Alex Floro
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Reminisce with M.I.S.S.: Frankie Goes to Hollywood

When M.I.S.S. girls have the sudden urge to just do it, we always stop and remember to… RELAX.  Oh yes, this week we’ll be taking a journey to the city where silver screen dreams are either made or broken with Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Coming out of the 70s punk scene in Liverpool, the group was formed with Holly Johnson on vocals, Paul Rutherford with the keyboard, Peter Gill on drums, Mark O’Toole hitting the bass and Brian Nash on guitar. On inquiry about the origin of the group’s name, Johnson has said that it came from a Frank Sinatra picture in The New Yorker. It was actually a Guy Peellart pop art poster that was the inspiration for the name.

Touring around Liverpool, the group began to garner a cult following. They even joined up with another group – The Leatherpets. Through their local popularity, FGTH was able to make their own promotional videos and record demos, despite having been turned down by majors like Arista and Phonogram. It was a lucky chance in October of 1982 that the group was able to record a session for the famous BBC Radio 1 with the John Peel Session. This session included FGTH classic Two Tribes, as well as Disneyland, Krisco Kisses, and The World is My Oyster.

The magic that Radio 1 is famous for creating did not spare FGTH. Soon after, the group was asked to record the video for Relax, their most famous single to date. Channel 4 asked the boys to make the video for their show The Tube, and the broadcast led to the previously-recorded session with John Peel to be played on the radio. The growing popularity of the group convinced Grammy Award-winning producer Trevor Horn to sign them to his newly formed ZZT Records.

Their debut single, Relax, did not have a massive entry onto the charts. Released in 1983, it steadily rose on the UK Top 40. It was a feature on the BBC’s Top of the Pops in the beginning of 1984 which rocketed it from number 35 to number 1 for six weeks straight.

It was a cold January day that began a controversy that has followed the group for their entire career. Radio 1 DJ Mike Read noticed the cover design of the single and became furious at what he said was obscene sexual content. He note  the Yvonne Gilbert-designed cover, as well as the lyrics. Live on air, he took the single off the air. This was just the tip of the iceberg.

BBC decided to ban the single from all broadcasts, radio and television included. The only show it was allowed to remain on was its Top 40 show.  Speculation on the reason for the ban was the sexual matter and the uncomfortable feeling execs felt for the band’s gay message.

Even the original video had to be redone. In the first version, a gay S&M den was the setting and leather-clad gentlemen and women were featured. The second video was directed by Brian de Palma to partner with the release of the Body Double film.

Finally, after almost a year of being banned, Relax was allowed to be performed in the Christmas special of Top of the Pops.

The groups next two singles, The Power of Love and Two Tribes, were both number ones in the UK, gaining the group the honor of being the only other group in UK history to have their first 3 singles be reach #1.

Then and Now

The group went through the typical rise to fame and eventual breakup, but what we wanted to focus on was the social impact they have left both on the music world, and more specifically, the gay community. Which each of their albums and tracks, they made a conscious effort to address an issue they felt important. In the Two Tribes, the images featured in the video are a mash up of famous clips of political figures around the world. Flip through any 80s nostalgia show or go to an 80s themed party and there is sure to be someone rocking a “Frankie Says…” shirt. The cultural impact the group has left has engrained them into pop history, probably as long as it will take to get Relax out of your head.

Check out more videos from the group:

Two Tribes

Escape From Pleasuredome

The Power of Love

Image Layout: Phaymiss

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