F is for Frankie Goes to Hollywood

(oh no - people in Australia have already written G)

Frankie Goes to Hollywood may not be the biggest band of all time. But they had one of the biggest and most controversial hits.

The Frankie saga is a cautionary tale about censorship not to mention sex and bondage.

The group's debut single Relax had crept up to Number 6 in the charts in 1984 when the BBC Radio 1 disc jockey Mike Read took a closer look at the front cover design on the record and got his knickers in a twist.

The DJ was appalled at the "overtly sexual" nature of the record sleeve and the printed lyrics, which prompted him to remove the disc from the turntable live on air, branding it "obscene."

For younger readers a turntable is... oh never mind.

Two days later, even though the record had been played for a couple of months, the BBC decided to ban it from all its radio stations and other outlets. Somebody had picked up on the fact Relax contained a reference to ejaculation.

The ban meant uninitiated folks like myself who had never heard of Relax suddenly knew all about it. Predictably the single shot to Number One in the charts and stayed there for five weeks becoming the biggest selling single of the year after Band Aid.

For week after week it seemed when the chart show got to the Number One slot the DJ would start clearing his throat a lot and sounding shifty before explaining he couldn't play the Number One hit because it was banned.

The video was banned by the BBC and MTV. Perhaps the case for banning the video was slightly stronger than the single.

The video is described thus by Wikipedia: "The original video ...depicted a gay S&M parlor where the bandmembers were admired by muscular leathermen, a bleached blonde drag queen and a large-bodied gentleman dressed as a Roman emperor. The video featured a scene where one of the bandmembers wrestled a live tiger, to the admiration of the clubgoers, and ended where the "emperor" was so excited he shimmied out of his toga."

There was a substitute version. I'm not even sure which one I'm posting here. The tame on I think. Relax became the seventh best selling single of all time. It was followed by two other Number Ones - Two Tribes and The Power of Love, before the outrageous boys from Liverpool faded out.

While Relax is a good dance track I'm not sure it deserved the mass sales it achieved. But it certainly left the folks at the Beeb looking straight laced and a bit like the authorities that banned Lady Chatterley's Lover back in the day.

Even American radio stations play Relax from time to time and I don't think they bleep out the offending word, although if the Beeb had such a problem with Relax I don't see why they couldn't have bleeped out one word like American stations do when Alanis Morissette sings: "Are you thinking of me when you bleep her?"

Curious fact Frankie Goes to Hollywood: Frankie's fourth single Welcome to the Pleasure Dome in March 1985, was promoted before its release as "their fourth number one." In the event Frankie fans didn't think it was worth shimmying out of their togas for and it only reached Number Two.


  1. when you wanna suck to it....frankie rocks it and I thought Mark O'Toole was Sex on Legs (back then)

  2. I'll have to listen to the song more carefully next time..
    Great list of bands so far

  3. I have to admit I don't know anything else by them, but I LOVE Relax. Awesome song to this day.
    Awesome post and happy A-Z blogging.

  4. I LOVE Relax! It's so, 'hooky'. Two Tribes is really good too.

  5. Love your comment about letting Simon Cowell rule the world! It's true though- if he isn't, he thinks he is :)
    Stopping by from A to Z challenge #915
    Leigh @oneandoneequslstwinfun.com

  6. I guess the number one way to be popular is to have controversial lyrics or a video. Of course, the notoriety and curiosity factor help things along.

  7. they did rock then Scots Lass, not sure which one O'Toole was. cheers Vodka.

  8. Thanx SL - must check out your blog. 4 sure Jo Jo

  9. Thanks Leigh - will check out yours. Simon realy does rule the world I fear. Thanks for the visit JL.


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