Title: Once upon a time in America
Source: Record Mirror
Publish date: 1 Dec 1984
The characters: five lovable pop-tops from Liverpool. The scene: New York, New York. The triumph: reported by Dylan Jones. The photograph: Brian Aris
US OF A are you ready to Frankie? Once upon a time in, Liverpool there were five lads; Paul, Ped, Nasher, Mark and Holly. Five Frankies all looking for a destination — but where would it be? London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Tokyo? No! Do you know the way to San Jose? Yes! That’s where it would be - HOLLYWOOD!! With an insatiable and lusty thirst for fame and fable, the irrepressible Frankie Goes To Hollywood are wiping the spit from their jaw and steaming ahead with all engines running — on their way to the land of the star spangled banner.
The happy accident — revelling in the riches of a premature stardom… wallowing in the myth of madness and fame… "standing head and shoulders above the competition. So — Frankie take America. After causing the largest upheaval in the British music charts since the onslaught of Punk, Frankie Goes To Hollywood cross the Atlantic and force themselves on the great American public.
They are as big in Britain now as they possibly could be — but in The States… Frankie what… Frankie who… Frankie where? A month ago there were rumours in the air of a Sex Pistols-type mid-Atlantic tour split… caused by the lukewarm reception to the ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ LP, the British press backlash… and more importantly, the ego clashes within the group themselves — primarily between Holly and Paul.
This feeling of unrest came with them to the States: the ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘Relax’ videos were receiving tepid rotation on MTV, there was "virtually no radio action, and people everywhere were saying: "But can they play live?"
Well, if you were to believe ‘Saturday Night Live’ on November 10 you would have thought not. In between sketches by the post Ackroyd/Belushi/Murphy team such as George Carlin and Pamela Stephenson, Frankie ambled meekly through ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘Born To Run’ whilst looking like they wished they were somewhere else… possibly Bootle. They were so bad that everyone thought that the concerts would be the end of Frankie in America, and maybe the end of Frankie for good.
They kicked off the tour with a low-key university date in Ottowa on October 31, followed by two dates in Montreal and two more in Toronto. So far so good. Then it was down the coast for the first American concert in Washington DC on November 6 — Election night… (Mr Reagan’s comments have gone unreported). They went down a storm in Washington, and after the show a reporter from American TV’s ‘Entertainment Tonight’ asked someone who saw the gig about why they liked the five boys from Liverpool…
"Why have you come to see Frankie Goes To Hollywood tonight?"
"Because they are making an important political message with their song ‘Two Tribes’ "
"What is that point."
"Oh, I don’t know."
Well, even if the public seemed nonplussed, the US press were no longer bemused by the Frankies… And so on to New York.
The Ritz is like a 1930’s Camden Palace, a metropolis full of salivating New Yorkers, out of towners, personalities, punks and Frankiphiles. Three giant video screens shine down on a no-dancing crowd that awaits only one thing — Frankie In The Flesh.
To the thunderous applause of a parched Ritz audience, the opening chords of ‘War’ come hurtling out of the speakers — and then five smiling men take the stage and start to stir it up. The first thing you notice is how substantial the sound is. Supported by one extra keyboard player(?) and one extra guitarist(!) plus a few extra tapes ‘here + there’, The Frankies create such a well rounded and sturdy sound that you begin to wonder whether Trevor Horn really is the only wizard on the mixing desk. Through ‘War’ and the next number ‘Wish You Were Here’, they totally win the audience over, and from then on the evening is theirs. The Big Apple was theirs for the taking, and on November 15 1984, Frankie took it.
Paul Rutherford really comes into his own at this performance (and has improved tremendously since their gig at The Palace 18 months ago), and he proves what a true star he is by putting 100% into his act.
As ‘Relax’ sends the crowd into a palpitating frenzy, Holly Johnson starts to lift the shield of normality from his face — from here on in he starts acting like some egotistical and demented bloated Liberace who constantly looks to the audience for acknowledgement… and he gets it.
The band as a whole show how good they are on ‘The Power Of love’, where every note and cymbal. crash is on cue, every synth line the right depth, every curled lip catching the right phrase. Watching them perform this song was nearly awesome… and there was no way they were going to let go now.
The cock-eyed slide-show hidden behind Ped’s drum kit shows various Frankie memorabilia and full colour Morley manifestos… and Paul Rutherford leaps into a trot as the band clock in at the funk factory on ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’.
This song leaves the studio version behind (where it belongs — in the studio) and goes on and on, climax after climax, never knowing or caring when its going to stop. Whereas on record it sounds like an indulgent piece of adolescent ‘serious’ head phone gear, live it pulls the carpet out from under everybody’s feet. Toot suite!!
During ‘The Only Star In Heaven’, the shouts and chants from Holly’s cohorts sound just like vintage Clash… giving an aural dimension to the never-ending slide show of flashing sex, horror and crucifixion. "New York City up the arse," announces Holly before they plunge into ‘Krisco Kisses’, again working up a mammoth sweat that hinged somewhere between white funk and electronic heavy metal.
Next up on the running board is ‘Two Tribes’ with Paul ‘Superstar’ Rutherford leaping and pogoing around the stage with a Ronald Reagan mask stuck to his face… and Holly ‘Arbuckle’ Johnson punching the air and extolling the audience… "This is a song about the fight between good and evil — and we’re from the Pool, so you’d better clap." Then a thunderous finale, a musical array of bombastic dimensions… and off.
"We love you," cried The Ritz… and indeed they did. Frankie knew this and walked to perform a predictable but unpredictably exciting ‘Born To Run’ and then a second I rendering of ‘Relax’ that was even better even looser — than the first: hard hitting, below the belt and very, very loud.
Frankie played what was one of the most invigorating concerts yet seen this year. In an accomplished and passionate set they managed to win over the American audience and the considerable English contingent who were there to witness ‘The lads’ in full flight.
So — they had conquered New York… all that was left was the rest of the United States… Philadelphia, The Mid West, and finally The City Of Angels — Hollywood. They took New York and it seems likely that they will do the same to California. How can they not be successful?