The Power of Love: a magical hit in which the secular and the spiritual entwine
Many have used the same song title, but Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s take is a true Christmas classic
Thu 15 Nov 2012
The lights are strung out along Regent Street, golden holly and scarlet berries heralding the official commencement of the festive season, and the signal to prepare ourselves for the glittering traditions of the modern Advent: the X Factor No 1, the ice-rink photoshoot, the feathery bludgeoning of the Christmas advertising campaign song.
Last year it was Slow Moving Millie’s doleful rendition of the Smiths’ Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, employed by John Lewis for their promotional clip of a young boy anxiously counting down the days.
This year, the department store has plumped for another cover—
This is strange, since it has always been this song’s lyrics that have drawn me. I remember watching Frankie Goes to Hollywood perform it on Top of the Pops, when Holly Johnson sat, centre stage, wearing a coat that seemed halfway between a boxer’s dressing gown and a set of pastoral robes—
It was an audacious song, with its references to the Hooded Claw from The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, and—
What stuck with me then, as now, was the peculiar mystery of those lyrics. I had just turned seven when it was first released, and love then was an unknown quantity. “Love is danger/ Love is pleasure,” Johnson sang. “Love is pure, the only treasure.” I was intrigued. “The power of love,” Johnson continued, “A force from above/ Cleaning my soul.” Love was, he insisted, a sky-scraping dove, a fire-tongued vampire-slayer, an energy “rushin’, rushin’ inside of me”.
The following year came two more ruminations on the power of love—
Shortly afterwards sprang the Back to the Future-endorsed hit by Huey Lewis and the News, offering further enlightenment as to what exactly the power of love might be. It was, Lewis explained, “a curious thing” capable of making “one man weep” and “another man sing”.
Lewis, Rush and Frankie Goes to Hollywood are not the only artists to have attempted to distill the power of love in song—
It was only later that I began to view “the power of love” as one of those magical points in music where the sacred and the secular entwine. Where once a gospel choir might have sung of how God wields an almighty power from on high—
“I always felt like The Power of Love was the record that would save me in this life,” Holly Johnson once said. “There is a Biblical aspect to its spirituality and passion; the fact that love is the only thing that matters in the end.” Something to contemplate as we slip into the Christmas shopping frenzy.