Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax
October 24, 1983 was one of those absolutely magical days for 80s music. One of those days when two songs came out, in completely different situations, that would absolutely make the music history of the decade. And so, that day, if you walked into a record store, you could find Billy Idol’s new song, “Rebel Yell,” but also the debut album of a very unknown group, unless you used to spend nights in underground clubs. And in one of these venues they were noticed by a person who was in contact with the ubiquitous Trevor Horn, the singer and producer of Buggles and “Video Killed the Radio Star“, and also a member of Yes.
After contracting this new group with his newborn ZTT Records, Trevor asked them to remake their main song, which he said was not yet ready, although the song had great potential. It took four rounds of writing, recording and further editing, before getting to the version we know. Only the singer’s voice remained from the original version, we can say.
But Trevor Horn wanted it perfect, because he realized that this song would change the history of pop and of the 80s. The song was very strong, but there were risks that Trevor wanted to take: a certain level of censorship was already assured before even having it published, because the lyrics were quite explicit and the group was openly gay, which in those years was not so pordinary even in England.
And so on that Monday in October, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s first single, “Relax”, was released. Relax, don’t do it. The song had modest success until a major turning point: on January 5, 1984, FGTH performed at “Top of the Pops”, and the success exploded. In fact, within two weeks many radio stations decided to exclude it from programming because of the overly explicit lyrics, and BBC officially banned the song and the group from all broadcasts. Not to mention the video, of course.
The original video was deemed too daring also by Trevor Horn himself, who felt appropriate to shoot another version with Frankie Goes To Hollywood in a studio singing “Relax” surrounded by futuristic green lasers. But word quickly spread of the existence of a super transgressive video banned by British censorship. However, Trevor Horn and Frankie Goes To Hollywood found a way to draw attention to the video when the song was featured in Brian De Palma’s film “Body double” where the atmosphere of the original video was partly recreated.
Learning of the fairy tale: thanks to the power of the song and the censorship atmosphere, Frankie Goes To Hollywood in few weeks reached the top of the charts throughout Europe and stayed there for months. And a few months later they went back on top with their second hit, “Two Tribes“, but people still bought “Relax”, so they found themselves with two of their hits in first and second place! Even, from time to time the song would return to the charts and managed to reach number one again. In total, it remained on the UK single chart for fifty-two weeks, the equivalent of a full year, between 1984 and 1985.
By that Monday in October, the golden age of the 1980s had begun. After decades, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Relax are still an icon and a soundtrack of the 80s, no doubt! And, do you remember the t-shirts with the sign “Frankie says relax”?