ZANG TUMMM TUMB ARTICLES “the first draft of history”

Hello goodbye

It started nice and relaxed… then two tribes went to war. This month, the first day and last day of: Holly Johnson & Frankie Goes To Hollywood


June 1982

Frankie started with me, Ped [Peter Gill] and Mark OToole. I knew Ped because my flatmate Steve Lovell, whos now an indie producer, brought this lad home called Buddy who was in a band called Dancing Girls — and I joined them. The drummer, Ped, said, “I think Im going to leave this band and form another one with Mark” and I said, “Good idea, lets go.”

We left one band in one rehearsal room and walked to another where Mark was and it clicked instantly. It was just the sound. I cant really impress on anyone how good Mark was. He was dead young, 17, and stood out from every bass player in the country. We wrote a song immediately called Love Has Got A Gun, which appeared on the Pleasuredome album.

Id been in and out of bands from ‘76 to ‘82 and I was just about to give up and go to art college. I had been a part of the Erics scene — Pete Wylie was there, Julian Cope, the Bunnymen, Pete Burns, Its Immaterial, Andy McCluskey. I was in Big In Japan with Ian Broudie, Bill Drummond and Budgie. It was an incredible scene really, but after Erics ended everyone had got record deals and been on Top of the Pops. I was like, “Am I flogging a dead horse?” just at the point I got together with Mark and Ped.

We wrote most of the songs on Pleasuredome together — just drums, bass and me singing. I was a 21-year-old arty queen and saw them as young kids but we got on really well. We combined disco and rock, which had never really been heard before, and it was dirty. It was a very funky & sound. We got Brian Nash, Marks cousin, in on guitar and Paul [Rutherford] came at a later stage when he saw I had this great band and begged to join. I said, “OK, but you can only do backing vocals,” ha ha.


February 1987

There are so many versions of how it went wrong. We had the classic pathetic rows about publishing, who should be on the tour bus and who shouldnt, and I didnt think the manager was any good and they were drinking mates with him so slowly I became alienated.

The first time Id said, “Im leaving,” was in Holland. Trevor Horn promised hed record the second album but I turned up and there was Steve Lipson, saying, “Im the producer.” I was put out.

The band were adamant it would be a rock album and I was saying, “Weve created this unique sound with Trevor and his synthesizers with guitar on top, and now you want to be Def Leppard!” Id done that druggy staying up all night thing so I started living a separate life. We split up at Christmas but I got a letter from the band threatening legal action if I didnt finish the album and tour. I was freaked out so I agreed, but I hardly spoke to anyone from that moment on.

It became completely, unbelievably, absurd. We were staying at the same hotel together, writing songs but not speaking. Cassettes were passed to me and I went upstairs and wrote the lyrics. Its hysterically funny now but at the time it was horrid. It continued for about a year. I think I had a nervous breakdown, eventually.

Then Mark attacked me. It was complicated. The manager let Capital Radio broadcast the first of our Wembley Arena concerts live and hadnt told me. So Id done a live radio performance and didnt know and I just hit the roof. So did Mark and he hit me. No-one got hurt and we did our best concert ever the second night, but from that point I never spoke to another member of the band because they went out that night with the manager. I thought, “Ill finish the tour and thats it.”

The most bizarre night was my birthday in Belgium. The audience sang Happy Birthday but the band and crew wouldnt join in. It was so embarrassing. After the tour I wrote telling them Id legally left the band and they thought, Fuck him, well carry on. They carried on booking rehearsal rooms as Frankie for two years after but it had died. I hardly see them now but I send them Christmas cards. Ive forgiven them. But I dont know if theyve forgiven me.

Interview by Jon Bennett