Friday, September 26, 2008

FDF Volume 2 Issue 110: Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Welcome to the Pleasuredome

By: March

Album - Welcome to the Pleasuredome
Artist - Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Key Players - Brian Nash - lead guitars, Paul Rutherford -vocals and "dancer", Mark O'Toole - bass and backing vocals, Holly Johnson - lead vocals.
Peter Gill - drums.
Produced By - Trevor Horn

Release Date - October 29, 1984

What caused me to blow off the dust? - You hear a single now and again, but honestly I can't tell you the last time this record even got played..I swear.

Overview - This was the debut album from Liverpool based Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Rumored to have gotten their name from a New Yorker magazine article headline with a picture of Frank Sinatra beneath..rumors neither confirmed or denied. The band which formed in the very early 1980s would garner label interest based on just a few singles. Their biggest track "Relax" was released almost a full year before the album was, and didn't garner a lot of attention, that is until a DJ on BBC Radio played the record, and "really" listened to the words. According to reports the DJ (Mike Read) stopped the record during the song and called it "disgusting". A few days later (and months after it was released) the song was banned by the BBC..and it then went to #1. The band would score two #1 singles and 2 #2 singles from this record. They'd release a follow up that was largely ignored and the band imploded.

FDF Comments (aka the songs)
- The album track listing is sort of all over the place. That being said a little history on it, then we can look at the tracks. When the vinyl lp was released it was on two records (4 sides) Side 1 was called F/Pray Frankie Pray. Side 2 G/Frankie say". Side 3 "T/stay Frankie Stay and Side 4 was H/ Play Frankie play. So FGTH or Pray say stay and play. Considering the album was filled with spoken word interludes and partial songs that bled in to well as tracks that had longer titles than you are used to, well its easy to get confused as you go track by track. When the cd is placed in a cd player it shows 15 tracks. Following the track listing of FGTH there are 18...confused? This was modified some on later pressings of the cds in my research. The 15 tracks listed here are base on the initial cd pressing (which omitted two cover songs as well) so that being said here we go.

A long orchestral swell beings "The World is My Oyster". There is spoken word and even some opera singing buried in there. Keyboards dominate and they sort of flash out some samples of what is in store with the "yeeeeeahh" that leads in to "Two Tribes" that is later on the record. The incredibly long (13+ minutes) and rather ambitious "Welcome to the Pleasuredome" follows. It is ambitious since this is sort of dance/pop record as you'd thing, but the samples of birds chirping mixed with long instrumental interludes. Vocals..then another interlude. The song doesn't get really rolling for the first 2 minutes..then it plugs along fine to about the seven minute mark, then it sort of repeats. Towards the end there is a lot of passion in the backing vocals. Also to note, Steve Howe (Yes) played acoustic guitar on the track. The money track "Relax" follows. Instantly recognizable this song still holds up to this day. Not nearly as "shocking" by todays standards make of the lyrics what you will. A sort of odd cover of the track (made famous by Edwin Starr) "War". There is a deep keyboard groove to the track and fills in some spoken word sections done by a well known voice over guy (that sounds like Ronald Reagan). The song focus heavily on the chorus "War...what is it good for". Its an average cover. Another massive single from the record is "Two Tribes". On the album it clocks in at close to 10 minutes in length. Opening with an air raid siren and a larger sounding symphonic interlude Patrick Allen returns. Mr. Allen had voiced over Nuclear Warning Ads for the UK gives a booming and scary run down of what to do in the event of nuclear war (bring the bodies out side but be sure to tag them first for identification purposes). It is all about the cold war..remember the video?(great stuff). The song as you know it probably starts about 5:30 in. The next track is a spoken interlude called "The Last Voice" following the same lines of "Id the bodies etc". Up next is the wonder why they covered "This" song. Bruce Springsteens "Born to Run". It is a pretty straight forward rocking version of it. Gone are the keyboards etc, its a really a commendable cover version. "Happy Hi" comes up with the sounds of a playground. The song is a lot slower feeling than the last few and it seems like the band wants to spread their wings. It sounds a little "loungy" almost, which sort of doesn't bode well to what we have heard so far. Back to that 80's pop sound we get "Wish (the Lads were here). It is quick both lyrically and musically and the bass and keyboards have equal billing in the mix. "The Ballad of 32" follows with a rally horn into a car crash. It is an instrumental track that has an early "Cure" feel to it. We get rolling again once more on "Krisco Kisses". Horns fill over the top of a bass guitar run and the guitar gets more of a showcase on the track. The band tries another direction on this with stop/start verses and chorus and tempo changes, but it feels sort of out of place. "Black Night White Light" opens with light keyboards and gets a booming sing along as it progresses. The band all seems to sing on the track giving it a full sound. There is even a guitar solo (albeit it brief). A single tapping drum opens up "The Only Star in Heaven". The lyrics at the start are sort of spoken/rap before the band comes in. The song has some nice call and response in the verse between Johnson and a female voice. "The Power of Love" was released as the bands third single from the record, and due to a video for the song has sort of been branded a "holiday song". It is a ballad filled with lush strings. It is a stark contrast to the "cold war fueled new wave" we got used to on prior tracks.

Where are they now? - So much of their story is of the "Behind the Music" caliber. The band broke up in 1986 mostly due to Johnson distancing himself from the rest of the band. Johnson would have moderate success as a solo artist, has written a book and is an artist. Paul Rutherford attempted a solo career after the demise of FGTH but it was short lived. He currently lives in New Zealand with his long term partner. Peter Gill was involved in the FGTH attempts at re-forming and worked on other projects since. Mark O'Toole was also involved in the attempts to re-form. He plays bass in a band called Trapped by Mormons who released a record in 2003. Brian Nash has released three solo records since the bands breaking up including the 2008 release "A Lo Minimo"

VH1 tried to have the band re-unite for the program "Bands Reunited" but they did not perform. The band still has reservations about performing with one another. There was a re-formation of sorts, but with out all the original members that did tour, but had to indicate to fans that they were not the real deal. In mid 2007 it was reported that Gill, Rutherford, and O'Toole formed a new band, but by the end of 2007 that band too had collapsed when the new singer departed.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I never saw the band live...but I know someone that has.

FDF Overall Take
- A bit dated at times yet still suprsingly fresh at times. The strong songs outweigh the weak and it might not be "macho" to have the whole cd, chances are if you hear one of the good songs you sing along.

Links -
The band has an Official Site
Holly Johnson official site here
Brian Nash here and myspace here.
Mark O'Toole has a band called Trapped By Mormons

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The MP3's have been removed. They were Relax, Born to Runa nd Wish (the Lads Were here)

All the tracks taken from "Welcome to the Pleasuredome" which you can purchase here

Like what you see? Bookmark us!

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


At 11:41 AM, Blogger Ello said...

RElax! Don't do it!

I thought they were a one hit wonder!!! So I didn't even know anything about the album. I'm not sure about the album but I love the background info!

At 9:29 AM, Anonymous BBS said...

I saw them in support of this Album and it was the GAYEST crowd I have ever been in...

Good review I had last listened to this about a year ago on vinyl. I still find Krisco Kisses a bit disturbing based on what Holly explained from the Stage (Think Crisco as a lubricant, nuff said)

At 9:25 PM, Blogger JamieSmitten said...

I saw them in concert AND wore the t-shirt proudly afterwards! It was a dance-tastic show from the drag queen opening act to the marathon length Relax. I can't say that I listened to the album much, but only because every party that year featured Pleasure Dome, Two Tribes, and Relax. Good times.


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