Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Backup Dancers From Hell: Frankie Goes To Hollywood - “Relax”

Note: I can still remember being a college student in Tulsa, OK, when this came out. We whooped wildly about the fun of it all, and then some official fool figured out that they might be singing about, you know, THAT, and the song immediately disappeared from all radio stations for a bit. (Gotta love the Bible Belt. You can marry your cousin or wear a white hood on your head, but you don’t dare sing a song about delaying orgasm.) Anyway, here we go…

We start out with lead singer Holly Johnson messing around with actual “laser beams” that he bellows about in the song, and then we cut to the band’s name flashing in neon lights in what could easily pass as a sleazy nightclub. (Note, Part 2: This might be the only remnant of the original video version, which took place in a gay S&M bar, and was considered too controversial for release. Duh. It was 1984, when husbands still believed that their wives were virgins when they got married.)

Next up is the band performing in what could be a warehouse, an unused clothes-storage closet for Cher, or perhaps a holding cell for people who can’t stay still. I don’t really understand why Holly is wearing that jacket, all zipped up like he can’t get warm, but it might be a “Members Only” product, which was all the rage at the time, and he wants to make sure we can see it. He’s also wearing white gloves, which I don’t understand either, but I’m not British.

The rest of the band is bopping around with an energy that might be chemically-based. Not judging, just reporting.

Holly waves his hands around for a while, possibly reenacting classic Greek Drama or the best way to test cantaloupes for freshness. He’s also wearing sunglasses inside, which probably means something, but we’ll figure that out later. Another band member, Paul, is just dancing around and occasionally singing one word of the song. I think I would like to have his job, where you only need to learn 5 or so words, and you can get your aerobics in while still getting paid the same amount of money as people who actually do something important.

Close-up on Holly’s sunglasses, in case we missed them in the opening shots. We’ll have to assume that this is some form of product placement, or that Holly is making a political statement about the blindness of Margaret Thatcher. Your call.

Holly also likes to shove his hands in the pockets of his jacket, when he’s not making grand flourishes like Queen Elizabeth allowing peasants to look in her direction. (Perhaps that’s where he keeps his poppers?) And I’m totally distracted by the guitar player who is whacking his hand on his instrument like he hates it with extreme malevolence. What is that all about?

Close-up on one of Holly’s gloved hands. Okay, I get it. Either he didn’t get a manicure or he has that skin disease that Michael Jackson was always whining about. Let’s look at something else, shall we?

Great, I guess somebody was listening, because now we have Holly playing with those laser beams. He’s very confident of himself, that Holly, strutting about like something got lodged in a very satisfactory place and he’s ready to sign blank checks. The director also diddles with the laser beams on the other band members, but they seem more invested in, well, playing music. Except for Paul. Paul likes diddling. Heyyy.

More of Holly and his “Members Only” jacket. Something that requires him to continue strutting, and point with his gloved fingers. Perhaps if I had been in Cher’s closet as well I might have more fully understood the symbolism. But I wasn’t invited. That Oklahoma stigma stays with you for a very long time.

Scenes with the laser beams splashing on guitars while they are being played. I’m not really invested in this part. I understand that guitars have to be played, I just don’t really need to see it. Especially if the guitar players aren’t cute.

The lasers really get crazy at this point, with everybody shoving instruments and appendages into the beams so that we get a lot of distortion. Then I notice that Holly has done something rude with his jacket pockets that are causing them to look like really sagging breasts. Seriously? Dude, that is not attractive in any way. And you don’t even actually have breasts. I’m so confused.

“I don’t really do much” Paul breaks into the shenanigans for a bit, with him and his untied bow tie trying to take over, but Holly ain’t havin’ none of that, making bunny-paw motions with his gloved hands and eventually out-queening all comers. (I feel it my duty to mention drug-usage again at this point. I have no formal confirmation of this, but let’s be real.)

Back to Holly jacking with the lasers and not attending to his poofy pockets. This leads to the part where he does the…. WHUH… bit of the song, indicating either the release of millions of swimmers or a medical condition requiring attention. I guess Holly is up for a repeat performance, because he continues with more laser foreplay while a slightly-embarrassed drummer is forced to make a cameo.

The song ends with Holly still trying to impress us with his gloves and manic need to direct traffic, the shy drummer suddenly wailing away on his skins, and the complete absence of Paul, so we’ll just have to assume that someone in craft services caught his eye and a man-tango is now taking place in an alley, with cats howling and startled passers-by hearing gurgling noises and wondering who in the hell is having plumbing issues at this time of night.

Look, I didn’t start this. I’m just finishing it. Peace.

Click Here to Watch the Video on YouTube.

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