I rather fear that 1985 may turn out to be the year when everybody pretends that they never really liked Frankie Goes To Hollywood. I’m still with them, I must admit, although I wasn’t too keen on the third single. [John Peel, 1984 FF)
My last days at Oxford were sung to the tune of one song and one only: Relax. The pounding punk disco anthem resounded through every hall, every disco, every pub jukebox. Why? Because Mike Read had the courage and the foresight to decide (after having already played it) that Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s masterwork was disgusting and that he wanted no part of it.
This was catnip to the masses, who bought the bloody thing by the truckload. Huge sales were guaranteed due to the fact that many slightly different remixes were available. First the band said that it wasn’t about sex, then they admitted it (when an airing of the ‘golden shower’ video had pretty much put it beyond all reasonable doubt). Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford were gay icons: shame about the guy who looked like one of Harry Enfield’s scousers on drums. FRANKIE SAY T-shirts were on everybody’s chest, offering specious advice to the buyer. They were (not) on Top Of The Pops for five weeks running, because the BBC had already banned them (but this was lifted so that they could perform on the Christmas show). And yet, two years later, it could be heard on Jimmy Saville’s Old Record Club at twelve thirty on a Sunday afternoon, serenading the grannies and grandads after lunchtime down the pub.
It was still in the charts when Two Tribes (FF 1984 #25) was released. This took the band into the arena of political commentary. The sleeve featured Lenin and the video had Reagan and Gorbachev lookalikes slugging it out in what looked like a cockpit (this also grabbing controversy…and a pair of goolies). Patrick Allen’s doom-laden commentaries, from the DIY post fall-out kit Casualties, were grafted onto sounds of an air-raid siren (on some mixes) and the result was another UK number one hit for the lads from the Wirral.
However, all this had started in the quietest of ways, and on JP’s programme. Two Tribes had premiered on a Peel session in 1982, and the video for Relax was not the first: another leather and bondage based effort had already been on Channel 4. So it’s him we ultimately have to thank for exposing this meteoric talent that rose and fell to prominence in the space of a year. The album Welcome To The Pleasuredome showed a predilection for elephantiasis that was ultimately to be their undoing. But man, for a while at least, they were good. Better than they were given credit for.
John, for reasons best known to himself, chose the ‘Carnage’ 12 inch mix for the Festive Fifty show: this features all of the band save Holly in interview snippets.
Due to the interest shown in this item, I decided to depart from the norm and share the first Peel session by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. It was recorded on the 24 November 1982 and transmitted on the 2 December. It contains embryonic versions of three tracks that would later turn up Trevor Horn-ised on Welcome To The Pleasuredome, namely, Two Tribes, The World Is My Oyster, and Krisco Kisses, plus one, Disneyland, that only appeared on a ZTT sampler in ’85. The producer was Anthony Pugh. The later session would appear the following year and contained the third single that Peel wasn’t too keen on, The Power Of Love.