Author: Paul Lester
Source: Melody Maker
Publish date: November 6 1993
FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD
FRANKIE said, Relax Don’t Do It, and got banned by Radio 1 because Mike Read (who?) thought they were talking about (gasp) the sexual act (they were). Frankie said, War Hide Yourself, and it was kind of near the knuckle because we were living under the giant shadow of nuclear Armageddon at the time. Frankie said Arm The Unemployed and that was very near the knuckle because at this, the height of the miners’ troubles (summer 1984), dozens of teenagers chose to wear T-shirts with that slogan emblazoned across the front on “Top Of The Pops”.
Frankie said a lot. They did even more. They had three Number Ones with their first three singles (all of which appear on “Bang!”). Their second single, “Two Tribes”, stayed at Number One for nine weeks while “Relax”, their debut, climbed back up to Number Two six months after being at pole position. Their third single, “The Power Of Love”, flirted with religious imagery in the same way that its predecessors flirted with sex and war. Frankie managed to wind up our moral guardians and become the biggest threat to public order since The Sex Pistols, and all because they happened to say that, yes, there are such things as cathedrals, genitals and grenades.
Maybe it was the way they said it. Their shock tactics may have been “punk”, but the production values and presentation/marketing techniques of “masterminds” Trevor Horn and Paul Morley were anything but. Basically, FGTH caused a civil disturbance and couldn’t just we dismissed as five Scouse gits because of the sheer intelligence and sophistication of the operation.
Every Frankie sleeve, poster or advert was a work of art, crammed with (depending on your mood) literary wit/pretentious wank courtesy of the now ridiculously derided Morley. And the records were built like spaceships by Horn, the culmination of all those fantastic synthesised concepts from the (now mysteriously discredited) early Eighties such as “Lexicon Of Love”, “New Gold Dream” or “Dare”.
However, as with ABC, Simple Minds and The Human League, Frankie stopped being brilliant when they started listening to their detractors - on their follow-up to the lavish “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome” double LP, “Liverpool”, (whose lesser hits, “Rage Hard”, “Warriors Of The Wasteland” and “Watching The Wildlife” are here) Frankie seemed to be consumed with guilt about their extravagant past. (There’s probably a psycho-social point to be made here re- Thatcherism.) “Liverpool” was more Rambo than Rimbaud. It proved that Frankie could play their instruments, suggested that they didn’t need Morley or Horn, decided that ZTT’s packaging was mere cake-icing. It was crap. Worse, it was more rock than pop, just like everything is more rock than pop these days - we’re still living with that sense of guilt. When Frankie Goes To Hollywood - the last great record company idea, the last truly astounding chart act whose private lives spilling out into the public domain actually mattered – went rock, pop didn’t stand a chance. Bang! It died. I, for one, miss it terribly.