Title: Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Author: Mark Ward
Source: Music Collector
Publish date: December 1990
FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD
BIG IN JAPAN
The story begins in 1976 when William Holly Johnson joined his first group Big in Japan. They were very famous in Liverpool and they released one single and one E.P. Whilst in Big In Japan, Holly was doing duets with their singer Jayne Casey and playing bass guitar. After the group split, Holly released two 1979 solo singles called Yankee Rose and Hobo Joe.
Paul Rutherford at the same time sang with a group called The Spitfire Boys. They released a single called British Refugee in 1977.
In 1980 after both Holly’s solo singles got nowhere, he got together with Phil Hurst who played drums and a local artist called Ambrose who played the bass. Holly himself was the singer. They named the group Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Ambrose took the name came from a poster on the wall of an old prison cell where they used to rehearse. It had the headline Frankie Goes Hollywood This was advertising Frank Sinatra’s move from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. A fourth member, Steve Lovell, later joined from Tontrix. He played lead guitar. This early line up of Frankie Goes To Hollywood didn’t last long. Soon all the members lost interest and went their separate ways.
In 1982, in Liverpool Holly was shopping in Virgin Records where be met Peter Gill, Mark O’Toole and brother Ged O’Toole. This chance encounter was the start of a new line-up for Frankie Goes to Hollywood when the trio duly joined. In mid-1982 Arista records paid one and a half thousand pound for Frankie to make demos and early videos of Two Tribes and Relax but the record company didn’t like them. Just before 1983, due to the lack of interest by record companies Ged O’Toole decided to leave the group. He was replaced by his cousin Brian Nash who had earlier played in Peter Gill’s early groups The Dancing Girls and The Sons of Egypt.
Frankie played their first gig at Pickwicks, a pub in the centre of Liverpool. At this time they had only written three songs, Love Has Got a Gun, Relax and Two Tribes. At Pickwicks they were supporting a group called Hambi And The Dance. This is where they met Paul Rutherford.
Rutherford was supposed to have played with Hambi And The Dance. He was so amazed when he saw Frankie that he jumped on stage and started dancing and singing backing vocals. From then he became a permanent member of Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
In early 1983 Trevor Horn was looking for artists for his new label ZTT (Zang Tumb Tuum). When he saw Frankie Goes To Hollywood playing Relax. He wanted to sign them immediately. Paul Morley, who worked with Trevor Horn, didn’t like them. Trevor and Paul saw them on The Tube. This was the first time Frankie had ever played on television and was while they were still looking for a record deal.
Paul Morley changed his mind when he heard them playing a session recorded for David Jensen on Radio 1. They were signed by ZTT in May 1983.
The original deal with ZTT was a £250 advance on one single with an option on a second. Trevor Horn’s services would be free of charge. ZTT would pay all recording expenses and Frankie Goes To Hollywood would sell the publishing rights to ZTT’s Perfect Songs for £1000. After a lot of discussion the advance including the publishing rights was upped to £5000. ZTT had signed their first group.
It was not until September 1983 that the band (now Holly Johnson vocals, Paul Rutherford backing vocals, Mark O’Toole bass, (Nash) Brian Nash lead guitar, and Ged (Peter Gill) drums, entered the studio to start work on Relax.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s first single Relax was released on Hallowe’en 1983. In it’s first week in the charts it reached No.77 where it stayed for a week. The record then climbed ten places to No.67. In the first week of December it got to No.55, and a week later had only climbed one place higher. Then disastrously it dropped back to No.55 and the £100,000 poured into the single seemed lost.
At this stage the Frankies were rescued by The Tube who asked Frankie to play live on their pre-Christmas show. Although the band only mimed to a backing track Holly and Paul sang live.
The band awaited the first chart of the New Year knowing that if the record went down again they were finished. When the chart was published the record had gone shooting up to No.35. That week Top Of The Pops contacted the band and asked them to appear, a week later they were at No. 6.
On the 10th January 1984 the record was effectively banned by the BBC. After 92 plays on Radio 1 and two appearances on Top Of The Pops DJ Mike Read, a regular host of Top Of The Pops and children’s TV programme Saturday Superstore was playing Relax on his Wednesday morning breakfast show. He happened to pick up the sleeve and read the lyrics:
Relax don’t do it when you want to suck it to it.
Relax don’t do it when you want to come.
Without pausing for thought Mike Read took the record off halfway through, declared it was “overtly obscene” and without consultation banned it from his show. Two days later that ban was extended to other shows on Radio 1. A few days after that the record went to No.1 and stayed there for five weeks. In Germany it was at No.1 for six weeks and also reached No.1 in France, Spain, Sweden, Greece, The Netherlands, Israel and Thailand.
People didn’t buy the record because of the supposedly offensive lyrics or because of the sudden media interest but because it was the most aggressive, energetic and danceable record they had heard in years. There was talk that the record company had made Frankie Goes To Hollywood change some of the lyrics in Relax but there was no truth in this. However they did make a small mistake when they printed the lyrics on the sleeve of the record. They put the word “suck” in the lyrics and the actual lyric is “sock.” Black Night White Light a more recent Frankie song has got some of the lyrics used in the original early version of Relax:
Chasing the dragon, Get off that wagon boy, Rub your body up
When Mike Read banned Relax, Holly’s father organised a petition. He got 2000 signatures.
Five months after reaching No.1 Relax was still in the Top 40. With over one and a half million copies sold in the UK alone the feeling was that the next single would be a disappointment. Only Frankie and ZTT knew better. Two Tribes the second Frankie Goes To Hollywood single was released on June 4th 1984. In its first two days it sold 500,000 copies and entered the charts at No.1. By mid July Relax climbed up the charts again and went to No.2 at the same time Two Tribes was still at the top.
They where the only group since the Beatles to hold the top two positions of the charts at the same time. The Beatles had done it in January 1968 with Hello, Goodbye and Magical Mystery Tour.
Not everything was going Frankies’ way. The BBC put the ban on Frankie Goes to Hollywood once again. This time it was for the video of Two Tribes. The lyrics “When two tribes go to war” come from the Mad Max II film. At the start of the film there is a talk-over saying that “Two great warriors tribes have gone to war”.
Concurrently, Frankie made their first live appearance since signing for ZTT on The Tube’s Midsummer Night Special. They played War, Two Tribes and Relax. It did little to silence the ‘do they or don’t they play their own instruments?’ debate, but it did satisfy a number of Frankie fans. Estimates ranged for 5-6 million record sales by the end of August 1984.
The Power of Love was the third Frankie single, this also reached No.1 in December 1984. Only Gerry and the Pacemakers had previously reached No.1 with each of their first three releases.
On October 19th 1984 the first Frankie album was released. Called Welcome To The Pleasuredome, it was to be No.l with a pre-release order of one and a quarter million in the UK alone.
At the time of the release of the double LP, Frankie were in Canada preparing for their first live concert in the capital Ottawa on 31st October 1984. In five weeks the band had 22 dates in North America. In Chicago the band was almost involved in a tragedy when the floor in front of the stage collapsed at the Bismark theatre. Security men stepped in quickly and moved fans away from the danger and after an hours delay the band finished their show to a rapturous reception.
In March 1984 Frankie Goes To Hollywood released their fourth single taken from the LP Welcome To The Pleasuredome. It was the title track but the band was not quite so lucky with this one as it only reached No.2.
After the release of Welcome To The Pleasuredome it was two years before anything else was released. In this time Frankie had been doing a European tour and also in the US, Japan, Australia, and then back to Japan. Once back home they began working on new material. They were working on more rock rather than dance music. Something that ZTT had been looking for.
Warriors Of The Wasteland was the first one of the new style songs to be written. All the band had hopes of this being the great come back.
The fifth single to be released was actually Rage Hard. Released in August 1986, it reached No.4 in the UK charts. Then on 1st October 1986 Frankie Goes To Hollywood released their second album Liverpool. This reached No.5 in the UK. Then one month later in November the sixth single, Warriors Of The Wasteland was released. This reached No.19 in the UK but the energy and impetus created at the beginning of Frankie Goes To Hollywood had almost run out.
The track the members liked the least from the new album was Kill The Pain. This track was originally called All Climb Up To Heaven and there was another track called Delirious but this was never put on the album. The track which is liked best on the Liverpool LP is For Heavens Sake. All the members of the band like this one, but the one which was released as the seventh single was Watching the Wildlife. Released in February 1987 this reached No.28 in the UK charts.
On January 10th 1987 Frankie Goes To Hollywood started their European tour. After disagreements in the band they decided to split up at the end of the tour, and the last time Frankie Goes To Hollywood played live together was at their final concert in Rotterdam on March 1st 1987.
On February 10th 1988 Holly won his court battle against ZTT which allowed him to leave the ZTT label and sign a new solo deal with MCA. The rest of Frankie Goes To Hollywood were released from their contractual obligations a week before Holly won his case. In August 1988 Paul Rutherford signed a new deal with 4th and Broadway a subsidiary of Island Records. The outcome of this, and the longterm success of Holly’s own solo career remain to be seen.
TRIVIA TRIVIA TRIVIA TRIVIA
Relax was featured in the film, Police Academy
The impersonation of Ronald Reagan on Two Tribes was by impressionist Chris Barrie, of Spitting Image fame.
The Two Tribes and Power Of Love videos were directed by Godley and Creme, formerly of lOCC.
After Holly left the band the rest carried on as The Lads but no material was released.
FACT FINDER FACT FINDER
FULL NAME: William Johnson
BORN: 19/02/60. Khartoum, Sudan
FULL NAME: Paul Rutherford
BORN: 08/12/59. Liverpool, UK
FULL NAME: Brian Nash
BORN: 20/05/63. Liverpool, UK
FULL NAME: Mark O’Toole
BORN: 06/01/64. Liverpool, UK
FULL NAME: Peter Gill
BORN: 08/03/64. Liverpool, UK
Frankie Goes To Hollywood formed by ex-members of various Liverpool bands
Radio debut on Kid Jenson show
TV debut on The Tube’
Record video demo for Arista
Signed to ZTT
First “Frankie Says…” T-Shirts appear
Relax tops UK chart
Two Tribes tops UK chart
Welcome To The Pleasure Dome LP released
Power Of Love completes triumvirate of UK chart-toppers
LP title track stops short at No.2
Most of year spent touring or in tax exile
Liverpool LP released
Last public appearance, on Saturday Night Live
Break up announced
Holly signs solo deal, ZTT serve injunction
Holly wins court case
FGTH rumoured to be reforming with Dee Harris (ex-Fashion) on vocals.
The following Frankie Goes To Hollywood 7” singles are available from: The Record Club, 122 Lovell Road, Cambridge, CB4 2QP. P&P is as follows: UK 75p on first single then 25p for each additional single; Europe £1.50 first then 50p; Rest Of World £3.00 and then £1.00. You can phone our credit card hot-line on (0223) 311355 or (0223) 462466 (9AM-5PM). We accept Access/ Barclaycard/ Visa. All are original recordings but we cannot guarantee whether or not they come in a picture sleeve.
FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD
Relax/ Two Tribes… £1.99
The Power Of Love… £1.99
Welcome To The Pleasure Dome… £1.99
Rage Hard… £1.99
Warriors Of The Wasteland… £1.99
AUTHOR’S RECOMMENDED SELECTIONS
The following records are the authors suggestions of an ideal introduction to the music of Frankie Goes To Hollywood:
ALBUM: WELCOME TO THE PLEASURE DOME