For many, Paul Rutherford was just the ‘one with the moustache and the bottom’ in Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Now, he’s the first of that once merry troupe to set foot on the solo road. Nancy Culp takes a trip to the Pleasure-dome to find out why.
In pop, it’s a sad fact that once the bubble has burst, it’s usually gone forever. Paul Rutherford, once the electric whirligig to Holly Johnson’s pontiff-like ‘hey hey’-ings in Frankie Goes To Hollywood, would be the first one to admit that, until recently, he was probably tarred with the dreadful ‘forgotten man of pop’ brush.
But after 18 months in the wilderness, Paul has done something no one would ever have expected he’s the first from the Frankie camp to bring a single out.
While Holly struggles with his muse and writes bookfuls of poems, and the ‘Three Lads’ demo with ex-Fashion man De Harriss, Paul has teamed up with Mark White and Martin Fry from ABC, put down a mean acid house influenced single called ‘Get Real’, made a stunningly ethereal video in the Arizona desert and is busy designing the record sleeves. (“I wanted it all to be a matching set”.)
Now, first with the interviews, he’s chipper, chatty and positively beaming with enthusiasm. But it wasn’t always like that, was it, Paul?
“I lost me beard once,” he muses, rubbing his naked chin. “I went to the doctor and he said it was stress.”
A direct result, it would seem, of all the tears and traumas which accompanied the much chronicled Frankie split. After which, Paul found it just a bit hard going.
“Well, I was purely a dancer and a backing singer. In Frankie I wasn’t encouraged to write… which I didn’t mind. I understood what my role was. ZTT wanted to put a single out quite soon after and they gave me this piece of piss. It was the worst record ever and I found that insulting. I’ve since found out that they weren’t very interested in me.”
Ouch! How did that make him feel? “It annoyed me a bit but I never really let things get on top of me. I just felt it was time for me to take my destiny in my own hands. I didn’t think that anyone was interested.”
Eventually, with a backing track done, he contacted ABC and the result was the fine, spunky ‘Get Real’. A veritable merry-go-round, it shows that maybe the best singer in FGTH was hiding his light under a bushel the entire time. But then Paul’s far too modest to say any such thing.
As he is, in his own words, “back in the running again”, he can’t help but look back over his days with the legendary Frankie with a fond nostalgia. Words like “mental” and “mad” trip off his tongue. “I had a ball,” he agrees. Although he’d be the first to admit that making the last Frankie album (‘Liverpool’) was “A complete nightmare… a complete waste of time”, he still can’t help but giggle at the memory of the notorious antics which made it all such fun.
“Doing TVs was the best,” he remembers, “because it just bred boredom. The lads used to go absolutely mad… Individually, they’re well sane, but together, they egged each other on. It’s like a secret group and only they understand it. They have to dare each other and things. They used to go on and on until you were at breaking point. I couldn’t believe some of the things they used to do!”
Like taking off their trews onstage during the last ever date… and letting off fireworks in hotels in the middle of the night… and crapping in journalists’ handbags… and so on, into popular mythology!
So let’s get the burning question out of the way. Did he make a lot of money?
“Erm yeah… but not enough,” he answers. “Enough to spend! And I spent mine!”
Did he have a good time on it, though?
“Yeah, I had a laugh. I recently had to sell my flat because I was in money trouble but I played the game for a while… First class travel, best hotels. I don’t think I’d ever do that again. I’m so glad I did it though. I think everyone was going through it at the same time. The Durans were doing their bit, and Spandau, all dressed up to the nines! Quite mad!”
What was the most decadent thing he ever did?
“Erm,” he giggles. “I’m not sure if you can print it! I got off my face and got on Concorde! I just sat in the corner on me own, completely out of me head. It was quite mental! Abba were on the plane tool”
Amidst all this madness, though, things got a bit nasty. He says that during much of ‘86 he just “hung out a lot” in New York with some single friends and tried to get away from the whole thing. It sounds a very unhappy time. Paul agrees, but adds that he’s happy now and wears ‘I am happy’ and ‘I am loved’ badges to prove it!
Inevitably, the conversation turns to Holly. Paul suggests that maybe Holly isn’t as happy as he could be and advises him to “Follow himself.
“He’s got to listen to his heart—
Paul Rutherford says get happy… and Get Real.