Released today in 1987: Watching The Wildlife

ZTT ZTAS26

ZTT ZTAS26

So, farewell then, Frankie. Considerably less than a year after their big “come back”, it was all over.

At the beginning of 1987, Frankie Goes To Hollywood embarked on their final tour, starting in Manchester on 10 January and ending in Rotterdam on 1 March. Rumours of in-band fighting from the outset of these live shows (including the mother of all rows between Mark O’Toole and Holly Johnson on 12 January at Wembley) proved to true when their record company, Zang Tuum Tumb (ZTT) issued the following press release just days after the tour ended:

“Frankie Goes To Hollywood have had enough of each other, at least for now. They can’t stand the sight of each other, but can’t stand to be apart. Members of the group will each spend nine months preparing individual projects, from drummer Ped Gill’s duet with Frank Bruno through to Paul Rutherford’s ‘Love Affair With A Camera’ single.”

On 21 March NME commented that “1988 will herald the rebirth of Frankie for the recording of their third album, ‘Family Tension’. Frankie have been at the centre of various whispers in recent months. Holly Johnson’s contribution to the Anti-Heroin Campaign fuelled reports that he was off to start a solo career — and he will be making his first live appearance without the group at the International Aids Day concert at Wembley Arena on April 1. He is also reported to have said he was sick of the Bash Street Kids antics of Mark, Nash and Ped (known collectively as “The Lads”) and whether he will actually go back into the playground with them next year is still a matter of debate.”

He didn’t, and consequently Watching The Wildlife was the last Frankie Goes To Hollywood single. It was their least successful release, barely scraping inside the Top 30. (A campaign in which copies of the single would include a free condom had to be cancelled when ZTT realized that new rules by chart compilers Gallup meant that such promotional materials rendered singles including them invalid for inclusion in sales totals.)

Over the next few months, there was speculation that The Lads had approached Pete Wylie to replace Holly as singer – actually not a bad idea, although Wylie refused of course. Smash Hits reported later in the year that “Mark, Ped and Nasher have narrowed the shortlist of singers they’ve been auditioning down to five — all apparently fairly unknown — and are going to work with all of them for a month before deciding who they prefer. They’ve also started writing songs which are apparently more ‘in a rock direction’.”

Holly’s solo career was unable to get off the ground for some time. He had signed with MCA but ZTT sued him: they argued that as they had a multiple-album deal with Frankie Goes To Hollywood, until the agreed amount of content had been delivered the individual members would have to release their subsequent projects via ZTT. It took two years and a High Court judgment before he could get back to the recording studio. The dispute was finally resolved in Holly’s favour, the verdict being ZTT was imposing unlawful restraint of trade on him. By the time it was settled, Paul Rutherford had already put his debut solo 45 out (on 4th and Broadway Records, like ZTT part of the Island distribution group).

NEW SINGLES on sale from Feb. 23
1987
BOY GEORGE Everything I Own (Virgin BOY100)
BROTHER BEYOND How Many Times (EMI EMI5591)
FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Watching The Wildlife (ZTT ZTAS26)
The PRIMITIVES Stop Killing Me (Lazy LAZY03)

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