Title: Hands up!
Author: Jim Shelley
Publish date: July/August 1984
So just what have you done?
Did you frighten people?
No, not at all. No-one was really bothered by us.
Did you want to?
Well, not really. Why should we?
Didn’t anything happen?
Well nothing changed. It never does. The only thing that ever changes is the surface. That’s all you can do. Even punk only really affected advertising — it became so acceptable they started using spiked hair to advertise hairspray.
Does being so harmless anger you?
Why should it? We just have a laugh.
On a pleasing day, in a pleasant way, Frankie man Paul Rutherford (the one Paul Morley considers to be the boldest, bravest, the keenest to terrorise music’s smooth pool of Pap) and myself sit out in the sunshine on Island’s quaint garden terrace with cheese rolls and my packet of Rolos, happily chatting over Frankie’s short, snappy history. Home after a trying trek to support Relax’s European conquests, Rutherford is casually charming, lively, fresh and funny, amused and bemused by all that’s happened. He’s pleased enough that I haven’t come to plough through the dead details of Mike Read, their new video or S&M. I only came to find out what they had to say for themselves. Everything seemed to have been said a hundred and ten times; it struck me they didn’t have that, much to say in the first place. Either way, he’s not too concerned about the weak probes BLITZ has to throw his way. I confess, I was too gentle with him, but these Frankie boys have such a tempting gentle cheek, a very reasonable sense of modesty, a friendly sort of sauciness. There seems no point in resisting.
He gives me his famous sweet, sly smile. "I’m gonna rob a Rolo."
Frankie Goes To Hollywood are getting away with everything.
How do you react to all this? Has it shocked you?
Oh yeah, it shocked me when Relax got to Number 6 ’cos it was suddenly serious. And when it got to Number 1, it just freaked me! I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t fucking believe it.
I believe you. Did you deserve it?
Well, we were dead lucky, that’s true, but if you want something badly enough it’ll come, I think. I think you get what you deserve and though we were really lucky I think it’s for us, you know.
Is it farcical? Frankie Goes To Hollywood: World Domination.
Yeah, it is really. After Number 1 things got ridiculous, completely hysterical.
You must feel respectable now.
Not respectable. I don’t think we command respect from anyone, I couldn’t give a fuck for respect anyway.
Well, acceptable at least — Two Tribes was welcomed calmly enough.
Yeah, but there’s no controversy about Two Tribes, it’s just a very human song. Everybody wants to live.
Have you relaxed (I apologise)?
I know, that word’s a pain in the arse now.
Are you weakening then, already?
Perhaps. I mean, it’s bound to happen. With age Frankie will be less of a threat, the fight disappears.
Did Frankie always have to be the bandits?
Oh yeah, it’d be so boring, being in a pop band without treading on some toes.
Does the inevitability of success, for Two Tribes at least, sap some of the challenge, the excitement?
Not the challenge but some of the excitement, there’s not so much risk any longer.
Can you retrieve it?
It’s sad but I don’t think we can unless we touch on a really touchy subject…
He smiles that sly smile as if he knows exactly what that subject might be.
All the fuss about Frankie — the ¼ million sales, a hit in France, Italy, Greece, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, you know all the rest — and for what? Two spunky, explosive singles, restless, busy, almost ruthless little records. They have their rare spirit of speed and sauce, a decent degree of viciousness but things really are too conveniently, tidily smothered in Trevor Horn’s smashes and screams, splashes and echoed tremors and then dressed up prettily in Morley’s slogans and playful ploys. It all serves to resemble menace. True, Frankie make happy, sprightly noises, positive actions but, to be truthful rather than faithful, the only startling thing about Two Tribes and Relax is the attention they’ve captured. Frankie are simply providing a quietly disruptive, merry disturbance of the Blancmange’s, the OMD’s and Ultravox’s.
The Sex Pistols would be ashamed to be so presentable.
What’s the difference between you and the other nonsense?
Well, we’re really five quite hard people, rough round the edges. We’re honest, we’re not teddy bears. It is the rougher side of life but it’s also very ordinary, just what you see on the street. Kids
know that. They weren’t shocked at all. They know it all these days. We’re easier to relate to ’cos we’re not polished.
What have you got to say?
We’ve never shoved our ideas about. All we wanted to say was ’Relax about sex, it’s no big deal’ and ’We don’t want to die in a war’.
Did you feel better once Relax gained the status of being labelled dangerous? It had nothing dangerous of its own, it was a bit lacklustre without it?
I think the record was very special but it did need something, we were just happy that we had a bloody record out. It satisfied me that we were closer to the Sex Pistols than Duran Duran. None of us are teddy bears.
Have you compromised? There seemed to be a divergence between you and Holly.
(Long pause. Begins to wonder) I don’t know really. For a short while we did but then we were backpedalling a bit. We got scared when it was Number 1. Holly didn’t mean to say we’d tone things down, not consciously, he was softening the blow. We panicked a bit.
The second Relax video was a massive cop-out.
We didn’t want to do that! We had to! They (Island) could spend as much fucking money as they liked. It wasn’t a cop out, it was just a day out doing a video. We still looked good. We had the video we wanted.
It looked like the industry was taming you, pushing you about. You lost a round.
Well you have to do those things. Like Razzmatazz — really fucking SICK. But kids like it. They want to see us. But we’ll be ourselves, not teddy bears.
For the moment, Frankie aren’t making any great claims, deep down they feel quite embarrassed. A single, a video, a mime P.A. tour. ’It’s a fucking joke, that’s how we all treat it’. Ask them if they care about making history, about the size of their victory, the scale of the Joke, Frankie admit it’s fun, a laugh. Cheek’s on their side and that’s enough for now. They’re still not certain what they’ve done. They suspect it’s not much. I suspect they’re right.
Will Frankie hurt anyone?
No. The people up there, the bastions of power, are exactly the same. Reagan or Thatcher haven’t even heard of Frankie.
Was it subversion?
It was subversive, yeah, definitely, but probably more for the way it was presented than anything. We were just being ourselves, putting our madness into things. It made us see we weren’t like a lot of people (laughs). Things we thought were cool freaked people out.
But it was mere outrage, a shallow scandal.
The outrage was shallow, yeah, we never cared about shocking anyone.
Is Frankie, then, just entertainment?
Well, we’re not being pushy, though Paul might be! But it definitely did release something in people. Then again, a lot of people just see it as Pop Music, which is fine by me.
Did you leave any lessons, make any impact?
See, it’s far easier to change things by walking the thin line between nice and not so nice. Madness never were cuddly but they’ve said a lot more than Killing Joke. I mean, Killing Joke may be very radical but my Dad’s never heard of them! They don’t matter one bit. The Pistols did it in the only way — saturating the media.
Did you matter for a minute?
For a few minutes, yeah.
Does it anger you that nothing really happened?
Not really. We just want to try everything and have a laugh. All that matters is that we fucking sold a million. Whether it was a fucking big marketing ploy or what, we sold a million, beyond that I couldn’t give a shit.
Frankie have been thrown a bit but they don’t really care less and that’s good enough. Ask them if they resent the way all the sounds and bumps they make are put down to Horn, and all the phrases and philosophies down to Morley and they’ll say, liberally, ’They can say what they like — it’s one of the few things they can do’.
Why let Morley play out his dull, daft schemes?
We don’t give a fuck what he does, we let him get on with it.
Do you have any doubts, about Frankie’s strength under all the gadgetry and the Morleypulation?
No, I’ve always known we can knock spots off anyone else. There’s no-one as exciting as us. The shows will prove that. When Frankie play I don’t want anyone to go to the toilet. AT ALL!
Are you proud?
(Big pause) Well I am, dead proud. Frankie’s going to be remembered. Fish out of Marillion thought we were puppets, didn’t even believe we were all from Liverpool. He said to us, ’In 10 years you’ll be forgotten’, stupid fucking bastard I could’ve killed him. I said, ’Everyone forgot your Garden Party single bloody weeks ago you stupid fucking idiot’. Frankie’s gonna be remembered, no danger.
Are you tiring?
A bit, we’re doing less work now. We got tired of people getting so worked and heavy about us, going, ’Well, you’ve got this really heavy leather image so you must be this and you must be that’. It got to us going, ’OH FUCK OFF. Can’t you have a bit of bleeding fun any longer?!!
Are you serious?
Why?! Why bother?!
Frankie never were as fussy as we might, once people whispered things in our ears, have imagined. They’re happy being noticed, having people talk about them, even if they don’t know why. They’re laughing (’I did this interview, ’Sex Symbols On Sex’, it did me brain in! After this one I’m doing ’My Views On Women’), hiding little glimpses of doubt that they might have peaked with their first record. They’re not really surprised (and who would be?) that people have fallen for Frankie’s colourful eruptions, sneaky slither of seediness and glossy glamour, when they’re up against the smiling haircuts and luminous jumpsuits of Blancmange and Howard Jones. They know they might be the first band since the Pistols to get away with anything they want, and still hit, but they’re not so concerned that they might waste that chance. They’re laughing, and I for one am laughing with them. I hope, though, they’ll still startle me. The initial idea(l) for Morley and ZTT and Frankie was that — for a change! for a chance! — Frankie were here to shake up the peaceful Pap, punish the complacency. But Frankie know, for now, they’re simply stirring up the surface.
Couldn’t you be fussier, more stubborn, more demanding?
Well it’s all very well, most people don’t care if we are. Kids don’t. Only people like you and Morley care about that. It’s good to question it but… the kids matter more. You just want us to be really bad.
The kids like you being the bad boys, though.
Yeah, but they like seeing the bad boys on Razzmatazz…
He gives another sly smile and I give him the last Rolo. They’ll get away with a lot more yet, but I wonder if they’re worth it.