In the 1980s, just about everyone owned a t-shirt that said FRANKIE SAY RELAX. Frankie Goes to Hollywood took the world by storm with their double-disc debut album (this was when there were still records) then seemed to disappear almost just as quickly. Brian Nash was the guitar player for the band and in his autobiography details the history, rise, and fall of the band.
Nasher Says Relax is candid and told from one person’s point of view. The only other person to pen their version of events was lead singer Holly Johnson, and when I looked I found his book to be out of print and hard to find (don’t even ask about finding it on the Kindle). However, Brian Nash refers to some of what Holly talked about in that book and will either agree with it or tell his version of what transpired.
Coming out of working-class Liverpool, there were many bands that rode the music video tide in the 1980s and found success. It seemed to be a time that these young musicians could take a risk and see how things would turn out. Nash was adopted and grew up in a loving atmosphere in a city that was a bit rough but also endearing. I could see the places he talked about and find similarities between the City and my own youth on Long Island and in New York City. He was close early on to his cousins, the O’Tooles, and it was this familial relationship that would spell success later on.
What made Frankie Goes to Hollywood unique was that they were ahead of their time in many ways. Lead singer Johnson and backup singer Paul Rutherford were openly gay and it never seemed to cause conflict or be a big deal. Especially on this side of the pond, that was quite unique and probably made great strides among those of my generation in terms of seeing gay people as not much different than anyone else. Nash doesn’t harp on this. It’s there and he really only speaks of it in terms of how they were initially labeled a “gay band” and had to answer questions at times about his own sexuality, but it doesn’t seem to anger him at all.
Anyone who’s paid much attention to the band knows the conflict between them and their record company, ZTT. As with many bands in this era, they signed a contract that favored the record company more than them and have paid for it ever since. The result was once Frankie Goes to Hollywood fell from grace, the band members found themselves struggling and had no idea what happened to all the money they made. Nash doesn’t hide from this or make excuses. He’s candid about what that was like, both the good times and the bad, as he found his way in the world and managed to carve out a normal family life following having sold out Wembley Stadium.
I found Nasher Says Relax to be quite easy to read and entertaining. He doesn’t try to paint a rosy picture or point fingers. His style is rather matter-of-fact and he admits to his own culpability rather than just pointing fingers. There may not be as much gossip as in other biographies coming out of this time and place, but it’s a good read that I can recommend.
Categories: Book Reviews