Article image

Title: Outrageous
Author: Stuart Maconie
Source: Q Magazine

Frankie Goes To Hollywood: five lads who shook the charts for a while

Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Bang!… The Greatest Bits

It was Noel Coward who first pointed out the potency of cheap music and, as far as some were concerned, it didn’t come much cheaper than Frankie — an artificial collusion between backroom boffins, opportunistic scallies and calculating pseuds from the music press. Morally sullied then, the dirtiest of dirt cheaps… but powerful?

Undoubtedly. A decade on, Frankie’s first rash of singles still sound formidably good; the lustiness and vigour of the re-released Relax makes its 1993 chart neighbours look as pallid as Mike Read’s face when he memorably reeled in horror from the lyric on air.

On paper, it didn’t look good. A ragbag quintet from Liverpool whose musical pedigree stretched no further than dodgy Northwestern punk acts like Big In Japan and The Spitfire Boys. And whilst frontmen Johnson and Rutherford were spectacularly homosexual, the others, rejoicing in Bash Street Kids nicknames such as Ped and Nasher were stolidly laddish. In fact, drummer Peter "Ped" Gill was surely the model for Harry Enfield’s Scouser skit. But transformed by the outrageous marketing of NME’s Paul Morley and the studio creativity of producer Trevor Horn, they became hilariously successful.

Here you will find the hits, some entertaining cover versions from that first album — the over-wrought War, the marvellous mock-epic Ferry Cross The Mersey and the garage knees-up through Born To Run, where Johnson’s snorting and chortling suggests an appreciation of the lyric’s preposterousness.

Unfortunately, after a tax year in Ireland, they came back. They had three subsequent hits, Rage Hard, Warriors Of The Wasteland and Watching The Wildlife but, while the basic formula was intact, the wit, inspiration and moustache-twirling goatishness was gone and Johnson had arrived at a vocal style that made Tony Hadley seem laconic and deadpan. It’s the inclusion of these mediocrities that renders this Best Of botched, if historically complete.

There is a best of already available. It’s called Welcome To The Pleasure Dome and, truly, there is everything you need by this flawed, monstrous, lovable paragon of a pop phenomenon. ***