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Title: Back to the wild life
Author: Paul Simper
Source: Smash Hits

BACK TO THE WILD LIFE

With a tour and new single (‘Watching The Wildlife’) to promote, Frankie get in some vital wind-up practice courtesy of a dodgy TV spectacular in Rome. Paul Simper faithfully commits the offences to paper. Robert Ellis snaps the evidence.

“A lot of popstars must look at us and think we can get away with anything,” says Mark O’Toole as he prepares for Frankie’s spot on Fantastico!, Italy’s premier music show. “But we still s**t ourselves if we throw a bog roll out the car window and a police car pulls up.”

As if to illustrate the point there’s a loud crash from the dressing-room. Seconds later Ped and Nash emerge hooting with laughter. A few seconds after that a host of irate looking Italian policemen storm up the stairs.

It would seem that some boy was seen launching a hat-stand from the sixth floor window into the alley below. Naturally all knowledge of such an occurrence is denied, but it takes some pretty fancy talking to prevent one and all being carted off for a night somewhere other than the swanky Hotel De La Ville. Whatever, the polizia kindly leave The Lads with the benefit of the doubt… and a few armed guards until they’re called upon to do their thang.

Frankie are obviously getting back into the swing of things. ‘Warriors’ may have stiffed a bit in the homeland but all of Europe is still busy raging hard (Numero Uno for a month in big big Germany) and so the show will go on.

“It was disappointing with ‘Warriors’,” admits Mark in a quiet moment, “because we wrote the songs and we think they are better than the early ones. But it doesn’t matter. You don’t just give in ‘cos you only go to 19.”

Tonight Frankie are doing anything but that. The TV show they’re miming ‘Rage Hard’ on may be an absurd gathering - “like Seaside Special,” quips Holly - but they make the most of it for the 18 million souls who are tuning in, larking about in silly glasses and caps.

It’s a lot more entertaining than Bob Geldof who follows them on with a bit of heart and soul rock and roll legend cool. Frankie are no big Geldof music fans but they are interested to hear all his stories from filming Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

“Roger Waters (Floyd’s rebel leader) was no trouble with me,” says Geldof backstage, absurdly strumming his guitar between each sentence. “I wasn’t that impressed by him so he let me alone.”

The Lads tut at this sacrilegious description of one of their heroes. Paula Yates pops her head round the corner for a kiss from someone. Later over a bevy away from the Geldof gang Mark recalls Frankie’s lack of involvement with Live Aid.

“I think it would have been a bit weird if we’d done Live Aid,” he says. “I couldn’t have handled all that ‘best mates’ still standing next to someone I hated.

“I suppose it was a good cause though. I’d have probably taken a couple of snapshots for the album.”

False bonhomie might not quite be Frankie’s cup of tea but over recent years they have built up a good drinking partnership with the Durans.

“They’re alright,” says Mark. “They have a laugh. We always thought they were a bunch of w****rs until we had a party with them one night and got completely ballooned.

“I think maybe they’re going in the wrong direction a bit at the moment. Not musically but their lifestyles. They’re beginning to look like Rod Stewart and all that shit. If I went like that I wouldn’t go out so the press could see me.”

He pauses. “Me and Laura (his girlfriend) have been snapped out a couple of times but it’s not like we’re walking out into the limo with me grabbing her tit… it might not be Duran’s fault. It’s probably just the press - Stars And Their Model Girlfriends.”

So has having a steady girlfriend calmed Mark down?

“Nah. I don’t think I’ve changed because of Laura. Maybe I’ve grown up a bit but I’m not about to settle down.

“I don’t think anyone of us in the band can pretend that we can afford to do that. I mean you could be selling records for three years then that’s it. You’re 25 and what do you do?”

What would he do?

“I’m interested in producing actually. I’d like to be a really good producer.”

What would happen though if Holly did leave Frankie?

Mark grins. “He won’t. But Frankie wouldn’t be Frankie without the original five. It doesn’t matter who leaves - that’d be it. It would be more dignified for Frankie just to stop.”

Does he worry then about it all being snatched away?

“I think about it every night,” he says as Ped runs past shouting “groggy Sid!”.

“What am I gonna do in ten years and all that. I’m quite a worrier. But then someone else tells you it’ll be alright and you forget about it again.

“One thing I hate is people winding you up the whole time about AIDS – you know, pointing the finger ‘you could be sitting there with it and you don’t know!’”

So as Frankie enter 1987 still intact with a tour and a new single are they excited by the prospect of treading the boards again?

“Yeah, definitely,” says Mark.

“Playing live’s what counts. Doing TV’s alright but really you might as well be watching Bob Monkhouse.”

Mark grins in memory of a past fracas with Mr Monkhouse… “oh yeah, Bob. He gets his head painted.”

Is the tour make or break time for the band though?

“It’s bound to be different I guess,” he says, “because it was so mental last time when we were right in the middle of all the Number Ones. I suppose it’ll either send us up again or…” Another chuckle… “It might just send us further down!”

‘Watching The Wildlife’ seems a bit like a third single. Is it a favourite song of his from the album?

Mark pulls a bit of a face. “Yeah I guess it does sound a bit like a third single but if someone like Paul McCartney brought it out it’d be seen as dead good… I quite like it. People’ll probably slag it down as bland, commercial pop.”

Does he now miss the heyday of The Lads, young free, single and all?

“Oh The Lads is still running,” he says casting an eye in Nash’s direction who’s sitting with his wife Claire, “but Nash has cracked.

“Obviously he wants to spend time with his wife ‘cos he loves her but I wouldn’t say we weren’t further apart.

“When me Ped and Nash were together in The Lads gaff we probably had the best six months of our lives. It was three school lads having the run of the place and having a complete and utter laff every night.

“And we still have a laff but it’s just a question of finding better schemes to stitch people up with.”

Tonight after the show The Lads are actually quite restrained. They were up early to have biscuits tipped over them on No. 73 so it’s Rutherford who goes for it at the local disco Hysteria, taking one and all by surprise with a raunchy guitar solo on his back to Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’.

O’Toole’s got one final story to regail at the hotel bar before beddy-byes.

“The last TV show we did in Europe Spandau had a party at their hotel. Robert Palmer was in front of us when we came in but we didn’t notice. When we’re pissed we get a kick out of just saying really stupid things so we were shouting ‘Robert Palma’ in this stupid Italian accent. We kept on at it for about an hour then left.

“I didn’t see him but one of our mates did and apparently his face was boiling. He was mad to turn round and say something but he bottled it.”