542. ‘The Power of Love’, by Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Frankie Goes to Hollywood complete their hattrick of number ones, with a ballad out just in time for Christmas.

The Power of Love, by Frankie Goes to Hollywood (their 3rd and final #1)

1 week, from 2nd – 9th December 1984

This one starts off very slow, very stately – gentle guitars and sparse piano – and completely out of sync with what’s gone before this year. ‘More is More’ has been the motto of 1984, with even the ballads being that little bit extra. This being Frankie though, there’s still a bit of weirdness amongst the calm… I’ll protect you from the Hooded Claw, Keep the vampires from your door… whispers Holly Johnson over the intro.

It slowly builds, though, into a more dramatic, orchestral beast. Soaring strings come in after the first chorus, in which we are told to make love your goal… There are ominous synths, and even a jazz bar piano at one point. It grows into its OTT-ness, and ends up quite camp. Under it all, it’s a simple enough love song. Yes, there’s a lot of biblical imagery – tongues of fire and souls being purged – but the key line might just be the heartfelt I’m so in love with you… I’ve no idea who it’s about, but I believe he means it.

Was this Frankie Goes to Hollywood making a bid for granny-loving respectability, after the huge controversy around ‘Relax’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘Two Tribes’? (I’m not the first person to point out that they went from sex, to war, to religion.) Well, the difference between this and their debut hit is remarkable. The video for ‘The Power of Love’ (directed by Godley & Creme of 10cc) is a straightforward re-telling of the Nativity, with Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men, making their way to the stable in Bethlehem. And no, the baby Jesus is not kitted out in bondage gear. But the sheer straight-facedness of it is actually what makes this record quirky enough for us not to shout ‘sell-out’.

At the same time, I can’t enjoy this as much as the band’s earlier, genuinely thrilling, chart-toppers. That’s to do with my personal tastes – ballads always have to try that little bit harder to crack my resistance – but also because this one goes on a bit, and has one chorus too many. It veers a little too close to self-indulgence.

But it made #1, and with it Frankie Goes to Hollywood became only the second act in chart history to have their first three releases reach the top. They did so twenty one years after another Liverpudlian act: Gerry & The Pacemakers. Their fourth single, ‘Welcome to the Pleasuredome’, would make #2, but when they came back with their second album in 1986 the magic seemed to have faded. It produced just one Top 10 hit, and the band split the following year.

They didn’t last long, but the hits live on. All their #1s have re-charted in the Top 20 at various points in the decades since. ‘The Power of Love’, in fact, has returned to the Top 10 twice, in 1993 and 2000, as well as a cover version #1 in 2012. And before we go, it’s worth noting that releasing songs called ‘The Power of Love’ was something of a trend in the mid-eighties. This one, Huey Lewis’s, and another, mega-ballad that we’ll be featuring on this countdown soon enough…

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12 thoughts on “542. ‘The Power of Love’, by Frankie Goes to Hollywood

  1. Well, that was different. The video was fascinating. The song, not so much. I can’t tell if he is expressing his intense love & desire for a particular person or if he is poking fun at uptight religious types. Madonna & Gaga have been famous for that.

  2. I just couldn’t, and still can’t, get into this one. Their two previous were masterpieces, and even the following ‘Pleasuredome’ was good, but this ..? Nah! 🙂

  3. I loved all 3 number ones they had the hat trick too in my charts. It very much fit the sombre mood of the famine headlines of that time and i saw it as a sincere sentiment in the face of a tragedy but with a Frankie twist. The best line is the hooded claw reference from a kids animation tv show. I think it was the voice of paul lynde from bewitched and much 60s and 70s tv. Penelope pitstop i think. That they chose not to appear in the video i think supported the sincerity. My boss was not a fan. “Dirge! ” he used to moan. So i argued he was wrong and took comfort in fgth returning it to the charts years later as some sort of validation for me 😀

    • Yes, the Hooded Claw was Wacky Races… But do you mean the person who voices the line in the song is Paul Lynde, and not Holly Johnson?

      It’s not a dirge, but I do find it a bit over long and ponderous…

      • Paul lynde voiced the hooded claw in the penelope pitstop show it was all Holly on vinyl! Dick Dastardly and muttley were busy with their own wacky races spin off. Stop That Pigeon! 😀

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