Frankie Say More!
Frankie Goes To Hollywood are back with a new greatest hits album
Paul Rutherford spills the beans all over Joel McIver.
One of the campest, most controversial, most successful bands ever, Frankie Goes To Hollywood were inescapable in the early to mid-80s. Not content with seeing their first three singles (“Relax”, “Two Tribes” and their masterpiece, “The Power Of Love”) go to No.1, the Scousers were also responsible for the ultimate 80s fashion statement the “Frankie Say” T-shirt.
The cult of FGTH was helped along in 1984 by DJ Mike Read’s refusal to play “Relax” on Radio 1, as well as the infamous “Two Tribes” video, which featured Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev in unarmed but bloody combat. The astonishing “Welcome To The Pleasuredome” album, released on the so-cool-it-hurt ZTT label, featured ex-Buggle Trevor Horn’s deft production and included no fewer than four cover versions.
However, Frankie’s star burned quickly and brightly and as singles success faded and the disappointing “Liverpool” album failed to make an impact, Britain’s youth moved on to A-Ha and U2. The band ultimately called it a day in 1987, and FGTH activity has been minimal ever since, apart from a half-hearted reissue campaign in the early 90s, and singer Holly Johnson’s autobiography, A Bone In My Flute.
Nonetheless, the release this month of “Maximum Joy”, a new Frankie compilation, sees band members surface temporarily. Record Collector spoke to Paul Rutherford, who danced and sang backing vocals for the band while resembling a taller, tougher Freddie Mercury. Resisting the temptation to say, Harry Enfield-style, “Eh? Eh? Calm down! Calm down!” was just about possible…
Are you still in touch with the rest of the band?
Well, I haven’t really seen them lately—
Did you all fall out, then?
No, we just drifted apart when the band split up in ‘87.
Why did you split up?
(laughs) We were spoilt, really. We couldn’t actually make any decisions together—
Were you happy to move on?
Hmm… after the split we realised how sad it was. It was a relief at first, though.
How did the royalties in Frankie work out, if you didn’t play an instrument?
I got the same as the others until two years after the band split, when the publishing money reverted back to the songwriters. It still comes in, it’s still ticking over mildly. I had a solo album as well, which did alright in Europe, and then I did some independent singles. I’m in a band now called But? Cowboy, with a question mark (sniggers). Someone told me that it sounds like Frankie would sound now, which was nice.
Did Frankie make you rich?
For a time, yes, but I spent it I really lived it up for quite a few years afterwards. I’m not rich now, but I’m wealthy in spirit (laughs).
Is it true that Frankie wrote the Grace Jones hit, “Slave To The Rhythm”?
Yes. Trevor Horn’s friend Bruce Woolley wrote it and wanted us to do it, but our versions didn’t quite work out, so Grace Jones had a go and had a hit with it. We didn’t give it to her for free, mind (laughs). I imagine they made a lot of money out it.
Trevor Horn said he wanted that watery explosive sound in the middle of “Relax” to sound like the biggest orgasm ever. Do you think it does?
I think he’s been to some very strange whorehouses if that’s what he thinks it sounds like (laughs). We used to come into the studio and they’d be throwing custard at the walls and dropping sponges in buckets of water to try and come up with that sound.
Is it true you once planned to open a chain of clothes shops?
We did look into it, actually. We visited financial consultants. But in the end we decided we couldn’t be bothered—
There was an merchandising insert in the “Pleasuredome” LP which featured a close-up of a bloke wearing a pair of Jean Genet boxer shorts, with someone’s hand stuffed down the front. Was that you wearing them?
(laughs) Yes, it was.
So whose hand was it?
That was Claudia Brucken out of Propaganda. She was modelling our clothes too.
Were you going out with her?
No, no. She was Paul Morley’s girlfriend, and later became his wife.
I have to ask this. Did you ever get off with Holly?
(laughs) Never, never! We used to play around with it a bit, to get the media going, but we never ever did. Bezzie mates, and all that.
Was it a shock to you when he was diagnosed HIV positive?
Yes, it was a little. I didn’t expect it. We’d both lost a lot of friends, so it was a bit of a blow—
Have you got any sleazy rock ‘n’ roll ,anecdotes you can tell us?
Yes. But I’m not telling you any. I’ll let you have some if the album goes to No.1.
Were you the first Bez of British pop?
What? Bears? Oh… Bez. Actually Paul Gambaccini asked me that as well. I’m not sure, actually I’ve never been a great fan of the Mondays. I always used to think I was more like a cheerleader (laughs).
You didn’t have pom poms, though.
I did (sniggers). You just didn’t see them…