We’ve travelled too far and grown up too quick
The French Confessions of Frankie, Part One by Max Bell.
ON A SUNNY September afternoon in central Paris a long black Mercedes limousine pulled up behind a delivery van. Inside the car raucous laughter could be heard.
“Ay! Wind down the winders Nasher! Wind ‘em down la!
Monsieur Sucker walks smiling to the car. Directions perhaps for the nice English boys?
“Monsieur! Avez vous un testicule?” More laughter as the car speeds off leaving one of many bewildered Parisians clutching his brow.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood have arrived for 72 hours of mayhem. As Holly Johnson said earlier in the day, “The lads haven’t quietened down… not really.”
THERE IS something about big cars that brings out the best and worst in the Lads and no amount of anti-terrorist sub-machine gun wielding cops can cramp their peculiar style.
Down must come those windows. “Monsieur! Champanya! Petites poids! Chocolate mousse! Manges toutes! Jacques Lafitte! Melange!”
When Lads are bored they will rage and anything might happen. A glass of Sambuca might be set alight in a smart restaurant and explode. A food fight might take place under the nose of top brass record people. A prestigious live TV show might be disrupted with the entire group mooning to camera. Holly and Nasher might answer the question: “Do you enjoy sex with animals” by riposting: “You look like you have sex with pigs.”
All this might happen and did. The French take it in good spirit. The TV executives send Frankie a congratulatory telegram. They’ve never had such a good response. Performances of ‘Rage Hard’ and ‘For Heaven’s Sake’ almost seem incidental. Almost. Frankie rage hard but they work harder.
‘Rage Hard’ is doing well in Europe. Frankie are Number One in Germany (the second largest market in the world), high everywhere else. Except France. “So why are we in France doing six TVs in three days?” they moan.
Still, they acquit themselves well. Frankie can mime these days and they always add a little something extra. When the motions become routine Nash flips the bird to camera during a guitar solo, middle finger in the time honoured ‘UP Yours!’ position.
On the first night in Paris, having shown they know their way around a fancy Chinese menu, Nash, Mark and Gilly sit down and discuss Frankie now. They are all excited about ‘Liverpool’ and just a little bit nervous at its reception from the fans and the dreaded media.
Ped: “When ‘Rage Hard’ got to six everyone at ZTT said it’d be Number One. Frankie records are supposed to be up there. It didn’t happen so yeah, we’re a bit paranoid.”
Nash is more circumspect. “It didn’t happen because we tried to sell a rock single to a teenage audience. It wasn’t 16 year olds music. It wasn’t ‘Holiday Rap’!
Mark is just stoical: “**** off Nash! It didn’t sell as many as ‘Holiday Rap’! ‘Rage Hard’ isn’t an all time classic but it’s a good record. Being away for 18 months and coming back with a Number Four isn’t that bad. It’s better than certain bands did…”
Nasher catches the flavour: “It was time to let a Frankie single stand for itself. We needed the hyper after all.” Perhaps the low key return and low rent video didn’t help, lads?
Nash: “Well the line ‘It’s Frankie And Frankie Only’ was good. ZTT had a marketing campaign based on vacuum cleaners. You think of a vacuum cleaner you think Hoover. They wanted it to be think of a rock record and think of Frankie. They had a series of adverts ‘Pop Music Of The 80s?’ with Norman Tebbit at the BPI. That one fell through the floor.”
Ped: “Paul Morley wants us to be more radical… but we’re not.”
IF 1984 was definitely Frankie’s year and 1985 was Live Aid then finding the picture for 1986 isn’t easy. Frankie don’t want to be seen as a comeback band and won’t re-run the old ‘Two Tribes’ rhythms.
Mark O’Toole says “I never want to play ‘Relax’ on a TV show ever again.”
Frankie admit they can’t top the glamour that surrounded ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ but see in ‘Liverpool’ a better representation of themselves.
Mark: “I hope people in Liverpool feel a bit proud of us. The album gives the place some recognition. It is a bit sentimental and it’s good for marketing but you couldn’t call a record ‘Islington’ or ‘Bath’.”
For Nasher the title conjures up “the dole if you’re 16 and coming out of school. If you’re 35 then it means the Cavern and the Beatles.”
Ped brings us down to earth: “Come off it lads. No one even thought about the title until now. People are gonna say, why call it that when you live in London? We’d all rather be in Liverpool but London is where we work. No one can say what it means—
EIGHTEEN months off has meant two things for Frankie. One, you couldn’t get bored with them. Two, you might forget them.
Nash says: “What should we do? Get our Filofaxes out and reel off the past year? Ped only got his Filofax to match his Ferrari…”
Ped: “…which is second hand. I’ve only got two numbers in me Filofax. Mine and one other. I’ve got a portable phone I used one. I called Mark and told him I was doing 120 in the car. We get gadgets ‘cos we got bored.”
Mark interrupts: “We haven’t changed, even though we are sitting here in Gay Paree knocking back the rock ‘n’ roll mouthwash. But then who wouldn’t?” Indeed.
Ped: “The last lot of interviews were dead boring. We answered the questions and got royally stitched. They expected animals and when we’re the same as them they can’t handle it.”
I’d read somewhere that the Lads had been disowned as a Paul Mrley invention. This theory is met with massed cries of ‘*** off, la! No one could invent three yobs. Ped’s a maniac with a Ferrari but he doesn’t wear the full medallion man kit. Is driving down Silver Street at 140mph throwing bog roll at your mate’s windscreen heavy pop star?”Continue »
The Lads don’t get out and about on the social circuit and if they do: “We don’t wait for the limo to arrive so we can be seen going home like certain groups… If Joan Collins said she liked us we wouldn’t suck up to her. Paul Weller said we’d become Sons of Thatcherism. What right has he to put us down? He’s talented but he’s got his own company, his own label. Does he take on any YOPs?
“We’ll all vote Labour but we won’t make a big thing out of it. It’s just in your blood. We’ve got money but that doesn’t mean our auld fellas have.”
Nash pinpoints the area where Frankie have changed: “It’s hard to impress us anymore. We’ve travelled too far and grown up too quick. When we moved to London and got the Lads gaff it was great… bright lights, pretty ladies, but it got too heavy.
“We lived like dogs, smashing everything up. In the end we blew the windows out with a shotgun.” Reminiscence turns to reality. “Even a gas becomes a bore. We were 19 then, which people forget. Now we’re 22 and 23. Mind you, we still get endless amusement from throwing wet bog roll at passing cars.”
ALTHOUGH it is fashionable to write Frankie off—a gigantic star that exploded and left the equivalent of pop’s black dwarf—one listen to the next single ‘Warriors Of The Wasteland’ will dispel the doubters while ‘Liverpool’ should surprise Frankie’s biggest fans.
Mark O’Toole describes it simply as: “A good songs record with two halves. It is very moody and rocky in parts, but not like Van Halen.
“In retrospect we could justify or slag off ‘Pleasuredome’ for hours and it wouldn’t mean anything.”
For Ped: “‘Liverpool’ is a hundred times better than ‘Pleasuredome’, but then you’re bound to be embarrassed with your own past. It’s like you have a car and you love it and then you flog it and get a new one. The old car immediately gets the brush off.”
And talking of cars… “Monsieur!”