Hey there friends out in Sorry State land. How are you this week? Keeping it together? I feel you.
I wasn’t sure what to talk to you about this week. Nothing new there. Life and the world at large are throwing so many things at us daily that music appreciation seems trivial. It’s not, but finding inspiration can be difficult. I sit in my home surrounded by thousands of records and sometimes wonder what to play next. I still have the hunger for new sounds, and listening to a new record will keep me occupied. There are times though that you need to hear the familiar. Music has the power to attach itself to memories, points in our lives that were important to us. I can’t tell you where and when I first read a book or saw a film that I like, but I can recall hearing a certain record for the first time and how it affected me. Hearing a song or an albumcan transport us to a time and place of our lives. Hopefully bringing back good memories, but sometimes not. This week I want to talk about just that.
Whilst chatting with and assisting one of our regular friends here at the store, the conversation about records got around to the 80s and the band Frankie Goes To Hollywood. We had a copy of their debut LP Welcome To The Pleasuredome sitting in our bargain bin rack and I persuaded Adam to take it, convincing him that the record was more than the couple of hits and still stood up. Here in the US, they were considered one-hit wonders with the song Relax, although the song Two Tribes and the album also charted. People remember the hype and all the Frankie Says T-shirts and not much else. Their follow up LP flopped, and singer Holly Johnson left the band for a solo career and legal disputes with ZTT, the band’s former label. However, from late 1983 through 1984, Frankie ruled the British charts and were everywhere. Their story and rise to fame is interesting and I encourage you to explore the internet and read. I remember that time vividly, particularly the release of the first single Relax. I was a schoolboy and obsessed with music and the charts, and each week would listen on my transistor radio to the new chart list being read out at lunch time every Tuesday. Relax had been making waves in the clubs since its October 1983 release and was quickly rising up the charts. The band performed on Top Of The Pops and there was a risqué video made for the song. The song was at number six when prime time Radio One DJ Mike Reed suddenly realized what the song was about and on air removed it from the turntable. The BBC promptly banned it. Thing is, by next week the song was at number one and stayed there for five weeks straight and remained in the charts for most of the year. As they had banned it, the BBC couldn’t play it each week or have the top band in the country appear on its flagship chart show. Irony. Frankie followed up Relax with the song Two Tribes and then The Power Of Love and album Welcome To The Pleasure Dome. All went straight to number one. At the time this equaled the record of having the first three singles go to number one held by fellow Scousers Gerry And The Pacemakers. The record was later broken by The Spice Girls.
Although not from Liverpool, I feel a very close bond to the city and its people. From early childhood I have been a supporter of Liverpool Football Club and loved bands that come from Merseyside. At the beginning of this year, we suffered another sad loss with the passing of Gerry Marsden, lead singer of the aforementioned Gerry And The Pacemakers. He and his group will forever be linked to Liverpool FC thanks to their version of You’ll Never Walk Alone, the anthem sung before and after every game. With this sad loss and also the current dip in form of the Mighty Reds, I was feeling down in the dumps. After the conversation with Adam in the store about Frankie, I went home and dug out my copy and stuck it on. It still holds up for me and transported me back to another time and place. Also, that they reference Gerry And The Pacemakers on the record with a sort of cover of Ferry Across The Mersey, tied everything together and made listening now just as relevant. Aside from the incredible songs Relax and Two Tribes, there is a lot more to enjoy on the double LP. They even cover the songs War by The Temptations, Do You Know The Way To San Jose, made famous by Dionne Warwick and (cough) Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run. There is also the odd bit of dialogue in between tracks and scouse humour. Finishing with the great ballad The Power Of Love. The latter being the final single that went to number one and a song whose lyrics should have some worth these days. Actually, listening to Two Tribes again, a song about the East-West Cold War, it sounds just as relevant although the two tribes fighting are now within our own country. Two Tribes is a massive tune. Hearing that, particularly the various mixes made of it, in clubs at the time was an experience. Kudos to producer Trevor Horn and his studio team for coming up with such a great contemporary sound that, although strongly linked to the time, still stands up.