Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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FRANKIE GOES to HOLLYWOOD

UK pop band, controversial in early '80s. Lineup: Holly Johnson (b 9 Feb. '60) and Paul Rutherford (b 12 Dec. '59, vocals; Mark O'Toole, bass (b 16 Jan. '64); Peter Gill, drums (b 8 March '60); Brian Nash, guitar (b 20 May '63). Only Holly had any experience, in Liverpool band Big in Japan '78. Came together there, taking name from old Variety headline about Frank Sinatra's film plans. Turned down by Arista, band made sado-masochistic video to accompany early version of 'Relax!', shown on infl. TV show The Tube, attracting attention of Trevor Horn; became first signing to his new ZTT label; marketed by former New Musical Express journalist Paul Morley, became the most talked-about band in the land. Early versions of the notorious single incl. Ian Dury's Blockheads, though Frankies did play on the release; BBC Radio 1 disc jockey Mike Read banned it as obscene, ensuring no. 1 hit '83 for five weeks; next single 'Two Tribes' raced to the top six months later; 'The Power Of Love' late '84: they matched 20-year-old record of Gerry and the Pacemakers by reaching no. 1 with their first three singles (they had incl. 'Ferry 'Cross The Mersey' as B-side of 'Relax!'). Debut album Welcome To The Pleasure Dome '84 had record 1m in advance orders; contained several versions of hits plus lively cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'Born To Run'. Title track was group's fourth single, failed to set new record. Aside from moralists, FGTH have attracted adverse criticism for releasing dozens of different mixes, for being Horn's puppets, for being controversial for its own sake: synonymous with depravity, they appeared in Brian de Palma's film about sleaze Body Double '85. No group since the Sex Pistols made such headlines in such a short time, but second LP Liverpool '86 betrayed 'both a poverty of imagination and a fumbling lack of direction and momentum', wrote David Sinclair in The Times. They were just another band; judges upheld a ruling '89 that ZTT's contract with Johnson could not be enforced because it was unreasonable restraint of trade, and his solo Blast '89 on MCA was just another record.