Get off that wagon, boy (“Pleasuredome” revisited)


October 29th 1984: Frankie Goes To Hollywood release their debut album, “Welcome To The Pleasuredome”. A double, no less. And, well….it wasn’t quite what most people hoped for. Certainly, after the mighty double-whammy of “Relax” and “Two Tribes”, it felt like an anti-climax (if you’ll excuse the pun).

October 29th 2019: “Welcome To The Pleasuredome” is 35 years old today. It has been reissued so many times that it’s hard (well ‘ard) to keep track; there has even been a crowdfunded mega super deluxe boxset which sold for over £200, but it remains one of the most frustrating, what-could-have-been moments in pop history.

FRANKIE SAY….FOOK OFF! (I’d imagine).

Let’s go back. Return to the Pleasuredome. It’s a long way from home. Jeez, thirty-five years, eh. Yet, like one of those elderly relations who can reminisce vividly about events that happened as children, I still remember the day that the Frankie Goes To Hollywood album finally came out. Pity the actual record itself turned out to be less memorable!

The stats surrounding Pleasuredome don’t quite tell the whole story. Someone checking out Wikipedia and the Official Charts Company websites might think it was an unqualified success; a UK #1 debut, certified triple platinum for 1 million advance orders, home to not just monster chart-toppers in the aforementioned Relax and Two Tribes but a third (successive) #1 with The Power Of Love as well as a final #2 with an edited remix of the title track. Its arrival on Compact Disc in 1985 saw a chart re-entry and at various times since then, the album has popped in and out of the listings.

And yet…..for all the hype, for all the extravagance of making it a double album, for all that Frankie were undisputedly THE act of 1984 for a lot of people (myself included) ….isn’t Welcome To The Pleasuredome a bit….well….how can I put this….not very good?

ZTT wanted to make a statement, create an event. That’s understandable. And very ZTT. They felt the album had to be something different, something that could match the frankly unrealistic expectations of just about everyone who followed pop music in 1984.

Their strategy was to avoid the obvious, to make everything about the album new. Fresh mixes of the big hits, spliced up bits of the other songs we were already familiar with. Chuck in some daft monologues, scouse humour and (too many) cover versions. Then put it all inside a gatefold sleeve that was, as my Dad described it at the time, “a bit rude”.


(The front of the original Welcome To The Pleasuredome LP. Rear sleeve and inside artwork not shown as they’re “a bit rude”).

Now, it’s probably meant to be an homage to Picasso or the like, but to a 13-year old kid it did look a bit crap. Even now, I think it looks a bit crap (“why are they all in pyjama bottoms with no tops on?” was an immediate thought). If I hadn’t already heard three or four of the album tracks on Janice Long’s evening Radio 1 show the week before, the thrill of actually having the Frankie album in my possession might have turned to dread before I’d got home from the record store (my local Woolworths on a deathly quiet morning in half-term, very Rock N Roll. In my defence I’d tried all the other shops on the High Street and nobody else had it in stock at 9am on the Monday. Oh and it was 24p cheaper there, too! £6.75).

One of the songs premiered by Janice was the literally epic title track, all 15 minutes of it. This, including the “Snatch Of Fury” which opens the album, took up the whole of Side 1. You can hear where most of the time, money, energy and inspiration went, as it rises and falls, climaxes and relaxes, stretching itself almost effortlessly across a whole quarter of an hour. Imagine if the rest of the album had been similarly inspired.

Sadly, it wasn’t. At times it was downright embarrassing and – given the reputation which Frankie had acquired (via Trevor Horn’s studio fairydust) for sonic brilliance – shockingly half-arsed. ZTT had spent so much time, money, energy and inspiration on creating an event, and putting together the usual eye-catching promotional campaign, that the actual music became secondary.


(Holly, Paul and The Lads posing for Smash Hits magazine shortly after the album’s release in December 1984).

Beyond the largesse of the title track, perhaps Black Night White Light, The Power Of Love and The Only Star In Heaven could be considered anywhere near the levels we’d come to expect from Frankie. Take these, along with the singles already issued, and you would have a near-perfect normal length album. But it wouldn’t have been an event, it wouldn’t have had remotely enough new material and surprises to satisfy the public. There would have simply been too much that everyone knew already.

Hence the pointless cover versions of Do You Know The Way To San Jose and Born To Run on a horrendous Side 3; when we all fantasised about the Frankie album and what it might be like, comedy skits and porn film heavy-breathing would not, it’s fair to say, have been on our wish list. Even Wish (The Lads Were Here) is a naff pastiche of the patented Frankie schtick; the once formidable Two Tribes burbling bassline reduced to servicing a non-song.

We haven’t mentioned Side 2, loosely conceived as the one with the hits on it. Relax is there, in probably the now-most-familiar version (different to the original 7″ but widely used on compilations, both Frankie and non-Frankie related). Two Tribes is too, but it’s an incarnation that I have never enjoyed, so inferior to the majestic single mix as to be distracting. Again, I get why ZTT decided not to just include the hits in the same form as a million people already owned (and millions more were surely over-familiar with by then, after the great summer of Frankie fever). Likewise yet another new variant of Two Tribes’ AA-side War, which sacrifices most of the song for more spoof Ronald Reagan stuff. However, it merely adds to the impression of the album as a generally poorer relation of the gigantic hit singles. FRANKIE SAY…..a bit less.

The final section of Pleasuredome does a lot of redeem matters, with a trio of strong new tracks (and the passable, almost demo-quality Krisco Kisses). It goes out with a “Bang!”, and then FRANKIE SAY….No More.


“Welcome To The Pleasuredome” – Compacted, Cassetted and Pictured.


And so that was Welcome To The Pleasuredome, excitedly anticipated for months, released with plenty of fanfare at the end of October 1984….and all but forgotten by the middle of 1985 (if not before). Those 1 million advance orders allegedly took a full 12 months to shift off the shelves, as actual demand fell some way short of the levels expected by most retailers. Its fourth single failed to live up to the grand proclamations of the adverts (“Frankie’s Fourth Number One!”) by peaking at #2 and, beyond the most loyal followers (myself included) wasn’t really a genuine smash hit that captured the nation’s imagination (it was absolutely terrific, mind).

At some point in the early 1990s, when I began to replace the LPs and tapes in my collection with CD editions, Welcome To The Pleasuredome again managed to disappoint me. The tracklisting on the rear of the case had one of the standouts from the Escape Act EP, Happy Hi, replacing the lame San Jose. The disc, however, had other ideas and still had Holly asking the way.

Since then, there have been various anniversary and special editions; sometimes one disc, sometimes two, and never fully satisfying or doing anything to change that overriding sense of unfulfilled promise. It still has the inferior mixes of Two Tribes and War, still has that bloody awful Side 3, it still doesn’t feel like the amazing, mind-blowing trip that a Frankie Goes To Hollywood album from 1984 surely ought to be. They were the sound of that year, the dominant force in one of pop’s greatest 12 months. If you listened to any official edition of Pleasuredome, you wouldn’t know it, or hear it.

In true Amazinglyfewdiscothequesprovidejukeboxes fashion, something had to be done.

The AFDPJ “Director’s Cut” of Welcome To The Pleasuredome

Sod the serious stuff, let’s get this mess sorted out. It’s 2019, we can forget about needing the album to be an event, we can just create a version with the best music from the album, and the associated singles and remixes.

Best mix of the title track is, for me, the original 12″…“Pleasurefix”. I am no longer an artist, I have become a work of art!

Relax 7″ is in, Two Tribes 7″ is in. As are the proper B-side versions of Ferry Cross The Mersey, The World Is My Oyster and War. The shock tactic of a Prince Charles soundalike espousing the nature of the orgasm gets the chop. No faffing around.

The only survivors from that Side 3 are Wish and, against my better judgement, The Ballad Of 32. Happy Hi actually gets to appear this time. Side 4 remains intact.

14 tracks. A running time of just over 60 minutes. The Hour and The Glory.



A version of Welcome To The Pleasuredome that is, at long last, a pleasure for me to listen to. You are warmly invited to join in!






One comment

  1. I really like your version of “Welcome To The Pleasuredome”. You have picked the right songs for what ZZT should have done back in 1984. You could have add an EP with the 12″ Inch mixes of “Relax”, “Two Tribes” and “The Power Of Love”.

    I never bought the LP, but I’ve bought the 12″ Inch versions of “Two Tribes” and “The Power Of Love”. I have always liked the 12″ Inch version of “Two Tribes”. I have “Welcome To The Pleasuredome” on CD.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s