PCR past banners Now in our fifth calendar year
PCR #202  (Vol. 5, No. 6)  This edition is for the week of February 2--8, 2004.

Two La Floridianas, Photographically Revisited
 by Will Moriaty
"Lost in Translation"
 by Mike Smith
VH1's Bands Re-United, Part 2: Frankie Goes To Hollywood
 by Andy Lalino
The Ranting, The Raving....Michael Jackson....White Wolf Games
 by Joshua Montgomery
Pirate Movies for Gasparilla
 by Terence Nuzum
Riding The Ferry-Go-Round....The Masters Of Horror
 b Matt Drinnenberg
You're Outta Here....How About That Superbowl?....Meet The Beatles, Part 4
 by Mike Smith
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Archives 2001
Archives 2000
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Oddservations by Andy Lalino

VH-1's "Bands Reunited, Part 2:
Frankie Goes to Hollywood"

Frankie say...watch Bands Reunited! Yes, New Wave fanatics, it's that familiar slogan spotted frequently on white T-shirts back in the great early/mid '80s. The end of last week's effort to reunite dysfunctional bands focuses on one of the great ones - the immeasurable Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Frankie were formed in Liverpool in 1981. Bands Reunited featured a rather risqué clip of leather-studded lead singer Holly Johnson and dancer Paul Rutherford (both homosexual in case one wasn't aware) at a club in the early days singing their mega-hit "Relax". It was quite interesting to see Holly prance around in what seemed to be a G-string during the eyebrow-raising performance. Hey; whatever Frankie's formula, you have to give them credit; "Relax" was the biggest single in British history at the time (1984), outselling The Beatles. If memory serves, the only single to sell more copies was Band-Aid's unforgettable "Do They Know It's Christmas?", which was also released in Nov. 1984.

The single "Relax" was released with much fanfare in '84, quickly topping the charts in the U.K., largely due to the famous "banned" video for the song, which featured gay imagery. At the time, MTV U.S. would also refuse to play the original video; instead showing U.S. audiences a "safer" version, which featured footage of the band at a live show; still, it was an outstanding video. There was yet another version of the video, which had the band playing in what seemed to be a factory room, complete with laser effects. To view the original "banned" video nasty, fans would have to purchase the VHS or laserdisc collections of their music videos, now out-of-print (supposedly an out-of-sync collection of Frankie's video exists on DVD as of this writing; I've been advised to avoid it). The 12" (easy, Holly & Paul...) remixes of "Relax" were also a smash hit, with nearly every teenager in the world owning a copy of the phenomenal EP. With one single, Frankie had already conquered the world. What do you do for an encore?

Their next single, "Two Tribes", proved that Frankie was no flash-in-the-pan. Boosted by a very political video, directed by Godley & Creme, which featured Ronald Reagan battling the Russian president in a sandy pit in which planet earth explodes at the end, "Two Tribes" exploded onto the British charts, and was a mega-success in the U.K. much like it's forerunner. I recall MTV VJ Mark Hunter introducing the "World Premiere Video" for "Two Tribes" on MTV back in '84 or early '85; the video, due to its apocalyptic tone, was shocking at the time.

After the successes of both "Relax" and "Two Tribes", Frankie was pressured by their record company to record enough songs for a double album. The results were mixed. Out of that effort, Frankie recorded a few more classics: the solemn "Power of Love" and the title track "Welcome to the Pleasuredome", as well as some unwelcome cover tunes: "Born to Run", "Do You Know the Way to San Jose", and "Ferry Across the Mersey". A solid single album would have been preferable in retrospect.

Despite Frankie's successes in the U.K. and the rest of the world, they were not quite as big here in the U.S., though everyone does remember their signature single "Relax".

Arguably, some of the band's mega-success belongs to ex-Buggle Trevor Horn, producer of "Welcome to the Pleasuredome". Horn is well-known in the Brit music scene as being of God-like status as producer, and current member of the Art of Noise. Horn was also the ex-singer of the great prog rock band Yes and produced ABC's classic "Lexicon of Love" album. It was stated by Dave Wakeling of General Public/The English Beat that when he saw FGTH live, the Art of Noise was actually playing their music for them, completely out-of-eyeshot from the audience. Years ago, MTV reported that Frankie was indeed a 'phony' band, which seems illogical due to the 1981 concert footage previewed at the beginning of the show. Do I think, due to their mega-success at the time, that the musicians needed a little backing up after the complex arrangements on "Welcome to the Pleasuredome"? Yes, very possibly. These contentions in no way make me personally dismiss the band as a fraud. Frankie has produced some of the greatest New Wave music of the time, and no one can take that away from them.

I was lucky enough to have seen Frankie at the Tampa Jai Alai fronton (now history) back in 1984, soon after "Two Tribes" was released. It had to have been the LOUDEST concert I've ever been to. I remember them playing "Relax" twice (this is when they only had one album). I consider myself very lucky to have seen them when they were together...it wouldn't be that long before the band would split.

In 1986, Frankie put out their second album, the critically-maligned "Liverpool", which I personally enjoy more than WTTPD (not to mention it's Chris Giuffre's favorite too). "Liverpool" is very political, mocking then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (is that where the Blow Monkeys got the theme for "She's Only a Grocer's Daughter"?), and other targets. Every song has a political bent, which may have been why the public did not embrace it. The critics seemed to think the politics were shallow (they weren't; lyrically it's quite good), while the public was expecting more New Wave dance pop, like "Relax". True to form, Frankie did what they felt was right and bucked the trends, at the sacrifice of repeating past successes.

Liverpool nonetheless spurned a few minor hits for the band: "Rage Hard" (which I have still never seen the video for), "Warriors of the Wasteland" (named after a post-apocalyptic B-movie), and "Watching the Wildlife". One of my favorite non-singles is "For Heaven's Sake". If you are new to Frankie or a die-hard fan, give the CD another chance.

Frankie broke up a year later, due to infighting within the band, especially between bassist Mark O' Toole and singer Holly Johnson, which at one point came close to fisticuffs. In the time since they were together, the ex-bandmates were to spread out all over the world, and because of bad feelings/animosity, it would be seemingly difficult to re-construct this particular band. This FGTH episode, if one is familiar with the history and antics of the band, would prove to be especially unpredictable.

Our story begins in Miami(!) where O' Toole now resides (I've heard that...). When VH1 came barging in on him at his home, he looked understandably taken aback at the attention. Once the friendly host explained himself, O' Toole cooled to the idea, and reluctantly agreed to re-unite. Asked where his cousin, Frankie guitarist Brian 'Nasher' Nash resided, O' Toole pointed him in the direction of the U.K., which is where most of the other bandmates lived as well.

Looking much older, and without the poofy hair, VH1 caught up with Nasher at his U.K. home. Nasher was quite friendly, offering the crew a bit of tea. Didn't take much to convince him; he signed his autograph on the WTTPD LP and agreed to re-unite. The next victim was drummer Peter 'Ped' Gill, who I swear I saw at Ybor City's Masquerade Goth Club back in '87/'88. Ped, like Nasher, looked a lot older and less rock & roll (...I should talk, my old salt & peppery self...). Ped was funny and charming, he too quickly gave the thumbs up.

Coming in all the way from New Zealand, home to OMC, The Thompson Twins, and Hobbits, was singer/dancer of the band, Paul Rutherford, looking noticeably different from the slicked-back black hair and mustache he sported years ago (he now looks like a 40-something skinhead). Rutherford revealed he was now a sheep farmer(!) living in general seclusion down under. After making the very long flight, I suppose he was logistically forced to re-united with the ex-Frankies.

The last holdout - surprise! - was the charismatic but wholly unpredictable Holly Johnson, now a fine artist living in London who "Lives a quite ordinary existence". Holly has not totally given up singing; in 1989 he released a successful solo album called "Blast", followed by a 1999 solo CD "Slipstream". In London he performs occasionally as a solo artist for his loyal fans. Holly admittedly looked good, dressing well and maintaining a cool hair style (unlike some other New Wave alumni), and quite often was taped while walking his poodle down a city street. Holly had mixed feelings about the notion of a reunion, but at least agreed to re-unite with the chaps for a chat session.

The following day that happened. O' Toole arrived first, arriving in London from Miami, and hunkered down to wait for his compadres. The other bandmates followed: Nasher, Ped, Rutherford...and then Holly. Things seemed a bit strained, but all managed to joke around quite a bit. The big disappointment was to come, when it was revealed that Holly would not agree to re-uniting at this time, claiming that he needed many more weeks than offered to rehearse ("I'm not a club singer, 'ya know!"), which is totally understandable.

I was trying to analyze the situation; I genuinely think Holly is up for the idea, but he may have grander plans than having everyone play together for the first time since 1987 on this VH1 show; he may have something more profitable in mind than what he was offered. Holly 'aint no dummy. It was unfortunate for the fans, however, to see Rutherford, Ped, and O' Toole standing there in front of an empty stage, eulogizing why the reunion did not happen. For the record, Brian "Nasher" Nash did not seem up for reuniting either. Rutherford complemented VH1 for "getting as close as anyone ever has" in re-uniting Frankie. Hey, maybe one day that dream will come true.

Robert Morley
I enjoyed Hugo Morley's recanting of his "Weakest Link" experience, but what I found most fascinating is that he's the grandson of Robert Morley, the great British actor. Having grown up in the '70s, Robert Morley was a familiar and welcome face on both the TV and big screen. My latest reunion with one of his performances was the Vincent Price horror film "Theatre of Blood", where Mr. Morley played a theatre critic obsessed with his poodles - until he becomes their next doggie food meal!

Robert Morley was a actor I always looked forward to seeing, especially when he made TV appearances on genre faves "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Tales of the Unexpected". Kids were especially fond of him, mainly for his wonderful voice and cartoonish facial features. He is an actor who was a big part of my childhood and will never be forgotten by the true Crazed Fanboy.

"Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner, and all mini-banners from this issue, are creations of Andy Lalino. All other graphics, unless otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.