Musical Monday: Frankie Goes to Hollywood

The Olympics are over and it’s been a thrilling couple of weeks. Indeed, it’s been a great summer of sport, if you also include the Euros 2020 and the Tour de France. The French football league has restarted as have the MotoGP races, the Premier League kicks off this coming weekend along with the Vuelta a Espana. So my advice is to grab a few days of relaxation along with Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood were an English synth-pop band formed in Liverpool in 1980. The group’s best-known line-up comprised Holly Johnson (vocals), Paul Rutherford (backing vocals), Peter Gill (drums, percussion), Mark O’Toole(bass guitar) and Brian Nash (guitar).

Relax, the group’s 1983 debut single  was banned by the BBC in 1984 while at number six in the charts and subsequently topped the UK Singles Chart for five consecutive weeks, going on to enjoy prolonged chart success throughout that year and ultimately becoming the seventh-best-selling UK single of all time. It also won the 1985 Brit Award for Best British Single.

The track was on the band’s debut album, Welcome to the Pleasuredome, which reached number one in the UK in 1984 with advanced sales of more than one million. After the follow-up success of “Two Tribes” and “The Power of Love”, the group became only the second act in the history of the UK charts to reach number one with their first three singles; the first being fellow Liverpudlians Gerry and the Pacemakers in the 1960s. This record remained unbeaten until the Spice Girls achieved a six-single streak in 1996–1997.

In 1985 the band won the Brit Award for British Breakthrough Act. Associated with the Second British Invasion of the US, they also received Grammy Award and MTV Video Music Award nominations for Best New Artist.

Lead singer Holly Johnson claimed that he wanted to be provocative with the way Frankie Goes to Hollywood looked and for the lyrical content to be modern and edgy. Having lived through a politically charged time, when the Sex Pistols and Bow Wow Wow had made headlines, he knew they had to do the same to make an impact. He had a vision of something that merged punk and disco.

Relax was written in Johnson’s head, and he sang it out loud to himself walking down the middle of Princes Avenue in Liverpool, laughing as he went. It was produced by Trevor Horn and recorded in the Manor Studio. 

Their record company celebrated Relax being banned by the BBC, as it went to No 1 in the UK shortly afterwards. It was the perfect pop moment, which sparked the age of multiple dance remixes that are obligatory for today’s digital pop and dance artists.Hit singles are not just good songs. They need to be moments.

Relax’s original video depicted a gay S&M parlour where the band members were admired by muscular leathermen, a bleached blonde drag queen, and a large-bodied man dressed as a Roman emperor. The video featured a scene where one of the band members wrestled a live tiger, to the admiration of the clubgoers, and ended where the “emperor” was so excited he shimmied out of his toga. It was promptly banned by both the BBC and MTV, resulting in the production of a substitute video directed by filmmaker Brian De Palma. There have been four official music videos for Relax.

18 Comments on “Musical Monday: Frankie Goes to Hollywood

  1. When I think of this song I always think of friends where Ross tries to fit into his old Frankie say relax t shirt

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Musical Monday: Frankie Goes to Hollywood – MobsterTiger

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