Released today in 1986: What’s The Colour Of Money?

WEA YZ76

WEA YZ76

The Best of Smash Hits, published in 2006, contains a feature called ‘Our Weirdest Cover Stars!’: “For every Madonna or Wham! there was a Matt Fretton or a Hollywood Beyond. So let’s hear it for the one-hit and no-hit wonders. What were we thinking?”

Hollywood Beyond was basically a chap called Mark Rogers. (He would release a single towards the end of the 80s billed as ‘Mark Rogers AKA Hollywood Beyond’.) He had one significant hit, released today in 1986, called What’s The Colour Of Money?. That colour, according to the lyrics of the song, was not green or gold, but red, “because there’s always a bit of sweat and toil in it, almost like a little bit of blood. That’s what you have to give before you get money,” he told Smash Hits while the single was in the Top 10. “The song has no solutions and it has no ending, it’s just asking why – why do you have to give up so much to get something which has relatively no value but which is so necessary?”

Rogers was born in Birmingham city centre and grew up there. Prior to forming Hollywood Beyond, Rogers had been a member of a group called Pyramid who were almost signed to Inner Vision by Mark Dean. (Dean, who could afford to take on only one act, ultimately chose Wham!.) There was further interest in Pyramid from Duran Duran’s management but as Rogers wasn’t prepared to drop out of university, he quit and formed Hollywood Beyond instead. “I put the name together on the Sunday morning over breakfast with Jamie [Rose, Pyramid’s former manager]. Part of the idea was to take the bright lights and drama and theatricals and give it to the other side of Hollywood, with the same glam and tack. It’s an analogy with today’s society as well. It’s glamourizing the low life because, yes, we’re into decadence in a certain fashion. Initially I fashioned myself as an African dictator gone wrong, spoiled by western society. We’ve dropped that now.” Record Mirror spotted a connection with Rogers’ hometown in the group’s name, asking him if the name had been inspired in part by the village of Hollywood near ‘Brum’: “It has no reference to California, Birmingham. The name just conjured up all the things that I want the band to be. Hollywood, to me, epitomises society at its worst. It’s America, it’s out of proportion, and it’s consumerism.” The phrase was also used as the title of What’s The Colour Of Money?’s B-side, Rogers further explaining to Record Mirror: “In the song Hollywood Beyond we invent a place where people go, where materialistic things are what you need, but not all the things you need. There is something beyond that.”

Rogers described his music to Smash Hits as “exciting…honest…vibrant…individual…I’m telling it the way I see it without having to pull punches and box clever…it’s just me with big ears taking in all this different stuff that then gets interpreted by me.” The themes common to most interviews he gave during the summer of 1986 were ambition, and being taken seriously as an artist. On the latter of these two themes, he explained that he was very serious about music and not concerned about becoming a pop idol. “I don’t want to be a teeny bop star,” he told Smash Hits, although he confirmed to Record Mirror that “I ain’t going to bullshit…I want the money, and the success, but I have other ambitions. At the moment writing songs is a bit of a test to me. And I want my records to be in the charts because they’re good, not because they’re gimmicky pop writing.” He singled out artists like David Bowie and David Byrne as ones he admired and respects, calling them “iconoclasts in a fashion, and … pretty timeless.” It was statements like those that revealed the ambition in Rogers, who cited “dying without achieving anything” as one of his greatest fears; he saw Hollywood Beyond as a long-term project and his aim was a career as enduring as those two artists’. And yet Record Mirror had this to say about him: “…one of the warmest and most unpretentious young pop pretenders that you’re likely to come across”, despite his image: “He projects an image of chic self-possession, which might tempt you to label him a fool for Eighties cool. His is the severe, tailored matt black look of modern classicism. Six inch dreadlocks [actually spindlelocks, artificial hair extensions, according to his hair stylist] hover above round sunglasses and a sensual mouth, which emits a voice just a shade reminiscent of another eclectic trickster, Prince.”

Hollywood Beyond’s only album was If, from which four singles were taken. As each of those singles yielded diminishing returns, no follow-up was recorded. A now very rare double A-side single, Let’s Get Together (Create)/I Promise appeared in 1989 via an obscure label called Warriors Dance, for which Rogers wrote a sleeve note stating “This record is the first of many”. To date, it hasn’t been.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Jun. 23
1986
HOLLYWOOD BEYOND (Mark Rogers) What’s The Colour Of Money? (WEA YZ76)
HAZEL O’CONNOR Fighting Back (BBC RESL182)

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