follow us in feedly
Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘too lewd to be shown’ music video for ‘Relax’
07:53 am


Frankie Goes To Hollywood

In 1983, a band of five young lads from Liverpool appeared on hip British music show The Tube. The band was called Frankie Goes To Hollywood, who apparently took their name from a tabloid headline about Frank Sinatra, and consisted of Holly Johnson (lead singer), Paul Rutherford (vocals, keyboards), Peter Gill (drums), Mark O’Toole (bass), Brian Nash (guitar). They had a fine selection of songs including “Relax,” and “Two Tribes,” and rather original fashion sense, incorporating boxing and bondage gear. Even so, they were making little headway as were still unsigned to any record label.

They did, however, have management, who financed a demo video to hawk around record companies in hope of a deal, as Holly Johnson later recalled in his autobiography, A Bone in My Flute:

Bob and Sharon Johnson, who had recently become our London-based managers, arranged for us to make a video demo of two songs. Bob had a friend at Arista Records (Simon Potts) who invested six hundred pounds. We recorded ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘Relax’ in a sixteen-track studio in Clapham [London]. A while later Bob hired a video camera, which was operated by a photographer friend of his. We used the basement of the Hope and Anchor to record our performance. During the recording, the manager of the venue drew Bob aside and accused him of using the premises to make a porn video.

We had really gone to town on the bondage look. I wore a pair of leather knickers and an old Seditioneries cropped T-shirt, with unzipped nipple holes and bike tyre pieces on the shoulders. that I had inherited from [Dead or Alive singer] Pete Burns. Paul purloined a pair of leather thigh guards that strapped at the back, which left his arse completely bare. He also waved around a fake Luger. We dressed the boys in denim shorts with the odd bit of leather. Mark wore a black ‘Lone Ranger’ mask and denim shorts. The Leather Pets [backing dancers] were there in studed leather mini dresses and suspenders holding up laddered stockings; we chained them to the scaffolding.

The video was, by Johnson’s own admission, “very seedy and tacky” and included a sequence of “simulated sodomy” that Holly performed on Paul.

For any era this video was outrageous. Unfortunately it didn’t have the desired effect. Bob Johnson hawked the video around several record companies, to no avail. The younger A and R men seemed keen but didn’t think they could persuade their older bosses. Island’s Chris Blackwell supposedly sent a telex saying something like ‘Not on my lifetime’. Simon Draper at Virgin allegedly said ‘We’ve already got one old Queen we can’t sell, why do I need another one.’

However, the performance promo did attract interest from Channel 4’s music show The Tube. The show’s proudcers thought the video was “too lewd to be shown” at teatime on a Friday, but were keen to have Frankie Goes To Hollywood interviewed and perform “Relax.” As it turned out, this was the toned-down performance (though still in bondage gear) that won Frankie and record contract and launched their careers, as Holly explains: they came to Liverpool and filmed us at the newly opened State Ballroom, Liverpool’s glitziest disco. We had the use of the laser lighting, which was the latest thing, and the camera men loved doing soft focus crutch [sic] shots of The Leather Pets.

It was a resounding success when it was shown later in the year. The camera somehow liked me.

A member of Yes, who was recording ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ with Trevor Horn, brought the clip to Trevor’s attention. Trevor claimed he could make a number one hit out of that song [“Relax”], then promptly forgot all about us.

Horn didn’t quite forget about Frankie Goes To Hollywood, as he did go on to produce their single “Relax” (which did go to number one) and their excellent debut album Welcome to the Pleasuredome, which all helped FGTH dominate the charts across most of the world in 1984.

This is Frankie’s debut appearance on The Tube, where they performed an early version of “Relax” and were interviewed by Jools Holland.

More Frankie Goes to Hollywood after the jump, including bits from the “lewd” video deemed too extreme for early 80s British telly…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Frankie Goes to Hollywood: The Commodore 64 game
06:34 am


Commodore 64
Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Frankie Goes to Hollywood video game
In 1984, Frankie Goes to Hollywood was a very big deal. Americans, inclined to write off the weirdly self-important and prurient dance-pop act as a one-hit wonder, may not be aware of just how big they were. Their 1984 singles “Relax” and “Two Tribes” respectively clock in as the #6 and #21 best-selling singles in UK recording history. They were never going to last, but at their peak, nobody in the landscape sounded like Frankie.

A year after those two mega-hits happened, Ocean Software Ltd published a Denton Designs game called Frankie Goes to Hollywood for the Commodore 64. Judging as best I can from a detailed YouTube simulation of gameplay, it looks like a pretty good game for what it is—and also kind of ridiculous too (it wouldn’t be a Frankie game if it weren’t a little ridiculous). 
Frankie the computer game
In the game, you play a monochromatic (often blue) homunculus whose task it is to fulfill the four life aspects of game, pleasure, war, love, and faith. These are represented by four corresponding icons: a pair of spermatozoa, a bullet (to me it never doesn’t look like a condom—this is clearer in the picture below), a heart, and a cross. You start at 0% and as you make your way through the various levels, “Frankie” rewards you with “pleasure units” and you eventually make it to 100% and win the game. Seriously, the gameplay repeatedly informs you with messages like “Frankie give you 2500 more pleasure units - you have 47200 and you’re 55% a real person.” Just think: if you achieve all four life aspects you can become a fully realized human being—just like Holly Johnson!

Actually, it’s high time I quoted from the manual:

You begin this extraordinary experience devoid of personality, an amorphous shape in the land of the mundane. Behind the facade of flying ducks and kitchen sinks however lies a giant web of drama and intrigue spun within the pleasuredome. Scruntinise! Investigate! Probe! Objects you take for granted may be your passport to success; clues can be discovered everywhere. In this game of games you will need the skills of Arcade King, Adventurer, Super Sleuth, Mastermind and more. Frankie say Relax. Use the Power of Zap to build the equation (4 icons at bottom right corner are (left to right) Pleasure, War, Love,and Faith) to its peak when, if you respond brilliantly, you may enter the heart of the Pleasure Dome

It’s all a little silly, and couldn’t be more pretentious in a stilted 1980s way, but, as I mentioned earlier, the game was surprisingly forward-thinking for the day. For one thing, the game is pleasingly non-linear; you definitely have goals to achieve and so forth, but basically you can wander around and do what you want to do, to some extent. The game seems to have been admirably short on roadmaps to explain what you were supposed to do.

Furthermore, the various stages of the game were quite varied and diverting, as far as I can tell. In the first stage you have to solve a murder, there’s an odd stage in which you are superimposed on Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel (only with a cheeky devil replacing God) and you have to dodge the arrows emanating from a squadron of cherubim. For reasons that aren’t explained, in the “Raid over Merseyside” stage you have to defend Liverpool (Frankie were from Liverpool, doncha know?) from some kind of WWII air blitz, and later on, in “Talking Heads” (I think), you engage in a weird Pong-like battle between Reagan and ... maybe Chernenko? The final stages of the game occur in some kind of anomic computer laboratory vaguely reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey or perhaps the original Tron.
The concept of the game is strong, as is the writing. Here is a sampling of some of the more memorable messages that pop up during the game:

“The jacket will free you from pain”
“You now have a herring”
“20 flowers make a bunch”
“The killer is a Taurean”
“You now have a bag of money”
“Mr Dull has always voted Tory”
“Joe Public hates to part with a penny”
“You now have a thirsty cat”
“Ms Bland adores a hot beef curry”
“The killer is an atheist”

Frankie’s music is the only element that is conspicuously lacking throughout, although predictably, the big reward for achieving full 100% humanity is a tinny rendition of “Two Tribes.”

Thanks to reader Ossian Sunesson for calling my attention to this game.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Rock Cameos: When bands guest star in films

You can picture the scene, lunch somewhere, another glass, and then the producer says. “I know this band, they’re hot, they’re what the kids want, let’s get them in the movie.”

It’s a win-win situation. Surely? The band starts their film career and receive major media exposure; while the movie has cachet from the group’s fans. This, of course, all depends on the quality of the film and the songs.

Does anyone remember what The Yardbirds were playing in Blow-Up? All I recall is Jeff Beck going Pete Townshend on his guitar, while a white trousersered David Hemmings intently joined a rather bored-looking audience.

Amen Corner had topped the UK pop charts with “If Paradise is half as Nice” and must have seemed a perfect call for the Vincent Price, Christopher Lee schlock fest, Scream and Scream Again. Singer Andy Fairweather-Low is beautifully filmed in the background as loopy Michael Gothard prowls a nighclub in search of fresh blood. The trouble is the song’s a stinker.

Sparks were allegedly second choice to Kiss for the George Segal, Timothy Bottoms, Richard Widmark dull-a-thon, Rollercoaster. The brothers Mael had moved back to the US after four successful years in the UK, and had just released their album Big Beat, from which they played “Fill Her Up” and “Big Boy” to a wildly over-enthusiastic crowd. The audience obviously hadn’t read the script, as the film is turgid, and the band’s cameo is its only highlight. When asked about the biggest regret in their career, Sparks said appearing in Rollercoaster. Understandable.

Brian De Palma stopped copying Hitchcock form a few minutes in Body Double to make a pop promo for Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax”, right in the middle of the movie. Surprisingly, it works. But perhaps the best, almost seamless merging of pop singer / artiste in a film is Nick Cave in Wim Wenders in Wings of Desire. Cave is perfect, as is the film, and he was a resident in West Berlin at the time, writing his first novel And the ass saw the Angel.

Of course, there are plenty of others, (Twisted Sister in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, The Tubes in Xanadu, anyone?), but oddest may be Cliff Richard and The Shadows in Gerry Anderson’s puppet movie Thunderbird Are Go. Difficult to tell the difference between puppet and the real thing.

Michelangelo Antonioni originally wanted The Velvet Underground for ‘Blow-Up’ (1966), but a problem over work permits led to The Yardbirds, with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck playing “Stroll On” in the cameo.
More pop and rock cameos after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment