The ZTT label: Frankie Goes To Hollywood
In the second of three features about the highly collectable label, Ian Peel details the multiple releases by the biggest-selling act on the ZTT roster.
Last month we began our survey of the highly collectable ZTT label with a discography of releases by the Art Of Noise, Andrew Poppy and Propaganda. In this issue, we turn our attention to the label’s biggest commercial success: Frankie Goes To Hollywood. And next month we will wind up our ZTT coverage by examining the remaining acts on the label. In chart terms, however, everyone on ZTT was outshone by the remarkable achievements of Frankie in 1983 and 1984.
After Liverpudlian Holly Johnson’s solo singles on the Eric’s label had flopped in 1978, he dropped out of the local music scene. In early 1980, he resurfaced to form a three-piece band with a friend Phil Hurst on drums, local artist Ambrose on bass and Holly himself singing. This was the first incarnation of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, named by Holly and Ambrose. Johnson later drafted in Steve Lovell of Tontrix on guitar, but this project quickly folded.
Later, in 1982, Holly met local musician Mark O’Toole, his brother Ged and Peter Gill in a record shop in the city. This encounter revived Holly’s musical aspirations and at once a new FGTH line-up was formed: Holly, Mark O’Toole on bass, Peter ‘Ped’ Gill on drums and Ged O’Toole on guitar.
In the spring of 1982 this new line-up played three of their latest numbers —
In December 1982 the band was beginning to get despondent. Due to the complete lack of interest from record companies, Ged O’Toole left to be replaced by Brian ‘Nasher’ Nash, who had previously played with Ped in their band, the Sons Of Egypt.
Early in 1983, Trevor Horn and Paul Morley began to look for the first ZTT signing. They had both seen FGTH on Tyne Tees’ “The Tube”, which immediately made Horn want to sign them. Morley, however, was not so sure but was won over when he heard a session they had recorded for David Jensen on Radio 1. They were signed in May of that year.
The early career of FGTH was covered in RC 64, at which time “Relax” and “Two Tribes” had both appeared as singles.
As well as the standard 7" and 7" picture discs of “Relax” other versions include a one-sided white label promo entitled “Relax (Warp Mix)”, currently worth around £10 and a DJ promo, “Relax (The Last Seven Inches)”/”One September Monday”, which is worth nearer £7. Some versions of the latter were mis-pressed with “Ferry (Go)” on the B-side and these are valued at about £1 more. Collectors should note that “Relax (Warp Mix)” and “Relax (The Last Seven Inches)” are exactly the same versions.
The most complicated “Relax” releases are the 12" singles. Apart from the 12" picture disc, they all carry the same catalogue number. To tell them apart, the matrix numbers are also given in the discography. The flipside to all “Relax” 12" singles carries a remake of Gerry & the Pacemakers’ hit “Ferry Across The Mersey” and “Relax Bonus (Again)”, an instrumental version.
The ‘Original Mix’ plays at 33rpm, although the label states 45rpm. It came in a standard ZTT promo sleeve. The ‘Sex Mix’ quickly replaced the first 12" version and is an eight-minute edited version of it. This mix was shortened again for another 12", which is the most commonly available. The ‘U.S. Mix’ is a slightly longer mix of the ‘Sex Mix’ and came in a completely different sleeve. Ten months after the original release of “Relax”, ZTT reissued the first 12" version in the same ZTT promo sleeve but this time playing at 45rpm as stated.
There are many releases of Frankie’s second single, “Two Tribes”, released in June and July 1984. All these remixes should not be ignored: “Two Tribes (Annihilation)” and “Two Tribes (Hibakushu)” are radically different, allowing the collector a choice of perspectives on the song; and at least the “Two Tribes” remixes have different catalogue numbers!
The first 12" version is still widely available, although some copies came with a free promo poster which adds £5 to its value. The members of FGTH publicly admitted to not liking this mix, so the others available are quite different.
Only 5,000 copies of “Two Tribes (Hibakushu)” were produced. Said to be “the final solution”, this 12" is not a promo, although the label design and promo ZTT sleeve would lead you to think so.
The release of “War”, the Edwin Starr classic, acted as an extension to the “Two Tribes” releases. Collectors should note that the “War” picture disc has the same catalogue number as its black vinyl counterpart.
The U.K. cassingle of “Two Tribes” sells for around £9 and it is just as widely available as an imported cassingle containing fewer mixes (CS 784). There is no U.K. cassingle available for “War”, but there is an Australian one which sells for £20. Also of interest to collectors is a double A-side promo 12" which combines “Relax (U.S. Mix)” with “Two Tribes (Carnage)”. It came in a standard ZTT promo sleeve.
The “Power Of Love” releases included some interesting tracks. “Pleasurefix” and “Starfix” are remixes of “Welcome To The Pleasuredome” and “The Only Star In Heaven”. “Holier Than Thou” is an interview with the five members of FGTH. Many of the “Power Of Love” releases came in a Christmas-style envelope as well as the picture sleeve, and these can add to their value.
“Pleasurefix” and “Starfix” can also be found on a rare red label promo 12" , which is worth around £15.
There were many 7" versions of FGTH’s fourth single release. ZTT press releases called “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome” “the fourth number one” after the other three singles had reached that chart position. Unfortunately for them it only managed a No. 2 placing! Continue »
Also available at this time was a lighthearted interview with the band conducted by a ‘Smash Hits’ reporter and given away free with the magazine on flexidisc. It was number four in a series and featured such stimulating questions as “Do you prong or squash your peas?”, “Have you ever been humiliated by a magician?” and “Tell me a secret” (Nasher: “I went out with your girlfriend last night!”). It sells for £3 and is worth a listen.
The rarest and most valuable version of “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome” is a 12" U.S. promo pressed on clear vinyl. It came in a picture sleeve stating the infamous FGTH ‘Bang’ pictorial equation. It carries the ‘Kzap Edit’ —
Fewer rarities emerged from the singles taken from FGTH’s second album, “Liverpool”, compared to those from “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome”. The most valuable item was again a U.S. promo 12", this time containing three remixes of the first release, “Rage Hard”, by Freddie Bastone. This is valued at over £40 in Mint condition.
The most valuable FGTH album is a Japan only pressing called “Bang!”. This contains the following tracks: “Black Night White Light”, “The Power Of Love”, “War (Hidden)”/”Relax (U.S. Mix)”, “Two Tribes (Hibakushu)”, “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome (Tribal/Urban)”. This came in a picture sleeve with a full lyric insert and a FGTH discography up to and including the “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome” single. It is on the Polystar label and currently sells for around £30.
The most valuable FGTH pressing, overall is a double-sided U.S. Speciality Corporation test pressing album. This plays at 45rpm and has a hand-written label. It plays the first three singles plus “Snatch Of Fury” and “Born To Run” from the first album. This is worth £100 in Mint condition.
There had been a two-year break between the “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome” single releases and Frankie’s next official release, “Rage Hard”. In this time they toured, took holidays and wrote songs for the next album: hard work judging by the time it took!
They returned with a more rock, as opposed to dance, sound: something which ZTT was looking for. According to Jill Sinclair it meant: “they had something they could tour with as it would be easier to play live”. Holly Johnson later admitted to not liking the album’s new style, saying: “I perform better to a dance groove”, although in his opinion it was “better than the Smiths”!
This new long player, “Liverpool”, and the three singles taken from it — “Rage Hard”, “Warriors (Of The Wasteland)” and “Watching The Wildlife” —
Amidst a blaze of publicity, FGTH went out as they came in. On February 10, 1988, Holly Johnson won his much-publicised court battle against ZTT, which allowed him to leave the label and sign a new solo deal with MCA. The rest of FGTH were released of their contractual obligations to ZTT a week before the verdict was delivered. In August Island subsidiary 4th + Broadway advertised their new signing, Paul Rutherford.
With Paul’s first single “Get Real” climbing the charts, it will be interesting to see how the other members of Frankie Goes To Hollywood fare in the future. Meanwhile, collectors have plenty of scope to work with, from all the multiple releases on the ZTT label.