By the end of , 25 mines had been closed since the strike started, and another 17 followed in Of the mines that existed in , only six remained by So it was a different country that greeted the release in of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's second album, Liverpool.
Unemployment had topped three million, and Thatcher's unpopularity was such that even the University Of Oxford had refused her an honorary degree, an extraordinary snub given that every prime minister since had received one. Nonetheless, she still had half her second term of power ahead, and Frankie knew that the extravagance of Welcome To The Pleasuredome was out of keeping with the times.
Liverpool was more overtly serious, something reflected in the black and white Anton Corbijn shots of the band. The day-glo colours and the sense of fun and mischief at the heart of their debut had disappeared, replaced by an often monochromatic vision, a seething anger and a raw sense of injustice. This wasn't the Frankie we expected, five cheeky lads in leather waving plastic guns at us and revelling in sexual innuendo, the gang to whom we'd given our hearts wrapped in baggy T-shirts.
But that was because two years earlier you could still lampoon the rival nuclear powers of the Soviet Union and America in a promotional video and call it an act of rebellion, just as the band had done with 'Two Tribes'.
By April , the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant had caught fire and contaminated rain was falling from the sky. We were now beyond the pleasuredome. Unfortunately, Frankie's audience wasn't ready to adjust. Whether fans would have welcomed back the cartoonish antics of the band's former existence can't be said, but they weren't capable of adapting their expectations so acutely. There seemed to be a 'disconnect' between the Frankie they'd known and the Frankie that returned to rage hard against the machine.
The band's mood was different, their sound was different, the whole vibe was different. They'd moved from the vivid, surreal landscape of their debut to the gritty streets of the band's hometown, and the leap was too great for most to take. So, inevitably, whether you considered it commercially or critically, Liverpool was, at least in comparison to what had preceded it, a failure.
It didn't contain a single UK number one and the reviews were largely scathing. It presaged the band's imminent breakup and subsequently an ugly court dispute between the label and Holly Johnson. It baffled their fans, provided ammunition to their detractors, and remains little more than a footnote to their short history, a blot on the landscape of an otherwise exemplary 80s pop band. Liverpool quite simply bombed. ZTT's new reissue of the album, complete with another hundred plus minutes of bonus material and packaged in a typically lavish case, is an attempt to correct that.
It's a hopeless task, of course: no one can be under the illusion that Liverpool is a classic album, and much of the bonus material further underlines that, revealing a band torn — like the UK — between two opposing forces, this time the playful idealist that was Holly Johnson and the fun-loving lads that backed him up.
Yet there's something fascinating about it. Amidst its misfiring bombast and desperation there are plenty of memorable moments, some of which benefit from our separation from the album's context, others that are given new value when we look at it as a document of its time.
It reflects a changing political landscape — and make no mistake, Liverpool is frequently a political album — and also serves as some kind of metaphor for the country in which it was shaped, the product of two opposing convictions utterly at odds with one another. Liverpool 's weakness, to cut to the chase, is that many of its songs just aren't very good. Though it undeniably has its moments, it's musically ill focussed, stylistically inept and — after the banquet that preceded it — disappointingly unsatisfying.
It's the sound of a band trying to prove who they are before they have found out what that is, coming to terms with massive international success yet confronting the fact that it wasn't on their own terms.
It was often said, after all, that Frankie weren't a band: they were merely ZTT's puppets. It didn't matter that they had existed long before Trevor Horn began his work on 'Relax': the rumours claimed that none of them could actually play and that even Johnson's contribution was minimal next to that of the producer and his team something that later became the focus of Johnson's court case.
They were, apparently, a marketing scam, a manufactured entity, a practical joke at our expense. Had they not been rescued from gay nightclub obscurity by a killer song, a groundbreaking producer and a Synclavier, "one," in the words of 'Two Tribes', could have been "all that they can score".
This, one suspects, stung. Frankie were indeed a band, and they were musicians, and they didn't need to follow the path that ZTT had laid out for them. They'd write their own material.
They'd help produce it. They'd recreate themselves. They'd show the world what Frankie really had to offer. The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Volume 3: MUZE. Random House. Vintage Books. Australian Chart Book — illustrated ed. St Ives, N. ISBN Hung Medien. Retrieved 18 September Retrieved 7 January Archived from the original on 5 October Retrieved 12 August GfK Entertainment Charts.
Official Charts Company. Retrieved 29 November Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Of the original Liverpool tracks, Warriors of the Wasteland sets the shrill, histrionic tone. Rage Hard, the first single, is probably the one that best holds up alongside those monumental first four singles.
The unreleased tracks, even those ill-advised covers, will prove fascinating to Frankie-philes, especially the funk-metal of Delirious, ambient textures of The Waves and Our Silver Turns to Gold, which presents a stripped-down Frankie, without overdubs or embellishments, showing their highly idiosyncratic approach to songcraft.
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