December 1 – Relax, It’s Just A Nice Christmas Song

Can’t win for losing? Or can’t lose for winning? Probably the second was the correct definition for Frankie Goes to Hollywood in 1984. The Brit band assembled by, and produced by Trevor Horn was sitting at #1 on the UK singles chart this day that year, with “The Power of Love.”

It was in many ways the Year of Frankie, in Britain at least. It was their third single, and the third one to hit #1 there. That’s a trick not even the Beatles could pull off – having your first three singles each top the charts. It followed “Relax” and “Two Tribes”, from the double-album Welcome to the Pleasuredome which went 3X platinum there and also hit #1. The album would in time produce one more single, the title track, which broke their streak of #1s…but just barely. It rose to #2. Meanwhile, “The Power of Love” was a top 5 hit in Australia, New Zealand and the majority of Europe, and a top 20 in Canada. Oddly, it flopped entirely in the U.S., not even coming close to the top 40.

So, they couldn’t lose for winning, right? Well, in many ways that was true. But in one small way, the reverse was true. It was their third single and the third to draw widespread criticism… although much of that came from their videos rather than the music itself. While the first single, “Relax” was banned briefly by the BBC due to its sexual innuendo, this one and “Two Tribes” were both skewered more for the videos rather than the song itself. While “Two Tribes” was criticized for the violent Godley & Creme made video with Reagan and Gorbachev lookalikes fighting, this song had a seemingly innocent Christmas-sy video produced by the same pair. However, the prominent use of a Nativity scene and depiction of the Biblical Christmas story in it drew the wrath of both many Christians, who felt Frankie was mocking them, and atheists who didn’t like getting a video sermon with their hit music. Despite that, the song quickly came to be identified with the season and in many cases considered a Christmas song. Lead singer and co-writer Holly Johnson says of it, “I always felt like (it) was the record that would save me in this life. There is a biblical aspect to its spirituality and passion…the fact that love is the only thing that matters in the end.”

If you were wondering, the reference to “the hooded claw” in the song is a reference to a relatively obscure early-’70s cartoon, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, in which the villain was the Hooded Claw.

The Power of Love” is a fine love song, no matter how you interpret it… and evidently a fine title too. It was one of three different hit songs within a year that used the same title. Huey Lewis and the News and Jennifer Rush each had different songs of that name.


7 thoughts on “December 1 – Relax, It’s Just A Nice Christmas Song

  1. Badfinger (Max)

    You know you have done something when you have pissed off Christians and Atheists with the same song lol.
    The thing I remember most about them was the t-shirts with R E L A X on them everywhere.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. yeah, I think now you couldn’t make an 80s movie without one of those ‘Frankie Say…’ t-shirts in it somewhere! Great marketing for the time, but like many 80s acts, it came back to bite them. there were some really good tunes on that double album (I’d count this one among them) but soon everyone wrote them off as an oddball novelty act.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. “The Power of Love” was definitely popular on the radio back in Germany at the time, as was “Relax”. I also remember “Two Tribes” and “Welcome to the Pleasuredome”, though I don’t believe they were as popular. The debate about the videos escaped me. I didn’t have access to MTV so, believe it or not, I had not seen the clips until now. I wonder what kind of a firestorm they might unleash today with all the polarization multiplied by social media.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The only video of theirs I remember seeing somewhat regularly back in the 80s by them was ‘Two Tribes’, but the other singles were big on radio as well. Hard to know if it would be as controversial today – the bar has been pushed quite aways, but then again people are more eager than ever to find things to be offended by it seems.


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