Title: Swiss franks
Author: Helen FitzGerald
Source: Melody Maker
Publish date: May 25, 1985
Finally, FRANKIE relaxed and invited Helen FitzGerald to chase them round picturesque Montreux. So what did happen in that brothel in Frankfurt? What do Frankie and Duran get up to behind closed doors? Who wants to be a millionaire? From the heart of Switzerland, this delirious report… Candid cameraman: Tom Sheehan
“WHO’S girlfriend are you then, love? I see you’re travelling with them. Listen, we’ve heard there’s going to be a party later, sit down with me for a minute, can I get you a drink?”
Everything you imagine about the low-life press is distressingly true. And Suddenly The Sun Say: Pop Sells Papers - and grown men and women are sent to all corners of the globe with the sole intent of exaggerating and, if necessary, lying about the everyday trivia of someone whose name we all recognise. No morsel is too absurd - and it’s getting worse. The fact that Simon Le Bon’s new-shorn “shock” hairstyle (“I can never feel the some about you again,” signed “your number one fan”) didn’t make the front pages is probably down to the Bradford fire disaster - which is a bit frightening.
Simon was instead relegated to on inside downpager, but would you have been surprised to see them share prime billing? Remember Andrew’s nose job, Boy George’s mansion, the Duranies coke habits? It’s all here in your glorious, friendly, family newspaper…
And they’re all here. Camped in the foyer, eyes glued to every entrance, some trying to blend in, others too blase to bother, they pester Frankie’s publicist like determined desert flies. Hey, yo understand we have a job to do as well. We’re only human. By the way… is it true Holly spent three grand on leather gear In Ibiza last week? What’s the story on Nasher wrecking those hire cars? (Nash crashed one car, by accident of course. “Frankie quit Ibiza leaving trail of wrecked hire cars” ran the story.)
Is Holly’s boyfriend here? The two guys from People magazine come knocking on our door at 4am. (Party noises were too much for their nosy constitution.) “We’d like to see Holly please.” He’s asleep. “Well maybe a few pictures just, yes?”
This is all true.
EVERTHING IS POSSIBLE (One Night In Montreux)
Ah, one night in Montreux in this company and what more could you want? The Casino that hosts this tacky Golden Rose Festival is just like your local Mecca Bingo hall - right down to the worn brown and orange check carpet.
This is not opulence but, of course, it’s the company you keep that’s important. They’ve all come to mime to their records in front of an audience who are mainly irrelevant. They just make the festival aura. It’s the four and a half million TV audience that’s the bait. Most of them don’t want to be here but they know the score.
Besides you get to meet a few old chums - Elton dahling, haven’t seen you for so long. Most are just here to do their jobs and move on. Tears For Fears and Depeche chum it up at the bar. Howard Jones and his wife chat in a corner.
Sting makes a grand entrance, nose in the air, projecting that splendid air of complete indifference while the eternally pert Agnetha is getting rattled cause she’s being overlooked. Noel Edmonds is buzzing around somewhere, but no-one’s quite sure exactly why he’s here.
The Frankies of course, are on form. The last 12 hours have been strange and the best is yet to come. Last night we travelled 10 miles up a mountain to a non-existent party (Claude Nobs, where do you live?), drank everything including Kirsch and even smashed the bottle to eat the pear inside, listened to Pink Floyd all night at Mark and Nasher’s insistence and dispersed only when Nash had poked in the lavatory and Ped had reluctantly muttered: “It’s not that I’m blueyed, I really want to go to bed.”
This morning we were buying diamond earrings with Mark. The sombre Swiss jewellers had never seen the like.
“Do you think they’re dead ostentatious or what?” he’s giggling.
“Nah I’ll take the smaller ones, these ones are girl’s earrings.”
A dozy waiter resigned all over the lunch at the hotel. His slothly pace provoked a “Where’s the soup, dickhead?” from our table. Unfortunately the guy’s English was less elementary than first suspected. Frankie make a Lifestyle of putting their foot in it. Everything you’ve seen and heard is true.
Holly: “We provide a distraction, an entertainment, a fantasy. Oh, you could definitely say that it’s the cliché of wanting to escape your surroundings. Not that my surroundings were unhealthy or bad, but they were poor, you know what I mean?” He laughs.
“There’s nothing unrespectable about being poor. We still are - believe it or not… we still are.”
Paul: “I can understand now, being on this side the fence, how people get cold and aloof, that whole trip y’know? Cos it is a lot to deal with, the way people treat you and everything. You get very cushioned, cut off from reality.”
There is no hierarchy, there are no divisions. No social or sexual stereotyping here. Exaggeration is funny, a “vibe”.
Holly: “If it does people’s heads in, I like it.” And if you can’t see the point… you’re not trying hard enough.
Holly’s very crafty in the nicest of ways and droll beyond belief. He is impossibly likeable. “What do you think of these kegs, then? They’ve got a special seam to make me bum stick out.”
Paul feels like he’s watching a permanent film, only it’s a brilliant film, one you don’t want to end. Paul is possibly one of the dearest men alive.
“We’re all into very different things and yet we’re all into the some things. I played a Mozart tape on the bus the other day and the lads had hysterics. They made me take it off. But the whole thing is totally mad. The five of us were walking down a beach in Ibiza the other day and it was, what the hell are we doing here? You really forget where you were the day before yesterday. It’s very strange.”
Nasher acts the wild boy, but he’s a little boy let loose in the biggest toy-shop he’s ever dreamed of. But Nasher knows what nihilistic means, don’t let the Van Halen and Led Zep tapes fool you. He may well have a better grasp of the real world than you or I.
Mark is thinking about everything. Seeking things outside his previous terms of reference but not wanting to lose touch with the grounding influence of “Lad” cameraderie.
“I’m just growing up. I wouldn’t want to be totally cool - but I wouldn’t want to be a total lad either.” He’s got his head together.
And Ped. Ped’s the dark horse and an acknowledged cornerstone. He doesn’t say a lot but he’s alert to what’s going on before it even happens. El Presidente knows a lot more than he’s telling.
“It’s just a word, sex… it’s the word ‘sex’ that the lads like to mess around with, not the actual act. I don’t know, it gives us like, a mad-front. I suppose.” (Peter Gill from “And Suddenly There Come A Bang”)
LET YOURSELF BE BEAUTIFUL (People Think You’re Weird When You Tell Them The Truth)
THE People people are skulking in the foyer which, to the trained eye, means that Frankie are partying it up again. This time Duran are the sole invitees and from behind closed doors I can exclusively reveal - …aaargh, it’s catching.
Andy “King Weed” Taylor and Nasher are soulmates and drag a fridge across the room to investigate its contents. If beer does not arrive in minutes, veiled threats have been made concerning the in-house TV and video console. Mark and JT are slagging each others’ heorthob status, Paul’s chattering with Nick and Julie-Anne, the champagne’s arrived and Holly and Simon are both looking ravishing.
Someone has scattered Duran fan mail all over the bathroom floor and Martin Gore just sneaked in wearing that strange black skirt. A very memorable evening all round. Beyond that, my lips are sealed.
OH, DO WE HAVE TO BE SERIOUS NOW?
MARK: “The new stuff we’ve done is great. Some of it is dead poppy and some of it is a bit weird.”
HOLLY: “Put it this way… our relationship with ZTT is a purely business relationship, purely business. More than that I cannot say. Except they never had more influences on us than we had on them. Though they might think that they had. Trevor has given is a very individual sound, we always had an individual sound but he’s made it technically flawless.
“In fact we’re a very rough band,” he laughs. “That’ll show itself in the new records.”
Paul: “The new songs are harder, a bit more rock ‘n’ roll maybe, but then they’re very Frankie as well. ‘Watusi Love Luicy!’ Lisyen! We’re the silliest bunch of fuckers around but that’s healthy, to me it’s healthy to have that.
“Playing live has done a lot for us – it’s still, like, a big thrill. Even when you’re not feeling up to it or have a hangover or something, you forget about it when you’re up there. I think musically speaking, playing live has been very good as well. We’ve learned a lot.”
Mark: “You lie awake sometimes worrying about writing more songs and that. You lose touch with your friends. I’ve only really got one mate left who’s been great about it all. Hello Paul Barry. He’ll be dead chuffed if he gets a mention.”
Frankie, in fact, have a lot more in common with John, Paul, George and Ringo than mere geography. This statement is potentially outrageous and possibly true. But before their bell tolled the Fab Four certainly weren’t averse to a little, ahem, fun.
Frankie are consummate realists, yet they are judged to be absurd. This in itself is very amusing.
“Ooooh – do you think she means we’re psychedelic, boys?”
Frankie are for people who read Tom Robbins and gaze at the sky. Also Frankie are for everyone. This is a very equitable arrangement indeed. Closet hippies and Cosmonauts, there’s room for us all.
That is the official Frankie vibe.
…THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
PAUL: “I don’t attach too much importance to any of it really. I’m glad we’re being treated more like a band now. I think the press have got over the shock of it all. I love it but I know it’s transitory, nothing to get excited about. That sounds very facetious but it’s not meant to.
“I just mean that it’s not the be-all and end-all. You’re constantly being brought down to earth – like meeting sick kids and that. You’re glad to have given them something… but you feel dead weird that meeting you have made even a tiny difference to their lives. Sometimes it really does my head in. I’d never leave though, never ever…”
The party’s over and the debris is quite impressive. Mark and Simon are lingering over a bottle of port and swapping stories that a getting more and more vulgar as time wears on. What are the most important qualities in a good minder. What it’s like to feel invulnerable sometimes. What Paul and Mark did in a Thai restaurant in Brussels. Why Simon needs to do that boat race. The story of the Frankfurt whore-house. All totally unbelievable, all wonderfully true.
“They’re alright, the Duran boys, aren’t they?” Mark jibes. “An’ you thought they were going to be right bastards.”
Simon says he’ll do an interview with me if I show him my tits. The offer is declined, gracefully of course, and we come to an amicable arrangement. Simon’s asking Mark if it would be okay for him to get up on stage with him in New York, “just for a couple of numbers.”
Frankie Goes To Hollywood are special – everybody knows that. They are also quite a conventional rock ‘n’ roll band. This is what annoys people, I think.
Paul: “I know people think we’re dead uncouth but it’s all a game really. Mark and me got slung out of a Thai restaurant in Brussels a while back for having a fight with them hot towels they give you. It got a bit out of hand. We were over there doing a TV appearance. The studio wrote a letter to Island saying they never wanted us to come back there.
“We got a bit cocky with them cause we got this dead scabby dressing room and they were drooling all over Jermaine Jackson. So we ordered hundreds of sandwiches and stuff and then chucked it all over the corridor. They weren’t very pleased about that.
“That sounds dead rock star, doesn’t it? We’re not like that really. We’re always having a laugh with Duran about them having bigger limos than us.”
Holly endeavours to look elegant in the cruel light of morning but even he is subdued. They fly to Boston this morning for the first date of the American tour. Mark has been up all night and Nasher can’t remember where he is.
“Oh, it’s always like this,” Holly grins, “especially when we meet Duran. It’s like, clear the aisle.” Wolfgang looks a tad pissed off. It’s just another town, another airport for him and America stretches far over the immediate horizone.
“I’m dreading it,” Paul groans, groping around for the tapes he was playing last night. “Has anyone seem me ‘Aladdin Sane’?. America is a bit much, even for us. It’s a bit of a head trip – you know what I mean?”
Frankie’s minder is a 17 stone skinhead with a colourful past who breeds tropical fish and is a perfect gentleman. He’s given Simon quiet tips on the art of self-protection. Hand to hand combat. Simon was almost roughed up in Paris and he’s still a bit shook up. Mark and Simon are having a hug in the hall and Fleet Street have missed their big moment.
No stamina, these hacks, they’ve all tracked off to bed. “Back to their lairs where they belong,” Holly’s giggling. “We really led them a dance this time. We did a photo-call for them but we wouldn’t all go out at the same time, we went out in pairs so they couldn’t use anything for a poster. Oh, we have them well sussed.”
Cars arrive to ferry us all out to Geneva airport. Holly makes me sit between him and Wolfgang and them goes to sleep on my shoulder. Holly is a bad boy.
“Was it how you thought we’d be?”. Oh indeed sir, everything and more. “Holleeeeeeeeee…” the girls were screaming outside last night and he smiled that enigmatic smile. “It gets them every time…”
Frankie are an education and a blast. “Alright there gerl, we’ll see you again an’ don’t forget – Viva El Presidente!”