If ever a band has been well served with Best Ofs when they technically only released seven singles in their lifetime, it has been Frankie Goes To Hollywood. However when two of those hits sit in the list of the 30 – one of them in the Top 10 – biggest selling singles of all time, you can forgive them. For Frankie, in their brief existence, were an extraordinary group of individuals who managed to have a total blast as the last gasp of the new pop period, where post-punk/ new wave gave way to synths and imagination and fantastic hair, before the do-gooding billowy shirts took over and made it all terrible.
Frankie quite literally ended up owning 1984. Well, them and Wham! Back when a pop act could actually make an impact, Frankie spent a quarter of the year in the Number 1 spot being about the most exciting thing to happen since ever. The first act in decades to have three chart toppers with their first three singles, and aided somewhat by a sussed machine of nonsense, t-shirts and epic remixing, which in themselves helped define the era as much as the originals, produced and mixed to within an inch of their lives by the masterful Trevor Horn. His form at that point had seen him enhance the likes of ABC and Yes, and his label ZTT would unleash yet more perfect moments by Propaganda, Art Of Noise and Grace Jones in the next few years.
The first Number 1, Relax, was accompanied by a video which saw Holly Johnson entering an unsavoury nightclub full of gentlemen, some in make up being suggestive with bananas, others… well, ask your uncle. And then he was set upon by a tiger before being pissed on. For most young men this was both terrifying and amazing, and gave an intriguingly sleazy flipside to the rather-have-a-cup-of-tea-than-sex beacons that were already in the popshere. Mike Read tko offence to the lyrics. “It’s about motivation,” said Holly Johnson, who may’ve been less than completely honest with his answer there.
Single two was Two Tribes. Whichever form you take it, be it original, annihilation, carnage or Hibukasha, it destroyed all comers throughout the summer. A masterpiece of cold war boogie, it again sported a banned video and a range of t-shirts that helped the legend grow. The next single, The Power Of Love, was a colossal ballad of wonder and warmth and namechecked The Hooded Claw. Perfection. Its run at Number 1 was halted only by something called Band Aid. All splendid, all perfect.
Really, after that imperial phase, the wheels began to fall off the Frankie machine. The bugled ‘fourth Number 1’ Welcome To The Pleasuredome missed its calling, and then all went quiet until 1986, when the second album Liverpool was heralded by Rage Hard. While good, it wasn’t as amazing as its predecessors. People lost interest literally overnight and a rot set in that split the band up for good.
So. That’s the Frankie Goes To Hollywood story in a nutshell. Officially amazing one minute, a not so hot aftermath. But most bands struggle to have one tune remembered after 25 years. Frankie still have three.