Or: Frankie goes completely over the top. ROSE ROUSE braves brickbats and insults and attempts to tame Paul Morley’s Liverpudlian BEASTS
MY MISSION: to ascertain whether Frankie Goes To Hollywood have got talent, or whether they are merely a vehicle for Paul Morley’s sleazy aesthetic and seedy aphorisms, and the clawing ambition of Zang Tumb Tuum. A hollow or hallowed tomb, depending on your vantage point!
Also: to establish whether Frankie Goes To Hollywood are willing victims or helpless converts to the Trevor Horn treatment. Is it the art of production over matter? And does it matter?
In addition: to delve into the scheming behind this SEX talk. IS it a stance or just a prance across the publicity sheets?
Their mission: to destroy. Promotion by commotion. To deter examination. Havoc on demand. To fabricate a mind of their own. By loud, abusive recrimination.
My mission was inadvertent (I had to force myself).
Their mission was inadvertent (they couldn’t help themselves).
There’s a big difference. It’s one of intelligence. A big expectation under the circumstances…
“Do you hate us? I hate you.” Mark, bass. Intense paranoia and stare.
“You’re going to write that we’re a load of bollocks, aren’t you?” Brian, guitar. Curly hair and fear.
“Stab it in the arse.” Peter, drums. Gross indecency and genuine indifference.
From the slime to the sublime. And back.
Admittedly, I set off for Newcastle and The Tube in an ambiguous state of mind.
I first saw Frankie Goes To Hollywood last March, at Camden Palace. They were abysmal. A pub rock band who had discovered decadence. They weren’t corny enough. They were tawdry with an ingrained lassitude. They performed non-committal, bored porn-rock with the injection of someone who has to do it for money every day. There was a worn-out peep-show indifference that permeated their performance. Their gay leather-groined front wasn’t even bravado. Their whip-clutching female back was an emaciated version of raunch. The potential was in their dreams and nowhere near actuality. I had the effrontery to rename them — Bert Goes To Clacton.
“My friends wouldn’t let me forget it for a week.” Holly, lead vocals. Soft voice and barbed insinuation.
I also mentioned in the review that their stereotyped, tired act was an insult to the gay community. Later, I realised that I’d forgotten to include an insult to the heterosexual community as well. On meeting them, I soon remembered.
“We expected you to be a big dyke,” said Brian.
That was March and my memory. In June, I got the word that Paul Morley was interested in signing Frankie Goes To Hollywood to his and Trevor Horn’s new label Zang Tumb Tuum. Shocked? I was amazed. Later, it occurred to me that the Horn/Morley combination presented a perfect team for fulfilling fantasies and enhancing their own.
Horn had the techniques and equipment. Morley had the desire and overblown word-power. Production and propaganda were about to step out, hand-in-hand. A shot-gun wedding. Morley was pregnant. Horn made an eager father.
That was June and pre-judgement. At the end of November, I was drowning my porridge with lashings of honey when I heard it. Radio One and the morning’s relaxation —
I had heard it before. Where? Yes, there, at the Palace. But that was the nasty, distorted heavy metal version. This was a decadent Fairlight mix, heavy on the souped effects and McLaren-introduced edges. Wham, bam, right into my face. ’Relax, don’t do it, when you want to go to it, relax, don’t do it when you want to COME.’
The simulation techniques were working at last. Radio One had admitted SEX into its sloshy, grey morning airplay. It was exciting. Bert had come back from Clacton and gone down to Elstree. The studio lights shimmered with new vigour. An incision had been made. ‘Relax’ had retorted.
BEAUTY AND THE BEASTS
MORLEY, MORE an ostrich of a bird than a monster of a man, settled into the train seat with his modern day Barbarella. They consumed a 32 fluid ounce bottle of Whiskey, whispered exclusively and lolled provocatively.
“He’s just a div, old Morley,” says Holly.
They gave out a strange air of shady protectiveness. They didn’t want to generate, they wanted to degenerate wantonly. Invitations weren’t part of the ritual. The rock ’n’ roll myth is perpetuated in unexpected quarters.
Towards the end of the three-and-a-half-hour journey, I separated them, unceremoniously, with questions. Morley was reluctant and, oddly, nervous. His fingers panicked, they were bitten and bare. Sex part and parcel of the Morley immorality campaign. He likes to live it out. He likes to give that impression.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood make a great platform for Morley’s own excess and his need to exhibit it. They fulfil his desire. He fulfils their ambition. With the help of a friend…
Morley eventually explains that he first became interested in Frankie Goes To Hollywood when they initially appeared on the Tube and had been turned down by all the record companies because they were too over-the-top.
“They wouldn’t touch us with a barge pole,” says Holly.
Morley leapt in at this point. The attraction was instantaneous.
The situation was too ironic to resist —
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” says Morley.
Morley has been roundly admired in the media for putting his body where his mouth is, or where his pen was. It’s true his movement deserves merit, but his beliefs also require deliberation. Continue »
He also claims that Frankie Goes To Hollywood, along with Boy George and Marilyn, are putting an ‘edginess’ into music which businessmen like Wham! and Spandau Ballet have removed. I don’t agree. Their sexuality/bisexuality/gayness may be a good marketing point, a wonderful image maker, and they may hopefully disintegrate some prejudices, but they only add frivolity to the actual music. Good and bad frivolity, but still only…
As I finish talking to Morley a simple little question slips out. What do the boys think of this propaganda machine? He seems a little embarrassed. “Well, I think some of the band are pissed off with all the gay publicity. You see, only the two singers, Paul and Holly, are gay, the other three are not. They are Liverpudlian scallywags.”
INTO THE WAR ZONE
AS SOON AS I had the pleasure, I regretted it. With feeling. We had arrived by this time. In Newcastle, at the Tyne Tees studios. Our first encounter was with Paul, the quiet shy ones with the sailor’s hat, the moustache, the smile and the glass of Beaujolais Nouveau to calm his nerves. He was the picture of gentleness. Little did I know what lay in store for me in the Green Room.
Jools Holland was talking to the formidable French and Saunders while Morley and Barbarella had already discovered the drinks. I rushed to the bar, looked across the room and saw BEAST number one —
Innocently, I waved, I walked over to be greeted with a barrage of “God she’s an elf”, “God she’s so small” shock-horror from Mark, Brian and Peter while Holly pelted me with neon plastic bullets.
It was my come-uppance for that review. And at this point it was friendly. Not for long… the beasts had yet to reveal the ist in their interpretation of SEX. What prejudices did Morley say ZTT were destroying?
LIVE ON THE TUBE
THAT’S THE best joke I’ve heard today. Paul is apprehensive. “To be honest, I’m bottling.”
And they were miming. The boys were imitating Horn’s version of themselves. Bert Goes Back To Clacton and does not collect £200 for passing the recording studio. FGTH blamed the Pentecostal Choir for taking all the tracks. I blame Horn and Morley for hatching this chicken themselves.
Anyway, as Lisa, Mark’s wife, puts it so appositely over the phone to him: “You all looked like a bunch of c***s”. Quite. They did look totally half-hearted and unconvincing.
Morley had described to me on the way up the function of the imported ‘tarts’ to dress up the show. They are, he says, trying to phase them out, only this time the Tube insisted. They wanted a decadence so FGTH had to provide it. Morley is aware that they are being controlled, he also knows he needs the TV time. He shrugs his shoulder carelessly. What really excites him is ‘Relax’s chart success.
Live on the Tube, they looked dead tired and still tacky despite the tuxedos. ‘The model’ cavorting stiffly on the motorbike added exactly the plastic interpretation of sex they don’t need. Suspenders, leather bra and pubic hair poking out, she was Readers Wives all over.
Ultimately, they couldn’t live up to the power of their single.
Meanwhile, Barberella was wetting herself in front of the stage and Morley was complaining that she should have taken it all off.
Back in the dressing room, the loud lip resembled the lower jaw of a rugby club mouth. Continue »
“You bitch you’re going to write that we’re crap.” —
“Why aren’t you wearing any make-up?” —
“If you want some bare arse, here I’ll bare some.” —
“I like your earrings. You’re a cow.” —
A little later, after interminable raucous shouting and sexist screaming I put it to them that they seemed to be overcompensating for the gay image that the band had given themselves.
“We’re not a gay band, we’re a band who just happen to be fronted by a couple of faggots,” says Brian, revving up.
“You thing this is an act. Have you ever been to Liverpool? This isn’t contrived. We’re always like this. The Lads.” adds Peter, revving down.
“We’ve been categorised as gay by the press but if there’s one thing that Frankie Goes To Hollywood will prove, it’s that they are capable of the unexpected,” says Brian.
I won’t say anything yet.
THE BIG WITHDRAWL —
THE GRAND DEFEAT — THE CENTRAL DEMISE
THERE WAS one enormous item that seemed to be bothering them from the beginning. From the playfulness of the Green Room to the mainline ructions in the Tyne Tee studio canteen, one pervading concern occupied their tiny minds. The media had deemed them sexually outrageous and they were being limited by it.
“This is probably the last show were we’ll have and sexual innuendo.”
“We’re sick of being portrayed as depraved sexual deviants We’re not. That’s just the press,” says Holly.
Aren’t you forgetting just one thing? They did actually, purposely, cultivate this image for themselves. Holly ill-advisedly admitted this earlier on.
“We used the gay front as a publicity ploy. It worked. But now it’s over. Haven’t you noticed the suits today?”
What they are saying is, that they would like their jelly double-sided, KY on one side, blackcurrant on the other. Oooh, they have got a nerve haven’t they? They blatantly sell themselves on their gay leather-bound bravado and then blame the press.
Their perpetual underlying fear is that they can’t live up to their image so they’d rather get out of it quickly. Go hetero and wait for it —
“I want power,” —
What sort of power do you mean?
From soft to hard. From flaccid to flatulent.
Pix by Steve Pyke