Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Frankie Goes to Hollywood (FGTH) were a British band popular in the mid-1980s. The group was fronted by Holly Johnson (vocals), with Paul Rutherford (vocals, keyboards), Peter Gill (drums, percussion), Mark O’Toole (bass guitar), and Brian Nash (guitar).
The group’s debut single “Relax” 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. After the follow-up success of “Two Tribes” and “The Power of Love,” FGTH 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 & the Pacemakers. In 1985, Frankie Goes to Hollywood won the Brit Award for Best British Newcomer, and the band also received Grammy Award and MTV Video Music Award nominations for Best New Artist.
In 1986, FGTH appeared at the Montreux Rock Festival which was broadcast on UK television. This performance saw the first airings of two future singles, namely “Rage Hard” and “Warriors of the Wasteland.” Both versions were different from the versions eventually released. In August 1986, the long-awaited new Frankie Goes to Hollywood single, “Rage Hard,” was released, reaching number 4 in the UK. Initially showcased promotionally with songs like “Warriors of the Wasteland,” the group’s sound had developed a significantly harder edge with a less flamboyant, more nitty-gritty lyrical side. Whilst the single was inevitably promoted as a flagship ZTT product, Frankie’s self-importance seemed somewhat forced and verging almost on self-parody by 1986. The corresponding album, Liverpool (originally rumoured to be titled “Liverpool … let’s make it a double”), released in October and reaching UK No. 5 was generally panned by the music press, and chart returns declined rapidly with the follow-up singles “Warriors of the Wasteland” (No. 19) and “Watching the Wildlife” (No. 28). The group meanwhile threatened to implode of its own accord, in the course of a sometimes poorly attended tour promoting the new album. Johnson kept himself markedly separate from the rest of the band when offstage at this period, tensions becoming exacerbated during a backstage altercation between Johnson and O’Toole at Wembley Arena in January 1987, reflecting the generally collapsing relationship between lead singer and the rest of the band. Things were so bad that fellow Liverpudlian singer Pete Wylie was approached to replace Johnson but declined the offer. FGTH completed the tour, but Johnson ultimately left the group thereafter, citing musical estrangement.
In the aftermath of the group split, Johnson was offered a solo recording agreement with MCA Records. However, ZTT, which maintained they had invested heavily in Liverpool (to the extent that the digital recording system used to record the album was very nearly treated as a sixth member of the band on the sleeve of the “Warriors of the Wasteland” single), had other ideas, and promptly sued Johnson in an attempt to hold him to his original contract with the label. Among other things, ZTT believed that as a departing member of FGTH, Johnson was required to release all solo material through the label until the band’s original multiple-album agreement was fulfilled. The suit was bitterly fought, exposing the inner workings of the ZTT/Frankie machine to a giddy UK music press.
After two years, the High Court found in Johnson’s favour, holding that the highly restrictive terms of the contract constituted an unreasonable restraint of trade. The result of the court case, which also effectively freed the remaining members of FGTH from their ZTT contract, became famous as an unprecedented victory for the artist over their corporate paymasters.
Johnson’s solo career at MCA commenced in 1989, with a succession of high-placed singles and the number one album Blast. The remix collection Hollelujah followed, trailed by a second studio album, Dreams That Money Can’t Buy. However, Johnson’s relations with MCA cooled with this release, and he would ultimately become a reclusive but successful painter, after announcing in 1993 that he was infected with HIV. The following year, Johnson recounted his version of Frankie’s history in his autobiography A Bone in My Flute. His self-issued 1999 album Soulstream included a re-recording of “The Power of Love,” which was also released as a single.
Paul Rutherford, the other openly gay member of the band, released the partially ABC produced album Oh World and a handful of singles before retiring with his New Zealander partner to Waiheke Island.
The “other three,” as Smash Hits labelled them, continued to work together in what turned out to be a vain attempt to resurrect “Frankie” with various singers including Dee Harris from Fashion and Grant Boult from The Promise, who had opened the shows on the band’s UK and European tours. Under the name Boss Dog, with Boult on vocals, the band were offered a major deal with Virgin Records but on condition they work as Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Johnson challenged the use of the name and the deal soured. Boult and Brian Nash continued with the material written by The Shuffle Brothers and under the name Low they released “Tearing My soul Apart” in 1992 on Swanyard Records. As “Nasher,” Nash released a 2002 solo album entitled Ripe. Pedro (Jekyl Ice) worked behind the scenes and scored a top ten hit with the group “Lovestation.” Mark O’Toole moved to Florida and played with Punk outfit “Trapped By Mormons.”
The band’s name lived on to the extent that re-issues of “Relax” and “The Power of Love” both returned to the UK Top 10 in 1993. Remixes of “The Power of Love” (which became a dance anthem from its original ballad format) and “Two Tribes” were Top 20 hits again in 2000, while “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” also got commercially successful remix treatment, to the extent of a Top 20 placing four years earlier.
The group’s first two singles appeared sixth and 22nd respectively in the official all-time UK best-selling singles list issued in 2002.
In 2003, the VH-1 program Bands Reunited brought Johnson, Rutherford, Gill, Nash, and Mark O’Toole together, in the hope of their agreeing to perform impromptu on the show. However, a reunion performance did not transpire. Both Johnson and Nash had reservations about performing at short notice in the contrived manner dictated by the TV show format.
In 2004 a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Trevor Horn’s involvement in the music industry a special concert took place at Wembley Arena in November, featuring three of the original FGTH line-up, Mark O’Toole, Peter (Ped) Gill and Paul Rutherford and another former member, Jed O’Toole. Original vocalist Johnson, who announced via the Internet that he would not be appearing, and guitarist Nash, who declined to appear for his own reasons, did not take part. Jed O’Toole took over guitar duties for the event, whilst an open audition was held for a new singer for the concert. Ryan Molloy was recruited as a result.
The same lineup reunited for a tour in 2005 playing festivals in Europe. They headlined at Faceparty’s Big Gay Out festival at Hyde Park in London.
After some confusion with ensuing tour dates, the band posted a warning on their website that many of the tour dates listed by ticket promoters were inaccurate. The band became increasingly focused on the release of a new album during 2007. However, in early April 2007 came the news that Gill, Rutherford, J. O’Toole and Molloy had formed Forbidden Hollywood to play their new songs alongside old FGTH material. This was to avoid legal issues with Holly Johnson over use of the Frankie Goes to Hollywood name. Live dates were announced, but in June 2007, these were cancelled.
Relax (Final DJs Relax on the Beach Remix)
Welcome To The Pleasuredome (Rob Gray Edit)
Rage Hard (Freddie Bastone Mix)