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Sep 09

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD – “The Power Of Love”

FT + Popular54 comments • 7,750 views

#542, 8th December 1984, video

This was our first dance at my wedding, so certainly you can hear it, and use it, as sincere – but I’d be hard pressed to claim it’s meant to be taken that way. Or rather, sincerity is there in “The Power Of Love” if you want it, but the band aren’t using it the way you might expect.

I remember fierce anticipation for this song, and watching the slow, reverent video, and being weirdly unsettled and baffled: where was the confrontation? What were Frankie trying to do? I didn’t know anything about camp, and certainly there’s elements of camp in the supersaturated images and drenched production, but my original reaction was the right one: there’s something wilfully contrarian about the year’s most tabloid-ready band producing such a stately, solemn record. Their sincerity is a weapon: say you’re going to follow your records about sex and war with a record about religion, and you wrong-foot people into expecting the Pope wrestling Mohammed in a jelly bath.

If you disliked Frankie this all must seem an absurd stretch – they just made a pompous third single, that’s all. And fair enough: but “The Power Of Love” sounds like religion, or religion as experienced by the non-religious Brit, an osmosis of hymnal tempos and Hollywood technicolor devotion, simultaneously bogus and grand. Holly Johnson does what he needs to, leading you through the song without cracking a smile: Trevor Horn’s orchestration has an aloof, marbled beauty. God is not mocked. But perhaps He is trolled.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Tom on 1 Sep 2009 #

    Incidentally, this is MUCH TOO LONG to be a first dance – you feel very exposed. I had a wonderful wedding day but little thanks to Frankie, so I was easily able to split my happy memories of the event from my rating of the song!

  2. 2
    LondonLee on 1 Sep 2009 #

    It wasn’t the 12″ version was it? That goes on for 9 minutes.

  3. 3
    Chewshabadoo on 1 Sep 2009 #

    Sounds like bad form on behalf of your guests Tom. As much as it is enjoyable to watch the squirming of the newlyweds, I’ve always been led to believe people should start joining in at around the second verse stage.

  4. 4
    Tom on 1 Sep 2009 #

    People joined in around halfway of course! but it takes a good while to get there :)

  5. 5
    pink champale on 1 Sep 2009 #

    this was first dance at my brother’s wedding too. rest assured no one at all joined in with the mortified shuffling, nor for the second song (he and his wife picked one each) minnie ripperton’s “loving you”.

  6. 6
    Alan on 1 Sep 2009 #

    pop fact#4 (at the time) was that this took them level with gerry and the pacemakers re #1 on first 3 singles.

  7. 7
    Tom on 1 Sep 2009 #

    #6 I went out and bought “Welcome To The Pleasuredome” in hopes that they would make it a fourth. No luck.

  8. 8
    Erithian on 1 Sep 2009 #

    Referencing the Fantastic Four (“Flame on!”) and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop – what’s not to love?

    OK, you could say it deals with religion, but only in the sense that it’s saying love can do all those things that religion is supposed to – a neat extended metaphor. Like their first two singles, this one plays around with the form you’d normally expect – it returns to the hook line now and again, but in between there seems to be a free flow of ideas rather than a conventional verse.

    This was a brilliant move from the Frankies – the first two singles had been quite different from each other (dance and rock, broadly speaking) and this sort-of power ballad was a total curveball, and works like a dream for the time of year it was released.

    And need we point out that this was the single with which Frankie Goes To Hollywood matched Gerry and the Pacemakers’ achievement of reaching number one with each of their first three singles? (Edit – oh no I needn’t since Alan got there first.)

  9. 9
    Rory on 1 Sep 2009 #

    This being Frankie, you have to wonder whether “make love your goal” has an implied comma or dash in the middle. With the heavy emphasis in Johnson’s delivery on MAKE LOVE, I rather suspect that it does.

  10. 10
    will on 1 Sep 2009 #

    I always felt that the religion angle was a bit tacked-on. But it was Christmas and I’m sure ZTT thought that the accompanying Frankie Goes To Bethlehem video would be that final push to ensure the coveted End Of Year Number One slot. Fate (or God) had other plans…

    The Power Of Love is simply nothing more than a great love song and didn’t really need any extra conceptual gubbins. Their finest moment, I reckon.

  11. 11
    lonepilgrim on 1 Sep 2009 #

    credit should go to Anne Dudley (of Art of Noise) for the orchestration (in this and previous Trevor Horn productions) – she later released an album: ‘Ancient and Modern’ which combined English Hymns with Philip Glass-like arrangements – very soothing.

    what was (mildly) subversive about this tune was its blurring of sacred and profane love. Its celebration of the artifice and excess of Christmas emphasised the camp spectacle of what was considered straight culture.

  12. 12
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 1 Sep 2009 #

    I’ve always liked this best of the frankie troika, much as i love them all: perfectly delivered sentimentality crystallised into an ikon

    didn’t the FIRST version of the video have a final reveal of a gorgeous little black baby jesus? or was that the power of our will to be trolled manifesting in mass hallucination?

  13. 13
    Rory on 1 Sep 2009 #

    This was another number four for Frankie in Oz, where the tailor-made Christmas pop song has never been as big a tradition (no procession of ghastly Cliff singles for us, thank you). It’s always been hopelessly muddled in my mind with its bunny-baiting namesake, so I came to it today reasonably cold. It’s the first Frankie number one that doesn’t feel ground-breaking, and the first that stretches Holly Johnson’s vocal powers beyond their limits; he doesn’t sound weighty enough or angelic enough for the song’s aspirations, and his previous strengths of dirty enough and shouty enough sure won’t cut it here. Only a 5 from me, I’m afraid.

  14. 14
    Pete Baran on 1 Sep 2009 #

    Has anyone else seen the Frankie Say posters around London at the moment? Is there a big reissue push coming on or what?

    The only one of the three Frankie Number Ones I own, and I rather liked its wrapping paper box design (outer of pink crosses and hearts, inner the sleeve shown above). Parents liked it, I liked it – sister hated its sappiness. She had just been dumped by her boyfriend. It turned a band hated by my parents into one they liked – a feat most notably later performed by Eminem and his sappy number one.

    I played it at that wedding, and remembered how long the intro was, and that beyond a drunken lurched shuffle, it is also impossible to dance to.

  15. 15
    Billy Smart on 1 Sep 2009 #

    Tom OTM about the wrongfooting effect that the single’s lack of irony had upon us kids of 1984. What it does share with its two predecessors is, of course, a sense of vastness and gravitas. You rather have to surrender to the will of this to enjoy it – I can’t imagine it ever playing in the background. To this effect, I found that there was something slightly embarrasing about this as a twelve year-old. The sort of thing that demanded that you had to defend it.

    Apart from the video, I suppose that the only religiosity to be found in this is in the slightly old testament phrasing, “purge the soul” – a steeper order than most love songs!

    Shouldn’t that illustration of the sleeve strictly show the Frankie insignia-adorned envelope that it came in?

  16. 16
    Billy Smart on 1 Sep 2009 #

    Advertisingwatch: Durex, circa 1995! A couple look at each other through a greay big steel fence than eventually get to the end of it and embrace. This combination of image, product and music always struck me as a bit jarring.

  17. 17
    Billy Smart on 1 Sep 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: As we all know what’s coming next, heres the listing for Xmas 1984.

    25 December 1984. In the studio were; Frankie Goes To Hollywood (performing all three hits), Howard Jones, Duran Duran, Nik Kershaw, Culture Club, Thompson Twins, Jim Diamond, Paul Young and Band Aid! The Appearing Artists were the hosts. IIRC this all-star spectacular was broadcast live, with Wham! due to appear but held up in traffic, and it was, alongside ‘Doctor Who – The Caves of Androzani’ that March, just about the most exciting thing that I’d ever seen on television.

  18. 18
    Steve Mannion on 1 Sep 2009 #

    Fantasy cover version/alt performer alert: The Smiths!

  19. 19
    LondonLee on 1 Sep 2009 #

    The only one of their chart toppers that was an actual “song” and not just a string of slogans, And a lovely song it is too, at the time I don’t remember being puzzled or let down that Frankie had made a “conventional” love song while the previous two had been grand conceptual pop events. In some ways I thought it was just as much a piece of conceptual art, except that it was Frankie doing “sincerity”.

  20. 20
    lonepilgrim on 1 Sep 2009 #

    re 19 – to my ears the lyrics to this are another set of slogans (religious and popular) – tongues of fire; the hooded claw; make love your goal; vampires – with the orchestration blending the two together

  21. 21
    wichita lineman on 1 Sep 2009 #

    “The Power Of Love sounds like religion, simultaneously bogus and grand” explains my dislike of Let It Be, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and this. Bit of an overcooked dirge to my ears; certainly not as much fun as Huey Lewis’s song of the same title.

    And it isn’t straight faced, is it? Rory points out Holly’s “make love” smirk, pretty lame in a world where sex and horror were new Gods.

    Still, I don’t want to piss all over Tom’s first dance! “Ours”, sort of accidentally, was The Hollies’ I Can’t Let Go which didn’t involve a clinch but made it a cinch for everyone else to join with gusto in on the second verse.

  22. 22
    Izzy on 1 Sep 2009 #

    #20 dead right about the slogans. I find myself involuntarily quoting this record a lot, in situations both appropriate and inappropriate – and when I realise what I’m doing it takes a real effort not to run through the whole lyric in one go.

    (as if to prove it, I just did the same with the above, typing ‘when the chips…’ instead of ‘when I realise…’)

  23. 23
    swanstep on 2 Sep 2009 #

    I guess I don’t remember this seeming as ‘out of character’ for Frankie as the lead essay describes. The 12″ mix included a dj impersonator reprising the on-air banning of Relax (check), followed that with the Reagan impersonator doing various stuff including the Lord’s prayer, (double check – recall that part of the standard left-ish criticism of Reagan/Thatcher was that they shared a simplistic, unhelpfully Manichean/’cosmic war of good and evil’ world-view – reprised by Bush 2 – that would probably kill us all), and IIRC the marketing included Frankie sending vibrators stamped with “Frankie presents the power of love” to 100(?) or so djs and sundry other tastemakers (triple check/strike 3).
    In sum, this struck me as business as usual for Frankie, and then, since it was rather good, as Frankie firing on all cylinders. I don’t even rate the ‘music style’ change as that significant, since, really, Frankie’s musical genre was just max-ed out/studio/technology/Horn-prog-soul. ABC got ‘All of my Heart’ buffed to an incredible high gloss by Horn/Dudley, Frankie now got the same luxe treatment for their song. Slightly sick-making possibly (pop as high manipulation gets old, and the Smiths were definite ear relief at this point), but for me it’s a killer:
    9

  24. 24
    TomLane on 2 Sep 2009 #

    A non-charter in the U.S., but I remember seeing the video. Surprising that it didn’t chart here, it’s a power ballad, and American radio is a sucker for those. But maybe Frankie’s image was too much for America by this point? I’ll echo Tom and give it a 7.

  25. 25
    swanstep on 2 Sep 2009 #

    @#21 Wichita Lineman. In some parts of the world, Frankie’s PoL came out in 1985, making that year the year of *three* PoL’s, all of which got at least close to #1! Not just the Huey Lewis one you mention, which was fun alright, but also Jennifer Warne’s (which has since been immortalized as the soundtrack for a chilling scene in Michael Haneke’s early masterpiece _The Seventh Continent_). There are at least three distinct, great, high-charting ‘Look of Love’s out there, but they didn’t all happen within 12 months of one another. Weird.

  26. 26
    LondonLee on 2 Sep 2009 #

    OK, so the lyrics do have a lot of slogans, or at least memorable phrases and images strung together. But at least they’re strung together with some semblance of trad pop song structure so it flows.

  27. 27
    intothefireuk on 2 Sep 2009 #

    A little disappointing after the fireworks of their previous effort but a pretty decent single all the same. I didn’t twig any religious connection until seeing the video and it did seem a little tacked on although any attempt to subvert the increasingly cloying traditional Xmas single was welcome.

  28. 28
    Erithian on 2 Sep 2009 #

    Swanstep #25 – it wasn’t Jennifer Warne but Jenmmf mmf aarggh hop hop…

  29. 29
    MikeMCSG on 2 Sep 2009 #

    Not much to add – others have got there first. I recall George Michael sourly celebrating them not getting the christmas number one. He must have been rueing not releasing “Last Christmas” a week earlier.

    I think Frankie did well to make it to the top since this was released only a fortnight or so after the LP which most people found disappointing and over-priced. I remember retailers over-ordered it and were left with a lot of spare copies. There was enough good material to make a cracking single LP but their talents seemed over-stretched on a double. I’ll be kind and not mention their second album.

  30. 30
    swanstep on 2 Sep 2009 #

    @Erithian. Ah yes, I indeed had the wrong Jen. (He steps gingerly back from the pile of carrots and fur…)

    @(overlord) Tom. Have been chortling all day about the thought of someone using Two Tribes for their wedding dance ever since reading PoL was yours. In the gag-ridden rom. com. s/play of your life perhaps…

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