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Title: Bang! The Best Of Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Author: Andrew Harrison

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD
Bang! The Best Of Frankie Goes To Hollywood
ZTT

Bang! Relax! Hide yourself! Arm the unemployed! Please adjust your dress before leaving! It is impossible to overstate just how fantastic Frankie Goes To Hollywood were In their day.

They had the gargantuan symphonies of pop excess, they had rampant, rapacious homosexuality on a scale never before seen on Top Of The Pops, and a trio of fiendish shag-happy scallies too. Their T-shirts swept the nation like bubonic plague, their promos (Ronald Reagan twisting Konstantin Chernenko’s bollocks? Yes!) were never off the video jukeboxes that began to infest every pub in Britain, their records sold in obscene quantities. They got banned from everything and everywhere. Rock bores hated them. They were ace.

Half the fun was in ZTT’s typhoon of hypermarketing as Dadaist art statement (nine formats of ‘Two Tribes’? Yes!). This audacious carry-on led to as much brow-furrowing in the then-Stalinist pop weeklies as there was hysterical bleating from Mike Read and John Blake. Were the Frankies not symbols of fin de siecle capitalist decadence? Was shag-o-matic heavy-metal disco not inherently immoral? Could they, you know, play their instruments?

The answer on all counts was a resounding “Who cares?” In just two singles - both here - FGTH Mark One reached the pinnacle of everything pop should be. ‘Relax’’s hilarious pelvic-thrust mantra said more about teenage lust than any record before or since, and ‘Two Tribes’ managed the nifty double-header of playing on mid-’80s nuclear anxieties and filling dancefloors too.

After that, an LP was bound to be rather an iffy proposition. Frankie could write good songs, they just couldn’t do it very often, so like the singles before it, ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’’s hubristic double-debut concept wound up heavily padded with covers. Three are on ‘Bang!’: Edwin Starr’s ‘War’ recreated as an eleventh-hour tour de force of nuclear doomsaying, ‘Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey’ revealing the Frankies’ weakness for dewy-eyed fab-gear scouserism as well as a decent conceptual gag, and a riotous homoerotic ‘Born To Run’ which, needless to say, was miles better than Bruce Springsteen’s.

And then they pissed it all away in a five-star rigmarole of tax exile, internal strife, alcohol-assisted writer’s block and the fabled wrangle with ZTT. Trevor Horn spent £800,000 tarting up the half-ideas that made up their ‘serious’ second LP ‘Liverpool’, leaving just ‘Rage Hard’ - with Holly in Dionysian love-god mode - as a reminder of the gigantic Frankie that was.

Oddly enough for this latest in a slew of ‘80s re-releases, ‘Bang!’ is pretty honest warts-and-all stuff, with lots of sludge off ‘Liverpool’ as well as the genius stuff that school discos are made of. But then it never really had an alternative - there’s not a lot of Frankie to choose from.

What does amaze, though, is that it’s got the four-minute versions of ‘Two Tribes’ and so on instead of the sprawling epic 12-inches, studded as they were with funny voices, gags and ludicrously obscure philosophical references. It’s a pity. The real best of FGTH was in the multi-media mayhem they caused, and you can’t put that on a CD.

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ANDREW HARRISON