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WELCOME TO THE PLEASUREDOME

THE OLD ADAGE DECREES THAT THE BRIGHTEST STAR SHINES HALF AS LONG AND NO GROUP ENCAPSULATED THAT MORE THAN FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, WHO MADE MORE OF AN IMPACT IN 1984 THAN MOST GROUPS ACHIEVE IN A LIFETIME.

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD

Frankie won two BRIT Awards in 1985 – British Breakthrough Act and Best British Single for Relax
© Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Exploding onto the music scene in late 1983 amid a wave of controversy not seen since the filth and the fury of the Sex Pistols fuelled them to infamy six years earlier, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, a masterclass in marketing with an arsenal of killer tunes, dominated the musical landscape during a year-long reign before imploding in as grandiose a style as they had arrived – but not before they delivered a trilogy of the decade’s defining hits.

Having formed in 1980 at Liverpool’s Bridewell Centre – a former police station used as rehearsal spaces by the city’s countless fledgling bands – Frankie Goes To Hollywood (named after a newspaper headline depicting Frank Sinatra’s migration to La La Land) went through a number of line-up changes comprising figures from Liverpool’s punk scene before settling on Holly Johnson, Peter ‘Ped’ Gill, Mark O’Toole and Brian ‘Nasher’ Nash with Paul Rutherford completing the group.

After establishing a solid live reputation and playing at venues such as The Warehouse in Leeds and Liverpool’s mecca for untapped local talent, Eric’s, they landed a John Peel session where they played the majority of the tracks that made up their live set and the demo tape they’d been shopping round labels to little interest.

A controversial performance of Relax on The Tube in February 1983 (for which they wore S&M fetish gear and were accompanied by two PVC-clad females who dubbed themselves The Leatherpettes) proved a major turning point, landing them features in NME, a second John Peel session and most significantly, brought them to the attention of producer Trevor Horn, who had just founded the ZTT label with his wife Jill Sinclair and journalist Paul Morley. Frankie were secured as the label’s first signing.

“We signed to them because they were the only label that was interested in the band,” Brian Nash told Penny Black Music in 2012. “Our manager had been to see a lot of labels and, although some were interested, I don’t think they fancied wrestling with a band with two openly gay singers.

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About Classic Pop

This month, we have the definitive interview with the returning Shakespears Sister – back after a split that lasted more than 25 years. We also meet Lloyd Cole to talk about his stunning electronic-flavoured new album Guesswork and catch up with the iconic Betty Boo who looks back on her career as a UK hip-hop trailblazer. Our Classic Album this issue is Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ambitious debut Welcome To The Pleasuredome and we take a deep dive into the studio work of Belinda Carlisle for our Album by Album feature. We talk to Steve Barron, the director who shaped the 80s pop video landscape, and also hear from China Crisis’ Gary Daly as he unveils his first-ever solo album. Read our verdict on Madonna’s Madame X alongside new live LPs from Soft Cell and New Order plus much more in our new albums pages. Our packed reissues and compilation section features Kylie Minogue, Janet Jackson, Joy Division, Shakespears Sister and more. On the live reviews front, we check out shows including Take That, Howard Jones, Marc Almond and the Manic Street Preachers. Enjoy the issue!