Title: Mark O’Toole, A lad insane
Author: Paul Bursche
Source: No. 1
Publish date: 13 April 1984
Can Mark O’Tool cope with the pressures of being this year’s big pin-up? How will the lad keep his head in the turmoil at the top? Interview: Paul Bursche. Photographs: John Stoddart.
Mark William O’Toole is 21 years old, comes from Liverpool and describes himself as a "musician".
More exactly he is the bass player of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, the pop world’s biggest success story since The Beatles.
He has eight CSE Grade 1s, three brothers (one of whom, Jed, plays extra guitar on the tour) and two sisters.
He’s had one broken ankle (from football) and one broken elbow. In 1978 he was named all-round Sportsman Of The Year by St Matthews Secondary School. He was a prefect at the same school.
He likes steak and Italian food, he does not like Chinese food. His idea of the perfect woman is "someone who gives me no hassle".
He’s a cool lad, blessed with that Scouse cockiness that the rest of the country takes to so well. He’s affable, always ready for a laugh, yet acknowledging that work always comes first.
He’s come to the fore in Frankie of late, been pushed into the pin-up position, something he finds "well weird". But he’s handling it, confidently too, always making the effort to sign one more autograph or pose in one more picture. Caring and calculating, he knows his own worth.
In the beginning…
"The earliest thing I can remember is from when I was six. I was playin’ in our old house and I ran smack into the couch and ‘it me chin. I bit my tongue off and had to go and get it sewn back on at the hospital.
"My first ever girlfriend was Karen Hughes. She used to live round the corner from me an’ I used to go on holiday with ‘er and ‘er mum and dad. Then they moved to the Wirral and we lost touch.
"We played in Liverpool before Christmas, though, an’ I was walking through Liverpool City Centre ‘n’ she came up to me and said alright. It took me a second to click but then she and ‘er little sister came to the gig. Great."
"My family’s dead close. My 25-year-old sister still lives at home. I’ve got three brothers, two sisters, me mum and dad, and a nephew all living in the same house.
"I remember when all our family used to go on holiday together, there’d be about sixty of us and we’d all go to Wales. Nasher’s family used to come ‘an all. We ‘ad some great times.
Can you imagine if the Frankie clan went on ‘oliday together now?
"I think me family are pleased for me, they seem dead made up. My little sisters always bringing mates home for me autograph and that! One of ‘em asked me for a pair of underpants!
"She didn’t get them."
"I enjoyed school, actually… well, senior school. I seem to have no memory of junior.
"I got on well with all the teachers because I played guitar. The headmaster did too and so did my English teacher so they were dead chuffed. I had to play at school plays and so on.
"But I wasn’t a good lad, although it seemed that way on the surface. They even made me a prefect along with the other dickheads. I ‘ad a great time.
"I always seemed to get on better with girls than boys, which some of the lads didn’t seem to like. Most didn’t mind, but there were others…
"I played a lot of football at that time. I was captain of the school team and I also used to play for Liverpool Council which was as high as I got. I broke me ankle when I was about 16 and ‘aven’t played since."
Working class hero
"I only ever had one job, working as an apprentice carpenter for the Liverpool Corporation. I did go for another job, butcher’s assistant, but I didn’t get that.
"Work was always a good laugh. Nasher was an apprentice electrician and we ‘ad some brilliant times. ‘Cos I was the youngest the others were always ‘avin’ a go at me, trying to strip me and stuff, all the things that happen to apprentices. I was always ‘aving to tell ‘em to get on their bikes.
"Nasher got sacked because he used to wire houses with wet string! I got sacked because I was always havin’ to take time off to record ‘Relax’ and do Top Of The Pops and things.
"I could never go back to a job like that now, it’d be too borin’."
"We’d always hoped for all this, of course. I remember when we used to go and sunbathe on Holly’s roof — he had a top flat and we used to write on the tiles ‘We will be famous one day’ and the date. Wonder if they’re still there?
"But I remember when ‘Relax’ first got to No.1. We couldn’t even go to the party the record company had to celebrate because we were suddenly workin’ so ‘ard. I thought f***ing hell, it’s not gonna be like this all the time, is it? An’ it is!
"But it’s what you hope for. If there weren’t girls outside the hotel it wouldn’t be exciting, we’d miss it.
"Other times it can all get too much. There was a girl outside the Glasgow Apollo the other day with a pair of scissors. She made a lunge for us — she probabl wanted some hair — an’ the scissors went through a security man’s shirt. Someone could have been hurt.
"The only really bad thing about what we do is that there’s never any time for yourself, to sit and read a book or make models, I like doing that. They’re small things, I know, but that makes ‘em the most important."
"This woman from a national newspaper asked me recently what it’s like to be a sex symbol. What can you say to that!
"It’s not something that I’ve gone looking for. I think everyone’s quite pin-uppable. It could be bad in that it’s startin’ to put the band in categories people thinking, he’s just a pretty face. It could work out well in that it’ll start to push all our faces forward a bit.
“I don’t feel good lookin’ — nah, yes I do!"
"People say to me, it must be difficult goin’ on tour and that, missing your friends. They don’t realise that I’ve got my two best friends here on tour with me, Ped and Nash.
"We get on each other’s nerves and we argue a lot but when it comes down to it, we’re mates, an’ that’s what’s gonna keep the group goin’ in the end.
"Tell you what, though. Last year me an’ Nash voted Ped undercover quilt of the year, cos’ all ‘e kept going on about was his beautiful girlfriend Lisa.
"And Nash! Remember when he broke my Sade album (see The No. 1 Book 1984). Well, a month later he went out and bought it. What a quilt!"
The lads strike back
As soon as Ped and Nash found out about this feature they armed me with a few questions of their own. Happy to oblige, lads.
Nash: "Ask ‘im what’s his favourite car?"
Mark: "It used to be ‘56 Corvettes but I like Ferrari GTOs now."
Nash: "Can he drive?"
Mark: "No… but ask Nash the same question. Me and ‘im were gonna learn to drive and everyone was pleadin’, for God’s sake, neither of you buy fast cars!"
Ped: "How long does it take ‘im to do ‘is hair in the mornin’?"
Mark: "About twenty minutes. I have to ‘ang upside down off the bed, dry me hair, put wet gel on it, and then some hair lacquer. How long did they say?"
No. 1: "Three quarters of an hour."
Mark: "It’s not that long. The bastards. "
Nash: "How much does he spend on clothes?"
Mark: "A lot. It’s just a matter of wanting to look good, d’ you know worrimean? And I earn enough for good gear. ‘Ow much? As much as Nash spends on ale and as much as Ped spends on… on… toilet paper."
Nash: "Is he still a lad?"
10 Mark: "I’ve always been, always I will be. But I am in the middle a little bit between the Lads and the Loms (their name for Holly and Paul), I s’pose.
"But I’m a lad at heart.
"Just ask Nash two questions for me. Does he believe in marriage? Is he still a Lad?".