Aug 2, 2012

Frankie Says Relax

March 1985: after several years of subtext songs, the radio was booming with plaints about heterosexual sex:  Madonna living in a "Material World," Phil Collins begging for "One More Night," Tina Turner rasping about being a stripper.  So I should have noticed that the lyrics to "Relax" could be construed as sexually suggestive -- after all, the song was banned in Britain for several months in 1984.

But my acceptance letter from the University of Southern California had just arrived, and I was eagerly planning my crosscountry move to West Hollywood.   The group was named Frankie Goes to Hollywood, so:

Make making it (in Hollywood) your intention.
Live those dreams, scheme those schemes.

Relax, don't do it (play it cool, don't get over-excited)
When you want to go to it ( Hollywood).

I added "Relax" to my list of songs about finding a "good place."

Years later, I saw the original music video (banned in the U.S. and the U.K.), in which Holly Johnson (one of the two gay members) goes to a underground club, hugs a leatherman, gets leered at by a woman, and tames a tiger, to the delight of a decadent Roman emperor.

Then he gets into a nightmarish fight with women, leathermen, and drag queens.

So I changed my interpretation: relax, don't get excited, and you can overcome your aggressive impulses, tame the tiger within.

Or else it's an orgy, and the song is about heterosexual sex, like everything else on the radio in 1985.


  1. Did you go to USC for undergrad or grad school?

  2. I already had my B.A., so I went to USC for doctoral study in Comparative Literature. But I dropped out. I ended up getting my Ph.D. in Sociology in 2001.


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