"Relax" was #1 30 years ago.

The Quietus on Frankie Said:

Five. My first introduction to Frankie Goes To Hollywood was the fruity 16 minute mix of 'Relax' that was essentially lots of samples of zips and "water". I can't say that at the age of 13 I was fully aware of what was going on, but something most definitely was. When I got around to see the video, it shed light -- though not much light, dark rooms are dark for a reason -- on a vision of SICK FILTH unseen before. It was probably my Starman moment. It was probably quite a few people's Starman moment. This wasn't the casual draping of an arm around another man. This was dirty and butch and involved a tiger.

Seven. Frankie Goes To Hollywood as the first act to launch Zang Tuum Tumb was like if Virgin had launched with the Sex Pistols. ZTT helped manufacture them into an amazing thing. A last hurrah and accumulation of all the brilliance and invention of the post-punk and perfect pop years, before pop music got all issue-based, serious and people like Simple Minds donned the billowy coats of problem rock.

Eight. 'Two Tribes (Annihilation Mix)' is probably the highest point of eighties 12 inch culture. Nine minutes of drama, sirens, funk, fear and excitement. In a perfect world, it would spend nine weeks at No.1. Summer 1984 -- with 'Relax' climbing back up to No.2 -- seemed like a perfect world, especially one where a pansexual juggernaut was beating off Prince, Wham! and The Smiths. For any teenager in 1984, it certainly felt like the world could go up in nuclear flames at any point, to the extent that I timed if I could run back home within a four-minute warning. 'Two Tribes', with such darkly intoning quotes from the Protect & Survive booklet, coupled with that year's nuclear bomb drama Threads, exacerbated that paranoia.

Ten. 'The Power of Love'. Not even the wet acoustic cover of recent years can dim its majesty. A sentiment such as "I'll protect you from the Hooded Claw" is all you need in a love song.

Eleven. The fourth number one that wasn't -- 'Welcome To The Pleasuredome' -- is the underdog of this tale. What seemed like excess and pretentious guff on the album, is remade into a propulsive banger. It has come out in the intervening years, and removed it's "only No.2" shame to evoke the entire Frankie ethos in one song.

Previously, previously, previously.

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6 Responses:

  1. Pavel Lishin says:

    I wonder what 90s and 00's and 10's bits of music and culture my children will be completely fucking baffled about, as I am baffled by this.

    • jwz says:

      I find your bafflement baffling.

    • tkil says:

      I have the opposite concern: I don't see any of my kids developing the same attachment to music that I had at their age (although maybe that'll change when they all get to college).

      I mean, I can still step through my HS years in the mid-1980s by soundtrack. The closest my boys seem likely to get is to match grades with which video game came out that year.

  2. acb says:

    By coincidence, I listened to a radio show about the history of ZTT a few days ago. The interviews with Trevor Horn (including about Relax) were interesting.

  3. Ian says:

    There was an article in the UK magazine Your Computer at the time, featuring an interview with one of the ZTT studio team saying that no-one would ever make successful music by themselves again, because only people like Trevor Horn could afford to buy a Fairlight CMS.

    If you're a gay or bisexual man about my age, seeing the Relax video for the first time is as unforgettable as seeing Sylvester gloriously swishing down a staircase in near-drag singing You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) in 1978 and Bowie putting his arm around Mick Ronson on Top of the Pops in 1972.


  4. I was only 10 when Relax was released. Loved it from the moment I first heard it. I bought the 7" and 12" singles with my pocket money and I remember my Mum & Dad hating it with a passion. Those "Frankie Says" t-shirts were EVERYWHERE in England for a couple of years.

    Welcome To The Pleasuredome is indeed the often overlooked gem on that album. I find I play that track more than any other and has aged really well indeed.

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