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Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Article from International Musician & Recording World, June 1985

Jim Betteridge puts on his rubber vest, brushes his little moustache and goes to see the Frankies

Frankie Say Rock n'Roll...

Money, sex and power — what else is there?

"Frankie Say God Show Your Face".

"Frankie Say We Love You".

"Frankie Say... when a character is born he acquires at once such an independence, even of his own author, that he can be imagined by everyone even in many other situations where the author never dreamed of placing him".

"Frankie Say It's The Way I Say Them".

I ask, "Who says them? Who is this eloquent corporate mouthpiece?" Probably Paul Morley...

There appear to be several levels on which a person can take Frankie, and in consideration of the amount of hype that has gone before and continues to accompany them, one question has to be: are all the levels a naturally occurring and true part of the band's attitude and output, or are these neat and winning rationales simply tailored to what the band do under the influence of less rarified urges? Or what? In the context of the band and what they are possibly trying to suggest, the precise identity of the source doesn't matter. What is said either makes sense or it doesn't. It does.

In Frankie we have an open and enthusiastic projection of sexuality that certainly transcends the rights and wrongs of homosexuality and which demonstrates the band's general attitude to life, and the unfortunate human tendency toward a general operating principle of fear, oppression and self-ignorance. "... strolling players across Babylon peddling sexual innuendo and flesh, anything to let the world know — Welcome To The Pleasure Dome" (an alternative to reality). We also have a lot of tits and bums, but then sex does rule. There's no mistake. In one aspect they bring an almost holy sense to sensuality, and the Saturday night congregation of the Hammersmith Church of Erotica were fairly seething from the images of tight supple leather, stilettos, heavy Kohl and the various lines of flesh that leapt forth from the projection screens on stage... and I suppose you lot want to know about the PA? Wouldn't you rather be doing It?

12" Woofers

Well, we were talking 12" woofers giving it plenty of directly radiated bottom end and offering an unusually long excursion; and if they weren't oil cooled (and they were not), they should have been. This was the well proven Hill system based on the full range M4 cabinet that currently sees AC/DC on their way around the world with little complaint.

The FOH console was a Hill J Series 32:8:2 that engineer Mike Scarf had configured in four stereo groups, thus:

1&2 Vocals
3&4 Guitars
5&6 Keyboards
7&8 Drums

A unique feature of the Hill console is the use of eight-band fixed Eq on each channel, in preference to sweepable designs with less bands. Hill consider the advantages to be a smoother less severe sounding effect which is both quicker to use and generally more musical. As an on-board Eq it has a lot going for it, in that three or four-band points across the audio frequency spectrum (sweepable systems) often just aren't enough to create the contour required. On newer models, each of the eight bands will have a three-way switch to give a choice of centre frequency, thereby giving a total of 24 points to choose from. Assuming that the same musicality is preserved, this undoubtedly adds further weight to the Hill argument.

The main stereo outputs of the desk looked out through the corrective influences of a pair of 31-band White equalisers into Hill crossovers and the new DX3000 power amps. There were nine M4s per side at stage level with a further four per side being flown to cover the balcony. Each unit contained:

Bass (to 250Hz) — 3x12 ATC long coil drivers
Lo Mid (to 1k5Hz) — the LF component of 2x10 Tannoy dual concentrics.
Hi Mid (to 7kHz, passive) — Renkus Heinz 3301 2" compression drivers.
Hi — 1" HF component of 2x10 Tannoy dual concentrics.

Long Excursion — A Good Thing?

In consideration of a system designed with bands such as AC/DC in mind, the choice of 12" LF drivers mounted for direct radiation initially seemed an unlikely one. Hill consider the distortion and low frequency cutoff inherent in folded horn designs to be unacceptable. There are, of course, some fairly sound arguments against the use of long coil drivers with regard to distortion, but they do allow a smaller diameter cone to shift the necessary air mass, and 12" drivers will offer more control and a more accurate response than the 18" or 18" alternatives. You pays your money and plugs 'em in. I am here to tell you that there was categorically no lack of good, solid bottom end at the Odeon on Saturday, to the point where one was occasionally required to synchronise one's breathing with the bass drum pattern. To say that there was absolutely no problem with the bottom end would be to ignore the idiosyncrasies of the venue's acoustic.

Standing at the rear of the stalls, the shelf of the balcony creates a nasty little resonant cavern, and as the low end of the music, particularly the bass guitar, moves up and down in pitch you can hear the standing waves build up to an uncomfortable peak, and then fade again on either side. This is nothing to do with the PA, the hall needs some traps, but you would be well advised to try and get stalls seats infront of the balcony or actually upstairs next time.

The auxiliary rack held a small but highly professional selection of processors including a Lexicon 224 set on a large hall programme for general reverb, and an Effectron used on Holly's voice for various effects. This limited range reflects the fact that the sounds are largely controlled from the stage via individual instrument effects. Apart from the two effects units mentioned, there were four Drawmer dual gates used to separate the four tom-toms and the three vocalists plus a couple of the excellent A&D Compex Limiters. The first Compex was used as an overall protective limit set some way above the system's nominal operating level, while the second unit was split between a 2:1 compression on Holly's vocal and a 3:1 compression on the bass.

The foldback system was based on a Hill 32:10 with eight channels of Klark Teknik DN360 ⅓rd-octave graphics driving Hill power amps and a combination of 4kw of side fills, a drum fill and eight, three-way Hill wedges. The band are looking to get a ballsy, Rock-band type feel when playing live, and what with high backline levels and all that foldback, the overall SPL on stage was high.

Mike Says a bit more bass drum, please


It has been suggested that the band are lacking in musical technique, and that their live performances would therefore have to rely on the extensive use of tapes. There is, of course, some truth in these allegations, but since the fame set in they have made a strong effort to improve their playing abilities, and with the assistance of a couple of stalwart session players (keyboards and guitar), the band are able to take most of the music from the vinyl to the stage without tape. That's not to deny the use of tapes, which include continuous sequences and sound effects, especially for such tracks as Pleasure Dome.

Peter Gill played a Sonor kit miked up with a fairly standard selection of Shure and AKG mikes. One interesting point here was that Mike had used a single mike placed between the cow bell and the hi hat to pick up both sources, relying on the overhead pair to fill-in the hi hat sound.

Brian Nash is sponsored by Washburn and also plays a Fender Strat through a Sony radio link and a Roland JC120 with a Roland SCC pedalboard containing a DD2 delay, CE3 chorus, SD1 overdrive, TW1 wah-wah, GE7 graphic, NF1 noise gate and a PH1R phaser.

Bassist Mark O'Toole played a Washburn Bantam and a Fender Precision, again via a Sony Radio link, through a Trace Elliot stack using a GB11 head with two 2x10's and two 2x15s to create a truly excellent sound.

The two session players were guitarist Jed on a Yamaha SG2000, through a Marshall 4x12 stack and a few simple effects and Peter Oxendale sitting behind an impressive array of fairly standard keyboards. All vocals used AKG 535 electret condenser mikes, and the guitar stacks went through SM57s with the bass and keyboards being directly connected. Nothing unusual on the technical front, then. The sound was extremely good, with a fullness of tone and marked clarity and definition between instruments.

The show was generally impressive, based on a stage set of grey rostra and an impressive circular canopy of lights, the centre of which lowered, like a spider, for special effects. The band appear to be saying something very definite. I wonder how many Frankie T-shirt wearers are hearing them. The quotes at the beginning of this feature are mostly taken from a book produced by their record company, ZTT, which explains the Frankie stance. It's called 'And Suddenly There Came a Bang', it costs a mere £1.95 and is quite excellently written; or should I say compiled: certain excerpts undoubtedly verge on plagiarism. However, another quote to finish: "Oh, the confusion. How had they gotten so far without being understood? But the urges are roaming."

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Musical Micro

Publisher: International Musician & Recording World - Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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International Musician - Jun 1985

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Feature by Jim Betteridge

Previous article in this issue:

> The Managers

Next article in this issue:

> Musical Micro

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