Article image Article image Article image Article image

Title: The 5 tribes of Frankie
Author: Max Bell
Source: No. 1



According to ZTT it takes 19 inches to tell the true story of Frankie - the five lads from Liverpool who shook the world with ‘Relax’.

But despite the phenomenal sales of that debut - over a million satisfied customers, gold and platinum discs - few people know much about the individuals in the band.

The BBC ban made almost as many headlines as the single, but you won’t find Frankie complaining. After all, any publicity is good publicity in pop music.

‘Relax’ was actually released in the last week of October 1983, but it wasn’t until the New Year that FGTH proved George Orwell was both right and wrong. The Beeb censored them and the public loved them as a radical breath of fresh air. They stayed at No.1 for five weeks.

Now singers Holly and Paul, Nasher the guitarist, Ped the drummer and Mark the bassist look set to follow the success of ‘Relax’ with their new single ‘Two Tribes’, produced again by the ‘sixth’ member Trevor Horn.

ZTT Records like to keep the media guessing. The recording of Frankie’s album ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’ is shrouded in secrecy.

No.1 snuck into Frankie’s hidey-hole and spoke to them about their early days in Liverpool, their attitudes to massive stardom and their hopes for the future.



“I was born in Wavertree in 1960, not far from Penny Lane.

“Dad wasn’t there much cos he had three or four jobs. First he was away at sea, later on he worked as an insurance salesman in the day and on a building site in the evening.

“I suppose we were poor.

“I was a typical trendy teenager with bright red dyed hair into David Bowie. He was an influence, deffo.

“There’s a lot of David Bowie victims walking about.”


“I’ve always been a struggling musician, even when I was in Big In Japan in 1977.

“We went through the whole bit, TV, underground gigs, the first independent record for Zoo. BIJ were the impetus for Pete Wylie, Ian McCulloch and Julian Cope, all the little young upstarts who hung around Erics. We were the elitist crew.

“The name Holly was given me by a girl called Yvonne Petrovitch because of the Andy Warhol connection with the transvestite Holly Woodlawn.

“Decadence was the key word then, we were all into a bisexual scene. I was interested in all those characters like Lou Reed and Joe Dallesandro. Wasn’t everyone?”


“One of Big In Japan’s best songs was called ‘SCUM’, short for the Society for Cutting Up Men, a movement started by Valerie Solanas – quite a girl, ha ha. She tried to assassinate Andy Warhol.

“Later on I recorded a couple of solo singles called ‘Yankee Rose’ and ‘Hobo Joe’ for the Erics label. I once sang ‘Yankee Rose’ for a Granada show called Celebration, sitting on a rocking horse.

“I love watching that back. It’s better than old photos of yourself.”


“That’s the album we’re recording now. The Pleasure Dome is a fantasy place where you can do what you like. We’ve only just got in.

“People say we’ve been manipulated, but no more so that Trevor Horn. We’re all manipulated by the public. It’s very cynical to think that everyone is a puppet. Credit where it’s due!

“The album will be the record of 1984. I believe this is our time, we’re on a wave. ‘Two Tribes’ pisses all over ‘Relax’.

“It’s an anti-war song, but not a Clash politico type number. You can interpret it in individual terms. The basic idea came from the fabulous talk-over at the beginning of Mad Max 2 where the voice tells you that ‘two great warrior tribes have gone to war’.

“Frankie’s message for 1984 is have a good time, every minute of the day. I’ll have to go now. I left a pan of scouse on the stove.”

(NB: Scouse, a Liverpool delicacy comprising stewing steak and vegetables. Scallies swear it’s much tastier than Irish or Scottish stew.)



“I was born in Liverpool in 1959,I’m a twin, the youngest in the family. I’ve got two sisters who live in America.

“My parents doted on me a bit and I always liked dressing up, even as a kid.

“I wanted to be a clothes designer originally and went to study design at St Helens Art School, but I got thrown out for dressing too weird - in Vivienne Westwood bondage gear. They couldn’t handle me running downstairs with my legs tied together.

“There was a gang of us punks including Pete Burns. I’ve known Pete for years, used to share a flat with him. We started off as local weirdos getting into fights and ended up as landmarks.

“I’m used to being stared at.”


“A girl called Hilary Steele introduced me to people in Liverpool like the Bunnymen and Julian Cope. Erics was where we congregated.

“People like me and Holly would meet up in Johns Bar or the Bar Royale, the only other cool places. I was in a group called The Spitfire Boys then - the less said the better.”


“I went home the other day and presented me dad with my gold disc for ‘Relax’ - he was quite pleased. I even made a little speech.

“We are making some money now, so I can buy the clothes I want. Having been on the dole, I’m shrewd with money nowadays. Unfortunately, I also wrote me first cheque ever to me Dad and it bounced.”


“When I was 17 I went to stay with my sister in Modesto, California, where the grapes come from. Everyone was dead straight, except in San Francisco where they’re just normal. All people cared about was driving and their swimming pools.

“The punk bands were crap! I prefer England, where you get punks on every street corner or where you can see girls with shaved hair and ripped fishnets and no one cares.

“We’re quite free here really.”


“I think people can cope with Frankie using the gay thing very easily.

“Why be scared? Why lie?

“Punk helped people stand up for themselves, sexually as well as politically.

“Christ, I’m 24 years old, so I’ll argue it out with anyone. It ony freaks me out if people are scared of being gay.

“Obviously you draw the line somewhere, but I’m not saying where. I say get off your arse and dance, we’re all going to the same grave.”



“I was the last one in and I’ll probably be the first one out. I was born in May, 1963. I went to a posh school where I had the intelligence to do well. But I preferred being a prankster.

“I worked as an electrician for a while, but this job is much harder than manual work. There are no regular hours.

“The best thing is the opportunity to travel. I like Italy and Spain best.

“We went to a club called Supersonic in Rome where the manager recognised us and gave us free ale all night. We met Bananarama and they seemed just like a girls’ version of us. I was surprised.

“Marilyn was there too but he was a bit…”


“We did get pissed off at first when Paul and Holly got all the attention, but now I prefer being able to get legless without bring recognised.

“The gay thing is nothing now. Elton John did it, Bowie did and so did Tom Robinson – to the hilt.

“It was weird having your mates read in the Daily Mirror that you were a self-confessed homosexual, but who really cares? Being gay is jut part of life – well, not mine but… while we’re getting into clubs for nothing I’m not complaining.”


“A lot of the songs we may use on the album like ‘Disneyland’, ‘Junk Funk’, ‘Love Has Got To Go’ or ‘The World Is My Oyster’, we had before we signed to ZTT.

“People say ‘Oh, they couldn’t do it without Trevor Horn’. Why should we? We’re both quite happy.

“I think Frankie sounds fresh.

“There is no Liverpool sound. You can’t compare us to the Icicle Works, or them to the Bunnymen.

“There’s a variety in what we do. ‘Two Tribes’ is like Donna Summer crossed with Pink Floyd, other stuff is like ballads or 150 beats per minute Motorhead.

“We know we’re a proper group, that it is a five-way thing.”


“I think our mates are made up about Frankie, but they don’t talk about it. Mates wouldn’t. When you go out on the ale of a night, only the Johnny-come-latelies get starstruck. If you act like the Big I Am you’ll lose mates.

“We’ve done TV and met The Thompson Twins or so called mega-stars and they’re dead normal.

“My attitude is I’ve done it one with ‘Relax’, so if ‘Two Tribes’ isn’t a hit it won’t kill me. Only Gerry And The Pacemakers ever had their three consecutive singles get to No.1.

“I think Frankie has got that same power and anger as early Jam – with a lot more technology. ‘Two Tribes’ will knock your guts inside out.

“It’s guaranteed to knock the balls off a charging rhino at two hundred paces…”



“I was born in 1964 in me Ma’s house at Aintree, near the racecourse. You could hear the shouting on Grand National days.

“I think we were a fairly average Liverpool family. I was always mad about bands, started off trying to play the guitar but me hands wouldn’t reach round.

“Dad got me a drum kit for me sixteenth birthday, cost a hundred quid. He bought it to shut me up, but after all the noise I made he wished he hadn’t.

“It took me eight months to learn before I moved onto playing in local youth clubs with mates.

“The first proper band I was in was called Dancing Girl, you won’t have heard of them. Nasher (Brian Nash) was in that too.

“When Dancing Girls got stale I left and formed Sons Of Egypt with Nasher. Holly joined soon after and started singing. We didn’t have a guitarist, couldn’t find one who wasn’t weird, until Mark O’Toole’s brother Jed asked if he could play.

“We’d changed to Frankie Goes To Hollywood by then and had a few companies interested. Holly and a mate had thought of the name a few years before, after seeing a poster advertising a Frankie Sinatra tour. The headline was Frankie Goes To Hollywood, which was the only name that seemed to fit.

“Jed left cos he has a wife, a kid, a job and a house. He had most to lose, whereas we were all on the dole.”


“We’d done a demo for Phonogram, a few others were interested, but they couldn’t handle that way we looked, too much heavy leather. They wanted us to be a smooth pop group.

“ZTT picked us - we didn’t pick them - after our first Tube show.

“Our first gigs were supporting a local band Hambi And The Dance who had Paul Rutherford doing backing vocals. He said, ‘Youse lot are great’, so he was in.”


“I got most excited about ‘Relax’ when it was at number 77.

“The BBC ban didn’t annoy me. I realised it would be an embarrassment for them ‘cos they’d played it till it got to number six.

“People have said that ‘Relax’ was just a Trevor Horn record, but the way we work is that he adds his studio knowledge to improve on an idea. Apart from a keyboard part, arrangement and the mix, it isn’t really different to the original.”


“Doing ‘War’ (a 1970 hit for Edwin Starr) was ZTT boss Paul Morley’s idea, because we wanted to have another cover.

“‘War’ goes with the A-side ‘Two Tribes’ in the same was that ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’ went with ‘Relax’.

“I think ‘Two Tribes’ will do OK. Most bands try to follow a hit with a similar song but this is different.

“Even if we released a pile of shite it’d go top forty, but we don’t want to be one hit wonders.



“I’m the youngest in the group. I was born on January 1964 in Walton Hospital.

“When we’re not in hotels I live at home with my family, three brothers, two sisters and me nephew, a right little brat.

“I failed eleven plus so I went to St Matthews secondary modern and got seven grade one CSEs. I was a scally prefect, the divvies did the work.

“When I left school I got an apprenticeship as a joiner for Liverpool Corporation. I’d just finished doing me time when ‘Relax’ became a hit.

“I was in the Old Swan fruit market putting up signs when they told me there was a phone call saying ‘Relax’ had got to 35 and we were on TOTP. All the girls in the office asked for me autograph.”


“Trever Horn reckoned that ‘Relax’ would be banned when we first recorded it, so we added in a few bits like the slurping noises for a laugh – to make it more over the top. ‘Two Tribes’ has got a few dodgy bits too, but the BBC will probably play it to death just to show they aren’t biased.

“I don’t think we’re at all outrageous; like the first video we did was crap, really tacky. The second on was worse.”


“We came across as being nice boys in interviews, but we are quite raucous.

“We’ve just been to Paris, where Island sent over this miserable girl to look after us. When she arrived we pelted her with wet bog rolls and she got a cob on.

“Later on Nasher was sick into these two glasses which we stuck outside her door. The night porter caught her in her nightie banging down our doors shouting blue murder with these glasses full of puke in her hands. Great.

“We’ve wrecked a few hotel rooms, y’know, all the usual rock’n’roll crap.”


“‘Relax’ is going up the American chart, so we should go there soon. We aren’t planning any more PAs or gigs until we can promote the album in September.

“We want people to walk away astonished like they supposedly did after the Ziggy Stardust tour. Frankie should cut through all the wimp rock like Spandau or Culture Club.

“I’m not slagging that off, it’s just that we have more obvious sex in our music.”


“Nasher gets the most mail ‘cos he looks like a Duran type (laughs). Paul and Holly get some, err, odd letters from fags. They often send in photos, undressed and well endowed so to speak.

“We’re just organising our fan club in Liverpool now. It’s run by Doreen and Kenny.

“Apart from the posters and newsletters, I want us to have Frankie boxer shorts and Frankie socks. If Nike can do it…”