“THEY’VE TRIED to ban it, burn it and bait it—
That’s the text of ZTT Records’ faintly ridiculous advertisement for Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Relax’; the subject of a sudden outbreak of moral indignation which afflicted Radio One’s Mike Read and led to the network’s decision to refrain from playing the disc except late at night; presumably because they think all
Jensen and Peel’s listeners are beyond redemption anyway.
Fortunately this unofficial ban came too late to stop ‘Relax’ from dethroning Paul McCartney’s sterile ‘Pipes Of Peace’, a record which, to my mind, is far more offensive, as is its contrived video—
Frankie Goes To Hollywood have had a rather strange chart career, ‘Relax’ debuting on the chart way back on 12th November 1983, and taking 12 weeks to reach number one. In so doing, it has equalled the longest unbroken chart residency attained by any record on its way to the top.
Usually, if a record is going to make number one, it does so quickly. However, apart from ‘Relax’, Mantovani’s ‘Moulin Rouge’ and Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’ also reached the summit on chart week 12.
‘Relax’ also bears the distinction of being one of the few records to falter on its way to chart honours, having dipped from number 54 to number 55 on 17th December, before recovering.
It’s only the third number one to conquer such a setback this decade, joining John Lennon’s ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ and Kraftwerk’s ‘The Model’.
Lennon’s turnaround was tragically inspired by his death. Kraftwerk’s progress from 2 to 3 to 1 was simply the result of a short-lived economy measure in the compilation of the charts, which briefly eliminated the use of expensive messenger services, with the effect that the hugely influential ‘Top Of The Pops’ boosted records’ fortunes two weeks after they were aired on the show.
The consequent bizarre movements of several discs quickly brought the experiment to an end. There are no obvious reason why ‘Relax’ should have encountered a hiccup on its way to the top.
The produce and co-author of ‘Relax’ is Trevor Horn, who also produced America’s current number one, Yes’s ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’, which peaked at number 28 in Britain.
Horn’s exploits must be something of an annoyance to Paul McCartney whose ‘Say Say Say’ duet with Michael Jackson was ousted from the US apex by Yes a week before ‘Pipes Of Peace’ gave way to ‘Relax’ here.
McCartney has expressed his dislike for FGTH’s single, and is known to have been keen on John Lennon’s ‘Nobody Told Me’ replacing his own single at the top of the British chart.
‘Pipes Of Peace’ was the 27th British number one single to be produced by George Martin, a total which puts him in a tie with the late Norrie Paramor as producer of most number ones.
By contrast, ‘Relax’ is only the second chart topper produced by Trevor Horn.
The first was ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’, a joint effort with Geoff Downes, his fellow-Buggle. Downes, Horn and Bruce Woolley also wrote the song.
When the Buggles bubble broke, Downes and Horn became members of Yes, which disbanded in 1980.
Horn re-emerged to produce hits for Dollar, ABC and Spandau Ballet though surprisingly the biggest hit he produced between ‘Radio Star’ and ‘Relax’ was Malcolm McLaren’s 1983 effort, ‘Double Dutch’, which crested at number three.
The formation of ZTT, in which he has a financial stake, and the re-forming of Yes, though without either Horn or Downes as members, has given the bespectacled Horn a hectic last few months behind the control panel, with the reward of being one of very few producers to be responsible for the number one single on both sides of the Atlantic, by different artists, at the same time.
Meanwhile, Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ went to the top of the album chart for the first time since last June, and the fourth time in all. As I said when Paul Young’s ‘No Parlez!’ completed its fourth stint at the top a fortnight ago, only 10 albums have previously enjoyed more than three separate runs at number one…