Title: Frankie goes to America — Frankie goes to the bar
Author: Max Bell
Source: No. 1
…And as the tour goes on, the lads start to get homesick and thoughts turn to Christmas in Liverpool. Aaaah.
Max Bell winds up his American tour diary. Pictures by A.J. Barratt.
The photographs above are taken from Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s video for ‘The Power Of Love’, made by Kevin Godley and Lol Creme in Bethlehem, Israel. The Frankie boys’ contribution was filmed in lowly Wandsworth, London hours before the band left for their American tour. The Sunday People has already called the promo a blasphemous and “tacky way of making money”. All ZTT will say is that “the video cost a lot of shekels”.
Saturday 10 November
Frankie’s debut live American TV appearance on Saturday Night Live was neither triumph nor disaster. The band more or less sleepwalked through ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘Born To Run’.
Saturday Night Live itself was a tremendous disappointment — nothing like as funny as it used to be in the days of Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray. The host George Carlin is a staggering bore while the staple cast of actors, including John Belushi’s brother Jim and Pamela Stephenson, are as amusing as a sackful of toe nail clippings.
Pamela has managed to turn herself into an American with great ease and performs one sketch about a woman whose breasts start to inflate which is a monument to shoddy taste.
Laugh? The Frankies never stopped.
Afterwards the band were invited to a party at New York’s Gothams Club where they drowned their sorrows in champagne but, as Holly said, “That was no party, child.”
In the bar
News of Frankie’s stay at the Berkshire Place Hotel is common knowledge by now and the management start getting fraught and manhandling fans off the premises.
The gaff is crawling with young girls who maintain their vigil daily — travelling in from boroughs like Queens for the chance of a kiss or an autograph.
The bar is like a goldfish bowl. Every movement of the group is observed. The kids even take Frankie’s empty beer bottles for souvenirs.
Not that this puts the group off making full use of the bar facilities. Those few minutes not spent satisfying the media’s insatiable thirst are filled by the time honoured tradition of pulling on Budweisers and cracking jokes.
Trevor Horn, Nash and Ped are discussing the threat of Wham. Nash thinks ‘Make It Big’ makes “Spandau sound dangerous” but Horn disagrees.
Frankie’s on-tour keyboard player Peter Oxendale comes across and compares his silly glasses with Horn’s trademark specs. “I’ve signed twenty Art Of Noise albums since I’ve been here, Trev. Everyone thinks I’m you.”
Horn is aghast. “You’re joking, I can’t even play the keyboards.”
“Can you read music, lads?” I venture, just to get them warmed up.
“Can we WHAT! READ MUSIC!!” Nash falls off his stool. “Ped! He wants to know can we read music? Yeah, usually, yeah!”
But Ped is busy pulling faces at the window.
“Look at those little dickheads outside! Holding up pieces of paper with ‘Hi!’ written on ‘em. Dickheads! Ooweee!
“I used to be like that for Ozzy Osbourne, get down the front and bang me head. Or if it was a really good show I’d nip in through the back and get autographs. God knows why.
“Suppose I must have been a right little dickhead too! I’m knackered…”
A group of older women at the bar suddenly decide to butt in with that alarming frankness that characterises a certain type of Yank: “Would you guys mind if we said we didn’t know who you are?”
“Yeah we would. Or no, we wouldn’t,” Ped says mysteriously.
“Who are you then?”
“We’re Frankie Goes To Hollywood,”
“Oh! Which one is Frankie?”
“None of us. That’s just the name of the band.”
“Oh! Do you mind all the girls hanging around pestering you?” pester the women.
“Only when I try and walk down the street and they stop ya.”
Nasher comes back from the bar clutching a fresh brace of Buds.
“I expected to be knackered, but I’m not. I think we’ve handled it quite well for our first major tour.
“It’s better that we can make a few cockups here cos it won’t matter so much. They’re not hardcore fans.
“Playing live is great. The songs have got a lot more balls than the album.”
You mean you’re punkier?
“In attitude perhaps. More metal certainly, that’s the lads influence. The Bunnymen are like good metal… it’s like the difference between AC/DC who are brill and Motley Crue who are shite.
“If we played the songs all soft no one would get into it. It’d go down like a concrete parachute,”
Nasher sniggers at his little analogy. “This American girl came up to me and said she hated our version of ‘Born To Run’. Said we’d made a bad song sound worse.”
Ped guffaws, “She got decked.”
Trevor Horn wanders back so I ask if he’s really the dictator he’s painted out to be.
“Am I, lads?”
“Yeah, he is. He comes in the studio with a hammer and says ‘Work you bastards!’” Horn ambles off again.
Have you had any bad attitudes from audiences yet?
“Only a couple. A few people have shouted faggot at us on stage and this bloke tried to kiss me in a bar,” Nash chortles, “So I shouted at him, if you try that once more I’ll murder ya, and he ran off.
How does playing now compare with Frankie in the old days?
“It’s better cos lots more people know the songs.Before we had to concentrate on a visual act with The LeatherPettes and we used to be totally manic to get a reaction. Now the audiences go crazy as well.
“They’ve been so mad we forgot about playing and started jumping about too much… that was in Canada.
“One night in Toronto Paul lost his voice so he mimed his bits and no one realised. Now we concentrate.”
Cracking Ped up
The Beatles used to mime when the screaming got too intense. Will you be miming at Liverpool’s Royal Court?
“Naah. Well just whack the PA up. Visually the show will be a lot better cos we’ve got a budget here in America, whereas in England we’ll go right over the top,” Ped remarks proudly.
“But I’ll be dead by then. Best thing about playing live is watching the audience. That really cracks me up. Seein’ all the little kids leapin’ around is bloody funny.
“There’s all these people prancin’ around like loonies and screaming and there’s us dickheads playing along.”
Ped concludes the Peter Gill philosophy of live performance with a grouch.
“Worst thing about playing live is that we don’t get pooh butties. Says in the rider we’re supposed to have ‘em but they don’t know what they are.”
What else is in the rider for backstage grub?
“Just sweets and ale. That’s all we could think of to ask for. Sweets, ale and pooh butties.”
Ped starts to look distant. “I wanna go ‘ome. I wanna go ‘ome and sit in front of the fire with a mug of tea and me tart.”
Monday 12 November
Today Nasher and Paul Rutherford go for a ride in a chopper around Manhattan.
Shortly after taking off from the Twin Towers, Paul’s door flew open. Luckily he was strapped in but he’s still as white as a sheet when they return in the afternoon.
Nasher is ecstatic, “I want to do the tour that goes over the Union and the Bronx.”
“Don’t forget yer camera then, you quilt.” chastises Ped who doesn’t hold with nancy hobbies like photography. Ped’s got a cob on today because he’s just seen the doctor and had a Vitamin B12 injection.
“He said bend over and drop yer pants. Me arse has come up like a tomato.”
Meanwhile Mark O’Toole is safely in his room musing about Frankie’s pre-Christmas Liverpool shows.
“I want the tickets to be mail order so the touts don’t get too many. I hate touts.
“Should be the gigs of the century. We tried to play the Empire but the panto is on. The Royal Court is OK — it’s an intimate little theatre.”
A year ago Frankie Goes To Hollywood was merely another name in the lower regions of the charts as far as the great record buying public was concerned. ‘Relax’ was crawling up through the top 100 and Mark was working an an apprentice fitter.
Just another working class, boy with dreams in his pocket and stars in his eyes.
“Last Christmas Eve I met Ped and Nash in the Beehive at lunchtime and skived off the afternoon like you do on Christmas Eve and we went and got pissed all afternoon.
“Christmas is great at home and so is New Year. Last New Year’s Eve we were round at Ped’s place, and his dad Ray, who’s just like Ped, totally mad, was getting bevvied with us and Ped’s mum was going crazy cos we were winding him up to do a striptease which is one of his party tricks.
“She was saying. ‘Don’t egg Ray on youse lot’, which only made it worse. We were going ‘Go ‘ed la take yer shirt off, get your keks off’ and so course he did.
“I hope this Christmas can be good. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else except with the family and the lads.
“We used to be the three lads who could walk round Liverpool drunk and not get noticed, I hope we don’t get hassled this year if we go out on the bevy…
“We’re still just the lads.”
…And so ends the American diary of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Say no more.