Almost 40 years to the day after Frankie Goes to Hollywood released Relax, lead singer, Holly Johnson steps out at the London Palladium. It’s hard to recall how a track that has become, dare I say it, a classic, could also have been so groundbreaking back in 1983.
The track certainly had the establishment in a spin: the overtly sexual lyrics (fervently denied at the the time of course) and the gay orgy video had the song banned by Auntie Beeb and no doubt had Mary Whitehouse clutching her pearls. Never the less the song got to number one and was one of the biggest sellers of 1984. Frankie were unstoppable and went in to score another two number ones, including the perennial classic (there’s that word again) The Power of Love and ‘Two Tribes’.
Relax is of course the money shot, if you pardon the pun. But don’t blame me, Holly started it by asking the audience if they were ready for an ejaculation. - queue Mrs Whitehouse turning in her grave! I’m not sure I agree with Holly’s comment that the track is the reason we are all here, I’m sure there are some for whom that’s true - the track has over 251 million on Spotify after all, but let’s not forget that Holly is first and foremost an artist and songwriter and that, for many, is also his appeal.
There’s a nod to popstar peacocking as he appears onstage in sunglasses, leather and carrying a smoke machine, but as soon as he sings ‘Warriors of the Wasteland’ it’s evident that his voice is almost undiminished by time. If anything it’s now richer and more expressive.
There’s plenty of fun in the show too with Holly making a few jokes that sardonic Liverpudlian humour. Of course there’s some pathos too, as he comments on Dan Hartman’s death from “the plague” before singing the co-written track ‘Atomic City’.
Other tracks from the his solo career feature along with ‘This Was Me’ ,a moving track about yesteryear from the movie ‘Everybody’s Talking about Jamie’. The song is about the 80s and looking back to carefree days of youth, and there is certainly a healthy dose of nostalgia to the show tonight. Holly comments on “how fabulous we all were”. Less of the past tense please!
After Frankie’s signature tunes and a blazing encore of that song that is “for life not just for Christmas”. It may be 40 years on, but Holly is still divine and very very fabulous!
Review Cathy Clark
Photography by Gerry Driver