Retro art: 80’s pop band Frankie Goes To Hollywood, their logo & the wonderful artwork that made up their album art and propaganda – design that was arguably decades before its time. Bonus: download vector versions of The Frankie Man logos.
As people get older, they often talk about ‘back in the day’ – a period they look back at with fondness bordering on melancholy. The glory days. For some, it’s their high school years, perhaps reliving their role as the star quarterback or as head of the cheerleading squad. For others it’s the years they spent at college or university with pals who have long since grown apart. For myself, I think, it was around 1980 to 1985 when I was part of – if only on the periphery – Toronto’s ‘alternative’ music scene. I was (still am) a rabid fan of Brit pop and dance music – known in those days as “New Wave” – and still listen 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 still pick up tix and drag Sue to The Phoenix or other venue whenever any of these acts come to town.) I hung out at ‘alternative’ dance clubs- Toronto’s famous Domino Club and my Thursday, Friday and Saturday night haunt, Nuts and Bolts on the intersection of Dundas and Victoria Streets. My beverage of choice back then 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 kinda the point of CFNY in the first place.) Professionally, I even did a few design gigs for CFNY, including paraphernalia for their Video Road Shows , some of which I’m still proud of, even though being cobbled together with ink drawings and Letraset, the art looks a little long-in-the-tooth. Moving along, one of my fave bands from that era was British upstarts and rabble rousers Frankie Goes To Hollywood – made famous in North America via their dance smash Relax – (I “discovered” that single when I was in Belfast Northern Ireland when, on a trip there with my folks, had to buy the 12″ EP version of Relax to find out why the BBC had banned it, inadvertently guaranteeing the track would be a monster hit, as banning records in the UK tends to do.)
Relax sleeve art.
The then-controversial (and routinely knocked-off) sleeve art on that single went on to be one of the most famous and celebrated record covers of all time, and is frequently featuredon best covers of all time lists. Fun trivia & Canadian connection: the original coloured 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 – and despite the record’s record shattering sales, she received a paltry £200 from Frankie’s 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 my So You Think You Know Logos series (on my corp blog) would be worth the time and effort. So that’s what we’re going to do.
The Frankie Man logo.
A lot of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood cover art and promotional material borrowed the visual style of Soviet-era propaganda generously, and even the inspiration for the original Frankie Man logo can be traced back to 1920’s Germany and a logo designed by Erwin Reusch, for a German company Delbag Filters. That logo was first seen in Gebrauchsgraphik, one of the first ever magazines about graphic design, published between 1924-1930.The Frankie Goes To Hollywood logo was designed by graphic designer David Smart – now Associate Head of School; Communication Arts at Plymouth University – when he was at XL Design. They designed a lot of the terrific marketing material for the Zang Tuum Tumb! label (another fun fact: XL Design was founded by Tom Watkins who went on to manage the Pet Shop Boys.)The logo first made its appearance on the back cover of the Two Tribes single and was used from then on – with and without Frankie Goes To Hollywood circling the central graphic – and holding a variety of objects such as crosses and stars (see below.)The Frankie Man went on to become an integral part of the band’s marketing, brand and propaganda and was always to be found somewhere on anything that promoted the band, their records or their tours. Speaking about propaganda..
Everyone remember the “Frankie Say” T-shirts? Sure you do, they were everywhere in the mid 1980s (though truth to tell, many people didn’t even realize the connection of the ubiquitous shirts to the band, probably left to wonder exactly who this ‘Frankie’ chap was.) If your memory is a little dodgy, a reminder of what we’re talking about:
You remember them now, right? Those shirts could be seen everywhere in the mid-eighties, and the style was was knocked off by a load of other bands, organizations and hawkers of T-shirts (A Choose Life version, originally made famous by Wham! in one of their videos is still kicking around.) There were a lot of variations on the Frankie Say theme, and Frankie said a lot of things, but most of these offerings 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 official Frankie Say T-shirts had Compacta (ish) bold-condensed black 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 (see inset.) The shirts were manufactured and printed by an outfit called Mobile in a range named Yo Yo. According to news and tabloid reports of the time, Frankie Say shirts were their biggest seller of 1984 – the year they were released – in some cases outselling FGTH singles in stores. These are valued collectibles now and can still be found occasionally on eBay but sadly, most of the shirts you’ll find there 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.
October 2015 marked the 30th anniversary of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ground-breaking double album debut 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 and design of same, would arguably change everything forever.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood logo: vector versions
While I was researching information and pictures for the original version of this post, it was impossible to find a high-quality version of the FGTH logo, let alone a vector version in .EPS or .AI. I tried contacting a few people and fan sites, but none of them seemed to have one, so I had to recreate the Frankie Man myself, 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 grab 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.