The first of the ZTT albums to be re-issued by Salvo, Welcome To The Pleasuredome was one of the biggest British LPs of the 1980s. It features Frankie’s four biggest hits: Relax, Two Tribes, The Power of Love and, of course, Welcome to the Pleasuredome.
Very few labels score three number one singles in their first year of business. But then very few labels sign bands like Frankie Goes To Hollywood. From obscurity to infamy and back again in less than five years, Frankie Goes To Hollywood defined the early era of ZTT and – for many – 80s music in general. Their first three singles all hit number one (a record in itself) and each tackled a taboo head on: sex, war, religion.
The band had formed from shards of Liverpool’s explosive new wave scene. Holly Johnson (lead vocals) was ex-Big In Japan. Paul Rutherford (vocals and “I came to dance”) was ex-Pink Military. Mark O’Toole (bass), Ped Gill (drums) and Brian Nash (guitar) were “the hammer that knocked the nail in.” In a story that’s been told 1,000 times, Trevor Horn kicked back one night during another frustratingly lengthy session on Yes’ 90125 and saw Frankie performing a rough and ready, sexed-up Relax (In Heaven Everything Is Fine) on Channel 4’s The Tube. ZTT was but a twinkle in his eye – and all the major labels had already turned Frankie down – but when Trevor saw the band he wanted to make them ZTT’s first signing, and he wanted to make them massive.
FGTH’s debut single: Relax. Was number one in 18 countries, it was banned live on Radio 1 by Mike Read for its explicit lyrics. The video received the same treatment, from the UK’s Mary Whitehouse-fearing TV stations. The more the furore brewed, the bigger Frankie became. Relax stayed at number one for six weeks and sold 13 million copies worldwide.
The follow-up (Two Tribes) was just as big and beautiful. It went to number one around the world, and had a groundbreaking video directed by Godley & Creme. It also pushed the idea of mix/remix/make/remake further and further as Trevor Horn and his ‘Theam’ (as Paul Morley called them) created a bounty of remixes.
The Power of Love
By the end of 1984, the third number one single was released. As a song, The Power of Love wasn’t particularly about religion. And it wasn’t particularly about Christmas either, but when combined with ZTT’s imagery and imagination, it became something bigger. The sleeve was like a stained glass window, every edition was housed in a ‘gift envelope’, and a crucifix was added to the equation of graphics and logos that footnoted every sleeve and advert.
Welcome to the Pleasuredome holds the UK record for advance album sales, which reached 1.1m in 1984, instantly catapulting the album to the No.1 spot and spent a further 66 weeks within the album chart. The album continues to be revered as one of the defining albums of the 80s era.
Holly Johnson has released a new album in 2014 called Europa. For more information visit his website here.
In October 2014 Union Square Music released a boxset called Inside the Pleasuredome. It includes the gatefold double LP, 3 x 10in vinyl Eps, DVD, cassette, 48-page case-bound hardback book and more.
“It is, of course, brilliant. And nothing more so than the last glittering shards, the final breaths taken in this pleasure dome” Richard Cook, NME, 3 November 1984.
"Welcome to the Pleasuredome is a kind of Bright Side of the Moon, an ingenious application by producer Trevor Horn of new dance-remix techniques and overhauled art-rock maneuvers." David Fricke, Rolling Stone Magazine, Jan 17, 1985.