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Title: Holly-er than thou
Author: Johnny Dee
Source: Record Mirror
Publish date: September 23, 1989

Holly-er than thou


When Holly Johnson sang ‘The Power Of Love’ one Yuletide, a chorus of angels came down from on high. With his new single ‘Heaven’s Here’, Holly has made a return visit. “Holly’s here!” shouts Johnny ‘Angel’ Dee

The venue for the Holly Johnson interview experience is the restaurant of the Hyde Park Hotel, which is just down from Harrods, overlooking the park itself It’s a terribly posh place, waiters fuss around continually, chandeliers hang from the high ceiling and when your meal is served a silver dome is lifted from your plate to reveal dainty, minimalist nouvelle cuisine. In these upper-crust surroundings, the humble rm reporter is somewhat embarrassed to plonk a clumsy tape recorder on the table. Surely, it wouldn’t be ‘proper’. Holly Johnson has no such reservations.

“Whip it out dear, whip it out!” he cajoles, nibbling on a cheesy snip.

The BBC really should scrap ‘Wogan’ and start a new show hosted by Holly. “And of course it would have to be called ‘Nothing Special’,” he giggles, amused by the idea.

He’s a great gabber, sharp witted and devilishly ‘bitchy’, when talking about people he’s not too fond of. His voice - Frankie Howerd with a Liverpudlian accent - makes things soundfunny even when they’re not meant to be. Above all, he’s one of the most charming, frank and friendly pop stars you could ever hope to bump into.

After disbanding one of the most successful and controversial groups of the Eighties, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and the two year legal wrangle that followed, Holly Johnson released his first solo single earlier this year. ‘Love Train’ was the perfect commercial pop song that didn’t belong anywhere but the top 10. The hits ‘Americanos’ and ‘Atomic City’ followed with their daft, colourful videos and now there’s the sweet, sparkling pop fizz of ‘Heaven’s Here’.


What’s your vision of heaven?

“I definitely believe that you sprout wings. Mine are going to be absolutely fab-u-lous,” he laughs. “I’ve got an image of a great big celestial disco going on in heaven - Divine dancing with Cleopatra, Tennesse Williams dancing with Richard Burton.”

Who will you be dancing with?

“Oh, now that would be telling. I think I’d just fly above everyone’s heads, hovering magnificently and occasionally land if someone was appealing to me.”

So who or what is God?

“To me God is a power which represents light, endeavour and good. It’s like to me, laziness is evil and work is good.”

What does hell look like?

“The House Of Commons. Can’t you just see Maggie with horns and a tail!”

Holly’s musical career began in a church, he sang in the choir. “I was in love with wearing a starched ruff and those big white frocks every Saturday,” he recalls, a starry look in his eyes. “And the beautiful cobalt blue of the stained glass windows.”


“I was saved from art school by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. I was all ready to go when I decided to sign with ZTT instead. Great moments in pop part 18.”

Holly Johnson isn’t one of these pop stars who takes up art as some kind of pretentious hobby. “Nick Rhodes? His stuff was laughable, to be honest. Mine’s quite good”. Talking to him it becomes obvious that it’s a major part of his life. “I’ve just done a series of religious paintings actually. I painted myself a guardian angel to put above my bed and I’ve painted Marilyn Monroe as Mary Magdalene. I’m very mean with my paintings, I’ve only given two away - one to my sister and one to charity. I like my own work, I definitely paint for me, although I do paint with communication in mind - I will show it to the world one day.”


“It’s definitely my favourite past-time, although I don’t do it as much as I used to. Shopping is a bit of a crime really. When you first start earning money you do it a lot and then you do it so much that you can’t really afford to do it anymore. I still can’t go to the King’s Road on a Saturday without buying something special.”

Are you good at making decisions or are you an um and ahrer?

“I’m a terrihle um and ahrer. I’ve missed fabulous things through indecision. I was at an art exhibition once and I was offered a great deal on these two paintings. So, I thought ‘if they’re so cheap maybe they not very good’. So I went away to think about it for five minutes and didn’t I bump into bloody Bob Geldof who chewed my ear off for half an hour. I went back and they’d gone. Bloody Bob Geldof!”


“I love pop music because it communicates to the most people. Snobs say it’s the lowest common denominator don’t they? I think those people are missing out. Their lives are enriched by serious music. But, you know, I make serious music, it’s serious pop. Is there more value in a Kylie number one or a Morrissey B-side? A Kylie number one certainly communicates to more people. But, I know what I prefer. It’s quite a dilemma really.”

Pop is…

“An irresistible sound… the latest sound. Pop’s life magnified. It’s Coca-Cola, Pepsi. It’s an alternative reality that’s much more interesting than the real thing.”


“Last night I was crying over an Australian mini-series, it was terribly tragic. In my house the TV goes on at about six and stays on for the rest of the night whether you watch it or not. I don’t watch Saturday night TV ‘cause I’m not really a fan of game shows. I watch them in America because they’re so over the top and sicko. Here, the prizes are so insulting. You become the laughing stock of your neighbourhood if you win. A week in Yugoslavia for two - is it worth it?”

Is it worth kissing Leslie Crowther for?

“Nothing’s worth kissing Leslie Crowther for.”

Who is your favourite ‘Brookside’ character?

“Rod and Tracy’s gran - Julia Brogan. She’s such an un-holy cow. She makes me sick. I’d like to stab her 62 times with a carving knife, I really would. Gladys Ambrose who plays her did a great advert for ‘Blast’ on the radio.” Holly does an impression - his own voice, only louder. “‘Don’t let your kids near ‘im – that ‘Olly Johnson, the way he bumps and grinds’. She sent me an autographed photo and I was really pleased, only the dog chewed her name off, I was upset for days.”


What’s your dog called?

“Funky. He’s a really nice dog. He doesn’t care whether I’m hip this week or not. He’s a poodle. I didn’t know he was a poodle ‘till bought him. He doesn’t look like a poodle ‘cause we don’t clip him with that ridiculous haircut poodles have. Poodles are the most intelligent dogs, and they don’t moult, which is handy.”


“I don’t really think of myself as a famous person. Sometimes I play the role, but it’s not like ‘clear the room, I’m entering’. I think I was very famous during the court case. That was a terrible glare. It’s been like two years of profuse ulceration. The News Of The World camping on the doorstep isn’t very pleasant. But I won’t really get that again now, unless I’m involved in some sort of sex scandal- which is highly unlikely at my time of life!”

Do you feel as if you’re being watched all the time?

“Sometimes I feel self-conscious, but only on the days where you’d feel self-concious anyway. The last time I was mobbed was by this posse of German tourists while I was looking at second hand jeans. I fled I’m afraid, smiled politely and fled.

“People always seem incredibly surprised when they see me. They seem quite shocked that I should be walking along the street with a Tesco carrier bag,” he pauses for thought. “Well… a Plaza Foods bag.”