Title: This is your life part 1: Mark O’Toole
Author: Paul Bursche and Max Bell
Source: No. 1
Publish date: Sept 21 1985
Shock, horror and sexy outrage. That’s probably what most people think first about Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
And now that Frankie have made it massive with three of the biggest selling singles of all time, perhaps they’d think next of the glamorous popstar existence the group are now living — rubbing shoulders with Duran Duran, jet-setting in Japan, songwriting in a beautiful Irish mansion…
But that’s not how Frankie Goes To Hollywood see themselves. Nor is it how those closest to the group see them.
For underneath the wild public face of Frankie are five family men who’ve stayed close to their roots in Liverpool.
No.1 took a trip to their home town to talk to Frankie’s families, to visit their schools and old haunts.
Then we went to Ireland, where Frankie are currently working, to talk about our findings. In a series that starts this week we present:
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – This is your life part 1: Mark O’Toole
Interviews: Paul Bursche and Max Bell. Pictures: Mike Prior and John Stoddart.
Full name: Mark Williams James O’Toole
Born: 16th March 1964, Walton Hospital, Liverpool
Parents: Josephine and John Gerard O’Tool
Brothers: Gerard 26, Vincent 24, Colin 19
Jed, the O’Toole’s oldest son was an early member of Frankie too, but he left at the time the group were securing a record deal with ZTT to look after his own family. He now plays second guitar in the group, accompanying them on all tours. Colin and Vincent also play in a group, Phantasy. Colin is the bass player: “He’s pretty good actually,” concedes Mark graciously. “But not as good as me.” Mark’s thirteen-year-old nephew, Michael, also lives with the family.
Sisters: Patricia 24, Paula 13
Hobbies: Model making
Occupation: bass player with Frankie Goes To Hollywood
FRANKIE GOES TO SCHOOL
Like all his family, Mark OToole was born with jet black hair.
"It’s been the same with all of them," says Josie OToole, his mother.
"Then it goes blond, then it turns what I call dirty fair."
Mark attended three Catholic schools in Liverpool: St. Theresa’s Primary School, then St Matthews Junior School where he failed his 11 +, before going on to St Matthews Secondary School. Mark’s failure in the 11 + exam was highlighted by the fact that, between them, his brothers have amassed 32 O-levels and 8 A-levels, and his youngest brother Colin is now at university.
Mark’s parents weren’t too upset, though.
"He’d always done OK at school," says Josie, "so we knew it wasn’t just because he hadn’t tried or anything. He was always clean and smart as a boy — he used to change his bills (undies) every day. We weren’t disappointed."
Mark eventually left school with seven CSEs.
What Mark did excel at, though, was sport. From an early age he displayed great proficiency at a number of games, including cricket, athletics and football, in which he captained the school team. In fact his teachers thought he was so good at sport they automatically assumed he’d be making a life of it.
"There was one time," remembers Josie, "when his father and I went to an open evening and one of his teachers told his dad that Mark would make a great cricketer one day.
"His dad told the teacher off — told him he wanted him to learn something, not be a cricketer!"
Mark’s sporting life sadly ended at the age of 16 when he broke a shin while playing football. He never played again. From now on it was to be music all the way.
"I remember St Matthews as being a pretty bad school really," states Mark.
"It was the sort of school where we were never allowed out on trips. The reason was that we went up once to see Wordsworth’s house in the Lake District, and afterwards we went to a nearby zoo. And… er… a couple of lads started nicking
animals. They swiped a couple of seals. After that they wouldn’t let us out…
"But there was one teacher, Miss Rooney, who fought to get us trips. She was really great."
"A couple of years ago Miss Rooney was really ill," adds Mark’s father.
"Mark was really sweet, wrote her a letter and everything."
Mark’s first band was formed when he was 12. Called Mark 2, they used to rehearse in the garden of his family’s house.
"They used to play the local social clubs in the area," remembers Josie.
"Mark would get sent round to collect the money cos he was the youngest."
After that Mark was in a number of bands, some with his brothers, before he formed a group with Peter Gill, later to become Frankie’s drummer.
"Ped’s dad used to bring his drums over to our garden and Ped would practise in our shed," says MrO’Toole.
"Before he got together with Mark, he’d been in a group with Colin called Tara Box and then Sons Of Egypt."
The first ever Frankie song was written in the shed at the bottom of the O’Toole’s garden. It was ‘Love’s Got A Gun’. And even at that stage the future members of Frankie were causing controversy. There were complaints from the neighbours.
"It’s strange, though," laughs Josie.
"The people next door hadn’t spoken to us for 12 years. But now… well, they say hullo now!"
LARKS IN THE PARK
The first time Mark’s family saw Frankie play was at Sefton Park. Liverpool, three years ago in the annual Larks In The Park festival. At the time Mark’s brother, Jed, was still the guitarist and their dress was completely outrageous. By this time Holly had joined the group and singing with him was Paul Rutherford.
"Their appearance was atrocious," Mark’s dad reckons. "Musically… sound as a pound but their, er, look left a lotto be desired.
"Holly was outrageous. That first time he had just a G-string on. Good job he did, cos when he bent down you thought it was a cat looking at you."
Josie takes up the tale: "After the gig, we were walking around and we had to lend him a coat, cos he would have been arrested for indecent exposure!"
POP FOR JOBS
By now Mark was working fulltime as an apprentice with the Liverpool city council as a joiner. His cousin Nasher also worked for the council as an electrician.
Mark was having to take leave of absence to comply with the requirements of the ever more successful Frankie.
"They did the ‘Relax’ thing at the State Club for Channel 4," says Gerard O’Toole, "and it just exploded.
"Mark was still working putting up signs in Liverpool’s fruit market when he first got Top Of The Pops. He was doing TOTPs and then going back to work the next day. In the end he had to give up his job. The rest is history."
Indeed. Suddenly the five hip scallies from Liverpool were big news. But Jed O’Toole had been left behind.
"Unfortunately Jed had to leave the band," says his father. "He had to drop out for financial reasons; a wife, his mortgage. I s’pose it was a bit like winning the pools and forgetting to post your coupon.
"But he bears no malice to the lads and he does tour with them. Just one of those things really."
FANS AND FINGS
Mr O’Toole: "It’s affected our lives quite a lot actually, has Mark’s success. Lots of people want to know you all of a sudden. You become a celebrity. People point at us."
"Colin and Vin both look like Mark," says Mrs O’Toole. "And at Christmas both got chased around a lot by fans. We’ll tell people that Mark’s away, they’ll see Vin or Colin, and then come back and tell me I’m lying! It’s funny really."
"What I don’t like," says Mr O’Toole, "is that they have this image as millionaires. You get jealous remarks, snide comments. I’m always ready for them now. They say, ‘Oh, I see your Mark’s alright, he’s got a million’. And I say, ‘Yeah, he’s on his way to his second now’. That shuts them up.
"I was in a pub on Christmas day with Mark. When we go out Mark always gives me his wallet to get a drink in. This guy said to me at the bar, ‘Why don’t you dip it (steal from it)! Dip it while you’ve got it’. I said, ‘You’re joking! He’s just given me £500 to enjoy myself over Christmas’, just to shut him up.
"I know that if I ever wanted money all I’d ever have to do is ask Mark and he’d be happy to give it. But I’m in a position where I don’t have to. I don’t want for anything. Mark’s bought us a lot — hi-fi, this chesterfield sofa, chair etc.
"But that’s because he wants to. "Because he’s our son."