Author: Jimmy Mack
Publish date: August 18 1984
Jimmy Mack takes on the chart’s biggest monster
‘I DON’T give a **** what Frankie says’. That was one cheeky chappie’s T-shirt slogan, designed to crack wry smiles. ‘Cause it tore through all the horrendous hype, slimy deals, slippery eels and skyscraper egos around me! But what would you expect from a Beeb On The Road special, especially when it features trendy Frankie Goes To Hollywood miming to ‘War’? The cynic in me had to chuckle at the shock-horror headlines for the event. After all, they’re just five scally wag scousers who’ve released a coupla naughty hits. Not about to bring the government down, is it?
Hard sell at (its) best, the ‘Relax’ and ‘Two Tribes’ scandals may have people babbling about neo‘Satisfaction’ and armchair Apocalyse Now in sensurround, but are they really poison in the machine set to attack the raw nerves of the punter? Do they have the acidic wit and positive fury of the best Jam, Pistols and Specials stuff? Pinch of salt time. How much do Mr Morley and Mr Horn obfuscate the true feelings of the real Frankies? Do they exist at all…
I sought answers at Norwich Ritzy’s where Frankie were appearing with the twendy Thomson Twins (and phoney Nik Kershaw to boot) for this here BBC opus. In front of 1,400 invited fans they cut deep, surprisingly, with the two 45s and ‘War’. They moved and sweated like it was their first break, danced demonically until they overcame the miming and obnoxious audience whoops, not to mention the smarmy producer crawling “Dance like this is the best time of yer life and I’ll kiss you all, etc, etc,” you understand. Hustling through drunken jokes about cancer and the like from Alana Twin and Paul and Nash, Frankie backup boys, I tracked down Holly Johnson to answer all my burning queries. Give us a quote! He did…
“I think this whole BBC event has been blown out of proportion, it seems we can’t breathe without making news these days. It’s not as if we’re playing live,” he said, lifting his menacing shades while showing off his new Nikes. Sharp clothes, sharp brain!… But are Frankie saying anything? In an agitprop city like Liverpool there seems to be a lack of hard-edge bands. ‘Two Tribes’, lyrics aside, could be an Adam Ant song.
“We haven’t forgotten Britain’s jobless, we’d like to try and uplift the kids in the dole queues. We were there once and know only too well what it’s like. But there are some great bands from the city. Echo are my favourite band, in fact.”
HAD LIVERPOOL influenced them in a lasting way?
“Well, it’s been a fundamental influence, obviously, on our whole lives. I love the place, the people, growing up in it, everything about it. It’s full of strong characters. I’ve never seen London as the centre of the universe, I don’t think there’s much talent coming from there.” More rabbit than Watership Down! Cheek! And what about the power of clever Trevor Horn?
“Trevor is very clever, but the initial inspiration was always ours. Trevor reacted to our ideas, he’s very good, but so is Michael Jackson’s producer Quincy Jones and no-one says he does it all.”
Is there a Frankie message? I don’t see any answers there.
“People shouldn’t take us too seriously, we say try to have a good time every minute of the day. We just want to give pleasure, entertain and have fun doing it. We have a bold image and stand out from the crowd, but I don’t think we’re outrageous. Also, we take time over our releases, we want to maintain a level of quality.”
Ever straighter go the groups, from A to Zzzzzzzz in career terms. Whither the leather jockstrap?
“We decided we didn’t look good in leather,” he fudges, “and also it sticks and smells.” That never stopped Jim Morrison.
“Actually, I like rubber myself,” Holly chortles.
How far are they involved in the capitalism of these eternal re-mixes that keep on emerging?
“Really, from the performance level. Then we leave it and the record company or producer remix it and release it to their taste. But I’m not really interested after the product has been out, though I do find it interesting to hear different versions. I forget about it and move on to ideas for the next project.”
“The album, we’re working hard on it at the moment, called ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’. And the next single, which’ll be out before Christmas, but I’m not at liberty to tell you too much about it. I can’t give too much away.”
Total control, eh? What’s this pleasure dome, like, Frankie Goes To Coleridge?
“It’s a fantasy place where you can do what you like. It’ll be the album of 1984, it’s something very dear to our hearts.”
Will the musical vein be the same as the 45s?
“I wouldn’t say that. There are some less commercial tracks on it, not so driven with the disco beat to capture people on the dance floor, lots of different textures… It should have quite an epic feel to it.”
HOW ABOUT the rumour that you plan to remix and censor yer aural sleaze elements?
“Well, there was an idea of doing that for a joke, something ridiculous like that, but I don’t think they’ll actually do it. There might possibly be a different version of ‘Relax’, maybe an orchestrated version, on the album.”
Hum. Ain’t you gonna keep up this getting-banned stuff as a sales drive?
“Well,” he sighs, “that was never our intention. Maybe to stimulate, but not to outrage. I didn’t think sex and the threat of nuclear war shocked people anymore, I just thought it was an informative thing rather than an innovative thing. I hope we entertain people but I don’t know other than that.”
It’s good to see you in the sticks, but hasn’t all the hype caused a lotta heartache when kids turn up from miles around only to get a short, mimed show? He pauses.
“We’ve put quite a lot of heartache into getting here, so maybe things are quite equal in that respect.” As Holly zips up his wayward fly amid sudden laffter, he looks towards a two and a half month conquering of America. To what does he attribute the mass success?
“Class! I think people are taking us too seriously. Our music is something that satisfies something inside, it moves, disturbs, titillates, with that slight quirk or twist. Something deep inside. Franie says eat me!!”