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Best remembered as the frontman for British pop phenomenon Frankie Goes to Hollywood, singer Holly Johnson was born February 9, 1960 in Liverpool; in 1977 he joined the short-lived Big in Japan, and after issuing a pair of solo singles, "Yankee Rose" and "Hobo Joe," he formed Frankie Goes to Hollywood in 1980. Buffering their epic, opulent dance-pop with a brilliant marketing campaign highlighted by a series of provocative videos and sloganeering T-shirts, Frankie remains one of the '80s' quintessential bands, although their success proved short-lived and never really translated across the Atlantic; rising to superstardom on the strength of the singles "Relax," "Two Tribes," and "The Power of Love," their 1984 debut Welcome to the Pleasuredome was also well-received by the press, but the group's fall was as meteoric as their rise; after a disastrous 1986 effort, Liverpool, they disbanded. Johnson then spent the next several years locked in a court battle against label ZTT, ultimately winning his artistic freedom; he returned to music in 1989 with his solo debut Blast, which topped the UK charts. Dreams That Money Can't Buy followed two years later, around the time the openly-homosexual singer discovered he'd contracted HIV, a subject frankly detailed in his 1994 autobiography A Bone in My Flute. Also a successful painter, in 1996 Johnson exhibited his work in London; forming his own record label, Pleasuredome, in 1999 he issued his third LP, Soulstream.
Jason Ankeny, All music Guide
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1960: Born near Penny Lane in Wavertree, Liverpool, 9th February in a room that was soon to be adorned with Beatles wallpaper, in the 60's capital of pop culture.
1965: St Mary's C of E Primary school, played with girls, wrote poetry , starred in school plays, wrote his first song on a glockenspiel.
1972: Liverpool Collegiate Grammar School for boys. Played in the Rugby team .
1973:Discovered Marc Bolan and David Bowie! Dyed his hair, Acquired nickname JOYFUL JOHNSON. Began writing songs on an acoustic guitar purchased with cigarette coupons . He traded his collection of Bowie ephemera for those coupons! Started to attend school less and less because of the persecution he and his friend Honey Heath had to suffer due to their outrageous appearance and blossoming individuality.
1974: Discovered Andy Warhol, The Velvet Undeground, Derek Jarman, William Burroughs and Jean Genet. Never looked back!
1976: Officially left school. Becomes a member of the Liverpool Demi Monde.
1977: First performances as a soloist and as a member of seminal New Wave combo Big In Japan. Part of the Erics
clubscene that spawned Echo and The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes etc.
Performed also with Jayne Casey as a Performance Art/Music duo The
Sausages From Mars. Lived in Gambier Terrace, once home of John Lennon.
1978: Started to make Silk Screen Prints and Art T Shirts as part of
his unique Pop Art Statement. Inspired by Warhols' Exploding Plastic
Inevitable, Holly decides he is a MULTI MEDIA ARTIST. Big In Japan
decide they don't want to work with Holly any longer, but fold soon
afterwards. Their mistake.
1979: Recorded first solo single YANKEE ROSE c.w.Treasure Island and
Desperate Dan for the Erics label. This appeared shortly after the Big
In Japan EP "FROM A TO B AND BACK AGAIN" the first record on the ZOO
label. Contains lyric and bass contributions from Holly "SUICIDE A GO
GO" and "NOTHING SPECIAL"
1980: Worked on a building site in London for three months
converting Warehousees at Metropolitan Wharf into artists studios-
visited Paris in search of Genets' Tuilleries- returned to Liverpool
wearing a sailors hat.
1979: Recorded "HOBO JOE original Frankie Goes To Hollywood-
rehearsed for 3 months but left to work on W.I.N. a studio based
project (with Steve Lovell) which lasted two years.
1981:Took LSD. Ignored the Toxteth riots despite living in Toxteth.
Appeared in The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward as a Wraith At The Everyman
Theatre. A Gothic Opera based on the H.P. Lovecraft book.
1982: Formed the second version of F.G.T.H. Started work on Art portfolio inspired by Warhol and Gilbert and George.
1983: About to start Art college when F.G.T.H. signed to ZTT and recorded RELAX.
1984: RELAX reached number one in U.K. , Germany and other
territories, SOLD MILLIONS. Banned by the BBC! TWO TRIBES (9 weeks at
number 1) and THE POWER OF LOVE both topped U.K. charts making British
Pop History.While TWO TRIBES was at number 1 RELAX reentered the charts
and took the number two spot which had not happened since John Lennons
death in 1980. Welcome To The Pleasuredome F.G.T.H.'s number 1 debut
album sells 3 million copies. First U.S. tour. Meets future manager and
partner the art collector Mr Wolfgang Kuhle.
1985: World tour including Japan. Met Andy Warhol at last. Appeared
in the Brian De Palma motion picture BODY DOUBLE. Started working on
follow up album. Holly appears on the LIVE AID record. 1986/7 Starts
drawing and painting again - while working on LIVERPOOL- F.G.T.H.s'
second album. RAGE HARD the first single went to number one in Germany
number 4 in the U.K. During the recording Holly becomes unhappy with
the musical direction of F.G.T.H. Holly leaves the group in March 87
and takes legal advice over the ZTT recording and publishing contract
which he and Wolfgang believe to be unfair. ZTT put an injunction on
Hollys' recording career. Moves into house in Parsons Green, London
with Wolfgang and his renowned collection of Bloomsbury art. Holly
starts to paint in oils.
1988:Holly goes to court- In a legal history making court decision
Holly is set free from the Unfair ZTT/Perfect Songs Recording and
Publishing contracts. Signed to MCA.
1989: BLAST- Hollys' first solo album reaches number one in the U.K.
Spawning three hit singles-LOVE TRAIN- AMERICANOS- and ATOMIC CITY.
Platinum album. Holly sings on the Number one PWL single FERRY ACROSS
THE MERSEY along with Paul Macartney, Gerry Marsden, and The
Christians. Proceeds of this single went to the families of the victims
of the Hillsborough disaster.
1990:Holly records LOVE ME TENDER for an NME charity album of Elvis
favourites.. Writes a song with VANGELLIS. HOLLELUJAH the remix album
is released including classic Frankie Knuckles remix of LOVE TRAIN.
BLAST the videos is released. Starts to write and record new album but
relations with MCA become strained.
1991: Holly leaves MCA after he discovers that no promotion budget has been set for his new album. DREAMS THAT MONEY CAN'T BUY- Hollys second solo album is released half heartedly by MCA. In November Holly discovers he is HIV POSITIVE. Stops making music and begins writing his autobiography, painting and coming to terms with his AIDS diagnosis.
1992: Writing and painting. Holly withdraws from the world. Starts
making 20th Century Icons a series of collages using gold leaf and
Objet Trouve inspired by Derek Jarman. Continues writing his book.
Tells family off his HIV infection.
1993: Supported by Wolfgang , Holly announces his HIV Status in The
Times, Easter issue but is crucified by the tabloid press who steal the
article before it is printed. Finishes first draft of his memoirs which
he continues to edit for the rest of the year. RELAX is remixed and
becomes a hit again as does THE POWER OF LOVE, TWO TRIBES and WELCOME
TO THE PLEASUREDOME. BANG! the greatest hits of F.G.T.H. sells a
million copies throughout Europe.
1994: Holly's autobiography A BONE IN MY FLUTE published by Century
, Random House-receives rave reviews and is a bestseller. The cover is
a portrait of Holly by the French Artists Pierre et Gilles. Jimmy
Sommerville presents Holly with a legendary handbag at the booklaunch.
Holly collaborates on musical projects with Vinnie Reilley from The
Durrutti Column. Writes and performs a song with Ryuichi Sakamoto for
Sakamotos' forthcoming album, - the title is LOVE AND HATE. Holly
appears in the video for this song, which is used live on stage as part
of Sakamoto's world tour. Begins writing songs again with Nick Bagnall
bass player with Fatima Mansions and P.J. Harevy. Produces the single
LEGENDARY CHILDREN (ALL OF THEM QUEER) As a gift to the world,
especially the gay community who have supported his career over the
last ten years. The song is Number One in Israel. Holly Performs it in
front of 150.000 people at th annual Gay Pride festival-the 25th
anniversary of the stonewall riots. Holly exhibits paintings and Icons
at THE ART SHOW at Alexander Palace in London ( including a Seven foot
high nude portrait of Burt Lancaster)- this is the biggest art
exhibition ever staged in the U.K. He also exhibits with the
CONSUMERIST THEATRE OF DESIRE a group of avant gard artists and
performers at VOLTAIRE STUDIOS in London.
1995: Holly hosts LIVE AT THE LIGHTHOUSE a televised concert to
raise money for the LONDON LIGHTHOUSE, he performs THE POWER OF LOVE
accompanied by Ann Dudley (ART OF NOISE) on piano. A BONE IN MY FLUTE
comes out in paperback. Holly joins the Cyberband Res Rocket Surfers
and briefly disappears into Cybernation. Builds Sky studios- a multi
media art facility. Illustrates for Details magazine, journalism for
Modern Painters magazine.
1996:Exhibits at the 1996 Contemporary Art Fair with Jibby
Bean.First One Man Exhibition "The House Of Holly" curated by Kate
Chertavian and Wolfgang Kuhle at The Gallery, Cork Street, London.
Plans to record again and create new website and multi media CD ROM
1997:Exhibits "The Beatles Icon" at The Royal College Of Art as part
of The Milestones Exhibition organised by Brian Eno -in Aid Of War
Child. Sculptures by Music Legends were subsequently auctioned off at
The Saatchi Gallery. Appears at The Hillsborough Justice Concert with
headliners The Lightening Seeds (Anfield Football stadium Liverpool)
Hollys' appearance was described as The Highlight of the event (Daily
Mirror, NME) The live recording of Ferry Across The Mersey appears on
the album of the Event "You'll Never Walk Alone"(V2 Records) Also
Appeared at Gay Pride 1997 Holly appears at the largest open air Music
Festival in Europe.
1998: Continues to work on his album....'SOULSTREAM"
Copyright 1998 by Holly Johnson
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