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Thursday, 9 January 2014

RELAX!


It came as something of a rude shock to learn that this week marks the 30 year anniversary of the release and banning by the BBC of 1984 hit single 'Relax' by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.  Songs age and track and trace and mark us, of course, and I have around 66 songs that I cannot do without, but this one is special.  Firstly, it appeared when I was 17 and exploring my queerness (my bisexuality).  At the time I had a boyfriend, and this song, which has since been seen as the first openly gay number one hit, really moved and thrilled me.  It shaped my apprehension of a wilder, more flamboyant, aesthetic, a camp style best exemplified by my beloved gay Uncle Jack, and Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, - somewhat dated figures - suddenly updated into the midst of 80s culture, which was generally quite camp anyway (one thinks of singles of Tina Turner's 'Beyond Thunderdome', or 'Tainted Love' by Soft Cell). Anyway, as the NMe noted this week, Madonna was a huge fan of Frankie, and her own, later, queer-friendly and taboo-breaking videos were clearly empowered by 'Relax'.

I was enthralled by the video, especially the way Holly Johnson moved, mimicking the scene from Citizen Kane, where the light beams mark the way the reporter moves his arms.  I learnt all these moves, and it was my favourite song to dance to (it still is), down to the finger-pistols and bucking, climaxing hips.  However, my Frankie experience was more up close and personal still.  Frankie's hit caused a problem for the band's management, because suddenly they had to tour a band that had little road experience; so in early 1984 their first North American gig was in Montreal.  And yes, I went.  And, more to the point, they asked me to take them to a good club, so I went with Frankie to the Gay Village, and - guess what? - we all danced together to 'Relax'.  That was a fan's dream come wildly true, and while I didn't do the band, I went home a very happy camper.
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