For casual fans of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and 80’s music, the idea that a deluxe edition for an album that was considered unsuccessful by some might be hilarious. However, for diehard FGTH and Zang Tuum Tumb junkies, this 2CD collection is 25 years in the making, and definitely a welcome addition to anyone’s collection.
Liverpool (ZTT/Salvo) was Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s follow-up to the group’s awesome 1984 debut, Welcome To The PleasureDome, a record that was pushed by the fact that the group was viewed as controversial for their cover artwork and song themes. On the strength of “Relax” and “Two Tribes”, it was inevitable that the group would come out with an album, and they did, in what I feel is one of the best albums of the 80’s, period. While packaging the group’s first two singles, it would also push “The Power Of Love” and the title track as singles, along with a unique sound scape of decent pop songs, occasional headscratchers, and arguably the most important factor: the wonderful production of Trevor Horn and his production “theam”. If people were questioning the unusual fashion and hairdo statements in the early 80’s, what to make of a group who were known for having two gay singers, three straight musicians, and people caring more about the group’s marketing schemes than any piece of music they released? It may have indeed been manufactured pop taken to the nth degree, but it was incredible manufactured pop that was not only done with a lot of thought, but done incredibly well. But then came Liverpool.
By the time “Rage Hard” was released as a preview for the forthcoming album, it seemed as if no one cared about a group that some didn’t think could repeat their initial success. Looking back, perhaps they were doomed from the start, but one listen to Liverpool shows an intentional shift in how they wanted to present themselves: as a serious group who wanted to show they were able to mature and show a side that perhaps hype overshadowed. If people felt their first album had too much filler, Liverpool was a single album that trimmed the fat and kept things quite basic: no interludes or anything that might be considered too extravagant. Instead, you have an album featuring 8 songs that were solid, well arranged and written, and incredibly produced. Had it been pushed differently and had the group been presented as people who were trying to show a different side, I feel Liverpool would have been more successful than it ended up being.
Disc one features the album in its entirely, completely remastered. Fans will note that the thin sound quality that was on the original CD pressings have been given a nice bassy touch, but not overly so. The intro to “Warriors Of The Wasteland” is one of the most incredible moments FGTH ever put together, the delicate electronic drums, the synth from nowhere, the digital thunder, and a female voice (Betsy Cooke) that welcome the listener into a new, chilling musical world. All of a sudden the percussion stops, someone says “ooh”, things appear to grow in volume and as soon as someone yells, the magical orchestra kicks in tearing up the heart and soul, and we have begun. It is indeed Frankie, and Frankie only. The song deal with power struggles, fame, and having to deal with becoming a part of the machine. When Holly Johnson sings “they make their masses kiss their assets, lower class jackass, petty tax take out the trash”, they weren’t singing down to anyone but rather focusing on those who were listening and perhaps themselves, as they didn’t see themselves as being holier than thou, but rather with and/for the people. In a small way, it almost seems as if Johnson was visualizing the eventual end of the group when he says at the end “we’re rats in a case, suicide a go-go.” Take one part from The Monkees‘ movie Head and Pink Floyd‘s “Welcome To The Machine”, and you head the purposely grandiose feeling of a song that vocalist Paul Rutherford says was originally meant to be the title track, as a statement of their comeback. The liner notes also reveal that for many in the group, this was one they ended up not liking as much because they grew bored with how long it had taken for them to complete.
Then “Rage Hard” comes in, another song that perhaps touches on the group’s Liverpool roots with references to the people, struggle, surviving, and fighting “the man”. The group reveal that some of the aspects of the song were overlooked by the fact this was the first single from their new album, but for me has always been one of the group’s best songs. What I always liked about it is Rutherford’s subtle vocal “nothing to fear”. In a song that told people to get angry and fight, Rutherford’s mere three words were like a warm embrace, as if to say “everything is going to be alright, do what you must do.”
For those who haven’t heard this in years, or for those who ignored it simply because it wasn’t their big album, Liverpool is definitely worth a listen. “Kill The Pain” is as moving as any powerful anthemic rock song even if it’s not quite rock, while “Maximum Joy” shows Johnson at his most, yes, joyous. “Watching The Wildlife” was the third and last single from the album, written from the perspective of someone who was observing the world and all of its glory and hatred and trying to take it all in, peacefully. “Lunar Bay” is a song, with its funky bass and incredible groove, that should have been pushed as a single had this met with the same success as Welcome To The PleasureDome, while “For Heaven’s Sake” brings them back into the anthemic before closing the album with the beautiful ballad “Is Anybody Out There?” It almost sounds like a slight update to “The Power Of Love”, but the only similarity is its tempo. If “The Power Of Love” touched on the strength of an emotion, “Is Anybody Out There?” seems to be a bit more direct and focused. The 80’s had its share of quality love songs, and this is easily one of the best, if not one of the most underrated undiscovered songs of the decade. With it clocking in at over 7 minutes, I will not hesitate in saying it ranks up there with Prince‘s “Purple Rain” by taking things on a long journey and coming out better than how they did when it started.
If there is a noticeable difference between this and their debut, it is that the musicians in the group actually had a major hand in playing the actual music. For this album, while Trevor Horn played supervisor, they relied on producer Steven Lipson to get them from start to finish. Whereas Horn tends to be a perfectionist and takes things to infinite levels, Lipson’s production tended to be one that worked on having limitations. This is probably one reason why the album feels tighter and more concise, as it is direct and to the point with little to no embellishment.
The rest of disc 1 is called The Other Side OF Liverpool, which means it focuses on the non-LP B-sides. “The Waves” still sounds like an unfinished song to me, but I still hear the elements that made me like it in the first place. Their cover of David Bowie‘s “Suffragette City” still sounds great, and some of it reminds me of the intro to INXS‘s “I Send A Message”. Their cover of The Doors‘ “Roadhouse Blues” is a mighty rocker for a group not known for their rock, but it showed they could be that gritty and raw when needed, and it definitely enhanced the Liverpool experience. Even a better enhancement of that experience was one of the B-sides for “Rage Land”, the nonsense “(Don’t Lose What’s Left) Of Your Little Mind”. The song highlighted Brian Nash, Mark O’Toole, and Peter Gill and their sense of humor. Some might feel the song makes no sense and has nothing to do with anything, and maybe that’s the point. The song is about nothing more than a coffee and a burger, and is not meant to be taken seriously, but the production by Steven Lipson and the manipulation of different voices to create perucussion and basslines made it work for me. A toss off, but a great toss off nonetheless. The group were known for being a part of the self-created remix expedient, where one song could have a multitude of mixes and alternate mixes. For the first time, one is able to hear an instrumental of the song, aptly called “voiceless”.
Disc 2 will be of interest to deep fans and collectors. It features the full cassette programs of “Warriors” and “Wildlife”. For the uninformed, the cassette programs contained mixes, edits, and segments that were exclusive to the cassette version, and they make their official digital debut here. The rest of disc 2 features unreleased remixes of “Rage Hard” and “Warriors Of The Wasteland”, unreleased tracks (“Our Silver Turns To Gold”, “Stan”, and “Delirious”), plus a monitor mix of “For Heaven’s Sake”.
The liner notes feature interviews, scans of track sheets and tape boxes, a close-to-complete log of everything recorded/meant for the final album, and a lot of revelations. One that I had always been curious about was the voice in the (+) mix of “Rage Hard”, the one who speaks about the great world of the 12″. That was done by actress Joanne Lumley of Absolutely Fabulous and Jam & Jerusalem (Clatterford) fame. Now that I hear it, I can now go “oh yeah, it is definitely her” but that has been a mystery for me for 25 years. The answer, finally revealed.
If Liverpool has been your pleasure over the years, you’ll definitely have to get this not only to hear the unreleased goods, but to hear the album beautifully remastered, and to get into the liner notes, always a major part of any ZTT release. If you know your FGTH, you can look at the track listing and probably pinpoint all of the mixes and remixes that aren’t here, including the German “Die Letzten Tage Der Menschheit Mix” of “Watching The Wildlife”. However, the liner notes reveal that even though there’s a lot on these two discs, there’s still a lot more that remains unheard. One can try to read between the lines and see that maybe there’ll be a day when fans will be able to hear the unheard. If this becomes the last statement of Liverpool in the dying era of the compact disc, then it is one that holds up beautifully for an album that most people have yet to fully appreciate.