooh, lots of money…”
Ped: “If I ‘ad a fiver for every interview I’d done I’d have nuthin’.”
FORTUNES OF WAR
Holly comes in after his business lunch with Jill Sinclair, ZTT’s financial brainiac. ZTT, Frankie and Trevor are under heavy pressure to finish the ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’ LP for September 24.
Much later and they’ll miss out on an American release.
Frankie is already under strain, enduring the glare of being the biggest pop phenomenon since Boy George since the Sex Pistols since The Beatles.
Won’t bore you with the facts but ‘Relax’ is the tenth biggest selling record of all time. Frankie sold millions of records and thousands of shirts.
“Merchandise,” Holly rolls the rich vowels around his tongue. “We’ve just got control of the merchandise.
“A fortune? Whaddya call a fortune? Couple of grand maybe. Every time I see someone in one of those shirts I think… whoa! that’s another 27½p in the coffers.
“It’s funny. It’s very summer of 1984, which pleases me. We’ve put our mark on it, like Roxy Music did in 1973.”
I ask Holly if all the attention is getting to him.
“We don’t notice any more. ‘Relax’ and ‘Two Tribes’ are gone, finished. It’s time to enter the next phase.
“America. It’s important to tackle that with a good master plan. Paul (Morley) is working on it. We haven’t made much progress there yet because they use singles to promote albums, which only cost five or six dollars.”
‘Two Tribes’ hasn’t been officially released in America and Holly is’t sure how they would react to the sentiments of the video.
“Some people would love it cos Reagan is very out of favour. I went to New York on the Virgin Atlantic flight and bumped into this Gay Price Week march. They were all shouting ‘Beat back the Reagan Attack!’
“Some of the Nancy Reagan jokes were very vicious. It was quite a spectable. I saw one old lady in the back of a limo holding this placard that said ‘My Gay Son Is The Greatest’. Very amusing.”
But come clean, Holly. How seriously do you take the political message of ‘Two Tribes’?
“well, I’m not an avid CND member. The record is a bit more extreme than first visualized.
“It’s about friction – between you and me, men and women and yes, Russia and America. It’s the first nuclear war record that hits the nail on the head.
“On the other hand two kids came up to me the other day and asked me to sign a copy. They said, ‘That’s the best dance record ever made, mate’.”
SEX & HORROR
“I got the like ‘Are we living in a land where sex and horror are the new gods?’ from and old ‘30s black and white movie. The TV was on in the background while I was doing me ironing and suddenly this character came out with that statement.
“The original version was much heavier. ‘You’ve got five minutes, Christians’. It was a joke. ‘Cos I’m coming to cut your throats.’
“But sex and horror have always been gods. ‘Thriller’ and ‘Relax’ proved it. You only have to go back to the Greeks and Romans, they were all doing it. Orgies, gladiators, the works.” Holly snickers.
“The song is about two years old. It was part of our live set along with ‘Disneyland’, ‘Crystal Kisses’, ‘Love Has Got A Gun’, ‘The Only Star In Heaven’ and ‘Black Night White Light’. Some of those might be on ‘Pleasure Dome’…”
The burning question thought, Holly, is when are you playing live?
“Yeah, I know, I know. The fans would love us to play live. It’s under negotiation.
“We’re aware of all those criticisms like, ‘Oh Frankie didn’t play on the record’ and ‘Oh Frankie can’t perform onstage’, but you’ll have to wait. We are a good group but you start to question yourself when people say it’s all Trevor Horn.
“How many people listened to ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’? I’m proud of that, and of ‘War’. If anything they’re better sung than the hits.
“You can’t hear the vocal very well on ‘Two Tribes’.”
Yes. What is that line about black cats?
“Black gas, black gas, silly. That’s about oil surpassing gold. How you might as well be paid in petrol.”
Now that Frankie have established themselves as the most happening thing since, John, Paul, George and Ringo, I get the feeling they’d like to sit back and live some life away from the constant round of TV appearances and media madness.
Holly wants to see his family.
“Haven’t seen them in ages. I’m dying to see my two brothers and my sister Clare.
“They saw the years of struggle, the times when you’re not being taken at all seriously. People saying, ‘Who is this turd? Thinks he’s a singer!’
“But having tasted success, you dread losing it, being a flash in the pan. I’m scared of the disease of sitting on your arse doing nothing.”
Holly decided he was going to be a singer when he was 15 and a pupil at the Liverpool Collegiate where the smart kids went. Holly could have been a lawyer but he cut too many classes.
“I was more interested in dressing up, which led to problems at home. Sexuality wasn’t what worried my parents so much as the make-up and the odd teenage problems. Dad used to keep me in for six weeks at a time.
“When I was 16 I signed on and moved out, but over the years I made friends again with my family.
“That happened to a lot of kids, especially a certain creative type. They were amused and a bit proud cos there wasn’t another lad like me on the block.
“I was never the most popular kid at school, never the one who went out with the prettiest girls. I wrote the weird poetry in English class and started to drift into arty scenes which became new wavey scenes centred around Matthew Street.
“When you got tired of the trendy places you went to the gay clubs cos they were cooler and more colourful.
“Liverpool is full of characters anyway, they’re very uninhibited people who love to be in front of a microphone, even if it’s just singing drunken songs in a pub.
“I met Paul Rutherford through those scenes, Kirklands, The Ascot, bohemia.
“There’s also a lot of cruel humour in Liverpool, so I was used to having the piss taken loads. It makes you a stronger person. Water off a ducks, back.
“What are people who criticise you? Why are they trying to bring you down? Obviously they’re not having as much fun as you are.”
“I lead quite a simple existence. Get up about 5am, take my cleaning in, have a shower. Then I’ll get on my ten-speed Kalkoff bike and come down to ZTT, blah blah. Meet some friends, business lunch…
“When you’re working, every day is different, but I try to get to bed by eleven now. I’m not a night clubber any more.
“The worst thing about work is being organized. Sometimes I’d like to disappear and do me own thing, but the organization always catches up with you.
“I enjoy working. I love singing.”
Do you play games with people, Holly?
“I don’t think so. I don’t present an image. I go through about ten different moods a day, form up to down and back again.
“I get on the bus and I go to Macdonalds. I like the cinema. People play me records they think I should listen to like Beethoven or disco. I love the Prince album.
“When you get some fame, certain people want your opinion who wouldn’t have bothered with you before while others just think you’re a dummy pop star.
“Frankie is about another flavour than the standard pop idol idea. Perhaps that’s why we’ve had an attitude from other groups.
“It’s silly, we’re all doing a job. The cake is big enough for everyone.”
But in 1984 no one will deny FGTH the lion’s share of that particular sponge. Holly wants Frankie to be more like The Beatles than the Sex Pistols.
“Of course! I don’t know whether we’ll still be in vogue next year. We’ve never match the phenomenon of The Beatles. It would be arrogant to compare us to that.”
Do you like being interviewed, Holly?
“To tell the truth,” the blue-eyed bow-tied Holly laughs, “interviews are a bit of a bind. I believe though that this is nothing to what we’ll have to put up with in America. We’ll just get on with it.”
Meanwhile, down in the studio Trevor Horn and Ped are going through some drum tracks. ‘The Pleasure Dome’ is shaping up. The pleasure and the pain that have made Frankie so potent is the difference between ‘Relax’ and ‘Two Tribes’. Both are perfect pop.
Watch out Uncle Sam – Frankie is after your ass.
Just in case you hadn’t noticed…