Welcome to the pleasure tome
A BONE IN MY FLUTE: Holly Johnson (Century)
SINCE THE first time the multi-million selling Frankie Goes To Hollywood urged the scandalized populace to ‘Relax’, to his groundbreaking successful court action against the record label Zang Tumb Tuum, to his public announcement that he had the HIV virus, Holly Johnson has been relentlessly abused, ridiculed and misquoted in the press. Now, in the autobiography, A Bone In My Flute, he seizes the opportunity to get his side of the story on record.
The bulk of the book is naturally concerned with the rise and fall of Frankie, but if Johnson is blisteringly acid about their demise, he saves his real venom for the ZTT fiasco. Company bosses Jill Sinclair and Trevor Horn are described as “reptiles, repulsive with ugly souls”, while another ZTT director, Paul Morley, is depicted as a pariah “feeding of the dreams of famous and talented people”.
Elsewhere in the book, Johnson dishes the dirt with equivalent relish if not malice. Fellow Frankies, Bill Drummond, Mike Reid, Pete Wylie, Lemmy, the tabloids (“the enemy of all homosexuals”), Boy George, even Prince, David Bowie and George Michael (“couldn’t hold his ale”) all receive tongue-lashing ranging from the casual to the devastating. Make no mistake, given the chance Johnson vents spleen like other people drain swimming pools.
As one would expect from an autobiography named after a euphemism for an erection, A Bone In My Flute is also exuberantly explicit when it comes to its author’s sexual adventures. Thus, we go the whole way with Johnson, from the first time he was wanked off in Newsham Park’s public toilets (“I was petrified”) through a bewildering sea of “massive, erect cocks” and “great arses”. One thing’s for sure, Johnson always knew which side he wanted to bat for. To Johnson heterosexuality was never so much ‘normal’ as simply “terribly common”.
Unsurprisingly, A Bone In My Flute is peppered throughout with references to AIDS (“the modern day horror story, full of vampires”). Johnson tells us of the friends who’ve died; the appalling misinformation (apparently, in the early years, it was widely thought that you could only catch the virus from Americans); his own diagnosis and understandable despair (“I felt BAD… sorry for myself… DIRTY, worthless, ANGRY, upset…”). Movingly, however, Johnson ends the book stressing the “touching kindnesses” he has since been shown, disarming his reader by proclaiming that he’ll never climb into a wheelchair (“Unless it’s designed by Vivienne Westwood”). Courage never swanked so piquantly.