What Happened to Frankie Goes to Hollywood?

Frankie Say Relax T-shirt

For much of 1984, Frankie Goes to Hollywood was all people talked about in the U.K. Their debut single, the sexually-tinged “Relax,” was banned by the BBC but still managed to sell almost 2 million copies, making it the seventh greatest-selling single in the U.K. The group became the second act in U.K. history to reach No. 1 with their first three releases. They even managed to make some headway in the U.S., as “Relax” just grazed the Top 10.

But they left the scene as quickly as they arrived. What happened?

FGTH splits up — sort of

Frankie Goes to Hollywood released Liverpool, their second album, in 1986, and it was received badly by critics and the listening public, reaching only No. 5 in the U.K. Only one single hit the Top 10 — “Rage Hard.”

The subsequent tour began to show cracks in the group’s foundation. Lead singer Holly Johnson distanced himself from the rest of the group during the tour, and the tensions in the band overflowed before the group’s last show at Wembley Stadium. Johnson and bassist Mark O’Toole came close to blows, and after the tour ended in Germany the following month, the band announced that they were breaking up.

Or, at least part of them.

Three members of FGTH continued on without Johnson as lead singer, using various vocalists and performing as Boss Dog. Virgin Records offered to sign them but only if they recorded as FGTH. Johnson protested and the offer fell through.

An imposter

During the 1990s and early 2000s, a group calling themselves The New Frankie Goes to Hollywood began touring the United States — even though they had no original members. Based in Mobile, Alabama, the group featured lead singer “Davey” Johnson, whom the management claimed had a minor role in the group during the 1980s. The original members erupted in protest, but the imposters continued playing North American dates through December 2000.

After a protracted court battle, Johnson released two solo albums after the initial breakup before announcing that he was HIV-positive and retiring to become a painter. Vocalist Paul Rutherford also released a solo album.

Almost reunited

In 2003, the VH1 show “Bands Reunited” successfully got all five members of FGTH in the same room. Although a majority of the members were open to performing a one-night-only show, Johnson and guitarist Brian Nash demurred, and the performance was canceled. However, the other three continued on, recruiting 28-year-old Ryan Molloy to front the band. The band called themselves Forbidden Hollywood because Johnson protested.

Johnson came out of retirement in 2014 to release the album Europa and announced a seven-city tour of the U.K. He co-wrote a song for the movie Eddie the Eagle in 2015 and has performed at various shows since then.


The band finally reunited for real in 2023, performing at the Eurovision opening in front of 25,000 people. They didn’t play “Relax” or their other hit “Two Tribes,” playing only “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” in an odd one-song set that left fans confused and annoyed.

So what is FGTH’s legacy? “Frankie were a blip, albeit a seismic one,” the Guardian posited in 2014. Although they never caught on in America the way they did in the U.K., their “Frankie Say” t-shirts and admittedly gay lead singer made their mark in 80s culture.


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