ZANG TUMMM TUMB ARTICLES “the first draft of history”

Theyre back!

Back! BACK! Yes, after 18 months of faffing about and not making any records and getting married and painting and motor racing and selling egg-cups and making Yorkshire puddings, Frankie Goes To Hollywood have… made a record. Chris Heath is rather impressed.

This time a couple of years ago Frankie Goes To Hollywood were doing rather well. Their second single, “Two Tribes”, was just about to go to number one for eight weeks, their first single, “Relax”, was climbing back up to number two (having already been at number one earlier in the year) to become the fifth best selling British single ever. Theyd sold more t-shirts (with slogans like RELAX (DONT DO IT), FRANKIE SAY WAR and ARM THE UNEMPLOYED) than any pop group had ever done before. Later in the year they were to have another number one, “The Power Of Love” and their LP, “Welcome To The Pleasuredome”, was supposedly the first album ever to sell over a million copies on advanced orders. They seemed completely unstoppable. But there were problems…

For one thing lots of people said that Frankie werent the slightest bit talented — their success was just due to some very clever promotion (the t-shirts, the endless different versions and re-mixes of the singles), the Mike Read “ban” of “Relax” that sent it shooting to number one and the skills of producer Trevor Horn. And even those who did believe that Frankie were talented had to admit that the group had already released all their best songs — the singles they had written before they were successful — and they desperately needed to write some new material. So, after a tour which included parts of Europe, Britain, America and Japan, followed by a holiday in Hawaii to recover, they had to get down to some hard work. It wasnt easy.

First they went to Ireland. The only trouble was that it “wasnt very well organised there.” Some of the group, who didnt like the place in which they were staying, kept bunking off to Dublin for some fun. They all really wanted to get back to England but they couldnt — they were now tax exiles. So they tried the Spanish holiday island or Ibiza instead.

“I didnt like that,” remembers Holly. “Its very hot with lots of flies.”

But a few rough versions of new songs were recorded, and they returned to Ireland. Slowly a little more work got done — Holly was writing lyrics, the three “lads”, Mark, Nasher and Ped, were writing the music (with Trevor Horn hardly ever anywhere in sight) and Paul was twiddling his thumbs and getting a bit fed up.

Then they went to Holland to record the album. Except that they could only record part of it — they hadnt written enough songs yet. Off they shot, to Jersey this time, for more “inspiration”.

“Was it hard to write the songs?” sniggers Nasher. “If there was a pub nearby it was hard. If there wasnt, it wasnt so hard.”

Finally they returned to Holland and finished the album, which, after a series of ludicrous titles, they simply called “Liverpool”, and which includes songs like “Warriors Of The Wasteland”, “Is There Anybody Out There?”, “Watching The Wild Life” and the new singles, “Rage Hard”.

The new stuffs quite heavy,” says Nasher, “even though thats a bit of a cliché. But its good. Weve been more grown-up in the attitude and execution and weve been much more involved, has more shout.”

“Some of the stuff on the last album was a bit crappy,” admits Ped (and they all seem to agree with this except for Holly). “This albums ten times better. Its more what we really are — five fellas from Liverpool singing songs about the way they feel about things.”

“‘Rage Hard,” says Holly, “is quite alternative — moody rather than commercial sounding. Have you read the poem Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas? Its kind of inspired by that. Its an incantation against death and lethargy, and its supposed to encourage lots of creative idealism in the listener.”

Hmmmmm. What would the lads thing of that explanation?

“Theyd laugh at me,” smiles Holly, “but Im used to that.”


“I really dont know,” sighs Holly Johnson wearily, tucking into a bowl of strawberries and cream. “Why do people keep saying Im leaving the group?” Apparently theres not a shred of truth in the rumour.

“Of course Ive felt like leaving loads of times,” he says, “when Ive been really fed up on tour and wished I was back on the dole in Liverpool. But I feel like that about anything.” And, in any case, theres no way hes going to give all this up now — he hasnt made nearly enough money.

“I used to say when I hadnt any money that I wasnt into material things,” he admits, “and I did things like throw the television out of the window. But as soon as I experienced money and I could buy some of the things I liked, I started to enjoy that. And, whatever people think, Im not a millionaire or a half millionaire or even a quarter millionaire. Im not stinking rich because Im not the greatest businessman on earth.”

Consequently, he sniffs, he cant afford to but too many object dart, though its one of his greatest passions.

“I do like conversations about artists. Im quite into the English artists of the Bloomsbury group at the moment.” Nevertheless he has to content himself, for the most part, with his own masterworks. He recently took up oil painting and has knocked out “some flowers, the head coming out of the waves.” Another little pop star sideline like Nick Rhodes Polaroids? He shakes his head. “I dont think anything could be like Nick Rhodes Polaroids,” he tuts.

As well as painting hes been “going to a few exhibitions, the cinema, watching videos, playing with my synthesiser, writing poems and reading books” in his London flat.

“I tend to get things out of my system in my poems so theyre much more extreme than my song words,” he explains. “Whether it be about injustice or art of genius or lust or Dublin. My favourite line is in one called ‘Howling Lust — it ends ‘rapes you in the kitchen. Thats my favourite.”

Doesnt he do anything that isnt at all, er, “arty”? It seems not.

“When I grow up Id like to be Jean Cocteau,” he giggles.

“I always want to be doing something creative; to do with conjuring something from nothing.” Even in Ireland he helped out a mate called Alice by serving for a day in her pottery shop.

“I had to sign all these bloody autographs,” he frowns, “and I said ‘Im not signing any more unless you buy something so all the 30p egg-cups went immediately. People who ask for autographs can be a bit horrible because theyre not always your fans. Some idiot in Liverpool the other day said ‘Arent you in Frankie Goes To Babylon? and in Holland I was mistaken for the lead singer of the Pet Shop Boys. I laughed me head off!”

The best thing about Ireland, though, was his new crockery. “I got a nice hand-painted tea set. Its lovely — its got cornflowers and poppies on it. I use it all the time. Whats a tea party at Holly Johnsons like? Well, theres biscuits, usually muesli cookies — I dont like gingernuts. I make the tea and put it on a tray and put it on the coffee table. Depending what mood Im in, I either say ‘help yourself or I do it. I dont mind being ‘mum but I do tend to make a mess. I dont make cakes but Ive got a Kenwood Chef and I have made Yorkshire pudding in it. They rose really well.

“I havent asked the lads round for tea because I dont think theyd come. Thats not their idea of a good time. Theyd break the place! Well, they wouldnt but I think theyd get pretty bored if I didnt have any blue movies.”


“It was the best do Ive ever been to,” grins Nasher. He means his wedding in July to Claire Bryce.

“I got married,” he explains simply, “because I was in love. When youve found someone, you might as well do it now rather than wait another six years.”

The best man was his old mate, Eddie.

“He stood up and said ‘Ive known him for years and hes still an ar-larse — thats like ‘someone who is an old arsehole,” laughs Nasher. “My speech? I said my mother-in-law borrowed her hat from Martin Degville because it had one of those numbers over the front and feathers in the back. She understood. Big Joans well up on Sigue Sigue Sputnik.”

The honeymoon was in the Seychelles “getting sunburnt, driving down the island, visiting other islands and doing, er, the usual thing you do on honeymoons.” Now theyre settled into their London flat, Claires getting ready to go back to her job as a nurse.

“I suppose Ive got more responsibility,” Nasher considers, “because I got a new cat today. Theres two now, Clancy and this one. They dont like each other at the moment — the other one freaked out this morning. But thats as far as my marital responsibilities go — tow cats and my wife. The cats are the hardest.

“Whos the boss?” he laughs. “There isnt one. I make the breakfast and she makes dinner. I make beans on toast in the microwave Makr and Ped gave me as a wedding present. (Paul, Holly and their manager gave him a giant chess set.) She makes all kinds of exotic dishes for dinner. Shes just started having a crack at curries — she didnt think she liked them, but she does now. I think she was always put off the idea of having hot poop the day after.

“Kids? I dont think its fair at the moment living in a flat four floors up. But I love kids and when we do start we wont stop. How many? How bigs a football team…?”


“Im in love,” laughs Mark OToole. “Im not embarrassed about it. I met Lorna when we were on tour in Florida — she was visiting her mum in Jacksonville — and we got engaged at Christmas. I proposed in Amsterdam in a hotel. We bought the ring there too — a white gold solitaire.

That was quite good, going out to get that, because we thought it would be like a big happy day but it was chucking it down with rain. But we have a good laugh. We went to Pizzaland to celebrate. I had a plain one — but she likes all those toppings because shes American — raw asparagus and stuff like that.

“I also rang up her mum and asked her permission. She said ‘yes and talked to me,” he sniggers. “about the responsibility. But were going to wait till we feel like it before getting married. Id like to do it somewhere like Jamaica on the beach — without any hassles. Nashers wedding was a good laugh — the only thing was the cake was too late as we were too drunk to eat it. It was a good one, though, — four tiers with a fountain in the middle spouting water.”

And even though he says they tease Nasher about “Mr and Mrs”, he comfirms theres not danger of Frankie ever falling apart.

“The only person whos ever stormed out is Paul when I stuffed an ice cream in his face in the middle of a photo session when ‘Relax came out. He left for five minutes but then he came back.”

There were, says Mark, quite a few good “japes” back in those days. Before Frankie were too successful Paul would stay with friends in London while the rest of them all shared a room.

One night Holly came in with this girl, one of his mates, and wed unscrewed all the doors and pulled all the lightbulbs out. We saw him go upstairs and we ran after him — he opened the door and it fell in, he went for the light and the light wasnt working so he went for the bathroom light and that door fell in and we could hear him saying ‘somebodys trying to burgle us, somebodys trying to burgle us….”

But these days Frankie seem to spend a little less time messing about and a little more time thinking about the group.

“Were the most original thing in 10 or 15 years. I think were… quite good.” In other words, better than A-ha — “Theyre crap — theyre Norwegian, know what I mean?” — and Sigue “Sigue” Sputnik. “The new Frankie?” he laughs. “Nah. The difference is theyre crap.”

In fact Mark can see only one thing that can get in the Frankies way.

“Im a bit worried,” he whispers, trying to conceal a huge grin, “about Nasher. Hes a bit of a husband. He goes home for his tea now and things like that!” But, he adds reassuringly, the matters in hand.

“Well sort him out — well have to get him therapy I think.”


“Ive been getting really bored,” sighs Paul Rutherford. “We were so busy before and then it stopped and we were out of the country and that made it worse. I think the tax exile bit was a mistake. It got really awful at one stage and we just wanted to go home. We felt so anxious and were away such a long time. Financially I should think it was the right thing to do and I did care about the money a bit, but now Id rather be happy. Whats the point in having money if you cant share it with your friends?”

Paul only does backing vocals on the new LP (as on all the previous records) so he escaped for a lot of the time to New York, “hanging out with friends who arent in the music business, just being normal, going out for a drink, watching movies and making movies with little video cameras.”

“Its a boredom phase,” he explains, looking very bored indeed and winding his bandana impatiently around his body in every possible way. “Im searching for new things to do. I suppose Im a bit disinterested with it all.” Not that hell be storming out of Frankie just yet. “Ill give it five years,” he smiles.

Hes even, amazingly enough, bored with what always seemed to be his main interest — expensive designer clothes. Hes not going to open the chain of shops he was rumoured to be starting — “it never really got off the ground” — and says “Im just bored of that clothes bit.”

“Everyone is doing it now,” he explains. “It doesnt work, it doesnt mean as much now. Its an obvious thing to do — every band get the advance, runs down to South Molton Street, buys all the clothes, wears them and looks really awful. It used to be six Rolls Royces and a house in the country; now its a modest flat filled with lots of expensive clothes.”

So, any guesses why he got rid of his moustache?

“I got bored with it,” says Paul. “I think that five years was enough.”

Any guesses what he thinks of pop music these days?

“Its boring,” he says. “Im listening to more and more film soundtracks — Enico Morricones Once Upon A Time In The West, Some Like It Hot, Lets Make Love, Doris Day things…”

Or why he doesnt spend so much time with Holly anymore?

“We dont feel the need. Were no less big mates but weve been on top of each other for goodness knows how many years and you get sick after a bit.”

So what doesnt Paul find boring? Well, he confesses to playing electronic chess, darts and Trivial Pursuit while they were away and once he moves into his London home (he lives in Fulham with a couple of friends at the moment) hes looking forward to getting out his collection of sophisticated modern toys.

“My favourite is a Mickey Mouse that somebody bought me in Japan,” he says, perking up a bit. “Its dressed as a magician and you press his hand down and this handkerchief lifts up and you get a piece of gum. Its melon-flavoured.”


“Im a bit quieter than people think,” mutters Ped. “A lot of people think Im just completely and utterly mad, just like an animal. Theres a little bit of that in me, but Im also a little shy.”

Shy?! Is this really the person who is supposed to do nothing other than bash the drums, shout obscenities and ask ‘Whos getting the ale in? It seems as if Peds changed his ways.

“I regret spending too much money on alcohol and going out too much,” he confesses. “I got fat. I put on a couple of stone, just drinking every night, and Im trying to get rid of it. I go to the gym with Mark.”

And, though he spends nearly all of his times on the group — “my life for the last three or four years” — hes also found time to do some motor racing.

“Not racing,” he points out quickly. “Just learning. Its a good laugh and a break from all this. I suppose its the risk that appeals to me — that you can seriously hurt yourself and therefore youve got to be good it you want to do it. You cant just have lots of money. Ive been down five or six times and the last time I spun the car off at about 90 m.p.h.”

Surprisingly Peds got nothing but respect and admiration for Andrew Ridgeley.

“He races,” says Ped, clearly impressed. “If I gave him a race hed probably thrash me. He has these accidents because hes trying hard, hes trying his best. And its a good thing to do.”

At home in his rented flat (hes just bought one of his own which hell move into soon) its also cars he turns his mind to if he has the time — theres his Ford Capri 2.8 Injection and a Ferrari outside and endless technical car magazines scattered round indoors. And, he explains, there isnt a girlfriend in sight to “distract” him.

“I had one for four years and we finished three months back. It hasnt bothered me since.

It wasnt because of the band, it was just me and her. Its not really sad, its a relief on both parts. And Im going to live by myself now unless somebody comes along. If it happens, it happens. Theyd have to be able to put up with me. Im untidy — my place looks like a bombs hit it with all the dirty clothes from last week, books, magazines, videos and anything that comes through the door on the floor. Im a bit lazy too.”

Theyd also have to prepare to give up going out dancing. “I cant dance,” he sniggers, “so I dont go to boogie. I try when Im drunk and it usually ends up with me flat on me face.”

But he doesnt care. Hes happy enough being in what he reckons is a very “special” pop group.

“Were special because of our attitude,” he explains. “Were supposed to be big pop stars but were also scruffy Liverpool lads, obnoxious animals. And thats whats good — weve got a bit of both.”