Retro art: 80’s pop band Frankie Goes To Hollywood, their logo & the wonderful design that made up their album art and propaganda, graphic design that was arguably decades before its time.
Everyone has their own ‘era’ – a time they look back at with great fondness bordering on melancholy. For some, it’s their high school years, perhaps reliving their role as the star quarterback or head of the cheerleading squad. For others their ‘glory days’ are the years they spent at college or university. For me, it was around 1980 to 1985 when I was part of – if only on the periphery – Toronto’s ‘alternative’ music scene. My taste hasn’t changed too much over the years and anyone who knows me will attest to this – musically, I’m still stuck there. I was, and still am, a fan of Brit pop and dance music – known back in the day as “New Wave” – still listening to bands like Joy Division, New Order, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Soft Cell, Shriekback, Ultravox, Gary Numan (with and without The Tubeway Army,) Siouxsie and the Banshees, Pete Shelly, The Sex Pistols, The Cure et al. I hung out at ‘alternative’ night clubs– Toronto’s famous Domino Club and my Friday and Saturday night home away from home, Nuts and Bolts on Victoria Street. My beer of choice back in the day was Carlsberg, simply because they were a major sponsor of my fave radio station at the time – a (then) tiny Brampton upstart known CFNY (“The Spirit of Radio“) who could be found at 102.1 on the FM dial (my current iTunes playlist would sound pretty much like CFNY’s playlist from around 1983, if they had a playlist, which they didn’t, which was the point.) I even did a few professional gigs for CFNY, including this poster for their Video Road Shows of which I’m still pretty fond. Anyhoo, one of my fave bands from that era was Frankie Goes To Hollywood – made famous in North America via their dance smash Relax – (a record I “discovered” in Belfast Northern Ireland when, while on a trip there, had to buy the 12″ version of Relax to find out why the BBC had banned it, inadvertently guaranteeing the track would be a monster hit.)
Relax sleeve art.
The then-controversial (and often knocked-off) sleeve art on that single went on to be one of the most famous of all time, and is frequently featured on best covers of all time lists. Fun trivia: the colored pencil illustration is by British but Toronto-based illustrator Yvonne Gilbert and was originally used in a spread for Men Only magazine. For the subsequent use on Relax cover, she received £200 from FGTH recording label Zang Tumb Tuum.Logos and terrific artwork where always part of the Frankie brand, so I figured looking at their logo as part of our So You Think You Know Logos series would be worthwhile. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
The Frankie Man logo.
A lot of the FGTH cover art and promotional material owed a great deal to Soviet-era propaganda, and the inspiration for the Frankie Man logo can be traced back to 1920’s Germany, namely a logo designed by Erwin Reusch, for a German company Delbag Filters. That logo was first featured in Gebrauchsgraphik, one of the first magazines about graphic design and advertising, published between 1924-1930.The Frankie logo was designed by graphic designer David Smart – now Associate Head of School; Communication Arts at Plymouth University – when he was at XL Design, who also designed a lot of the terrific marketing material for the Zang Tuum Tumb! label (XL Design was founded by Tom Watkins who went on to manage the Pet Shop Boys.)The logo first appeared on the back cover of the band’s Two Tribes single (above right) and was used from then on – with and without Frankie Goes To Hollywood around it – and holding a variety of objects such as crosses and stars (below.) The Frankie Man went on to become an integral part of the band’s marketing, brand and propaganda. And while we’re on the subject of propaganda..
Speaking of Frankie logos, everyone remember the “Frankie Say” T-shirts? Sure you do, they were everywhere (although a lot of folks didn’t even realize their connection to the band, left to wonder exactly who this ‘Frankie’ chap was.) If not, here’s a reminder:
Those shirts were ubiquitous in the mid-eighties, and the style was was riffed on by a load of other bands, organizations and hawkers of T-shirts (A Choose Life version is still kicking around.) There were a lot of variations on the Frankie Say theme, but most of them were bootlegs and unauthorized. There were only three official designs: ‘Frankie Say Relax Don’t Do It’, ‘Frankie Say War! Hide Yourself’ and ‘Frankie Say Arm The Unemployed.’
All had black bold-condensed text on white shirts and most had © 1984 Paul Morley (co-founder of ZTT – along with Trevor Horn and his wife Jill Sinclair – who’s credited with the shirts) above the Frankie logo in the lower right corner if they were official. The shirts were manufactured by a company called Mobile in a range named Yo Yo and according to news reports of the time, were their biggest seller of 1984 – the year they were released – in some cases outselling FGTH singles in some stores. These are collectibles now, some can still be found on eBay but most of the ones you’ll run into are fakes. Bootleggers made the mistake of designing their shirts with the phrase ‘Frankie Says…’ rather than ‘Frankie Say…’ At right, band mates Holly Johnson (behind) and Paul Rutherford (in the Frankie Say shirt.) The T-shirts (and the Frankie Man logo) had a revival of sorts a few years ago when the Frankie Say Greatest 2 CD set was released:
Pleasuredome 30th Anniversary.
As hard as it is to believe, last October marked the 30th anniversary of FGTH’s seminal and ground-breaking double album release Welcome to the Pleasuredome. To celebrate, Zang Tumb Tuum held a Pledge Music funder to produce a limited edition box set. I was never able to get one (licensing restrictions prohibited shipment to North America) but the artwork on the collection was nothing short of gorgeous.
A fitting tribute to an often overlooked band, whose contributions to music and the art of same, would arguably change everything.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood logo: vector versions
While researching material for this post, it was impossible to find a pristine version of the FGTH logo, let alone a vector version. We contacted a few people and fan sites, nobody seemed to have one, so we had to recreate the Frankie Man ourselves, as faithfully to the original as humanly possible. If anyone wants a vector version of that artwork – featured in the two common variants – you’re welcome to download it here.
This post was done out of love.
Thanks be to:
Kevin Foakes for a lot of the images and info above, pinched (with permish) from his terrific website on the (who’s afraid of the) art of Zang Tumb Tuum.