Title: Holly ditching the wild life
Author: Andrew Panos
It’s 5.00pm in the middle of Frankfurt Germany and we find ourselves in the Inter Continental Hotel where Frankie are staying. Tonight they’re due to play a concert 70 miles away in Ludwigshafen so everyone is about to clamber on to the tour bus.
In the foyer Mark O’Toole is wandering around with a selection of ‘duck’ whistles, bought from a local gun shop. He makes a point of blowing loudly into the whistle every time someone walks by and he manages to annoy every single guest he comes across. This amuses Mark no end.
Nasher is in the hotel bar finishing off a quick bevvy and Ped and Paul are already on the tour bus. There’s only one person missing. Holly Johnson.
That’s because throughout Frankie’s European tour Holly has made a point of travelling separately from ‘the lads’. This apparently is due to a disagreement between Holly and one of the lads which still hasn’t been resolved. So while the lads travel to the gigs by bus, Holly is driven everywhere by his German boyfriend Wolfgang.
The pair also make a point of staying in different hotels to the rest of the band. Today Holly is staying in a hotel much nearer the actual concert site.
It’s hard to gauge exactly what’s happened between Holly and the lads but it means that for now the two parties are barely talking to each other. Although their interests do seem completely different…
While Holly makes a point of visiting “at least one art gallery or museum a day” during the tour, the lads idea of cultural enlightenment goes something like this… Wake up at about 3.00 in the afternoon. Go down to the bar for a bevy. Get on the tour bus and have a bevy. Get to the gig and do a soundcheck then have another bevy. Do the gig then back on the tour bus for some more bevvies and finally back to the hotel for some bevvies.
“We try to think of things to do on tour,” says Mark, “but we can never think of anything so it’s always… ‘oh sod it… let’s go down to the bar.’”
“The worst time to see us is when we’re bored,” says Ped as we all climb onto the bus “‘cos when we get bored we get stupid and that’s when we upset people.”
Although the lads have probably upset quite a few people in their four years together by peeing in lifts and wrecking hotel rooms, they are still much more honest, down to earth bunch that a lot of pop’s precious posers. From Mark O’Toole’s comment that “it’s ridiculous being able to do what you want just ‘cos you’re in a bloody pop grounp”, to Nasher’s comments on success… “the main reason why we’re so successful is friggin’ luck and being in the right place at the right time.”
The tour bus comes to a halt and everyone gets out. The concert gall itself resembles a large school gymnasium and it seems very dark and depressing.
“It’s a toilet,” states Nash. “Let’s blow the gig and just take the bloody cash.”
Holly’s hotel is an olde worlde, very posh building and it even has a resident piano player in the foyer. When we arrive we find Holly having tea in the lounge with Wolfgang.
“We love these old style hotels. So quaint don’t you think?” says Holly sipping his tea.
So why is Holly travelling separately from the lads?
“Well it just gets a bit unbearable travelling with the lads all the time. It’s not that I don’t get on with them it’s just that we don’t have the same interests anymore.
“It gets a bit boring just getting drunk everyday.
“And apart from that, they’ve been banned from most of the hotels in Europe. Wolfgang and I never have any trouble wherever we go.
“The lads aren’t exactly the best people to go and visit the Kunsthalle (German art gallery) with either.”
You sound a bit fed up. Are you still enjoying being a Frankie?
“I still enjoy playing live. That’s the best thing but the rest of it… the TV shows and the actual business side of it stinks. I’m fed up with that.
“Business wise we’ve all been conned really but I suppose I’m wiser now.
“Looking back on it I think I resented the way we became famous. I wanted us to be critically acclaimed and we weren’t.
“No one at the beginning ever said that we were a good band or that the music was good. All the talk was about Trevor Horn or Paul Morley and that really annoying all of us.
“I didn’t want us to become famous like that. But the single was banned and the next thing you knew it was… ‘shock and outrage’.
“We just sort of went along with it. It was like shock value. We were presented as five yobboes from Liverpool and that’s what everyone wanted to see.
“But I was never taken in by the fame and success. I knew we couldn’t maintain that success forever.”
So now that Frankie aren’t quite as successful as they once were what does the future hold?
“Well, right now what I want to do is my solo album. That’s definitely gonna be sometime this year and after that I’m not sure.
“Whatever happens all of us are better off than we were on the dole or doing crappy jobs six years ago.
“Just before Frankie took off I was going to apply to art college and do an art course. If I wasn’t doing this I’d probably have my first exhibition by now and be one of those trendy artists who walks around wearing black all the time and being terribly pretentious. That’s a depressing thought isn’t it?
So I should count myself quite lucky really shouldn’t I?”