In 1985, as the AIDS crisis intensified, young revelers were tense. Enter Frankie Goes to Hollywood, with their sexually charged disco anthem urging nightclubbers to “Relax.” Thanks to director Brian De Palma, who had used the song in 1984’s Body Double and ended up landing the group a Saturday Night Live gig, Frankie were catapulted from obscurity into pop’s mainstream. Their racy theme song hit Billboard‘s Top 40 on Feb. 2, 1985, eventually peaking at No. 10.
With a name taken from a headline about Sinatra’s film debut, the band deftly combined dance beats with a generous dose of irony. In their 1984 album, Welcome to the Pleasuredome, crafted with producer Trevor Horn (Art of Noise), Liverpool’s fab five (Holly Johnson, Peter Gill, Brian Nash, Mark O’Toole, and Paul Rutherford) delivered an unapologetic tribute to hedonism that caught on big. Indeed, despite the band’s gay-party-boy flash, legions of mostly female fans sported “Frankie Say Relax” T-shirts. “We made Spandau Ballet look so 1983,” quips frontman Johnson.
But Frankie too would fade with time. Due to creative conflicts, plus a nasty contract dispute with record label ZTT, Johnson left the band in 1987. The remaining members split up a year later.