Monday, February 1, 2021

Musical Monday - Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood

#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: January 28, 1984 through February 25, 1984.

It is difficult to explain just how big, albeit short-lived, a cultural phenomenon Frankie Goes to Hollywood was in early 1984. I lived through it, and it is difficult for me to comprehend. There was about a four to six month period when Frankie Goes to Hollywood was everywhere, mostly based on the strength of this song. White t-shirts with giant black letters declaring "Frankie Say Relax" were the fashion statement of the year. You couldn't turn around without finding another Frankie Goes to Hollywood reference. This moderately obscure group of Liverpudlians simply took the pop culture world by storm, and didn't let go for months.

The extent to which the pop culture world took this song to its heart is somewhat surprising. As I have pointed out before, the death of the disco era was in large part a reaction to that music's "urban" connection, where "urban" is more or less a code word for "black" and "gay". In that light, the cultural rise of a song that is an almost explicit paean to gay sex that was accompanied by a music video that made sure to provide text for anyone who didn't get that subtext, is notable. Frankie Goes to Hollywood didn't try to hide any of this. Relax is a song that is openly, unashamedly, unabashedly gay. The music video is so homoerotic that it could almost be mistaken for a parody if one didn't know the band members were serious.

That said, Frankie Goes to Hollywood had to create an entirely different, much less overtly sexual video in order to get any airplay on MTV, so it is pretty clear that homophobia was still alive and well in the pop culture landscape of the U.S. at that time.

Previous Musical Monday: Pipes of Peace by Paul McCartney
Subsequent Musical Monday: Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Pipes of Peace by Paul McCartney
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: 99 Luftballoons by Nena

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

Frankie Goes to Hollywood     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

No comments:

Post a Comment