Title: Hollywood comes to Liverpool
Author: David Dorrell
Publish date: 26th February, 1983
HOLLYWOOD COMES TO LIVERPOOL
Frankie’s boys are out to upstage the rest of the human race. DAVID DORRELL assesses their claim for star status.
EPIC STARS need epic locations, epic directors, epic movies and a double measure of epicurean philosophy: why think small when you can act big.
That, in part, is the Frankie Goes To Hollywood text book guide to screenplays; though the realities of life in Liverpool are somewhat harsher. And of course smaller.
Still, it’s not surprising that they choose the dry, crusty air of London’s British Museum for this scene; the Mausoleum like expanses of marble and dust would not be out of place for the Burton-Taylor love pact in Anthony And Cleopatra. And eyes are raised and fingers are pointed whenever these urbane, urban gauchos clank into sight; these are obviously epic stars and this is, of course, the stuff of dreams.
The basic Frankie Goes To Hollywood — Holly (vocals), Marc (bass), Brian (guitar) and Ped (drums) — came about six months ago. The second front man, Paul, joined a while later from a local group the Spitfire Boys.
Now without doubt they are Liverpool’s nastiest new property; they are more seductive in their aggression than The Pale Fountains for all their twee fluidity, and more original in their simple studded garb than a sanctuary full of Seagulls. Gigs are filled with apparent ease; mainly by word of mouth. Now the word is spreading like herpes and it seems doubtful as to whether the banks of the Mersey will contain them much longer.
On stage (as in real life) the band are a leather-bound bordello of punk funk; whipping up a scorching, sleazy beat whilst Paul and Holly shed layer upon layer of blackskin and sweat: all much to the frenzied appreciation of their burgeoning ‘chain gang’ fans.
And, of course, there are the girls, officially The Leatherpettes (nee Julia and Marie) who do most of the actual whipping; clad in the slinkiest PVC and buckskin outfits this side of S&M Weekly they bestride the stage — snapping any opposition to the band’s ‘act’ with a quick crack of the bullwhip. There is nothing like a Frankie gig for purging the soul of any clean thoughts. Honest.
THE THREE of us (Holly, Paul and myself) are sitting on a bench in the Roman Department. Amidst the musty antiquities we resemble three wanton extras from an orgy scene; Holly peppers the conversation with Kewpie Doll laughs and matinee idol catchphrases like “Don’t be so tacky daarlin’!” whilst Paul lounges comfortably with an On The Waterfront air of ‘cool’; the medal-bedecked guard frowns constantly. This is sacrilege — but it’s fun.
Did you cull the name from a film?
“Well yeah… in a way,” nods Holly, his answers couched in a warm scouse brogue, “it is a movie, that’s how we describe it. This is the movie and this is your audition. It’s about, like, a bunch of working class Liverpool kids who have been influenced by TV, movies etc., and this is their reaction against it… or towards it. And that is exactly how it is.”
So you’re moving towards the stars?
“That’s part of it. When we get there we’ll split up. Know what I mean… (with a laff, a sly intimation that I do know).”
With all stars (and Frankie are stars, though more Diana Dors than Diana Ross) image is everything. Appearance is paramount. So where did the biker boy cloning come from?
Holly: “It’s the way we live our lives. Everyone lives their own lives… we do one thing and you do yours… nice hat by the way.”
You can’t help but blush nervously, the man is so disarmingly honest.
Paul continues in a slightly deeper seam of Liverpudlian: “We’d do it in any case… the same clothes that we do to the hilt. It just happens to be a really hard image… it shocks people. We don’t really want to shock people like… it’s not an image. It’s clothes really.”
But how tongue in chic is it?
Holly: “I don’t think that there’s anything chic in it. Fashion’s a weird one — haven’t you heard of style?”
The mock Hollywood babe accent throws things completely; and therein lies the appeal of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. The stage show with its Mad Max II influences expands the Boy George ‘androgynous appeal’ syndrome until it takes in all aspects of sexuality until it is completely warped, totally perverted. This ‘cabaret’ is the most open, the most harmlessly hysterical sex shop you can imagine. Which still prompts you to ask — how much of this is a send up?
Holly: “Oh totally!”
Paul: “When we’re on stage it’s fun. We are sending it up… but it’s not a comedy thing.”
Holly: “It’s a buzz. Those girls (the ‘Pettes), when they were 16 they got into The Rocky Honor Show… and they’re still doing it, but now they’re living it. If you lived in Liverpool — everybody’s off their cake, basically. 16 year-old girls on smack and stuff…”
Are you a backlash then?
Holly: “We’re just a symptom of it. The hottest symptom obviously.”
Or are you just escapists?
Paul: “It is — we wanna get off the streets.”
Holly: “The competition is so fierce.”
Paul: “It’s something to do with the social climate up there. People are really striving to get off the streets. The streets in Liverpool are full of shit… dogshit.”
Holly: “Vermin!” He squeals in delight at his mock disdain for the home town and continues. “We love everybody in Liverpool and they luv us…!”
And they do. Unfortunately there has already been a cool reception in some quarters for this ‘hottest of symptoms’; the BBC’s Riverside show found them far too hot. Still, their video is doing the rounds (as Holly calls it, “the Erazerhead of videos”) and they’ll be on The Tube any week now. Other acts that use some of the same ploys have had a much more favourable response — The Village People, Queen, Boys Town Gang. Is there any link?
Holly: “Tell him to eat shit baby!”
Paul (drily): “Cut conversation. These comparisons are very dull.”
Holly: “If you have to show any comparisons, be sure that this is the harder side of that. They’re like dolls. Even though Freddie Mercury looks like that generally, and I’ve seen him at clubs… I just think they’re nice.”
“We’re much heavier!”
Then all I can say is, if you’re not purely clones, what are you? Mirrors?
Holly: “It reminds me of the Victorians in some way… where they had a really straight attitude on the surface, but it was just to hide the real debauchery that went on. I think it is a definite reflection of like… the pimps and hookers of society are just a reflection of the way the top level, economically speaking, is run. Know warrimean?”
Paul: “I think that Frankie Goes To Hollywood throws that in their faces.”
Holly: “It’s nightlife, subculture and sexuality all rolled into one. I think that’s a good phrase for it.”
Holly seemed quite pleased with that as a round-up. So am I. So the credits start rolling and Paul tells me that they want to be “the biggest fucking things to walk the earth.”
Don’t doubt it. I can remember another band from Liverpool, another set of silver screen stars saying just the same thing 20 years ago… FIN.