Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Songs I Hated When I Was A Kid #8: Don't Tell Me To Relax!

When I originally started this series, many moons ago, I promised ten songs I hated when I was a kid but don't mind as much now. This is excellent news because it means I only need to think of two more.

8. Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax!

What did I object to the most about Relax! when it dominated the UK singles chart in 1984?

Was it Paul Morley's contrived, controversy-baiting PR campaign?

Was it the fact that the BBC (spearheaded by moral bastion* Mike 'tennis racket' Read) chose to ban it, thereby making the song far more desirable to teenagers everywhere?

Was it the fact that the band continually denied - against all evidence - that the lyrics were explicitly sexual and instead claimed it was "motivational"?

I suppose the answer is all of the above... and yet, none of them.

I was 11 in January of '84, when this record was at Number One. And the think that irked me the most was the among my peers, loads of other 11 and 12 year olds were walking around wearing Relax! T-shirts and shouting "When you want to COME!" even though they really didn't have a clue what they were on about. Arguably nowadays your average 11 or 12 year old would have more of an idea - sadly - but we were (mostly) blissfully ignorant / innocent back then. We just knew it was a bit mucky, and that made it cool.

Why did I hate Relax!? For the same reason I hated Baggy Trousers a couple of years earlier... because everyone else my age loved it. That was really all the reason I needed.

Nowadays, I hear Relax! in a totally different way. It's a Trevor Horn masterpiece really, as perfect in its own way as Video Killed The Radio Star or Owner of a Lonely Heart. The fact that Holly Johnson is the only member of FGTH to actually appear on the final track (apart from the sound effect of the rest of the band jumping into a swimming pool) only seals that.
Frankie enjoyed a couple more moments of pop genius (both much better than Relax!) before imploding in the glorious way all over-hyped bands do. The BBC relinquished its ban on the song and everyone forget it was mucky. George Michael did the whole thing again with a lot more class a few years later. Then Ross from Friends wore a Relax! T-shirt and killed its cool credentials forever. Paul Morley is still an arse.

*I think that's how you spell it.


  1. Have you ever tried to read The North by Paul Morley? Christ it's impossible! You'd think it'd be right up my street but it's Morley being deliberately pretentious and reader unfriendly.

    I've always liked Relax myself, but loved how Paul Weller penned 'You don't have to take this crap/You don't have to sit back and relax' as the opening salvo of Walls Come Tumbling Down, cutting through that superficiality to remind us about the things that really mattered.

    'Frankie Says Arm The Unemployed' was the best t shirt though. And Mike Read is such an epic twunt.

  2. I didn't like it when it came out either.
    Similar to yourself, the mass popularity and attendant PR bumph get my goat.
    So much so, I bought a T-Shirt bearing the legend: "I Don't Give A F*ck What Frankie Says"
    (I was 14, and my mum refused to wash it)

    And then Two Tribes came along - by christ, that was a belter. But having already shunned all things Frankie, I couldn't admit it for several years

  3. I get why you didn't like it back then but yes, it was a masterpiece. Going to be cheeky and add a link to my place:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...