Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood is the first song I can remember being banned, although as I’ve now found out it wasn’t quite as big as a ban as I thought it was, but more on that later.
The song was the debut single for Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and it topped the charts in the UK, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Â In the UK the song held the top spot for five weeks before dropping down the charts, but the release of the bands second single, Two Tribes, saw it climb again back up to the number two position whilst that song occupied the top spot. Â The song went on to sell 1.9 million copies, making it today the 7th best selling single in the UK of all time.
The song spawned a fashion craze as well with the “Frankie Says Relax” T-Shirt, with big bold black letters on a plain white shirt similar in style to the Choose Life T-Shirts sported by fans of Wham! Â In fact, you can still pick up such a shirt (artificially aged for good measure) at 80sTees.
So how did the song’s infamous ban by the BBC come about. Â Well, the song was initially played on Top of the Pops on 5th January 1984 which helped it rise up the charts to number 6. Â The following week Radio 1 DJ Mike Read aired his disgust for both the songs cover artwork and its lyrics, and refused to play the song. Â The BBC itself also suffered from some raised eyebrows internally, and so the corporation decided to ban the song across all BBC channels, backing up Mike Read in the process.
Obviously the ban being just by the BBC it didn’t apply to independant radio stations who generally continued to play the song, and indeed some of the night time BBC radio shows also continued to play the record. Â The ban extended to Top of the Pops though, making things a little awkward as this show always played the number one record each week at the end of the programme. Â Instead a picture of the group was displayed as the charts were read out, but then another record from elsewhere in the charts was played instead.
At the time poor little innocent me didn’t know what was so rude about the words so this all seemed rather strange when I heard the song after the ban had been put in place. Â I couldn’t understand quite what the problem was, but it was obviously down to the use of the word “come”. Â At my age this just meant they wanted to go somewhere!
The BBC eventually lifted the ban later in the year, and ironically the song was then aired again on the Christmas Day edition of Top of the Pops and Radio 1’s retrospective of the years records.