Frankie Satisfies Stateside Curiosity
LOS ANGELES —
Liverpool’s controversial Frankie made more news than music for the 18 months they were sequestered at Sarm West studios to record the double debut album “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome.” Between the furor over the banning of one single and two videos, the uproar over the band members’ sexuality (two of the five are gay) and the reaction to their outspoken —
In England, it all led to the largest advance order on an album in history. In America, it led to a lot of curiosity during the band’s first tour. What is all the fuss about?
“This was a totally untried market for us,” says tour manager Ian Jeffery, former tour manager for AC/DC. “No one knew what was going to happen. So we had lengthy conversations with ICM, and took their advice.”
What happened was a string of sold-out dates from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, including a house at Chicago’s Bismarck Theatre so packed that the floor collapsed from the weight. “Of course, the next day, the headlines said ‘Frankie Sinks The Bismarck,” laughs Jeffery.
“We want to happen in America,” says Frankie vocalist Paul Rutherford, “desperately. But I think it will be hard. We have a very English attitude.”
To help them break the U.S., the band decided to tour here even before touring their homeland. Their tour budget guaranteed that the trip would lose money, because they insisted on bringing AC/DC’s light and sound rigs into clubs with 1,000-person capacities. And they agreed to do literally hundreds of interviews, in-store and television appearances. They have, they say, many misconceptions to overcome.
“I know a lot of people think Frankie Goes To Hollywood is Holly (Johnson) and Paul (Rutherford), and the rest of us are a session band,” says, drummer Peter Gill. “We’re not a session band. We’re all musicians, and we all contribute.”
“We’re not a creation of (producer) Trever Horn,” adds guitarist Brian Nash. “You can’t con people into buying your records. There was only one con that ever worked, and that was the (Sex) Pistols.”
According to Gill; the group’s music is written by himself, bassist Mark O’Toole and Nash. Vocalists Johnson and Rutherford come along later, adding lyrics and ideas. Only then is the material turned over to the marketing and merchandising machine of ZTT Records —
“Every move we’ve made has been vital,” says Rutherford. “There couldn’t be one thing in our career that could be changed, or we wouldn’t be a success.”
“The whole idea of ZTT,” explains Nash, “is to bring back the beauty of the pop single. That’s what made Motown: every record on Motown was just that bit special, had that much more thought behind it.
“Pop music’s a precious thing; it shouldn’t be treated as second rate. When you’re 14, it means the world.”
The band’s first single, “Relax,” is being released to America now that “Two Tribes” has caught on; it stiffed here first time around. “‘Relax’” took three months in the studio to record,” says Nash, “at 1,000 pounds a day. We put a lot of work into it.”
But, he says, the effort paid off —
Upcoming plans for the Frankies include three Christmas dates in their hometown of Liverpool, and then their first major tour of England and Europe. They expect to release a new U.S. single this spring (“Power Of Love” will only be available as an import), either a remixed cut off “Pleasure Dome” or a new tune, and then go back into the studio for a projected summer followup album. A full-blown North American tour is planned to support that release.