Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Frankie Goes to Hollywood was an English musical extravaganza that was active during the mid-1980s. Comprised of Liverpudlian New Wave alumni, the band linked with producer Trevor Horn to craft the monumental double-set Welcome to the Pleasuredome. Bolstered with tie-in merchandise and provocative videos for the socio-political production anthems “Two Tribes,” “Relax,” and the album’s title-track, the band and its brand were the transatlantic multi-media sensation of 1984.

Members: Holly Johnson (vocals, 1981-87), Sonya Mazunda (backing vocals, 1982), Paul Rutherford (backing vocals, dancer, 1982-87), Ambrose Reynolds (bass, 1981), John Crooney (bass, 1981-82), Mark O’Toole (bass, vocals, 1982-87), Steve Lovell (guitar, 1981), Brian Nash [aka Nasher] (guitar, 1982-87), Jed O’Toole (guitar, 1982-?), Phil Hurst (drums, 1981), Peter Gill (drums, 1982-87)

Frankie Goes to Hollywood got its name from a mock newspaper with the headline “Frankie Goes Hollywood” above a paparazzi photo of Frank Sinatra, designed by Belgian painter Guy Peellaert, who did the gatefold art for David Bowie‘s 1974 album Diamond Dogs.

The band had its roots in a Liverpool new wave combo called Sons of Egypt, comprised of singer Holly Johnson, drummer Peter Gill, bassist Jed O’Toole and his guitarist cousin, Brian Nash.

Johnson hailed from Big in Japan, a scant-recorded yet seminal Merseyside punk act that launched several key figures in Liverpool’s musical renaissance: Jayne Casey (Pink Military), Budgie (The Slits, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Creatures), Ian Broudie (Original Mirrors), and future producer/Zoo Records founder Bill Drummond. Johnson served as their bassist and co-vocalist from late 1977 until June 1978, when he was swapped with ex-Deaf School bassist Steve Allen.

Born William Johnson on Feb. 9, 1960, he took the name Holly from transgendered actress Holly Woodlawn, immortalized in the first verse of Lou Reed‘s 1972 hit “Walk On the Wild Side.” Between his band stints, Johnson issued two 1979/80 singles (as Holly) on the Eric’s label: “Yankee Rose” (b/w “Treasure Island” / “Desperate Dan”) and “Hobo Joe” (b/w ” Stars of the Bars”).

Sons of Egypt gigged for a brief time between 1979 and 1980, then split. Months later, Johnson re-teamed with Gill and bassist Mark O’Toole, brother of Jed, who briefly returned on guitar. After a 1982 opening slot at the Warehouse in Leeds before headliners Hambi & the Dance, awestruck spectator Paul Rutherford edged his way into the newly named Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Rutherford hailed from Liverpool punks The Spitfire Boys, which issued the 1977 single “British Refugee” (b/w “Mein Kampf”).

FGTH gigged locally with a raunchy act that featured leather gear and suggestive on-stage routines. They pitched their video demos to Arista and Phonogram, but to no avail. In October 1982, they recorded four songs — “Krisco Kisses,” “Two Tribes,” “Disneyland,” and “The World Is My Oyster” — for BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. Jed O’Toole cleared way for a returning Brian Nash.

In February 1983, producers from the Channel 4 music program The Tube invited FGTH to make a video for their new song, “Relax,” at the Liverpool State Ballroom. After it aired, Peel rebroadcast their October session. They returned for another session, performing “Welcome to the Pleasuredome,” “The Only Star in Heaven,” and “Relax.” Upon hearing these sessions and watching their video, Buggle-turned-producer Trevor Horn decided to sign FGTH to his newly formed ZTT label.



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