24
Jul 09

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD – “Relax”

FT + Popular110 comments • 14,554 views

#531, 28th January 1984, video

In the beginning was the ban. Oh, there’d been a Frankie before, and a “Relax” before, but the ban was the B of BANG!, that Paul Morley-driven hyperconcept which when completed would lead to….. well, something. (A computer game, as it turned out.)

The ban, of course, was consensual. Relax, in its flesh-and-leather sleeve, ached for punishment – as public and official as possible. Mike Read duly doled some out. The record became an instant legend and soon had the sales to match the publicity. Classic McLaren playbook, as many a veteran must have pointed out. And the really clever thing was, when you played it it was hardly obscene at all: its filth was all in the aura and the rumour.

Or almost. “Relax” had Holly Johnson, after all. Holly wasn’t a sexy performer – he sang like he looked, mocking and pinched. But he had a seediness to him that was perfect for the material. He turns the hi-NRG workout of “Relax” into pornography by the simple trick of sounding like a pornographer: there’s a grubbiness to every grunt, gasp and sneer. Every time he gasps “when you wanna come” he’s part master of ceremonies, part voyeur, part swept-away joyous victim.

He’s also the only thing in Frankie you can grab onto. Years later there was a minor scandal as it transpired none of the band played on the track – but surely nobody was shocked? There’s not a band on this record – there’s barely a song, just a collection of gorgeous Fairlight fragments posing and wheeling to the unending catwalk beat. And thanks to Trevor Horn it all sounds immense. Or almost all: a couple of the keyboard runs are a bit BBC wildlife show, and the sampled splash effect that accompanies a cataract of Caligulan piss in the insta-banned video just sounds on record like something’s broken. He could – and would – push and polish the machinery further.

But that wasn’t the point of “Relax”: the point was to provoke and delight and suggest, and make people dance. And “Relax” was an absolute, enormous success on those terms. The queer and BDSM imagery Morley and the band built “Relax” around dropped a little into the background – leathers switched for tight, slogan-dense T-Shirts – and Frankie became a bona fide event. The Sex Pistols restaged as burlesque? Sure, but oh how it worked.

8

Comments

  1. 1
    rosie on 24 Jul 2009 #

    A scandal because none of the band played on the track, huh? Once again I say, nothing new under the sun!

    Although one suspects that this will become increasingly true from here on, as the producer elbows unpredictable things like performers out of the way.

    Having failed to complete on the house I was looking at, I’m now ensconced in a strange flat above and behind a butcher’s shop in St Neots High Street (which was then the busy A45 from Birmingham to Harwich and Felixstowe). As my day consists of getting up at the last possible minute to start work across the car park, coming home for my tea and spending the evening in the Wheatsheaf pub round the corner, I get to hear very little music. The Wheatsheaf had a jukebox but its use was not exactly encouraged. So I didn’t get to hear much contemporary pop at all.

  2. 2
    Tom Lawrence on 24 Jul 2009 #

    Eight is bang on. I love the sadomasochism metaphor you used there, too, so writer points ++ on that.

  3. 3
    Michael Daddino on 24 Jul 2009 #

    Until now, I had never seen the “banned” video in its entirety. Simulated golden showers, people.

    MTV briefly showed this odd “megamix” version of “Relax” with harmless bits of the banned version, the laser-lightshow version, the in-concert version, and some bizarre tie-in to (IIRC) Brian De Palma’s Body Double with Holly Johnson taunting the lead actor. And you know, after all that Frankie exposure, I still didn’t think of them as “gay” so much as “really weird.”

  4. 4
    wichita lineman on 24 Jul 2009 #

    “There’s barely a song” – I’d never thought of it that way but, yes, that’s a two-note chorus! Congratulations, Mr Horn. It’s the kind of song I think I hear in pubs or bars all the time, but listening to it today I realise I haven’t heard it in years. The heavenly chord into Germanic one-note bassline is one of the all-time ‘event’ intros; we’re on hallowed soil. Indeed, aside from the odd, fey keyboard squeak and glugging noise, the production still sounds so heady. Should I be surprised? Well, I heard a much more recent Trevor Horn Popular entry recently and was sad to only feel as if I’d had my ears varnished.

    I always think of pornographers as being far more reposed than uptight Holly. ‘Pinched’ is right, his vocal is certainly seedy, sadistic – it could just sound hissy and unappealing but up against the melancholy chord sequence it ends up as ecstatic.

    Has any other single song launched a fashion craze?

  5. 5
    Steve Mannion on 24 Jul 2009 #

    I’d go higher – 9 maybe even 10, and I prefer this to the follow-up so don’t see any reason to mark it down as such personally. Pop as a brilliant bolt from black space happens a lot even among chart-toppers but this ticks pretty much every box for me being high-concept, ambitious, modern/futuristic OTT and yet still “just” a fun pop song you can dance to. Amongst other things I love how it’s so maximal yet can be defined almost entirely by the signature bass note (channelling the Jaws theme? really hope that was intentional).

    To 6 year old me they were just the same as any bunch of pop lads (e.g. Duran Duran) looking like they were having a great time and demonstrating why pop star looked like the 2nd best job ever after train driver. Okay I must’ve missed th more lurid bits of the video at the time and all the naughty stuff inc. the lyrics went way over my head as you’d expect. Great on TOTP tho.

    There was some talk about Jacko being robbed when it came to #1s during his peak. For me the same is true of Trevor Horn even tho Frankie here were about to go on a remarkable run.

  6. 6
    Michael Daddino on 24 Jul 2009 #

    wichita, I remember the video for “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” sparking a mad rush for fluorescents in my school. But you said “song” and not “video” so uhh….

  7. 7
    rosie on 24 Jul 2009 #

    I’m fairly indifferent to this, actually, if not pig-sick of it from exposure over the years. What I will say about Frankie is this.

    A couple of year ago a friend of mine, knowing me to be an electrosceptic, sent me a mix which included the full-length version of Welcome to the Pleasuredome (the track, not the whole album, although the track probably takes up a goodly part of it). Although I was pretty indifferent to the mix I was blown away by WRTTPD. Anything that references S T Coleridge can’t be all bad.

    Was this the first number one to be launched along with a full-blown merchandise marketing campaign – FRANKIE SAYS RELAX tshirts and all that? I’m not exactly terribly receptive to that sort of thing I’m afraid.

  8. 8
    wichita lineman on 24 Jul 2009 #

    Rosie, I don’t remember the t shirts until the summer – which makes sense – when they had their second single out (I’ll keep schtum). If it was purely merchandising it would have been dull, I agree, but I think it was grass roots.

    I wish I could remember the slogans on some of the cheaper bootlegged shirts, I’m sure there some crackers. All I remember is seeing a girl in Chester wearing one in the distinctive ‘Relax’ block print that read ‘OK Ya’. As in the Sloane slogan. What would a modern equivalent be – a David Cameron t shirt which somehow referenced Tinchy Stryder? God, the 80s were difficult.

  9. 9
    Miguel Toledo on 24 Jul 2009 #

    Definitely not agree with giving it just an 8; “Relax” sure goes all the way to 11 and then some. But I’m with you in comparing this to the Sex Pistols; it didn’t even need videos, lyrics or controversy, just those basses and drums were as much an armageddon as anything on “Nevermind the bollocks”. I also like to think there’s an analogy between the way “Nevermind the bollocks” destroyed music and then PIL + The Clash picked up the pieces to rebuilt it into something different, and the way “Welcome to the pleasuredome” destroyed a house the Art of noise would later rebuild.

    I like the fact Jackson’s being mentioned here because there sure is a link between ZTT and him; both of them being the vanguard of pop music in the early eighties. I’m sure Jackson & Jones had to hear these albums at some point; the weirdness in the sexuality expressed in “Pleasuredome” had to have an impact in them and the way “Bad” turned out to be. I mean, in hindsight, when you consider Jackson’s traumas, being influenced by the dirtiness and brutality of ZTT now seems inevitable. Weirdness was already there; after all it was present Thriller disguised either as camp or confessional; but in the world post-frankie, it mutated into something much more brutal and disturbing. See how the lyrics in “The Way you make me feel” sound harmless, but the bass and drums are almost apocalyptic; can’t help hearing a struggle between repression and expression there, and how the seeds of that were planted by Frankie.

    BTW I seem to recall that at some point Jackson was planning of making an album with Horn as producer.

  10. 10
    Miguel Toledo on 24 Jul 2009 #

    And also Holly going “hit me with your laserbeam/laserbeam me”; that’s to me the most disturbing part of the song AND at the same time the sound of pop going nova or something like that. Now that i think about it, I suppose it pretty much summarizes why this is such a relevant song.

  11. 11
    Steve Mannion on 24 Jul 2009 #

    It’s not a link I’d considered before but, well, maybe bits of ‘Bad’ contain Horn’s influence directly or are just tapping into the same techno mine (the stuttery mechanics of ‘Speed Demon’ could be directly influenced by AON?).

  12. 12
    LondonLee on 24 Jul 2009 #

    There was a t-shirt which said ‘Frankie Say Arm The Unemployed’ that I fondly remember (I’m actually in the middle of writing something about those slogan shirts for me blog at the moment, though more about the originals designed by Katherine Hamnett)

    After the string of rubbish chart toppers we’ve just had I’m tempted to give this a 9 or even 10 just for being a breath of fresh air and NEW. I once had to translate the lyrics of this for a Spanish girl in a nightclub in Alicante, “Quando quieres orgasmo” was the best I could do.

  13. 13
    Miguel Toledo on 24 Jul 2009 #

    “Acabate cuando quieras” it’s a good translation. Can’t think of any spanish-speaking mainstream band saying something like that.

  14. 14
    lonepilgrim on 24 Jul 2009 #

    8 seems fine for me as it’s not my top Frankie hit. However the combination of sleek disco pulse with sublime rock dynamic is a compelling one.
    The song had an early pre-Horned debut on an edition of the Tube the previous year – and I seem to recall John Peel, introducing the band on TOTP, taking pride in announcing that he had given the band a session on his show in 1983.
    Holly always sounds lusty and lascivious to me – as if he’s savouring every moment – compared with Marc Almond’s more ambivalent tones.

  15. 15
    LondonLee on 24 Jul 2009 #

    Unfortunately my O-Level Spanish didn’t teach me the verb “to come” so I had to wing it. She understood.

  16. 16
    TomLane on 25 Jul 2009 #

    A 9 for sure, 10 sometimes. This went to #10 in January 85 in the U.S., after being re-released from April ’84 where it got to #67. This was the only Top 40 hit for them in the U.S.

  17. 17
    Izzy on 25 Jul 2009 #

    Another 10. I’d have this as the greatest of all number ones myself. It’s everything that pop can be – short, hooky, irreverent, and, above all, insanely popular. The daring of the whole circus is fascinating and an event worth celebrating in itself – I’d stretch the lineage to Madonna, KLF and the Spice Girls, and I suppose the early Stones deserve a mention as pioneers. Plus the sleeve looks fantastic. The crowning glory is the avant-gardità of the production – even today it still sounds like the future, there’s nothing like it.

    It’s weird how the ubiquity and the ban went together. I was only eight at the time, and though I remember well all the number ones from the period, I only knew Relax from hearing bigger boys singing it – it’s unfathomable now how a ban from Radio One and Top Of The Pops could be so inhibiting. I can only surmise too that no-one really knew why it had been banned, because the idea of so many protoscallies falling in love with a concept like this is still one of the delicious things only pop pulls off.

  18. 18
    AndyPandy on 25 Jul 2009 #

    Never really liked this – before the ban it was played quite a bit on Radio One and despite its later status thought it was a bit of an overproduced noise of a record.Unfortunate in my opinion when Trevor Horn had been/was to be responsible for such good stuff.

    Fuckin Mike Read if it wasnt for that self-publicising twat (and the only reason he must have had for wanting the ban is for some weird way of getting himself publicity) we probably wouldnt be having this conversation 25 years later…as it was going nowhere fast before the ban despite being all the plays…

    For me this record sums up the time when I finally knew the halcyon days of early 80s pop were over and the leaden completely unfunkiness and ugliness of the mid-80s had taken over. Still only 3 years till the entry of the house stuff in 1987/88 turned things around…

  19. 19
    logged out Tracer Hand on 25 Jul 2009 #

    #17: The crowning glory is the avant-gardità of the production – even today it still sounds like the future, there’s nothing like it.

    S Reynolds does a wonderful, extended investigation of how the song was pieced together in “Rip It Up” – he makes a good case that no song had ever before been so mercilessly in sync with itself.

  20. 20
    Steve Mannion on 25 Jul 2009 #

    #18 depends how strict your definition of funky may be but ‘Hangin’ On A String’ was a hit a year or so after this right? Plus ‘Slave To The Rhythm’, ‘White Lines’, ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’, ‘Change Of Heart’, ‘Twilight’, …surely these are not unfunky or ugly unless you’re wholesale opposed to digitisation/synth-soul.

  21. 21
    Izzy on 25 Jul 2009 #

    As an eight-year-old I was obviously not particularly on top of Frankie-as-cultural-phenomenon, I just knew the catchy tune. I’ve seen it described briefly using phrases like ‘beer monsters’ and ‘great tabloid fodder’ – I assume there was more to it, but would appreciate an insight from posters who were actually there, please.

    (inspired by seeing a ‘Frankie Says Relax’ t-shirt while in the west end twenty minutes ago, a rare enough event to feel like some sort of sign!)

  22. 22
    Steve on 25 Jul 2009 #

    It’s a bit unfair to say “none of the band played on the final cut”. You obviously haven’t seen the film clip of the band playing the song BEFORE Trevor Horn got hold of it – several weeks before it hit the charts. Admittedly listening to the “bare bones” of the song seemed exactly like that – viewing a skeleton before the real meat was placed over it – but credit to them for creating the frame for Horn to work on.

  23. 23
    Alan on 25 Jul 2009 #

    The Frankie game in a web/java spectrum emulator emua includes awesome music

    review in Your Spectrum

    even with the ban, good fun though this was, it was only just whisper ‘hey you know what it’s about, right?’ added excitement to being any other number 1 (excepting the very recent rub) at school. but it became exciting some weeks later (as we will see) when stuff going BACK UP the charts became VERY IMPORTANT AND AMAZING. and it was basically their summer.

  24. 24
    Billy Smart on 26 Jul 2009 #

    #2 Watch – a week of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’, then two week’s of ‘Radio Ga Ga’ by Queen.

  25. 25
    will on 26 Jul 2009 #

    Re 18: I think Relax would have still got to Number One even without the ban. It had entered the New Year chart in the 30s, got played on TOTP and then shot up to number 6 before Read got hot under the collar. His intervention ensured that Frankie became a phenomenon rather than merely the next 80s pop stars with an angle.

  26. 26
    Mark M on 26 Jul 2009 #

    Didn’t like it then, don’t like now. I half get and don’t get it – that bwangy bass sound sums up the time as much as anything else, and I understand the tension/release business, but beyond that, eh… I had no real idea who Trevor Horn was when I first heard this, but there was something going on that I really wasn’t going to enjoy (with a couple of exceptions) over the years to come. As for Paul Morley’s hype machine, I wasn’t exposed until I was back in Britain later in the year, but I didn’t take to that either – I’m sure will discuss that a lot more over Popular installments to come. Morley on Late Review=good, Morley as pop provocateur=tedious.

  27. 27
    lonepilgrim on 26 Jul 2009 #

    having watched the video again after many years I was more struck by the tiger than anything else – did the Daily Mail not react to this flagrant feline filth?

    IIRC the video was shown late on Channel 4 – helping to stoke C4s image as porn merchants to the nation – yet another conributing factor to the records success.

  28. 28
    Taylor on 26 Jul 2009 #

    At my school, it was said (in whispers) that the chorus went “relax, don’t do it, when you want to suck and chew it.” I winced even then, I think.

    It’s amazing how camp signifiers would drift over everyone’s heads in those days. So many people just didn’t seem to catch on – from Queen to Village People to The Smiths. Even when Frankie made it this explicit, there were plenty who still didn’t get it. Especially kids: those of us who’d heard that there were GAYS in FGTH disagreed over which of them it might be. Hmm, the scruffy, drunk-looking Scousers obsessed with Pink Floyd, or the neat dancer in the pink vest with the clipped “Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart” moustache? Different times. We grew up slowly in them days. Pleasing to recall how little the gay thing bothered us, mind. Something tells me a similarly out(re) gay-oriented act would not find such favour with 12-year-olds today.

    The whole “I heard they didn’t even play on the record” stuff is hilarious, not least for the musical illiteracy it displays. People were genuinely shocked when the news got out. Presumably these people had heard “Relax”, and assumed that was the sound of a power trio?

    My favourite moment in “Relax” is when Holly shouts “come… HUH!!!” and there’s that grotesque gushing noise, like gallons of industrial semen charging down a sewer pipe (is that the “Caligulan piss” bit in the video? I haven’t seen it for ages, and I’m not going on YouTube now as I’m supposed to be working and I’d be on there for hours). But at the risk of sounding like an old dad or a bad stand-up, the lyrics remain incomprehensible to me. Relax, don’t do what? Don’t come? Is this a premature ejaculation pep talk? The only bit that connects is “hit me with your laser beams”, which is kind of cleverly naughty, I suppose.

    I think I prefer the follow-up, even though this may well be the “better” record. I’m not sure why – maybe the idealistic cynicism of Frankie / ZTT works best for me when it’s outward-looking, rather than public/private, pseudo-sensual. Maybe it’s my innate dislike of the calculated sex-as-marketing approach: “Relax” would be phenomenal as an obscure gay disco track, but the fact that it’s so self-conscious, designed to shock and tease more than to thrill… that almost takes the edge off a great, great record. Mind you, I love that Eurodance stuff like E-Rotic (“Max Don’t Have Sex With Your Ex”, “Fred Come To Bed”, “Fritz Loves My Tits” etc), so perhaps I just don’t know what I’m on about.

  29. 29
    Izzy on 26 Jul 2009 #

    I checked out the ‘New York Mix’ of this last night – there’s a fantastic tightly-wound almost electro sound to the first half of it which doesn’t really join up with other pop movements, at least those that I’m aware of. It’s fairly close to Arthur Baker’s production on New Order’s ‘Confusion’ (again a track a little disconnected from their other singles, to my ears) so I’m willing to believe this was the authentic sound of New York clubs of the era – but it’s never really made it onto my radar. I’d like to hear other stuff like it.

  30. 30
    Rory on 27 Jul 2009 #

    “Relax” is indelibly linked in my memory with being on the bus home from matric, part-way through the hour-long 25-mile journey, hearing it sung by a guy from the year above us who had perfected not only the BOM bom BOMs but Holly Johnson’s orgasmic “huuAAHHH!”, for all the bus to hear.

    Not that we necessarily even thought of it as orgasmic; naivete, and lack of exposure to the banned video (in Australia as here), meant that our only explicit clue was the lyric “when you wanna come” – and its preceding instruction to relax and not do it was perfect misdirection, because why wouldn’t you want to do that? Surely Frankie was telling us not to bother coming to Hollywood.

    Okay, we can’t have been that naive, not at sixteen, but the tame replacement video did mask the innuendo to a surprising degree, given that the whole track is soaking in bodily fluids, practically spraying them out of the speakers with every beat. It was still obviously a hit to us, even though it only reached number five in Oz (where INXS and Pat Benatar were lording it over the charts at the time); all those 12″ versions were surely evidence of its importance. Record companies wouldn’t release more than one version of a single just to cash in, would they? Next you’ll be telling us those T-shirts weren’t a spontaneous gesture of solidarity from the fans. Frankie Say Consume.

    I never bought any of the “Relax” singles, though, and didn’t even hear Pleasuredome until a few years ago. My Frankie album was a review copy of Liverpool sent to our student mag at uni a few years later. The review I wrote was mixed, at best, and tells me that I didn’t rate much of their stuff apart from “Relax” (and “Warriors of the Wasteland”).

    So this might have scored a 6 from me back in the day. It’s grown in my affections, and I can definitely see how it could be worth an 8 or 9 to others, but to be honest to Tom’s rating guidelines I’ll have to call it a 7. I can happily go years without hearing or thinking of “Relax”; its abundant musical heirs have left it less essential than it once might have been. Even if I have had BOM bom BOM running through my head all weekend.

  31. 31
    MikeMCSG on 27 Jul 2009 #

    It’s a great record rather than a great song but deserves top marks for exposing Mike Read for what he really was.

    Prior to this he was faking it as a credible DJ who supposedly liked New Wave when he was really into prog rock and Cliff Richard. I remember hearing him once extol the virtues of Roger Woddis the man who did puzzles in the Radio Times and thinking how is he getting away with this ?

    That all ended in January 1984 when he blew all that credibility with “the kids” in one burst of self-righteousness and revealed himself as the squarest Tory on the station. By the end of the decade R1 had got rid of him and he’s been a bit of a joke ever since.

    It’s interesting to hear him try and rewrite history since splitting hairs that he didn’t actually ban it when of course his unilateral declaration on the most popular show left the station with no alternative.

    It’s notable that R1 were very wary of banning records subsequently and “Relax” featured on the Christmas edition of TOTP in 1984.

  32. 32
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 27 Jul 2009 #

    Has anyone ever covered relax?

  33. 33
    Tim on 27 Jul 2009 #

    Nouvelle Vague have. Inevitable and disappointing, which is a bad combination.

  34. 34
    Conrad on 27 Jul 2009 #

    Mediocre song, good but overrated production. A lot of noise signifying very little. So, around a 6 I think.

    Smashie and Nicey did quite a good spin on the Mike Read incident, in which the Enfield character is seen in the studio saying:

    “I have in my hand a piece of filth by Paul McCartney and The Frog Chorus which contains the line ‘Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum’. I don’t want to hear about your nether regions Mr McCartney and I’m not playing this shit on my radio programme.
    Here’s Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Relax”

  35. 35
    misschillydisco on 27 Jul 2009 #

    i agree, tom, this is definitely an 8. frankie were ultimately style over substance, but they proved to 11 year old me that the vision of life that i was being peddled was not the full story. so for that, i thank them.

  36. 36
    Tom on 27 Jul 2009 #

    #28 one great thing about the E-Rotic singles is the way they tell a little story across the releases. So the chorus of “Fred Come To Bed” goes “Fred come to bed / Cos your Max had sex with his sexy ex”. Where Fritz and the tits fit in I’m not sure.

  37. 37
    wichita lineman on 27 Jul 2009 #

    Re 31: Shock tactics aside, it’s all about production but, uh, when was that ever a bad thing? And I don’t want to play the devil’s advocate but, defending the world’s softest target Mike Read, he never held back from saying what a fan of Cliffie he was even during his New Wave era. Pretty sure he genuinely loved both. Him and the similarly politically dodgy Julie Burchill were great cheerleaders for post-Postcard group The Farmers Boys, and he also wrote and released the Trainspotters’ agit-mod High Rise. On the subject of sexymusic, M Read said that he played The Icicle Works’ Hollow Horse in the bedroom. Really not sure what to make of that.

    Re 35: Style over substance accounts for the bulk of eighties chart pop – unless I’m in for some heavy duty re-evaluations over the next four years of Popular entries; Relax’s stylish production still thrills, though, while Total Eclipse, for instance, sounds a bit silly. A bunch of acclaimed movies of the period (off the top of my head My Beautiful Launderette and Betty Blue), seem similarly daft and shallow in 2009.

    Re 28: It did seem like it was going to remain relatively obscure for a while – from memory it took a while to chart.

  38. 38
    Erithian on 27 Jul 2009 #

    Will at #25 is right – it entered at 35 on Tuesday 3 January and jumped to 6 the following week, before the ban. I don’t know whether Mike Read had played it in his Wednesday morning chart rundown the week it entered, but maybe he only listened to it properly the week it went up 29 places. Normally a single with that kind of momentum would be a pretty sure contender for number one soon afterwards – maybe not a “five weeks at No 1 and one of the ten best-selling singles of all time” kind of hit, but it’s safe to say it would probably have been number one without the ban.

    Mike Read talked afterwards about going into clubs where the DJ would put on “Relax” to taunt him as soon as he walked through the door – his reaction was to hit the dancefloor immediately, to signify that he thought it was a great dance record, just not the kind of thing he wanted to broadcast to kids at breakfast time. Which, to be honest, I find to be a defensible position.

    This is another one which takes me back to finals year – to be precise, the euphoric lunchtime after the last exam of Finals week, when our whole gang, male and female, half-skipped down Egham Hill towards the pub singing chorus after chorus of “Relax” – we weren’t thinking about the subject matter, just the title was the operative word. A golden afternoon in a momentous year.

    At that time, early June ’84, “Relax” was already heading back up the chart to meet its successor in an incredible scenario in July. Its Top 40 run in full: 35-6-2-1-1-1-1-1-2-3-6-16-21-23-21-29-29-31-26-24-21-17-16-11-5-3-2-2-3-3-3-6-7-12-20-22-29. The weeks when it was 11 through to 6 were the weeks when its bunny-embargoed successor was at number one.

  39. 39
    MikeMCSG on 27 Jul 2009 #

    37 – yes I remember the Icicle Works connection. Every subsequent review they had referred to it e.g. “If Mike Read tries bonking to this he’ll do himself a mischief” and so on.It did nothing to remove the “uncool” tag they were always fighting to shed. They were probably the most persistent one hit wonders of the decade.

  40. 40
    wichita lineman on 27 Jul 2009 #

    Does anyone know the release date of Relax? I seem to remember it being on The Tube around Oct/Nov ’83.

    Icicle Works singer Ian McNabb recently published his autobiography, Merseybeast. One of the quotes in the promo blurb was from his mum who said of it “There’s too many drugs and women get treated very badly.”

  41. 41
    Conrad on 27 Jul 2009 #

    Not sure when it was released but it entered the singles chart week ending 12 November 1983, so October 83 sounds about right.

  42. 42
    Matthew H on 27 Jul 2009 #

    Great record. “Event” pop. As Will at #25 points out, it was already well on its way to the top (leaping from No.35 to 6) the week before it was banned, but I’m sure Frankie wouldn’t have been quite the same phenomenon without Mike Read. Still, all good.

    Here’s a nice illustration of the essential paradox of being 11: having bought this disgraceful single, I rushed home and played it a dozen times in succession while making a battle scene with my Star Wars figures.

  43. 43
    Taylor on 27 Jul 2009 #

    #36 – “Fritz Loves My Tits” follows on from the end of “Fred Come To Bed”, which goes “Oh, my Max had sex with his ex last night / Cos he loves her ass and tits / So I tell you Fred, come into my bed / If you don’t, I will call up Fritz.”

    Sadly, the story arc ends with the third single. Further emissions from E-Rotic, while in the same vein, appear to be self-contained – in “Ralph, Don’t Make Love By Yourself” (“I want to taste it / so please don’t waste it / You’re not a hanky panky wanky man”) she does warn Ralph not to “act like Alf”, but unless I’ve missed something this is the onanistic Alf’s sole appearance in this mind-frying porno soap.

  44. 44
    Billy Smart on 27 Jul 2009 #

    It spent 8 weeks hanging around the lower reaches of the top 100 at the end of 1983 before it broke into the top 40. There’s also the great ‘Wild Wet & Willing’ NME cover of November 1983, accompanying a Gavin Martin interview which led to Holly Johnson refusing to talk to the paper for the next ten years.

    I think that I must have the first 18 months of FGTH in my head as some kind of benchmark for monumental pop, a record that hasn’t been matched in the subsequent 25 years. At their peak, Oasis may have made big-sounding records that everybody knew were coming out, but crucially they weren’t about anything and didn’t carry the sense of importance that Frankie did.

    Looking back, I now realise that the sense of importance was largely a pose – do these singles really provoke any sense of sex/ war/ religion? – but if rock people are going to pose, then they might as well do it on this scale. Also the pop/dance nature of these singles makes it a lot easier to take than either the earnestness or signposted irony of U2.

    So when I was 11, Relax was an important document about sexuality, but one that I couldn’t really decipher. What practices were they refering to? It must be some deep – and frankly rather scary – adult secret.

    25 years later, like Taylor, I’ve learned that the lyrics of this don’t really function as coherant innuendo. I can remember talking about formulative pop experiences in a bar with a gay academic in the nineties and him admitting to me “I’ve never really worked out to what each line of that song is supposed to be referring” and being pleased to learn that I wasn’t alone in not getting it.

    I’m not bothered that this doesn’t function very well as a song, because I think that I’ve always approached this first and foremost as an artwork. Certainly, more than any other record on Popular so far, I think that this is the single for which the sleeve forms an important part of the full aesthetic experience. I find it interesting how that cover has always exuded devience to me without ever once striking me as arousing or enticing – an effect magnified by the shocking S & M text on the reverse, which we schoolchildren would shock each other by pointing out.

    I can’t remeber if we’ve discussed this before, but is this the first number one which works better as a 12″?

  45. 45
    Billy Smart on 27 Jul 2009 #

    No-one’s mentioned the tenth anniversary re-release yet, promoted by game but rather-exposed Holly Johnson in lieu of the whole group. Was anybody first exposed to the song by this, I wonder? It seems unlikely, as it never seemed to go away – I’d imagine that the people who bought it just wanted to have it on CD.

  46. 46
    Billy Smart on 27 Jul 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Frankie Goes To Hollywood performed Relax on Top of The Pops twice (Christmas 1984 we’ll come to in the fullness of time);

    January 5 1984. Also in the studio that week (the twentieth anniversary edition) were; Status Quo, Frank Kelly and Slade. David Jensen and John Peel were the hosts.

  47. 47
    Billy Smart on 27 Jul 2009 #

    Two abiding emotional memories of this at the time.

    My big sister (seventies pop veteran of Bolanmania, The Stones at Earls Court, punk, etc) asking me what pop music I liked when she came to visit one Sunday lunchtime, my venturing Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and her attempting to make me uneasy with her reply (delivered with some spite and mock-horror) “But they’re GAY, William!”

    The effect it had of making the more culturally assured children in the class cooler than us. I remember the only boy in the class to go through puberty – an agressive and intellectually combative character – talking loudly with worldly knowledge, explaining the fetishes in the song to us other boys as we walked home from school. A group of secondary school girls in uniforms walking in the other direction (a daily menace) comment with withering sarcasm “Like you’d know about that!”. (With the benefit of hindsight, my sympathy is definitely with the older girl in this altercation. The boy is something big in the Treasury now, I believe). Also, a boy and a girl in my class with hipper and more indulgent parents came to class in ‘RELAX’ T-shirts. I would never be able to compete with such peers…

  48. 48
    MikeMCSG on 27 Jul 2009 #

    40 -It was released in autumn 1983 but they first appeared on The Tube at the beginning of 83 performing a short snatch of Relax (sounding anything but a million seller)and another forgotten song where the camera mainly followed two girls in fetish gear, The Leather Pets who were dancing with them. Trevor Horn was reportedly much taken with their performance and later disappointed when he realised they were not in the band.

  49. 49
    wichita lineman on 27 Jul 2009 #

    The girls they left behind:

    http://www.zttaat.com/article.php?title=104

    Thanks Mike. That explains why it seemed a while before it charted. A whole year! Jesus. I’ve just been listening to Memory Almost Full (prompted by posts on Pipes Of Peace) and thinking ALMOST? And he’s 20 years older than me!

  50. 50
    peter goodlaws on 27 Jul 2009 #

    I’m inclined to agree that this may well have made the top sans Read’s unilateral ban but that it would not have been half as massive a hit/gay anthem – blah-blah-blah – as it turned out to be. As Erithian says, Read’s objection was that he did not think the track was appropriate for the school run on his breakfast show. Whilst this does sound a little prissy especially over a quarter of a century later, I’m prepared to believe that Read’s actions were mostly genuine rather than self-serving. It would have been extraordinary had a leading national DJ been offended by something like this.

    But something like what, exactly? Despite all the talk of sucking and cuming, “Relax” really is a bit of a train wreck and would be instantly forgetable had the lyric referred to “jump to it” and “when you want to run” to precisely the same arrangement. For me, this was in no part the seismic event people would claim, even though the direct result was two more giant hits for Frankie, which one may not comment on until Bunny grants Royal Assent.

    Rosie # 1 – Waldo tells me that he received his residential preventive training for Customs (now UK Border Agency) at a place called Wyboston, a stone’s throw from St Neots, although just over the county line in Beds. Although the centre had an excellent bar, the delegates made several trips into St Neots. There was laser-gunning (paint-balling but less messy), visits to ruby houses but mostly, of course, drinking. This was done in the aforementioned Wheatsheaf, where one night there was a karaoke. After a few babyshams, Waldo ambled up with a couple of other pitiful visiting drunks and treated the carrot-cruncher locals to a rendition of “Blue Moon” a la The Marcels. This actually went done well, well enough for a group of homeboys to give their own version of it in reply. The asmosphere was nothing other than cordial. By the time the Customs group tumbled on to their specially arranged minibus, everyone was totally wankered.

  51. 51
    Jonathan Bogart on 27 Jul 2009 #

    I suppose the American reception of “Relax” — it did quite well, as noted, and is a mainstay of 80s playlists without ever tipping over into any territory where it’s seen as being much different in style, meaning or importance from contemporary singles by Soft Cell, Duran Duran, Thompson Twins, A Flock Of Seagulls, The Fixx, etc. — and yes, the “it’s about teh GAY” murmurs were just as prevalent here, but I think there was a sense in which Americans felt that all British pop was more or less gay anyway — might serve as a clue to how the record would be remembered without the ban.

    As someone who was mostly unaware of the surrounding hoopla until this very post, I’ve always rather disliked “Relax,” at least as listening fodder rather than as a tool for partying/dancing. There’s something bullying in the production, a boorish caricature of gay masculinity with none of the wit or stylishness I associate with a bunny-embargoed duo whose first #1 was first released around this time to disappointing results.

    I suppose that what I perceive as bullying is what people above mean by the “rock” element of the song; the sense that it’s taking itself very seriously indeed.

  52. 52
    Kat but logged out innit on 27 Jul 2009 #

    #45: I made up a dance routine to this in 1994! The whooshing bit was very good for spinning around and up from a crouching position, although I had to be careful not to bang my head on the bunk beds if I got dizzy. Anything that had lazers in was good as well, obviously. I am still very partial to one-note guttural basslines to this day.

  53. 53
    LondonLee on 27 Jul 2009 #

    Re: #51 Not just our pop music, Americans tend to think all British people are gay too. We’re all so slim and well-dressed and probably seem a little prissy by comparison to them (I was once referred to as “that gay beatnik” by the father of an American girl I was dating)

    Forgive me if someone mentioned this already, but isn’t the drum sound on this supposed to have been sampled from a Led Zep record? Or is that just a myth?

  54. 54
    Pete on 28 Jul 2009 #

    Not to bait the bunny, but wasn’t the rise of Relax the second time around due to it having an identical cover to its successor, causing many mistakes in the shops )there was some suggestion that returning the record in a charts return shop would make it count for both). All seems a bit of a naive ten year old story to me now.

  55. 55
    Tom on 28 Jul 2009 #

    #51 I think Holly Johnson’s sinister weediness helps defuse the more potentially bullying elements of the track. Something interesting about FGTH – which I was trying to grope at in the review – is the way Johnson as singer is as much a commentator on the forces unleashed by the music as a focal point of them.

    #47 This is absolutely dead on: “Relax” really drew lines in the playground not in terms of liking it (you had to) but in terms of claiming to understand it and be comfortable with it. I think it broadened schoolboy knowledge enormously and not always accurately.

    #44 Yes, they’re a benchmark for event pop for me too.

    #43 The E-Rotic discography on Wikipedia tantalisingly hints at a second subplot with singles called “Willy Use A Billy…Boy” and then “Billy Jive With Willy’s Wife”.

  56. 56
    Erithian on 28 Jul 2009 #

    Lee #53 – dunno about Zeppelin but kudos to Norman Watt-Roy of the Blockheads, who played the original bass line.

    Re Americans thinking British people are gay: when Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” picked up on the MPs’ expenses scandal, he talked about the Home Secretary’s husband getting two porno films for what seemed a pretty good price, then added, “but don’t forget we’re talking about films showing ENGLISH people having sex”. Cut to a mocked-up DVD sleeve showing a bloke wearing nothing but a traditional Civil Service bowler hat and the title “Stiff Upper Lip”.

  57. 57
    Billy Smart on 28 Jul 2009 #

    Advertising watch: I can remember Relax being used to sell suntan lotion some time in the mid 1990s.

  58. 58
    H. on 28 Jul 2009 #

    frankie were ultimately style over substance

    But surely in pop style is substance.

  59. 59
    Tom on 28 Jul 2009 #

    Truer to say that in pop they should be inseparable.

    One thing that happened in the 80s – it probably happens all the time but it felt really noticeable in the 80s and 90s – is that “substance” got really terrible: records striving for weight (scale, emotional weight, moral heft, and yes borrowed stylistic weight). We’ll be meeting some of them. So it’s understandable why some critics and listeners embrace(d) 80s style so much.

  60. 60
    LondonLee on 28 Jul 2009 #

    Here we go, I knew I hadn’t imagined it:

    The Led Zeppelin percussion sampled in “Relax” was Bonham’s bass-drum sound from ‘When The Levee Breaks’. I’ve never heard about ‘Heartbreaker’ being used. In fact ‘Levee’s drum track has been called the most sampled drum track ever. It’s been used in many songs from pop and rap artists.

  61. 61
    peter goodlaws on 28 Jul 2009 #

    Re Septics think all English blokes are gay – No less a ravashing dish than Chris Evert famously commented to John Lloyd, with whom she had fallen in lurrvve at the end of the seventies : “I thought all English guys were gay until I met you. In fact, you’re the first limey I’ve come across who appears not to be.”

    APPEARS not to be? Christ. What did she mean? All I can add is that Chrissie subsequently married Lloydy and then divorced him. You do the maths, pop-pickers.

  62. 62
    SteveM on 28 Jul 2009 #

    Billy asked ‘but is this the first number one which works better as a 12″?’

    Hmm, ‘I Feel Love’ maybe.

  63. 63
    SteveM on 28 Jul 2009 #

    And not necess ‘works better’ but ‘Tainted Love’ for the extra dimension revealed by use of ‘Where Did Our Love Go’

    #59 good point well made re substance. i rather jacked.

  64. 64
    wichita lineman on 28 Jul 2009 #

    Re 61: I remember Chrissie telling this story on the BBC. She was recalling how she saw John Lloyd across the room and thought ‘who is that hot guy?’? She shimmied over, introduced herself, and he said ‘I’m delighted to meet you’…

    “And I thought, ‘Oh no! He’s a fag!'”

    Can’t have been during a rain break, surely?

    Re 59: You’ve nailed it.

  65. 65
    LondonLee on 28 Jul 2009 #

    There was a sitcom in the States a few years ago called Just Shoot Me and in one episode a character was dating this English magician who was very flamboyant and theatrical and everyone is convinced he’s gay and is trying to think of a way to tell this girl. It ends with the magician declaring “I’m not gay! I’M BRITISH!”

    I still use that line sometimes.

  66. 66
    peter goodlaws on 28 Jul 2009 #

    I’m sure many of you will be familiar with the episode of “Frasier” featuring Yorkshireman Patrick Stewart (not remotely gay even in American eyes) who plays Alistair, the uber-pink director of the Seattle Opera, who commences a lustful pursuit of Frasier, who for reasons of a raising of his social status remains in denial of Alistair’s motives. The episode is one of the highlights of the entire collection, with Frasier and Niles ducking into a gay bar, Frasier adorning hilarious tight shorts. The best performance, though, is undeniably from Stewart, who does indeed go someway to proving “Evert’s Law”, which, I fear, will never be expunged from the American psyche.

    Bitches!

  67. 67
    Alan on 28 Jul 2009 #

    worth a passing mention is that this is the trigger song for Derek Zoolander to kill that guy

  68. 68
    Matthew K on 29 Jul 2009 #

    The Claymation dude?

  69. 69
    Glue Factory on 29 Jul 2009 #

    I could be wrong, but this is the first number 1 that I recall having multiple, named mixes (‘Sex Mix’, ‘US Mix’ rather than just ‘Extended version’ or ‘Dance Mix’), a trend that would reach it’s zenith in the 90s with record execs desperate to claw a few sales from each dance-micro-genre, no matter how dance-unfriendly the original. I’m sure Trevor Horn’s intentions were honourable (and give me one of his Frankie remixes over most 90s major-act mixes, anyday) but I guess it started here.

  70. 70
    Erithian on 29 Jul 2009 #

    #64 – presumably she never made that mistake with Greg Norman!

  71. 71
    Tom on 29 Jul 2009 #

    #69 Certainly by the time of their next #1 their intentions were far from honourable – remix talk planned then :)

  72. 72
    pink champale on 29 Jul 2009 #

    billy #47 – cor, i probably know the unfortunate boy (being something small there) – clues please!

    #55 – i think that’s spot on about holly being a commentator- his ‘…look what’s happened now…” bit at the beggining is almost like a fairground barker telling everyone they’re not gonna believe their eyes. in the video too, he’s like a reporter cum (sorry!) ringmaster presiding over this cavelcade of filth. i suppose redman does much the same in the (also genuinely filthy) ‘dirrty’ song and vid.

    i certainly didn’t get it at the time. being quite literal about this sort of thing i decided that the song must have been banned because it contained a rude word. as i couldn’t find one i pestered my older brother for ages until he finally gave in and told me that the rude word was “come”. i nodded sagely and duly reported this to my peers, but i don’t think any of us were much the wiser.

  73. 73
    Billy Smart on 29 Jul 2009 #

    #72 Aha – just looked him up. He’s now a director of something or other at the Department of Business and Enterprise, but until 2007 he was at the Treasury doing something in tax. I can remember him at eleven telling me that he wanted to become chairman of the World Bank!

  74. 74
    pink champale on 29 Jul 2009 #

    ha ha – every schoolboy’s fantasy. think i know who you mean but our paths never crossed (probably because he’s all high powered and i spend my days thinking about frankie goes to hollywood).

  75. 75
    Lex on 29 Jul 2009 #

    Not a fan of this at all – I find it a bit overblown and bombastic, and I hate that style of singing whereby EVERY! WORD! IS! SO! OVER-THE-TOP! AND! EXCLAMATORY! Kind of deadens the overall impact completely. From a retrospective vantage point, he sounds a bit like Robbie Williams. Brr. And that’s before you get into how horribly overplayed it is. Sums up everything naff and unwanted about the ’80s for me.

    I hated it before I knew it was a gay anthem, if anything this increases my hostility b/c I take its crapness as a personal offence, much like a lot of pop currently aimed explicitly or indirectly at a gay audience.

  76. 76
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 29 Jul 2009 #

    I don’t think it *was* aimed at a gay audience in an anthemic way though — it’s more like an “in-yr-face battlecry”, aimed at the innocent non-gay world at large, intended to rub ppl the wrong way, so its uneasiness and its brute ugliness are job-well-done rather than flaws: “We’re here, we’re leathermen, get used to it laYm0rz”

  77. 77
    lex on 29 Jul 2009 #

    I guess I just feel vaguely alienated by it then!

  78. 78
    LondonLee on 29 Jul 2009 #

    I never thought of it as an explicitly “gay” song. I mean, straight people come too and it doesn’t mention any, um, particular way of doing it.

  79. 79
    Izzy on 29 Jul 2009 #

    I’m interested in how Frankie managed to achieve such popularity with that particular brand of gayness, the S&M and Rutherford’s look and so on. Surely it can’t have passed over people’s heads? I can see Boy George being a phenomenon partly as the continuation of the popular tradition of cattiness, drag and charming old ladies. But not ‘Relax!’, which seems of a particular time image-wise (though it’s never seemed dated sonically in the slightest, which is amazing given the elements it contains). That said, I know nothing of Frankie qua public personae and would imagine that Holly could be quite cutting, but if he was it’s not in the record.

    I think the ‘New York Mix’ has become my preferred version of this, it’s great.

  80. 80
    ace inhibitor on 29 Jul 2009 #

    Its undoubtedly thanks to Trevor Horn, like Tom says, that Relax sounds immense, but I’d also like to think of it as being a version of Scouse Epic; a younger brother to Cope, Wylie and McCullough – that Liverpool postpunk tradition of making everything BIG, loud and theatrical; piling on the textures; leaving subtlety to the southerners, and laconic understatement to the Mancs. (Holly J a veteran of that scene,as a Big in Japan member)

    In this context, worth mentioning the cultural profile of Liverpool in the early 80s, not matched since – Boys from the Blackstuff, Brookside as C4’s flagship soap in ‘edgy’ contrast to Coronation St, Letter to Brezhnev, Liverpool dominating football the way Man Utd started to the following decade… and politically (for leftists still reeling from the 83 election, at least), Liverpool council – whatever you thought of Militant – seemed to be the leading edge of a younger, radicalised local politics, challenging Thatcherism the way no one else was (at least until the miner’s strike started later this year). Liverpool mattered… some of this was the old story of a working class collective identity, battered by the recession but still resilient, still there (the ‘story of the blues’ from Wah! Heats improbable No.3 from the previous year). But another strand to it was a sense of northern glamour/hedonism/flash that probably had to do with Liverpool being a port, which FGTH and Relax would tie in with. But the two strands seemed like flipsides to the coin at the time. (I don’t know whether this explains what I’m getting at any better, but I was at university at this time with someone from the Cantril Farm estate in Liverpool who was not particularly radical or politically active, but she wouldn’t hear a word against Derek Hatton – the much-slagged ‘face’ of the local council – for 2 main reasons, a) because they got on with building loads of council houses instead of just talking about it, and b) because he refused to apologise for wearing sharp suits and looking flash. No-nonsense but glam,see.)

    er, I think originally the point of all that was… when t-shirts came out saying frankie says arm the unemployed, yes it was perhaps a silly cash-in, but there was another context as well

  81. 81
    Rory on 30 Jul 2009 #

    The performance on The Tube, which is knocking around The YouTube, is an eye-opener; it all sounds rather pedestrian and dated, and Holly Johnson’s look is in-your-face leather rather than the grey suit of the banned video. One particular camera-shot up his red leather shorts is very Brüno.

    I had to double-check to make sure my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me, so now feel compelled to mention: the original T-shirts said FRANKIE SAY, not SAYS (Frankie referring to the collective band rather than the individual), leading to hours of playground cognitive dissonance.

  82. 82
    Izzy on 30 Jul 2009 #

    Ha, thanks, I was certain that was right too – so much so that I got the cognitive dissonance from the ‘FRANKIE SAYS’ one I saw at #21. The shirts seem to have had a pretty big impact in the US, going by how they keep turning up on various TV shows as a signpost of 80sdom.

  83. 83
    intothefireuk on 7 Aug 2009 #

    Less of a song more of a chant set to Fairlight samples – but what samples ! Big & brash with a funked up bassline and meaty synth brass stabs it was hard to ignore. Johnson’s smutty sneer was obv too much for Mike Read and his outrage catapulted it into the stratosphere. Doesn’t sound anywhere near as powerful now as it did then probably due to the over reliance on technology and the fact that the king was in the alltogether.

  84. 84
    Billy Smart on 31 Aug 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Mostly music shows, but a few Wogan appearances, too;

    THE (NOEL EDMONDS) LATE LATE BREAKFAST SHOW: with Mike Smith (Reporter), Frankie Goes To Hollywood (1984)

    1 ON THE ROAD: with Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Thompson Twins, Nik Kershaw (1984)

    THE MONTREUX ROCK FESTIVAL: with Bronski Beat, Bryan Ferry, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Kool And The Gang, The Pointer Sisters, Chris Rea, REO Speedwagon, Sting, Tears For Fears (1985)

    THE MONTREUX ROCK FESTIVAL: with Sting, Bryan Ferry, Agnetha, Bronski Beat, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Huey Lewis and the News, Men At Work, Billy Ocean, The Pointer Sisters, REO Speedwagon (1985)

    THE MONTREUX ROCK FESTIVAL: with Eighth Wonder, Elvis Costello, Paul Hardcastle, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Art Of Noise, Belouis Some, Bronski Beat, E.L.O., Marilyn Martin, Ready For The World (1986)

    THE MONTREUX ROCK FESTIVAL: with Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Art Of Noise, Belouis Some, Bronski Beat, Eighth Wonder, E.L.O., Paul Hardcastle, Marilyn Martin, Ready For The World, Bonnie Tyler (1986)

    NAKED CITY: with Caitlin Moran, Johnny Vaughan, Jamiroquai, Moby, Ice T, Shakin’ Stevens, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Paul O’Grady, Paul Morley, Therapy ? (1993)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Leslie Ash, Mark Midwurdz, Paul McCartney, Echo and the Bunnymen, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Inspirational Choir, Killing Joke, Frankie Goes To Hollywood (1983)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates, Immaculate Fools, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Alarm (1985)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates, Spandau Ballet, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Wendy May, Nick Kamen, Felix Howard, Jermaine Stewart, Gwen Guthrie, Gregg Parker (1986)

    WOGAN: with Miriam Stoppard, Charles Dance, Marti Caine, Frankie Goes To Hollywood (1984)

    WOGAN: with Princess Anne, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Mark Tully (1985)

    WOGAN: with Steven Berkoff, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Tom T. Hall, Duncan Norvelle, Christopher Timothy (1986)

  85. 85
    punctum on 8 Sep 2009 #

    “I put on my clothes again, behind the screen. My hands are shaking. Why am I frightened? I’ve crossed no boundaries, I’ve given no trust, taken no risk, all is safe. It’s the choice that terrifies me. A way out, a salvation.”
    (Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, Chapter Eleven)

    1. Necessity
    In all ways, it had to come. 18 months after New Pop had peaked, and there was scant evidence of any triumph. The Top 40 had retreated into what John Peel contemptuously dubbed “a Radio 2 chart” full of soothing platitudes, safe novelties and the decaying colours and ribbons which was all New Pop seemed to mean to a lot of people (Peel again, on TOTP, December 1983: “Isn’t it great that Billy Joel has two singles in the top ten?” he snarled to camera through teeth never more earthily gritted). Against this, there was the indie tugboat of resistance – New Order, the Cocteaus, the Fall and of course the Smiths – but still there was the urge for a more pronounced reaction.

    2. Newness
    It was only too fitting that the eleventh hour cavalry charge of New Pop – or its last explicit stand – should be led by its principal sonic architect and chief critical cheerleader. Morley had locked horns with Horn in the NME back in 1980, at the time of “Video Killed The Radio Star”; he was none too impressed and deemed Buggles “the dustbinmen of pop.” But two years later Dollar and ABC had come to pass, and suddenly the two men, again in the NME, found themselves to be on the same side. With New Pop in freefall, as fully and carelessly as George Michael’s spilled drink into the swimming pool in the video for “Club Tropicana,” it was natural that the two should go into battle.

    3. Mercy
    Unless you were there and sympathetic at the time, it is difficult to convey how devastatingly important that first Art Of Noise EP was. As the autumn of 1983 approached it genuinely did feel that pop music was finished; all that remained were ageing MoR matinee idols from a spent previous era (Bowie, Rod, Billy Joel, Lionel Richie), lapsed prog-rockers pretending to be New Popists (Jones, Kershaw) and the dying embers of the few real New Popists still slugging it out. A letter in the NME of the period complained that the Top 40 was “physically painful to listen to” with only three good records (two of which were by New Order). I am aware that if you looked long and hard enough there was plenty of great music, pop or otherwise, to be found in 1983 but retrospect can be a luxury.

    So Into Battle appeared as a modest laser beam of deliverance. Although the genesis was Horn’s team faffing about experimenting with samples and outtakes from the Duck Rock sessions, those Zulu voices can be heard as far back as the summer of 1982, buried within the glittering mausoleum of Dollar’s “Videotheque.” And yet the found sounds, somewhere in a teasing triangle between Morton Subotnick, Raymond Scott and Joe Meek (do you Hear A New World in “Beat Box”?), were stretchy and playful as pop hadn’t been for some time; the moves were unpredictable, the tactics (both musically and philosophically) were alluring, and in “Moments In Love” something considerably more.

    4. Advent
    At the “climax” of the latter we can hear 16 rpm moans from a vaguely hoarse voice. That was the slowed-down voice of Holly Johnson…and Frankie Goes To Hollywood were ZTT’s next move. When the first ZTT promotional ads appeared in the music press it was impossible not to be instantly thrilled, not to want to go and buy all these promising new horizons of music and art (even though Propaganda and Anne Pigalle were as yet unrecorded). Frankie Goes To Hollywood were a curious choice for a launch, though, I felt at the time; I had heard them in session on Janice Long’s Radio 1 show without paying much attention – sticky-backed Scouse punk-funk not quite startling enough to emerge out of studium, though it was a reasonably logical, if not outrageously illogical (which was really what was needed), development from Johnson’s previous band Big In Japan (which also harboured two further number one artists of future importance) – and couldn’t quite see what, if anything, Horn could get out of them. As unpromising a project as taking on a fast-fading MoR teenpop duo in 1981…

    5. Quiet Dawn
    “Relax” was released on Hallowe’en 1983; I bought it on the Wednesday, in both 7” and 12” editions (already I was collecting, already I wanted not to miss a second of this second Futurism of Zang Tuum Tumb). I noted immediately that the 12” had almost nothing to do with the song as it stood on the 7”; instead it manipulated and modified the underlying rhythm through a fascinating if marathon thirty-one minutes of stealth funk which could have emerged straight from Cabaret Voltaire’s 2 x 45 – no doubt that was the intention. Value for money. The root 7” sounded good too, colourful and surprising, big without being smugly suffocating – but even then I knew that whatever real power the record possessed was unlikely to reveal itself unless or until it became a big hit. Out in the fields of Left it would become lost.

    6. Slow Burn Necessitating Accelerator
    For the first couple of months of its existence, “Relax” heeded its own advice and took its time selling; it was getting plenty of radio play and selling solidly and consistently but was feeling its way up the chart by only one or two places per week. Despite the numerous plaudits Into Battle was likewise proving a stubborn seller, and there was a very real worry that not only would “Relax” be swallowed up in the Christmas market but that the entire ZTT project might capsize as a result.

    Some favours were called in, and the band appeared on Channel 4’s The Tube just before Christmas in full flourish, complete with girls, bondage and a total absence of ambiguity about what “when you wanna come” and “when you wanna suck it to it” might mean. Compared to the stolidity of Paul Young or the Thompson Twins it was remarkably strong stuff for a teatime audience, but it generated enough interest in the group and the single – in combination with the traditionally low level of post-Christmas record sales – to propel “Relax” to number 35 in the first chart of 1984; into the Top 40 and therefore eligible for the racks of Woolworths and TOTP.

    7. Cant Come
    And then there was the slow realisation and the less-than-slow reactionism. In those days the Top 40 was issued on Tuesday lunchtime, and Radio 1, keen to exploit the chart’s centrality to the station’s existence, ran it thrice; live on the Tuesday lunchtime show, then again on Tuesday teatime (Peter Powell casting a more critical eye on the list) and lastly on Mike Read’s breakfast show on Wednesday morning. Despite having played it regularly and enthusiastically for the best part of two months, while counting down the Top 40 on the morning of Wednesday 4 January, Read suddenly experienced a Damascean revelation, realised what “Relax” was actually about (as though the single cover alone couldn’t have given it away), spluttered some disgusted outrage and refused to play it. Initially Read went it alone in this regard, but over the next few days Radio 1 opted to ban it from the station altogether. However, their TOTP performance had already been recorded, and it went out on that Thursday’s programme – there were no girls or bondage, but the impact remained murderously explosive and revelatory. Whipped up (so to speak) by the inevitable press brouhaha, “Relax” was suddenly on a roll; in the following week’s chart it had leapt to number six (I note incidentally that Channel 4 were at the time running the first properly networked rerun of The Prisoner on British television). The next week it was at number two behind “Pipes Of Peace,” and there was a repeat of the “God Save The Queen” frisson – would The Powers That Were conspire to keep it off the top? But that was not to be; on the day before my twentieth birthday “Relax” became an unqualified number one, reportedly outselling the rest of that week’s Top 20 combined. The silence on the various Top 40 shows and on TOTP was deafening and profound.

    8. Radio One Cant…Or Could They?
    By the beginning of 1984 Radio 1 were in an embarrassing position; explicitly set up in 1967 to cater for the teenage fans of the then newly-outlawed pirate radio, they had now settled into a junior cardigan version of Radio 2, and their controller of the time, Derek Chinnery, was keen to push Radio 1 to an even more upmarket – and more middle-aged, and certainly richer – audience. In an interview conducted with the Slow Dazzle fanzine in 1984, Peel complained bitterly about having his four weekly evening shows cut to three, and quoted Chinnery as saying that Peel’s show was fit only for hoodlums and undesirables. It’s a wonder that he stayed with Radio 1, but he did; meanwhile, as the new wave of pirate radio began to explode in London, highlighting the soul, rap and electro music which mainstream radio was still strenuously avoiding – the young Tim Westwood being among the broadcasters in question – the BBC’s hat continued to look progressively older and shabbier. In that same interview, Peel also cited Chinnery’s desire to cater for “young professionals in the car on their way home from the theatre or to the restaurant who want to listen to something familiar like…Kenny Rogers.” Thus, to a degree, the preponderance of dreary, nullifying MoR in the charts of the period. It seemed that everything was being neutralised.

    9. Come Cant
    Of course the BBC were also hoist by their own hypocritical petard with the “Relax” debacle. Nearly all of their daytime DJs indulged in ooh-ing and aah-ing and cor-ing at Page Three models and nudity and comeliness in general; the noxious Steve Wright in particular revelled in “makes you feel like…making love” sub-Barry Whiteisms when spinning the latest Lionel Richie or Al Jarreau hot, hip platter for the valium-stricken housewives who were his core audience. And, as with The Sun, having frothed at the collective mouth, they then proceeded to mock open mouths of outrage when presented with the real thing. Their embarrassment and stupidity were made all the more profound by the fact that commercial radio gleefully continued to play “Relax” – and that was reflected in their relative ratings.

    10. Real Thing
    Because “Relax” was unavoidably and inevitably the Real Thing; an explicit and gleeful celebration of gay sex. At last, after the decades of coded messages in “Secret Love” or “Have I The Right?” or “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,” after an era of New Pop where even Boy George and Marc Almond were obliged to be all coy and ambiguous about their sexuality, here it was, out in the open, unashamed and loud, with its hardcore on-the-beat beat, its pauses and liquid explosions placed for deliberate maximum impact. It took the emerging hi-NRG boom (taking the recent innovations of Bobby “O” and others into account) and made it pop, and nearly every important hi-NRG record to emerge in the Britain of 1984 had to acknowledge either “Relax” and/or “Blue Monday” (even as the dancefloors of such places as Fire Island in Edinburgh were already that summer mutating the hi-NRG template in tandem with this strange new electronic music that was beginning to emerge from Chicago).

    11. Glad
    Tom Robinson had made the Top 20 in 1978 with “Glad To Be Gay” but a typically timid EMI hid it away as part of an EP and another track, the straightforward rocker “Don’t Take No For An Answer,” was promoted to and played on radio as the assumed lead track. But, as I said, after “Relax” there could be no more hiding. By the summer of 1984 leading hi-NRG divas such as Hazell Dean and Evelyn Thomas had crossed over to become chart regulars – and more vitally, the likes of Bronski Beat (politically) and Divine (hardcore-ly) were now getting major hits and opening things up in a way that would have been unthinkable even six months previously.

    12. Mess Aesthetics
    From its opening Olympian call to arms (in both senses) via its relentlessly doubling drumming to its crucial final pause before the two explosions – the first the loudest Horn had ever sounded, and then the second to soundtrack the actual coming with its quadrupling drumbeat (Holly’s murmur, Rutherford’s “HEY!” and then BANG!!), closed by Holly’s satisfied, triumphant, echoing purr of “COME!” “Relax” sounded and still sounds magnificent and magisterial, especially when you couldn’t hear it on the chart rundown; excluded perhaps less on account of scandal than for fear of shaming its rightly-humbled contemporaries, including “Doctor, Doctor,” “Radio Ga-Ga,” “Wouldn’t It Be Good?,” “That’s Livin’ Alright (Theme From Auf Wiedersehn Pet),” “What Is Love?” (Jones famously rhyming “anyway” with “anyway”), “Break My Stride” and too many others – its only worthy competition was “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” in its way of cheerful garish even more subversive than “Relax” (it should be noted that both Cyndi Lauper and Madonna made their UK chart debuts in the same week of January 1984). It is clear that Horn pulled out that extra ounce of forthright power with a purposive view to making “Relax” the unanswerable answer to the New Pop crisis. This was the record everybody had to beat…including, eventually, Horn and Frankie themselves…and, as Morley later commented in one of his innumerable Frankie ad campaigns, they made the rest of pop appear small and petty (“Makes Big Country look like a back garden in St Helens”).

    13. The Killing, Or Rebirthing, Of Pop
    And yet, if “Relax” was the saviour of pop, it also dealt the notion of the pop single its fatal blow. Rarely satisfied with final mixes, and taking a direct lead from Brian Wilson in this respect, Horn endlessly tinkered with the mix of “Relax” so that the version which appears on Now That’s What I Call Music Vol 2 is different from that which eventually appeared on Welcome To The Pleasuredome is different from the version which appears on the cassette single is different from the endless remixes which now seeped out from Sarm West Studios. Above even the controversy – and how exactly did ZTT manage to set up and publish a “BANNED” advert in the music press less than a week after Read’s ban, in those pre-computer days? – it was the remixes which helped “Relax” towards its record-breaking unbroken 37-week run on the Top 40 (in the Top 75 it managed the full 52 weeks of its year, and even then, just like “Blue Monday,” it, as it would be, came back for more); every time it seemed on the verge of slipping out of the chart, BANG! would come a new mix, and it would guiltily, or proudly, slope its way upwards again. This eventually meant that no one has really been able to agree on the “definitive” version of “Relax” and thus the abandonment of the concept of the self-contained, three-minute “definitive” single was set in motion. This had of course been on the cards since “Good Vibrations” and “Strawberry Fields,” but the advent of the 12-inch single in the ‘70s had accelerated evolution, and thus did begin to supersede the need for the “single” as people had known it. Some were quick to dismiss the quick-change “Relax” remixes as cynical cashing-in, but in the long term it heralded the slow passing of something hitherto considered vital to pop; now everything was in floatation, amenable to amendments and, ultimately, whatever shape its individual listeners wanted it to assume. Thus, perhaps, did New Pop go on to win at least part of the war. How other parts of it were fought – and to what effect – well, I’ll get onto that (ooer) presently.

  86. 86
    LondonLee on 8 Sep 2009 #

    I was on a photo shoot with a photographer (English bloke living in NYC) recently and we got talking about music and he told me he used to be in Anne Pigalle’s band back in the 80s. If I’d remembered she was on ZTT I’d have pumped him for some gossip on Horn and Morley.

    Excellent post MC.

  87. 87
    Erithian on 8 Sep 2009 #

    Marcello #85 – great stuff as always, but both Will and I upthread remembered it as being the following week, which would have been 11 January, when Mike Read took the needle off the record – i.e. the week it went from 35 to 6. It’s an important point (insofar as any of this is important!) in the question of whether it was heading for number one anyway. I’m pretty sure the furore blew up while I was at RHC, and term wouldn’t have started as early as the 4th. Can you verify the date you quote in section 7?

  88. 88
    Conrad on 8 Sep 2009 #

    In a way when Read banned the record wouldn’t have made a huge difference, because if it was indeed 4 Jan, it was only the day before the transmission of their (already recorded*) TOTP performance, and I imagine it was that performance that propelled the record from 35-6.

    At this point, TOTP performances – particularly debut performances from striking acts (Musical Youth, Culture Club, etc) – still retained the ability to dramatically impact a record’s sales.

    For most of the watching public on 5 Jan, this would have been their first exposure to FGTH

    * Actually, I always thought TOTP performances were recorded on the day before tx, i.e. the Wednesday (so Frankie would have been arriving to record their debut TOTP about an hour after Read pulled the plug on the record, if that was the timeline)

  89. 89
    LondonLee on 8 Sep 2009 #

    You thought right, TOTP was recorded on the Wednesday.

  90. 90
    punctum on 9 Sep 2009 #

    #87 – as I recall it was definitely the first chart after the hols and “Relax” was the highest new entry within the 40 at 35 and that’s when he spluttered; I was in the bathroom showering and listening to him on my old-school transistor and I too spluttered. The TOTP performance went ahead because a blanket ban hadn’t yet been imposed (and also probably because it was too late to change the programme’s schedule/get in a substitute act) but by the time it leapt to #6 the following week no one on the station was playing it. Admittedly we are now talking over a quarter of a century ago but the memory has stuck with me.

  91. 91
    Billy Smart on 24 Sep 2009 #

    NME Watch: 5 November 1983. Out of touch old-timer Charles Shaar Murray is unconvinced – Move over, grandad!;

    “I played the B-side of this first by mistake, and found a dubbed-up interview with the band in which they explain how they decided to work with each other and then recount their recording history. “It’s not that exciting a story, really”, says one of them. I agreed with him heartily and played the A-side anyway. Basically a chant over the rhythmic vibration of the very latest digital kitchen sinks, ‘Relax’ is the subject of an ad campaign which requests that one requires 19 inches to comprehend the music fully. Having only been issued with seven, I eventually made do with about three. Presumably the band who converse so fascinatingly on the B-side are present somewhere in all of the general Hornery of the A-side. As ever, I await further enlightenment.”

    CSM awarded a joint single of the week to ‘Lifeboat Party’ by Kid Creole & The Coconuts and Eurythmics’ ‘Right By Your Side’. Also reviewed;

    Ian Dury – Really Glad You Came
    The Style Council – A Solid Bond In Your Heart
    The Rolling Stones – Undercover Of The Night
    JoBoxers – She’s Got Sex
    Bob Dylan – Union Breakdown
    The Assembly – Never Never
    The Cure – The Love Cats
    Genesis – That’s All
    Yello – Lost Again
    Captain Sensible – I’m A Spider
    Death Cult – God’s Zoo

  92. 92
    Chelovek na lune on 10 Sep 2010 #

    Absolute crap. Aggressive bass-heavy monotone thumping, overblown sound effects, pub rock turned camp, the triumph of marketing, t-shirts, slogans, computer games, and the musical forebears of Milli Vanilli. No more than a more bigged-up Sigue Sigue Sputnik. My goodness the grimness of shiny facile materialism of the mid-80s was fully upon us. And how horrid it was.

    Warranted hero of good things past Trevor Horn turned to zero.

    ZTT did much better (Snobbery and Decay!); hell, Holly Johnson did better solo, just about (Heaven’s Here, Heaven’s Here)

    1984 was when pop turned bad again. Frankie says…buy all the dross, and the public shamefully submits, as they often do before well-marketed dross.

    This week the second (and arguably the better of the brace) single from ABC’s criminally underrated “Beauty Stab”, “SOS” enjoyed its one week in the top 40, at number 39.

    And later in the year, much later, something far more genuinely experimental with electronics and technology, and far more enjoyable and….well just musical, really, their “(How to be A) Millionaire”….stiffed, if you will excuse the expression in the context of this crude and grotesque piece of japery – had Frankie never heard of the expression “too much information”, with two weeks at a lowly number 49.

    I fear that I can only give this song another one out of ten, the same that I gave to the very very different number it replaced at the top. Not a good start to the year. But I suppose it was bleak year in many ways, in the real world as well as the world of the charts.

  93. 93
    Martin F. on 1 Dec 2010 #

    #42 – The essential paradox of being 11. Perfectly put!

    #46 – So the future Father Jack was on the same show as Frankie? Seems somehow fitting. DRINK! FECK! RELAX! HUH!

    #85 – Hard not to fanboyw?!nk over that post, but still: HUH!

  94. 94
    swanstep on 1 Dec 2010 #

    Interesting to read through these comments. Much of what I’d want to say about Relax has already been said by others (8/10 feels about right to me). One point that hasn’t been fully addresed, however, was just how truly God-like Trevor Horn was already seeming at this point (esp. if you were in a band or knew people in bands). Yes’s Horn-hyper-produced Owner of a Lonely Heart was a surprise #1 for a couple of weeks in the US in Jan 1984. Even though Yes were has-beens compared to Frankie, their scoring a #1 with a record with a full selection of Art of Noise bonkers bits in it, and with a completely mad, Bertolucci-esque video by the late Peter Christopherson from Throbbing Gristle and Coil (gotta believe that the art of noise and ztt brains trusts must have had some input into getting Christpherson that job!) is almost as amazing as breaking Frankie. Yes’s follow-up single ‘Leave it’ in March 1984 (again with a nifty high concept vid. that no one has ever forgotten) was also a kind of production landmark – the track for which the phrase ‘Fairlighted up the wazoo’ might have been coigned! Both of these records seemed to me at the time to set the table for Prince’s various very weird-sounding but also instantly classic records later in the year. Anyhow, I mention all this in part just to get across that, even without Frankie, at this point Horn was the hottest producer on the planet. Then Relax went nuclear with a good-old-fashioned banning and tabloid dust-up… well, you could only wonder what might come next… Taking either Relax or Owner of a Lonely Heart as its kick-off, then, 1984 was a year of intense, massive-sounding hits that in some respects haven’t been equaled or surpassed since for their general weirdness and impact. Both Frankie’s three #1’s and Prince’s three big Purple Rain hits (2 #1’s and a #2 in the US) feel like truly incredible pop events to me now – as far out as the charts go.

  95. 95
    Conrad on 1 Dec 2010 #

    92, Chelovek na lune – I think you are pretty much spot on there, with regards to Frankie, 1984 and the excellent “Beauty Stab”.

    I find the whole Frankie sound really unpleasant and ugly somehow.

  96. 96
    punctum on 1 Dec 2010 #

    Agree fervently about Beauty Stab – one of the sanest and deepest commentaries on eighties Britain, especially its second side (the backing vocals on “S.O.S.,” by the way, were provided by FGTH) – and How To Be A Zillionaire which pre-empted in both style and content the group responsible for a possible Phantom Popular entry from later in 1990 (significantly the latter did much better in the States than here).

  97. 97
    swanstep on 1 Dec 2010 #

    “From Land’s End to John o’ Groats…” That final track from Beauty Stab is a ripper and should have become a standard… Maybe the return of tough times and tories will see it re-discovered.

  98. 98
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 1 Dec 2010 #

    As I noted way above, this song’s uneasiness, ugliness and TMI are all job-well-done rather than flaws of execution — it isn’t intending to get everyone to love it

  99. 99
    thefatgit on 1 Dec 2010 #

    Reading upthread about the most sampled drum break ever @60…I’d have to counter with The Winstons’ “Amen Brother”, more commonly known as the “Amen Break”. There’s an interesting piece on it here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SaFTm2bcac

    Ironically, his explanation of the origins of the Amen is recorded on a dubplate.

  100. 100
    Cumbrian on 2 Dec 2010 #

    Isn’t the most sampled break ever “Funky Drummer” by James Brown? A quick google around leaves me none the wiser (except that it’s either the Amen Break, Funky Drummer or The Honeydrippers dependent on which web page you read) – so this is a genuine question, if anyone has an answer.

  101. 101
    swanstep on 2 Dec 2010 #

    So, the claim is that that the kick/bass drum in Relax is the kick drum from When the Levee Breaks? That may be so, but I can’t hear it, certainly not in anything like the way I can when WtLB’s drums are sampled in Beastie Boys’ Sabotage and elsewhere in hip-hop. Frankie’s kick is powerful but also very dry/not at all echoey, right? whereas WtLB’s kick is *the* ultimate recorded-in-a-big-room echoey pulse. Horn and his techs may have used a sliver of a WtLB’s bass drum beat, i.e., just it’s attack really, attack to spice up the drum machine sound they had is my guess. At any rate, under no circumstances would I consider Relax’s kick the sample of a drum break (the Beasties and others sample the whole WtLB break the way everyone does funky drummer, ashley’s roach-clip, et al.).

  102. 102
    thefatgit on 22 Sep 2011 #

    Going back to this after remembering that Nasty Rox Inc’s “Ca$h” album makes full use of WtLB’s break, most notably on “Wubba Wubbaa II”. Ironic then, that NRI were signed to ZTT probably at the twilight of the label’s illumination of the pop landscape. And who were they, this Nasty Rox Inc? Step forward CJ Bolland and Dave Dorrell. I’m willing to wager that Horn/Lipson/Dudley contributed to the sound and feel of that album behind the mixing desk as well.

  103. 103
    punctum on 23 Apr 2014 #

    Struck me that I haven’t posted a link to my TPL post on Now II, which can be found here. Observant readers will note that I have minimally remixed my above comments on “Relax” and incorporated them into the piece. I am likely to do the same with their other two number ones but tbh this is a standard TPL practice of mine insofar as (a) if the writing’s good enough, it can stand recycling and (b) putting it in a different (but parallel) frame gives the writing a new context and also reminds people that it was written, thereby saving it from becoming forgotten. I suppose the challenge to me really is whether I feel the same about a piece of music several years after writing about it, and if not I can change the writing about quite radically. This applies to some number ones but by no means to all of them.

  104. 104
    Patrick Mexico on 22 Oct 2014 #

    Mike Reid, perhaps the definition of a Situationist prank.. ;)

  105. 105
    Mark G on 22 Oct 2014 #

    “FREE SECONDS TO RUNARAHHHND!!!”

    Mike Read, on the other hand, …

  106. 106
    glue_factory on 22 Oct 2014 #

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Hra8IP07Zg

    Mike Reid when he was bit more urban and gritty

  107. 107
    Mark G on 22 Oct 2014 #

    READ!

    oh never mind…

  108. 108
    weej on 23 Oct 2014 #

    #106 – Obligatory companion-piece – https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=ELKb-lcW4e0#t=71

  109. 109
    hectorthebat on 28 Nov 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1-1001
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1980s (2001) 101
    NBC-10 (USA) – The 30 Best Songs of the 80s (2006)
    OUT (USA) – The 25 Gayest Songs of the 1980s (2011)
    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    Pitchfork (USA) – The Pitchfork 500 (2008)
    VH-1 (USA) – Nominations for the 100 Greatest 80s Songs (2006)
    Woxy.com (USA) – Modern Rock 500 Songs of All Time (combined rank 1989-2009) 126
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1980s (2008)
    HarperCollins GEM (UK) – Single of the Year 1949-99 (1999)
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1997) 86
    New Musical Express (UK) – NME Rock Years, Single of the Year 1963-99 (2000)
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 150 Singles of All Time (1987) 123
    Q (UK) – 100 Songs That Changed the World (2003) 24
    Q (UK) – 50 Years of Great British Music, 10 Tracks per Decade (2008)
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 204
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Q (UK) – The 80 Best Records of the 80s (2006) 11
    Sounds (UK) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1986) 13
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Uncut (UK) – 100 Rock and Movie Icons (2005) 79
    Uncut (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles from the Post-Punk Era (2001) 14
    Vox (UK) – 100 Records That Shook the World (1991)
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Les Inrockuptibles (France) – 1000 Indispensable Songs (2006)
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Kerrang! (UK) – Singles of the Year 5
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 37
    Schlager (Sweden) – Singles of the Year 9
    Spex (Germany) – Singles of the Year 1

  110. 110
    Michael K on 21 Oct 2015 #

    The success or even the existence of this record has to have been situated on the most tenuous of connections. Horn sees them and the song on The Tube but it’s the Kid Jensen session version that sparks his interest (remember that session? No, neither does anybody but Trevor).
    The Mike Read interest in the sleeve artwork is another moment of turning point that a knock on the door from the tea lady could have made a non-happening. There was certainly nothing on the record that had alerted anybody, even when singing along happily.
    Most of all, only a bizarre camaraderie between Horn and Morley could make for a high-profile in-yer-face popkid assault upon homophobia (which hadn’t even got a name yet)!

    Frankie were some kind of miracle alright. In the annals of ‘manufactured bands’ their milestones are blink and they missed it.

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