The video featured in the playlist above is the alternative video for Relax that wasn't banned, which simply features the band, rather than all of the controversial sexy stuff.
The only member of the band to actually perform on the single was Holly Johnson. Producer Trevor Horn wasn't happy with the band's sound and roped in Ian Dury's backing band The Blockheads for some musical sessions. However, being the perfectionist that he was, even they weren't up to Horn's high standards, and so he created an electronic version for the final single release.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood leaving the Hammersmith Apollo in London, 1985. Photo by Jane McCormick Smith
If you were around in 1984 then you don't need me to tell you that Frankie
Goes To Hollywood were the biggest-selling 80s band of the year - put simply, in 1984
they were huge!
The Liverpool band's first single, Relax, was famously banned by BBC
Radio 1 DJ Mike Reid for its explicit lyrics. "Relax, don't do it when you wanna go to it" referred to not bothering to use a condom during sex - pretty tame by today's standards!
The video was also banned as
it was also deemed to be too sexually explicit. Well, a fat bloke pulling down his pants and urinating on the lead singer is pretty disgusting, although no real urine was used, thankfully.
Of course, after the ban, the single then rocketed to No.1
and stayed there for five weeks, and even today it remains in the top ten best-selling UK
singles chart, having sold over 2 million copies. Relax also re-entered the UK charts and reached No.2 whilst the follow-up single, Two Tribes, was still hogging the limelight at No.1.
Katherine Hamnett inspired "Frankie Say Relax" T-shirt became as big as the single. Several other
T-shirts were also released, including "Frankie Say War - Hide
Yourself!", and "Frankie Say Arm The Unemployed", although these weren't quite as successful.
Nuclear armageddon ("Sex and horror are the new Gods!") was the subject of that
second Frankie single. With cold war paranoia gripping the World, the timing was perfect. Featuring snippets from the UK Government's 'Protect and Survive' public service broadcast, Two Tribes stayed put at No.1 for a whopping nine weeks.
Once again, the video managed to court controversy and featured US president Ronald Reagan and USSR president Konstantin Chernenko bare-knuckle fighting in an arena. Of course, they were just lookalikes, but it was very thought-provoking, nonetheless.
There were countless different 12 inch versions and remixes released by ZTT. Two Tribes is also in the top 30 of all-time best-selling UK singles chart.
two singles (and videos) that caused much controversy, quite unexpectedly, Frankie
released an incredible ballad, The Power Of Love, which also spent a week at No.1,
but was knocked off the top spot by Band Aid's "Do They Know It's
In 1985, Welcome To The Pleasuredome was the final single and title track from their debut album, and was the first Frankie song not to top the charts, peaking at #2 in the UK.
the release of the fourth single, Frankie Goes
To Hollywood escaped from the tax men by moving around various locations (including a remote, Irish castle, apparently)
and they had just six months to to pen their second album Liverpool.
Unfortunately, pop is a fickle business to be in and their return in the
late summer of 1986 with the new single Rage Hard wasn't welcomed
with open arms by the critics.
However, the single still reached No.4 in the UK charts, and the Liverpool
album managed to reach a respectable No.5. Far from a flop, but it was
the start of the slippery slope for Frankie, and the next single Warriors Of The Wasteland only reached No.19 in the UK. However, many critics
thought this was a pretty decent single, and should have been released before Rage Hard, as only die hard fans were now
buying their music.
A final single Watching The Wildlife briefly visited the Top 30, but Frankie then disbanded - very sad. Holly Johnson was unhappy with the direction the band were taking with their sound. "The lads" wanted to experiment with heavy metal, but Johnson believed this was a backward step and the band would sound very dated. I guess he had a point, particularly after Spinal Tap had exposed how shallow and prententious many hair metal bands really were!
Relax 2009 - Chicane Remix
Featuring Holly Johnson
The Power Of Love (1984)
The song was covered by Gabrielle Aplin for the John Lewis UK TV advert for Christmas 2012. It's one of the best cover versions I've heard and she has a very haunting voice, although I still prefer the production of the original.
Welcome To The Pleasuredome
Frankie's fourth single (released in March 1985) was the title track
from the #1 album. Promotional posters suggested that this would be
"their fourth number one". Unfortunately, the song peaked at #2 in the
UK, but still achieved silver in sales which was extremely respectable
for a fourth single from a debut album.
Welcome To The Pleasuredome was inspired by the poem "Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. A re-issue in 1993 (with remixes) reached #18 and featured on the album Bang! The Greatest Hits of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Another re-issue in 2000 (with yet more remixes!) reached #45 and featured on the album Maximum Joy.
Paul Rutherford, Brian Nash, Mark O'Toole and Holly Johnson grace the cover of Smash Hits in February 1985. Drummer Peter "Ped" Gill isn't featured for some reason.
The original album version is a 13 minute epic produced by the legendary Trevor Horn, who had the knack of making everything sound dramatic and exciting - this is a guy who likes to pull out all the stops. For me, this the best track on the album, and it's a shame it didn't manage to top the charts, but by the time it was released almost everyone had bought the album anyway.
War was originally a soul song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for the Mowtown label in 1969. This top quality cover featured on the Welcome to the Pleasuredome album, and the live version a cracking performance (love the guitar work on this) by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, who are performing their version of War live on the 80s British music show The Tube on Channel 4.
was originally released in 1970 by Edwin Starr and topped the bilboard
Hot 100 in the U.S. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong in
1969, the song was originally produced for The Temptations, although it
was was never released as a single by the American vocal group. However,
it did feature on their album Psycheldelic Shack, and was much tamer
than Starr's full-on version.
Frankie's dramatic cover of War featured on their debut album Welcome To The Pleasuredome, but was never released as a single. The album achieved 3x Platinum in the UK.
Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band also released a cover of War in 1986 and this reached #8 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #18 in the UK.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood Performing Rage Hard on Top of the Pops in 1986
This was Frankie's fifth chart hit and it was the first single to be lifted from the Liverpool album. In this performance the band appear to have just robbed a bank! Keep your eyes open at 1:05 when the cameraman runs into lead singer Holly Johnson, who, in response, sticks his middle finger up to him!
As with all of the Frankie singles, there are quite a number of versions of Rage Hard, and the original UK 12" vinyl release included the Broad Version, Roadhouse Blues, (Don't Lose What's Left) Of Your Little Mind and Always Note The Sequencer. The Broad Version version has a rather weird intro, but once it finally gets going then it becomes a decent enough listen.
Released in August 1986 (seventeen months after the Welcome To The Pleasuredome single), the single itself reached #4 in the UK, although it managed to top the charts in Germany and reached #2 in Ireland. Although the song was far from a flop, it never achieved the success of Frankie's first three chart-topping releases Relax, Two Tribes and The Power Of Love.
With lyrics inspired by the poet Dylan Thomas, the song also had a more of a rock
sound than previous releases, but lacked the production skills of Trevor
Horn, a decent chorus, and the controversial lyrics that the record-buying public came to
expect from the band. I actually quite like Stephen Lipson's
production, but from a commercial point of view the song was never going
to repeat the success of the golden days.
For the release of the follow-up single, Warriors Of The Wasteland, Horn decided to produce an electro-rock version of the heavy metal track that featured on the Liverpool album, although it couldn't save the band from the decline in the charts.
The sixth Frankie single was released on 11 Nov 1986 and reached No.19 in the UK. The single version had more of an electro-rock sound than the original album version, as it had been totally re-worked using a computer sequencer with samples of the band playing their instruments.
Paul Rutherford - Oh World (1989)