DUST IT OFF: Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Welcome To The PleasureDome”… 30 years later

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To say that Welcome To The PleasureDome (Zang Tuum Tumb) saved my life in a small way is putting it lightly, or perhaps the statement in itself is a bit too boastful, a bit too grandiose. Looking back, the music on the debut album by Frankie Goes To Hollywood did pull me put during a time in my life when I was wondering what was going on, unsure of where to go and what to do next, despite the fact my circumstances were fairly small. Looking back, it helped put me on a path that gave me a focus when I felt I didn’t have it.

Upon its release on October 29, 1984, I had been a FGTH fan for less than a year. I knew of “Relax” as it was one of the biggest UK singles of 1983. You could barely hear it on U.S. radio not because it was banned in the UK, but because U.S. radio stations didn’t feel it was hit worthy. With people like Prince and Madonna coming out with powerful American pop that year, something as insignificant as FGTH seemed like small news. Forget the fact that the group’s first two singles, “Relax” and “Two Tribes”, both went to #1 and it seemed the U.S. didn’t care too much. They were mentioned a bit on MTV as the next big thing, someone following the likes of Duran Duran and Culture Club but the group were stuck between overhype and underwhelming. Some felt they were going to be one-hit wonders, forget the fact that at the time “Relax” hadn’t been an American hit yet. It would take three tries from Island Records until “Relax” finally caught on to American eras and by then, FGTH had already gained four hit singles and a fairly successful album. To most Americans, Welcome To PleasureDome was a confusing slab of wax to some buyers, as a few wondered if the album was just nothing but hits and a whole lot of filler, or just two slabs of waste. The album went as high as #1 in England and New Zealand and would gain #10 status around the world, with the exception of the U.S., where it went as high as #33 on Billboard’s Album Chart. Was it too much too soon, or did people not understand or want to get it?

Frankie Goes To Hollywood was a mixture of superhype from the Zang Tuum Tumb empire, which also included a number of myths and truths. Part of this seemed to be too overwhelming for a group who, for some, were nothing more than two gay singers and three straight lads, and unlike Duran Duran, where people got to know Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, and the three Taylors, perhaps it was hard to grasp onto the semi-legends that were Holly Johnson, Paul Rutherford, Mark O’Toole, Brian Nash, and Peter O’Toole. Maybe it was hard to grasp because of their producer, Trevor Horn. Horn already had massive success in 1983 and 1984 with Yes’ comeback album 90125, reviving the career of a formerly-dead progressive rock band and made them 80’s pop superstars. Horn also produced music by ABC and also was one-fifth of the function that was Art Of Noise, whose production and creativity essentially paved the way for much of England’s music in the early 80’s and the rest of the decade. It seemed that at the end of the day, what exactly was Frankie Goes To Hollywood, who was the real group and who really made the music?

Regardless of the correct answers, it was a unified structure. The group were fronted by two singers, the lead vocalist being Johnson. The band definitely played their own instruments, although half of their musicianship was mixed in with sounds created by Horn’s production team, which included Art Of Noise and a number of side musicians. In a way, it was not unlike Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life and Michael Jackson’s Thriller where the headliner was backed by “a cast of millions” in order to achieve a powerful sound. However, with a group that were solely known for hit singles and steered as hit makers, how could they come up with an album? Fortunately, they did.

Side 1 (Side “F”) began with a dramatic and operatic introduction, the start of the show before going into a delicate acoustic piece, backed by keyboards. Eventually, we formerly enter the pleasuredome, with natural sounds and a stream of water. While the cover art showed the illustrated group offering subliminal innuendo and a gatefold that didn’t leave much to the imagination, it was a way to want to know what the pleasuredome was. After a build up of two and a half minutes, a synthesized voice says “welcome to the pleasure…dome” and the wall of keyboards, the funky bass and the powerful drums began their jungle call. The pleasuredome was not only sexual, it was very much erotic, it was playful, joyful, it sounded like a place you wanted to enter and never escape. The drum pattern made things sound energetic while the guitar gave the atmosphere its funk, as if it showed the influence of Chic. The tribal chants saying “OOH HA!” could be hypnotic if you allowed it to, it was the pleasuredome’s heartbeat, its heart of noise, and while the song told about its path to the inevitable destination, Johnson and Rutherford would continue to say this place was a “long way from home”, but how far would one have to go? The songs pace barely slowed down and while it did stop at one point, it was only temporary. It was a bit of a marathon, a heated endurance test of a sexual nature, and you wanted to feel every sensation. When the female singers (uncredited) begin singing “shooting stops never stop, even when they reach the top”, the gospel element enters as if the group wanted to bring or reveal a hint of disco to their world, or wanting to bring them onto their trip to the pleasuredome. It builds and builds until the ladies sing “there goes a supernova, what a pushover” and then it leads to a powerful “YEAH!” that holds for a few seconds until it heads to an exhausting “wooo!” All you wanted to do was dance and jump, gyrate and feel every pulse of the rhythm, even if you didn’t know what the rhythm was doing to you. The instrumentation slowly quiets and Johnson is only heard singing “the world…is my oyster”, followed by sinister laughter. His voice gradually slows down until it is realized he is the leader of the show, and we’re allowed to stay for the next 45 minutes.

Side 2 (Side G) was a chance for the group to highlight the hits and then some. As their singles in a number of different formats, it was a way to hear their songs in different mixes than what was previously released. “Relax” was the release of the album, or that what you wanted to hold back from until you could release your energy to a place known or unknown. “War”, their cover of the Edwin Starr classic, was a non-LP track on the “Two Tribes” single and found a place to talk about peace, politics, what it meant and if it really has any place in the world, or if it should matter when there are better things to be concerned about. The side formally ends with a new mix of “Two Tribes”, which barely got any attention in the United States except for the video, due to the feud between the fake President Ronald Reagan and the fake Russian leader Konstantin Chernenko. People were more into the theatrics than the song itself, even though the songs was incredibly funky and equally as theatric, if not more.

The side properly ends with a segment that is common throughout the album: taking from the multitracks from other songs, isolating them and using them to create something else. While not credited on the album, it’s the Russian orchestral portion from “Two Tribes” featuring a voice talking about penetration and orgasm. It may not have related to what “Two Tribes” was actually about, or perhaps it was a way to combine love and war, or love and hate.

Side 3 (Side T) was the beginning of the second half of the album and while I never had a problem with it, I can see how some people may have played Welcome To The PleasureDome and asked themselves “what is this?” “Ferry (Go)” is a much shorter version of their cover of “Ferry Cross The Mersey”, the Gerry & The Pacemakers song that was originally on the “Relax” 12″ single. In this case, it’s just the vocal track from that song, added with an all new instrumental backing. Only the first verse is heard before a dialogue is heard. It then cuts into a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run”, fitting the boys and lads into tramps of the American dream. It may not have fit in with what Frankie Goes To Hollywood represented at this point, but maybe they were in love with Springsteen. It allowed the band to rock out a bit, complete with mean bass riffs from O’Toole and a grunting Johnson getting hot and bothered.

This is followed with what may be the strangest cover on the album, and yet somehow fitting: Dionne Warwick’s “Do You Know The Way To San Jose”, simply titled “San Jose (The Way)”. The most interesting thing from this song is the bass riff that starts the song and is heard throughout the song. While O’Toole’s bass work is heard in the song before, the bass track isn’t O’Toole at all but a sample of Yes’ “City Of Love” from the 90125 album, played by Chris Squire and produced by Horn. I remember when I first heard this and wondered why it sounded familiar. Horn was already recycling himself, or perhaps it was the Art Of Noise production team wanting to dip into their own bag of sounds.

The following song was one I wished FGTH and ZTT would’ve/should’ve released as a song, the funky “Wish (The Lads Were Here)”. The vibe and lyrics seemed energetic to me, and what I always loved was how the song changed tempo and style during the bridge, getting funky and into a dirty disco groove before driving itself back to the faster tempo it began with.

This goes directly into “The Ballad Of 32”, a moody instrumental that comes off like a temporary instrumental or even a song of romance and sensuality, especially when the orgasmic moans are heard in the last half. Keyboard sounds from what sounds like “Relax” are heard here too, but the weirdest part is what sounds like a random phone conversation coming through the moans. What is being said, and what does it have to do with the moans? It had nothing to do with anything, or maybe it did and I didn’t know it?

  • Side 4 (Side H) is as varied as Side 3 and begins with one of the more powerful songs in FGTH’s discography, the suggestive “Krisco Kisses” with Johnson talking about loving like thunder and feeding his hunger. If the song was released in the 2000’s/2010’s it might have had the chance of becoming a hit but in 1984, it was a bit too suggestive, even with a group like FGTH who had a hit with the already-banned “Relax”.

    “Black Night White Light” was a mid-tempo song that almost borders on being a ballad, and had it been rearranged or rewritten with a stronger bridge and better last verse, it could have been a hit too. Johnson’s vocal track from “Two Tribes” are borrowed and used in the last third of the song as an accent but what also worked for me was Rutherford’s background vocals. That in itself could’ve helped the song become a hit, in the same way they showed on their next album with “Rage Hard”.

    “The Only Star In Heaven” is next and while I love the song too, I think what doesn’t make it work is that it sounds like an idea that doesn’t come to full fruition, like “Black Night, White Light”. In fact, on the album version, it ends cold before it reprises itself with another chorus segment from the multitracks. It sounds good but doesn’t work. I prefer the piano outro from the instrumental version on the alternate 12″ single, had that been attached to the end of the album mix, it could have worked wonders. Perhaps the somewhat confusing lyrics of “got to shake you tail to break away (FISH!)/got to shake you tail to make a wave (SHARK!)” made people question their motives, what did the oceanic metaphors have to do with anything. Then they get into a bit of Sun Ra inspiration with the “space is the place” reference, so they move from the ocean to the universe to going to Hollywood for something promising, but is it marriage, a dance, or something unknown. In a way, it comes off like a bunch of random ideas written on Post-It notes and turned into a song that goes nowhere. The chorus is great, but the rest of it I still question if I have to.

    The album’s last full song is “The Power Of Song”, FGTH’s third single that doubled as the band’s holiday single in late 1984, which became their third #1 song. It tied in with a religious-themed video, but the song in itself was powerful about the strength of the song title. With lyrics like “Love is the light scaring darkness away” and “make love your goal”, it was obvious to see how it could have double meaning with its spiritual video, which may have been nothing but promotional hype to get people aware of the song, but it worked. The string arrangement from Anne Dudley is beautiful and very much sounds like what she had done with Art Of Noise and “Moments In Love”, but much more grand. If Art Of Noise offered a mere moment, she helped FGTH to create a love power.

    The album ends with another extraction from the multitracks, this time the keyboard ending heard in “Ferry Cross The Mersey” but now mixed with the mock Ronald Reagan heard in different remixes of “Two Tribes” and “War”. This time, mock Reagan brings the album to a conclusion and states that after his voice, there will be “no more”. The end. Pure genius.

  • Some people may think sides 1 and 2 have a lot of incredible peaks while side 3 and 4 may have too many valleys, but I think the multi-levels heard in the second half of the album help to balance things, making sure that they weren’t afraid to release songs that didn’t have a message, even if its messages didn’t make sense. Even within the nonsense, the group knew how to have fun and by having musical assistance making sure it sounded good, Welcome To The PleasureDome is a wonderful masterpiece representing a land of make-believe that perhaps we could only have in our minds unless we knew how to find the dreams we all want and desire. If this was a way for the group to somehow construct their own myths and to create a specific Dionysian world, they succeeded. That persona of the group would go away when they followed it up with their second and final album, 1986’s Liverpool. It may have ended some of the mythical optimism of the early 80’s that allowed them to want better, even if the reality was not as positive as the dream. Yet for 64 minutes, that fantastic world in our dreams was indeed our oyster, and we could eat it if we were hungry enough to taste it all.
  • In the first year of release, the vinyl and cassette pressings of Welcome To The PleasureDome was the proper way to hear the album. A year after its release, ZTT released a compact disc version where the track order was different, some songs appearing in completely different mixes, while others were replaced with other songs. At a time when the CD format was slowly picking up an audience, the new version of Welcome To The PleasureDome may not have been the right idea for them. As the CD format started to dominate, that’s the way some fans were introduced to the album. It wouldn’t be until much later that a remastered CD pressing would duplicate the vinyl/cassette program and finally be available in the digital format.


  • FREE MP3 DL: Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Welcome To The Pleasuredome (Never Stop)”

    Even if you’ve heard the initial twelve or so different remixes of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Welcome To The PleasureDome” within the year of the album’s release, and perhaps some of the other remixes created in the last thirty years, you most likely have not heard this mix. This fan mix was created by Jeff Knowles, a close associate of Strictly Kev, and is modeled after what you might have found on a 12″ single, alternate or otherwise. If you are a fan of FGTH, Trevor Horn, Art Of Noise, or the Zang Tuum Tumb empire, you are going to love this. This is being made available as a free download, while supplies last.

    SOME STUFFS: Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Inside The PleasureDome” box reaches half the target in donations

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    Zang Tuub Records via Union Square Music are putting together an “ultra-deluxe” box set in honor of the 30th anniversary of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s fantastic debut album, Welcome To The PleasureDome.

    Inside The PleasureDome was launched by PledgeMusic as a means to see who would be interested. They made a target to see if funds could be raised to release it and in 50 hours, they released the 50% mark for the target. As I write this, they’re at the 66% mark. This deluxe edition box will feature:

  • A 2014 vinyl edition of the original album, remastered at Sarm Studios by Trevor Horn and his 2014 team, pressed on 180g audiophile vinyl and packaged in a unique die-cut sleeve designed to frame one of three accompanying prints by original Pleasuredome sleeve artist, Lo Cole.
  • A set of three 10″ singles compiling previously unreleased mixes of Relax, Two Tribes, The Power of Love and and various album tracks.
  • A 48-page hardback book celebrating the artwork of Welcome To The Pleasuredome, with contributions from Paul Morley and photographers John Stoddart and Peter Ashworth
  • A DVD compiling the classic Pleasuredome videos by Godley & Creme and 5.1 surround sound audio mixes of the singles and album tracks
  • A 13-track, 90-minute cassette anthology of Relax remixes; and a frame-by-frame flipbook of a rare Frankie animated film

    If you are interested, head to PledgeMusic.com for details.

  • SOME STUFFS: New Frankie Goes To Hollywood compilation on its way

    The casual fan may look at this and go “wait a minute. These guys only had one hit, and this is not the first greatest hits album they’ve had.” That casual fan would be correct, but when it comes to anything that is Frankie Goes To Hollwyood and Zang Tuum Tumb-related, one song can lead to many variables. The group actually released a few singles, and Frankie Says features the well known tracks but in different mixes, including a few that make their long awaited digital debut.

    1. Two Tribes (introduced via the piano of Anne Dudley)
    2. The Power of Love
    3. Relax (the last seven inches)
    4. Two Tribes (we don’t want to die)
    5. War!
    6. Welcome to the Pleasuredome (a remade world)
    7. Ferry Cross The Mersey (and here I’ll stay)
    8. Rage Hard (Bob K remix)
    9. Watching the Wildlife
    10. Born to Run (live on The Tube)
    11. Warriors of the Wasteland (attack) seven inch
    12. Kill the Pain
    13. Maximum Joy
    14. Two Tribes (annihilation) twelve inch
    15. Relax (New York) twelve inch
    16. The Power of Love (…best listened to by lovers)

    The cover photo of the band was shot by Anton Corbijn, taken during the cover shoot for different “Warriors Of The Wasteland” 12″ singles (this photo was seen, in part, on the “Attack” version of the single (I always liked the photos used for the “Turn Of The Knife” 12″.) Frankie Said is scheduled for release on October 30th.


    SOME STUFFS: New Frankie Goes To Hollywood compilation to come…in August

    War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

    For the casual fan, it might seem odd that there is yet another Frankie Goes To Hollywood compilation CD, or in this case a double CD. “Aren’t deluxe editions enough?” might be a question that comes up. Considering how many mixes were created for their songs, it seems the possibilities are almost endless, and fortunately for fans of FGTH and the Zang Tumb Tuum happy camp, there’s still a good amount of music left.

    The subtitle of Sex Mix is Archive Tapes and Studio Adventures, Volume One, which if the title is any indication, there will be at least another set in store sometime in the future. For this new one, scheduled for release on the 6th of August, the focus is on mixes found on their cassingles and CD singles, which were different from those mixes found on vinyl. FGTH fans (like myself) sought after the cassingles (or what they call a “singlette”) because the programs on each one were different, it often had liner notes unique to the format, and it made for a completely different listening experience from what you’d buy on vinyl. Here is the official track listing:

    Disc 1

    Happy Hi! (All in the Body)
    Welcome to the Pleasuredome (The Soundtrack from Bernard Rose’s Video)
    Get It On (Long Version)
    Welcome to the Pleasuredome (How to Remake the World)
    Happy Hi! (All in the Mind)
    Relax (International)
    The Power of Love (Extended Singlette Version)
    The World is My Oyster (Trapped)
    Holier Than Thou (FGTH’s Christmas Message)
    The World is My Oyster (Scrapped)
    Holier Than Thou (further festive messaging)
    The Power of Love (Instrumental Singlette Version)
    The World is My Oyster (at its full length)
    Don’t Lose What’s Left
    Rage Hard + ++ *

    Disc 2
    Relax (Sex Mix)
    Later On (from One September Monday)
    Ferry Cross The Mersey (…and here I’ll stay)
    Two Tribes (Keep the Peace – Intro)
    One February Friday (Singlette Version Part 1)
    Two Tribes (Carnage)
    One February Friday (Singlette Version Part 2)
    War (somewhere between Hiding and Hidden)
    One February Friday (Singlette Version Part 3)
    Two Tribes (Keep the Peace – Outro)
    Warriors of the Wasteland (Compacted)
    Do You Think I’m Sexy?
    Watching the Wildlife (Voiceless)

    After seeing this, what could a Volume 2 consist of? At this point, who knows. There are still a few mixes that have not been officially released by ZTT but can be found in bootleg form. No matter, Sex Mix is sure to satisfy the FGTH/ZTT fanatics out there who must have every variation of their favorite songs.


    REVIEW: “The Art Of The 12″, Volume Two”

    Photobucket The Zang Tuum Tumb empire has dug through the virtual vaults to put together the second volume of The Art Of The 12″ compilation series (ZTT/Salvo).

    There are many, including myself, who feel that what the ZTT collective of producers and artists did was to show listeners and fans the possibilities of “the strange world of the 12 inch”, or what one can do with an extended version of the song within the context of the ingredients in the soup called a song. If you made any attempt in collecting some level of output from ZTT, you know how thorough and costly it was to simply listen to everything. You had the 7″, the 12″, the cassingle, the alternate 12″, maybe a third alternate, then you heard there was a white label promo, and that there were two different white label promos, and when the compact disc single came to light, you had to add to that. Then when ZTT released compilations describing their process, it almost feels like there were infinite mixes, remixes, and alternate takes of almost everything. Thus, that’s what makes The Art Of The 12″ a fun listen.

    What you’ll hear on Volume Two is a mixture of the known and the unknown. For me, my focus has always been Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Art Of Noise and Propaganda, and they are represented well here. The “keep the peace” mix of “Two Tribes” is basically a compilation mix/edit piece of various remixes of the song, including Carnard, Annihilation, and Hibakusha. This “keep the peace” mix found itself on the cassingle for “Two Tribes”, but makes a nice digital presence here. If you were a fan of their cover of Edwin Starr‘s “War”, you’ll get to hear the song here, but now present as a previously-unreleased “coming out of hiding” mix. Also previously unreleased is the “Man As A Sense For The Discovery Of Beauty, Part I” mix of “Relax”. Yes, yet another mix of the almighty “Relax”, and this one begins with an element you could originally find on the cassingle of “The Power Of Love”, before hearing the Ronald Reagan impersonator from mixes of “War” revealing dialogue that in itself is previously unreleased. In a way, it becomes a hybrid of “Relax” to “Two Tribes” to “War”, and the struggle one perhaps creates as they make their way to a pleasure dome.

    Propaganda are represented here with two mixes of “Dr. Mabuse” and a 12″ mix of “Sorry For Laughing”, a song that, along with the liner notes from Ian Peel, I felt should have been released as a proper single.

    Art Of Noise fans are treated well here, and it shows that even with compilations and a mighty box set to their name, there’s still some music that was left unheard. While it is known that Art Of Noise had done a remix for Paul McCartney‘s “Spies Like Us”, the released 12″ version (called “(Alternative Mix-Known To His Friends As ‘Tom'”) was decent but is put to dust with the proper “Art Of Noise Remix”. In this mix, you’ll hear elements from the “Alternative Mix” but this is the one that should’ve been released. It’s more funky, more out there, and the AoN sense of continuity is here when you hear various sampled elements of what you may have heard in Malcolm McLaren songs. Also here are the much rumored, much discussed 808 State remixes of “Moments In Love”, and they appear here in two different mixes. You also have the “Close Up” mix of “Close (To The Edit)” along with my favorite, “Close Up (Hop)”, complete with samples of the pu’ili.

    Also on the album are mixes of songs by Anne Pigalle, Instinct, Nasty Rox Inc., and Mint Juleps, and together they show the kind of creativity, courage, power, strength, and lengths these artists, producers, and remix engineers did in order to stretch the limits of the limited perceptions of music. People weren’t just buying ZTT records for the phenomenon, people were listening to questions, answers, solutions, and new journeys.

    Peel’s liner notes reveal the kind of information that will hopefully turn up a Volume Three someday, or at least the release of certain mixes of songs that I was not aware existed. Yes, there was art in creating mixes for 12″ singles, and in every 12″ single there was art. This can be considered excavation of sound rubble, and only those who know and understand the hazards of the excavation will bother going in. It’s a lesson for anyone who loves the art of the remix. It certainly wasn’t Diddy who invented it, and to their credit it wasn’t ZTT Records who came up with it either, but with the information on how to recreate from what was created, it was a chance (or a dance) to see what could be produced from the already-produced. It’s a bit like looking at a plant and realize you are able to grow more plants. It seems like an endless journey, but I hope this journey will continue for awhile. The music hear sounds as youthful as it did when they were recorded, and hopefully will provide zest to a new generation of music creators who will learn vastly from the lessons on these two discs.


    VIDEO: Red Bull Music Academy lecture: Trevor Horn (Madrid 2011)

    Lecture: Trevor Horn (Madrid 2011) – Part 1 from Red Bull Music Academy on Vimeo.

    Lecture: Trevor Horn (Madrid 2011) – Part 2 from Red Bull Music Academy on Vimeo.

    Someone discussed this in my Twitter timeline, and I had to share this with people. An incredible lecture with legendary producer Trevor Horn, getting deep about much of his work, including some talk about the work he and his production theam (a/k/a Art Of Noise) did for Malcolm McLaren‘s Duck Rock.


    REVIEW: Paul Rutherford’s “Oh World” (2 CD remaster)

    Photobucket While Holly Johnson was known as being the lead vocalist of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, there are many who will tell that second vocalist Paul Rutherford was the group’s true source or energy. He was always there with his energetic dancing and charisma, and heard throughout many of their songs. When the group split up, it was expected for Johnson to release a solo album but in 1989, Rutherford came out with one too, one that managed to give him a huge hits but barely caused a dent in the U.S., with the exception of clubs. It may surprise fans of 80’s music even more that a label has released a 2CD deluxe edition of that album.

    Oh World (Cherry Pop) is newly remastered and is a 2CD affair, with the second disc featuring remixes and vinyl-only cuts. Rutherford shows his love of dance and disco throughout all of these songs, but he was merely a lover of pop,as songs lik e”Get Real”, “Cracked Wide Open”, and “Half The Picture Show”. His cover of Chic‘s “I Want Your Love” would do very well if it was released in 2011. The vibe of the album is not unlike what George Michael did with Faith in 1987, and hearing this album 22 years after its initial release, it should have been up there with that album.

    Maybe Rutherford didn’t need any support from North America to prove his validity, but a lot of people weren’t even aware Rutherford did anything with the group but dance, so this is not only a reissue, but a re-introduction and re-awareness of the not-so-forgotten Frankie, who made a decent attempt at trying to move away from the group’s spotlight. For all intents and purposes, this album was a musical success but now those who weren’t aware of it the first time can appreciate it for the decent dance pop album that it is.


    REVIEW: Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Liverpool (Deluxe Edition)”

    Photobucket 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.


    RECORD CRACK: No. 007 – Multiple pressings

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  • Record collecting has many multiples. You can choose to collect anything and everything from a particular artist, a record label, producer, musician, city, state, region, country, era, mono-only, genre, whatever. I was going to say “it’s endless” but there are thousands of ways to collect what you want, and never enough time or money (unless you have a lot of it, and if you do, please send some to my PayPal account, thank you) to get what you want.
  • Collectors tend to have their own level of expertise, things they specifically want or at least are knowledgeable about. I tend to dabble in a little bit of everything, I know a good amount about The Beatles (as discussed here) but always willing to know more. If people want a superrare funk or soul 45, there are a number of collectors, dealers, and well known hip-hop DJ’s people can track down to find the right pressing.
  • Another thing that collectors like to do is to find different pressings of the same album, and there are variables of what constitutes “multiple pressings”. I’ll read articles and blogs about people who will go through thrift stores, yard and garage sales and they’ll end up buying a Helen Reddy album even if they’re not a true fan of hers or her music. Somehow, they’ll post a note saying “I have 20 copies of Love Song for Jeffrey, including the quad 8-track, and I don’t know why”. Generally, what you’ll often hear about are people buying the same album multiple times from the same country. I know I have multiple copies of Cecilio & Kapono‘s first album, Loggins & Messina‘s Sittin’ In, but other than being able to buy and organize a few copies of the same album, there’s no really good reason other than to be a collector and play a game that no one really participates in, let’s be honest about this. UNLESS you are amongst a community of collectors who do the same, then it’s appreciated, or at least you can all murk in your disgust of the foolish game.
  • If you’re a hip-hop DJ that still uses vinyl, then you may want multiple copies of the same record for that reason alone. You place one record on one turntable, then a different copy on the other, and you can “juggle” beats, do a routine, or create a live mix on the spot. That has always been the case for hip-hop DJ’s, but the advances in CD and MP3 technology has made it possible to manipulate songs without having to have the physical record there. DJ’s no longer have to lug boxes and crates of records from gig to gig, hell they don’t have to carry it to a recording session, nor do you have to go to anyone else’s recording studio. Everything can be done digitally, you can have a rapper send you their vocals with a click track, and you can assemble it an ocean away.
  • Of course, records aren’t solely the tools of the trade for fans of hip-hop music. Having multiple copies of the same record is a different level of madness in record collecting, and it’s a madness that has been going on for decades. As an example again, let’s touch on The Beatles. If you are an American who loves the Revolver album, you have a lot of options to choose from. Let’s say you discovered their music in 1981 and went to the store to pick up a copy of Revolver. If you bought the album brand new/still sealed, you would have the album on Capitol Records in the purple label variation. You then discover that Capitol Records pressed up the album with different labels, as they would rotate the look of their labels every few years. In time, you find yourself with the original Capitol rainbow swirl, both stereo and mono. Then you buy the lime green label, the one on Apple, and the orange one that followed. Same album, same songs, not much difference in any of them. You also have an album that had only 11 songs, which you discovered was shorter than the proper UK version that contained 14. The UK version was not available, but you went to a record store and saw a Japanese pressing or a French pressing, both equal to the 14-track UK album. You buy the French one because it’s cheaper, but hope to buy the Japanese one someday because you had read the sound quality is incredible. You bring home the French pressing and say “wow, this sounds as if if was mastered different.” Or maybe you don’t care, you just want to have your favorite album from as many countries as possible. You know that The Beatles phenomenon was worldwide, so you’re going to go out of your way, within your budget, to get as many world pressings as possible. You are able to do that.
  • There are reasons as to why one would do it. Some enjoy doing this to be able to hear how an album was heard in the country it was pressed in. In the digital era, the idea of hearing a different mastering in each country is almost a non-existent concept since everything comes from the same digital rip. The songs/files are cloned, so with the exception of the quality of the bit-rate in each file (i.e. an MP3 ripped at 128kbps) will not sound as good as one ripped at 320kbps), what you hear in Atlanta will be the same digital file you’ll download in Paris. In the analog era, a master tape was sent to each world division of a record label. While that master tape may be the approved mix of an album, a mastering engineer in one country may not have the same equipment as the engineer in another country, or an engineer might feel the need to tweak the audio a bit without permission. A pressing in Japan will sound great while the one in Germany might be better. Collectors will often have a select list of preferred countries to buy record pressings from due to their reputation from other collectors, such as U.S., UK, (West) Germany, and Japan. That’s not to ignore a pressing of an album from Australia, in fact some collectors will tell you that a pressing done in the country of the artist’s origin are often preferred because the level of quality control is higher. In other words, wanting multiple copies of albums is very much an audio issue.
  • One of my favorite albums was one that was a favorite of my dad’s and one I would grow into, Ramsey LewisSun Goddess. I have two copies of the album, but also have the 1990 CD and a Japanese pressing from the late 1990’s that sounds incredible. However, there are two other pressings that I would like to have: the Japanese pressing:
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    and the U.S. Columbia Half-Speed Mastered pressing:
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    It’s the same album as the one I already have four copies of, so why would I want two more? It’s a chance to hear the same seven songs mastered slightly different than what I’m used to. I love the sound of Columbia albums in the 1970’s, but I’m curious to know if it was mastered differently for Japanese audiences, and if that master is different from the Japanese CD (most likely it is). Even if I obtained the Japanaese LP, why would I now want the album yet again, in Half-Speed Mastered form? Because it was mastered differently, and this matters to me because I want to know, hear, and experience the differences, however small. Half-Speed Mastering was done at a time when perhaps record labels stopped caring for quality control so much, so having to create something with a specific slogan was their way of not only making more money, but letting the public know “we have created a better pressing which we think you will prefer.” Arguably it was the Deluxe Edition of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, where the public had the option to buy the same set of songs again, but perhaps with slightly different graphics on the cover. To the casual music fan, this means nothing to them. To the serious music listener and audiophile, it’s all about variations, and I wnat to hear them. I also know of a British pressing of Sun Goddess on CBS with an orange label, and just to be a completist, maybe I’d buy that too but right now my goal is to get the Japan pressing and the Half-Speed. Are there Australian, French, and German pressings? Was there an inferior Taiwan pressing? There might be, but I don’t have too much interest in them.

  • There are two albums in my collection that I am a bit fanatical about, and while it’s not an urgent collecting game, it’s one that I play. I am looking for different world pressings of Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s Welcome To The PleasureDome and the 1970 Woodstock 3LP soundtrack album.

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    Frankie Goes To Hollywood might not be on the list of mandatory artists to collect, definitely not up there with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or Elvis Presley, but I got into them primarily because of the sound and production, done primarily by Trevor Horn. I also loved what Paul Morley did with his level of superhype, created with incredible liner notes and myth creation. It was never “oh, Frankie Goes To Hollywood are from Liverpool, maybe they’ll be as big as The Beatles” or “they’re kinda new wave”, it was always about the music. I love Welcome To The PleasureDome, and it’s an album that I think saved me from complete mental hell when I had moved from Honolulu to the Pacific Northwest. I also liked how their record label, Zang Tuum Tumb, would release a single but not just the standard 7″ 45 or the 12″. There would be an alternate 12″, maybe a 7″ and 12″ picture disc, the cassingle, the shaped picture disc, or maybe two promotional mixes made exclusively for radio. I loved the ideas of multiples (which sounds like something you’d hear in a porn video but that’s another topic, perhaps another time), so I would find myself getting records from different countries. I wanted to explore that with Welcome To The PleasureDome and I have to a small degree. I have the US, UK, UK picture disc, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Yugoslavian pressings. In the US it was released via Island Records, which at the time was a WEA-affiliated label. In Japan it was released through Island/Polystar, and in New Zealand through Festival, and it’s cool to see the variations, however minor. Since FGTH were not as big as The Beatles, being able to find other world pressings should not be difficult. As I look at the page for the album at Discogs.com, I see that there are pressings in Greece, Israel, Portugal, Scandinavia, France, Italy, and Spain. I want them all. Were there pressings in Hong Kong? South Korea? I want to know. But as you can see, the list of countries isn’t big. Compare that with a Beatles album that was released around the world. I could easily complete my collection by the end of the week.

  • Then there’s the Woodstock soundtrack. I fell in love with the movie in 1979 or 1980 when it was shown on HBO. I clearly remember the promo on HBO with Casey Kasem, and as they showed that shot after Jimi Hendrix‘s section, Kasem did a voice-over which said “Woodstock: where it all began.” I grew up with a good amount of rock’n’roll and heavy music that came from what my dad and uncles listened to, it wasn’t “classic rock” just yet, just “the good shit”. I was born a year after the festival, and the idea of going to a concert in some large, random farm in upstate New York, surrounded by over 500,000 people as people passed around wine, weed, and granola was something that moved me. C’mon, a 3-day festival with all of this great music, funky ass smelly people, and a trippy mud slide? I would’ve been happy with the granola, but if I was alive when the festival happened, you know I would’ve not only had smoked weed, but I would’ve been in the forest trying to survive the brown acid that Chip Monck told me was not specifically too good.

    One day my parents and I went to the Kamehameha Super Swap Meet one weekend, something we always did, and after falling in love with what was the longest movie I had ever seen up until that point, I saw the soundtrack album. Three records, and the cost? A massive three dollars. I begged and pleaded, and told them “get me this, and you will not have to get me anything for Christmas” or some stupid shit just so I could get the record, take it home, and listen. They gave me the pitiful look, but once I saw the hand reaching into the purse, I smiled and ran to the man who had the album. Gave him the three dollars, wanting to go home right now. I either played Santana‘s “Soul Sacrifice” or Ten Years After‘s “I’m Going Home” first, and I just put myself into the music and got lost. 1979 was the year I discovered The Beatles and hip-hop, and I believe was the year I found Woodstock. I was set for life. Well, I wasn’t prepared for losing a parent, good friends, and bills, but still.

    Woodstock became a worldwide phenomenon, now every country wanted to have their own gigantic festival and a lot of them failed. But the myth created behind the movie and soundtrack was what I lived for, for the simply fact that it looked and sounded good. As a kid I would say “if I had a time machine, I’d want to go to 1950 so I could experience The Beatles and Woodstock in real time”. As I got older, I still think it would have been an incredible thing to be a part of, but that’s a very naive me speaking as a pre-teen. Someone like me with my ethnic mix might not have been able to live outside of Hawai’i or California, either I would be a statistic or fighting for the civil rights of all but… it would have been interesting.

    Nonetheless, the soundtrack album moved me and I was always curious as to how the soundtrack was perceived. I don’t have as many pressings of Woodstock as I do of Welcome To The PleasureDome but I do have them for the U.S., Germany, Taiwan, and Israel. The album, a 3LP set, was originally released in 1970 on Cotillion Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic. Back then, the double album was considered “the event” but a 3LP set? Even The Beatles didn’t have a 3-record set, and now there’s one for a damn music and art fair? Anyway, as is the case with Atlantic-related albums in other countries, sometimes Woodstock would be released not with the Cotillion label, but with the Atlantic label, such as this pressing from Venezuela:
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    Or labels that have absolutely nothing to do with Cotillion or Atlantic, such as these pressings from South Korea and China respectively:
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    The album was also released with different covers. Uruguay pressing? Sure:
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    In India, the album was not released as a 3LP set but as three individual records with a different color scheme for each one:
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    Czechoslovakia? Yes.
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    In South Korea, there seems to be a few counterfeit pressings, which seems to have been customary in Asian countries that didn’t have proper record label affiliates. Somewhere down the line, there was an official pressing, and that had a completely different album cover as well. I can use eBay and other sites to find out which pressings are out there, it’s much cheaper to do that than it is to fly there and look for any stores or collectors, but that’s all a part of the fun of being a collector. There’s no really good reason to do it, other than to do it, and it’s not mandatory or life threatening. It’s merely a hobby, and I try to make it fun. It may be as corny to the outsider as it is for someone who attends Happy Meal toy conventions, but perhaps it’s a way to spice up a hobby that at times can be boring. It’s nothing but dust collecting on an archive I can’t really do anything with unless I’m interactive with it, which means taking the record out of the sleeve, placing it on the turntable, and lowering the stylus onto it.

  • As record companies started steering away from actual records and into cassettes and CD’s, many countries didn’t bother pressing up vinyl for a lot of titles. Or in the U.S., where vinyl was king, you would only be able to find cassette and CD, and had to hunt down an imported pressing, sometimes 50 to 100 percent more in cost. If you were lucky, maybe the labels pressed up promotional copies for radio and DJ’s, but as the compact disc became the king in the 1990’s, records were pushed to the side. In 2010, it’s rare to find any new album pressed in more than one country unless it’s someone very popular. To make things worse, new record prices in 2010 are often tagged with “import prices”, and add to that that labels will also press them up at 180g or 200g, making them “of audiophile quality”. Sound may not crystal clear, but the record is thick and heavy enough to give them a chance to add an extra ten dollars to any new release. Unfair, sure, but they’re also taking advantage of the vinyl revival/renaissance of the early 21st century. For the 40 dollars you might spend on the new Neil Young, you can buy 40 records from the dollar bin, which is why record collecting is still fun for me, the exploration aspect of it. If I want to get different label, cover, and pressing variations, I can choose to go that route.
  • Now for my question. How many of you do the same thing, and for what albums? Post your replies.