Go Frankie go!
Paul Bursche on the tour that turned Mark O’Toole into a teen idol. Photos by John Stoddart.
I step out of the taxi and a loud groan goes up.
What’s up? My presence has caused some bad reactions before, but not this bad.
But as far as the thirty or so fans grouped around the Glasgow Holiday Inn are concerned, my main, problem is that I’m not Mark O’Toole, or any member of the Frankie clan come to that.
If I were, the reaction might just have been a little different.
It’s lunchtime and here are the group, tumbling down after last night’s exertions.
Ped is steaming through the all-day breakfast while Nash takes his with a huge glass of milk, his patent hangover cure. Holly, a renowed early riser, was up hours ago, swimming in the pool next to the bar.
The purpose of my visit is to turn the spotlight on Mark, fast emerging as the hottest sex symbol since John Taylor.
It was Taylor who recently complimented Mark for his services to the image of bass players everywhere. But this means nothing to Ped and Nash.
“D’you realise, Ped?” asks Nash, “that it’s only me and you that haven’t had a No. 1 cover by ourselves yet?”
“It’s just not on,” Ped agrees.
But Frankie are going to be glad of it. As part of the course that’ll take them into the next ten years of success, they need a bona fide pin-up.
Already this tour has seen the transformation of Frankie from cultural phenomenon into classic rock band, with the five distinct personalities and roles coming to the fore.
There’s Holly, singer and extrovert; Paul, onstage dervish, offstage diplomat; Nash, guitars and rock’n’roll antics; Ped, drums and a firm grip on reality.
And Mark. Bass player, boy about town, sex symbol.
A new god?
After the soundcheck —
It’s quiet, intimate and very dark. A young fan approaches, for the moment not spying Mark, who makes a comment causing her to turn and actually gasp aloud. She’s struck speechless.
Nasher and Ped wade In.
“Go on, touch ‘im,” guffaws Nash.
“Can I?” she whispers —
“Touch ‘is hair, it’s great,” suggests the ever-helpful Ped. “Give ‘im a kiss, he’ll like that!”
Mark suffers the abuse in stoic silence, blushing furiously. But he gets his own back later. Nash, he tells me, is jealous because he used to get most of the fan mail and now Mark does.
Paul arrives, looking as immaculate as ever, and he and Mark go for a swim —
Mark and Paul get on very well. A lot’s been said about the three lads and Paul and Holly. On this tour it’s not working out like that.
Holly is very rarely seen —
“Yes, Mark is definitely moving into the other camp,” joshes Nash.
After a night out, though, Mark is more cheerful. “This man,” he says putting a comradely arm around Paul, “is a true lad.”
Paul grins in agreement. The two are engaged at this moment in comparing expensive Yamamoto slippers. £150 a pair. £150!
Frankie play own instruments shock
Frankie start their show as they mean to go on. Teasingly.
As the intro music plays, the curtain goes up to reveal them with their backs to the audience, waiting to whirl around for the opening chords of ‘War’. Wonderful stuff.
Few bands could go so far over the top so quickly but the Franks go all the way, sneak around the back and then enter the stage left again.
And they can play! They’ve got radio transmitters on their guitars, though, so the pick-up leads don’t get in their way. It’s a common enough device, used by most top groups, but you can still see people peering intently, looking for any deviation between what they can hear and what they can see.
There’s none, of course.
Playing on a stage that resembles nowt so much as the top of a nuclear silo, the concert flies by. Frankie live are bigger, bolder and better than any of their records. They’re enough at times to make your knees wobble.
The show also has a lot of humour to boot, something you could never capture on a record, whether it’s Holly’s outrageous costumes, Paul’s madcap antics, or Mark and Nash’s duoing a la Martin and Gary Kemp.
Glasgow roars its approval.
Your Glasgow correspondent
Back at the hotel it’s chaos. The band have dashed in and straight up to their rooms. Tour manager Ian Jeffrey’s two-year-old son Kenji is running around the feet of the diners in the restaurant shouting “Hoo Ha Hoo Ha Ha”. He’s great, definitely the unofficial mascot.
Nash has acquired my tape recorder and is extracting Instant Reactions from a couple of fans —
Nash: “So what did you think?”
Shirley: “Wonderful. I loved Paul’s kinky dancing.”
Nash: “Big fan of Paul’s, eh? ‘Ave you ever seen anything like that at the Glasgow Apollo in your life?”
Shirley: “Huh, it’s such a dump. Everyone hates it in Glasgow.”
Nash: “There was a great atmosphere.”
Shirley: “That was the people. If you were in the audience you’d have been frozen like the rest of us.”
Nash: “Yeah, I was cold. What did you think of the rest of the show, apart from Paul’s kinky dancing? What about Mark?”
Elaine: “Oh yeah… Mark gave us a wave. And he smiled.”
Nash (delighted): “A wave and a smile? That’s what I wanted to hear. Did it make your year?”
Nash: “What’s one word that sums Frankie up?”
Elaine: “Amazing.”Continue »
Nash is encouraged by his success as a journalist. Next, he informs me, he wants to do a proper interview for No. 1. Sade, or Andy Taylor or Dave lee Roth or Paul Weller…
“You couldn’t do Andy Taylor,” objects Ped drily. “You’d both be too bevvied.”
The night goes on and the bar fills up. But smooth as the show has been for the band, and as good as the general feeling in the camp is at the moment, it’s not just cool, calm waters that Frankie sail in. There are sharks around.
Half the people in the bar are assorted hacks from News Of The Sunday Smuts, fishing for scurrilous stories. Some of them have been knocking on Holly’s room during the afternoon; no wonder the poor boy feels he can’t venture out.
A particularly obnoxious specimen is saying that the band’s minder Wally has been beating up fans. Ridiculous. He’s asked to go and talk to the police outside, with whom Wally has been closely co-operating.
Two male fans are talking to Mark in the corner trying to persuade him to go out with them to a pub. They end up asking him why he gets all the girls, why he gets all the money, getting nastier by the second. He makes his excuses and leaves.
A new dawn
Dawn approaches. The lads trickle back from a club. Nash is last seen heading for his room with a lethal looking cocktail. No doubt he’ll be reaching for the milk tomorrow. Ped has also vanished.
“So where are the lads now, eh?” asks Mark. The other two have been taking the rise out of him all day about his new-found status as a pin-up, but he’s still last to leave the bar.
“Y’know, three weeks ago, none of this was happening,” he muses.
“Now, all five of us are getting loads of screams. It’s very weird.”
Will the band be able to cope with all this, I wonder? “Oh aye, we’ll cope,” Mark says. “It will always be the five of us against the world. But what’s new about that?”
Excellent. Just excellent. Much better than the records. Much more exciting, a great feeling amongst the audience. And Mark? He’s stonkin’. John Taylor’s no comparison.Lisa Hanford, 16, Swansea and Cathryn James, 16, Swansea, with Jed O’Toole, Mark’s brother.
Mark’s lovely, he’s got a nice body and great eyes. Holly’s cute. There’s no one in Glasgow that’s as good looking as Mark, though. Look at Bobby Bluebell.Marjorie Sutherland, 17, Glasgow and Carol Japp, 18, Glasgow.