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Relax (song)

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Relax (song)

"Relax" is the debut single by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, released in the United Kingdom by ZTT Records in 1983. The song was later included on the album Welcome to the Pleasuredome (1984).

Although fairly inauspicious upon initial release, "Relax" finally reached number one on the UK singles chart on 24 January 1984, ultimately becoming one of the most controversial and most commercially successful records of the entire decade. The single eventually sold a reported 2 million copies in the UK alone, making it the seventh best-selling single in the UK Singles Chart's history.[1] Following the release of the group's second single, "Two Tribes", "Relax" rallied from a declining UK chart position during June 1984 to climb back up the UK charts and re-attain number-two spot behind "Two Tribes" at number one, representing simultaneous chart success by a single act, unprecedented since the early 1960s.

Upon release in the United States in late 1984, "Relax" repeated its slow UK progress, reaching number 67 upon initial release, but eventually reaching number 10 in March 1985.

The song won Best British Single at the 1985 Brit Awards.

The song was used in the films Body Double, Police Academy, Gotcha!, Bony a klid, Zoolander, and The Proposal. It was featured in a season one episode of Miami Vice "Little Prince" , in The Simpsons episode "Homer the Smithers" and in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, Saints Row: The Third,[2] and a 2009 television advertisement for Virgin Atlantic, marking 25 years since the company's foundation.[3]


  • Background and recording 1
  • Release, controversy and ban by the BBC 2
  • Original 1983–1984 mixes 3
  • B-sides 4
  • Videos 5
  • Track listings 6
    • 7": ZTT / ZTAS 1 (UK) 6.1
    • 12": ZTT / 12 ZTAS 1 6.2
    • 12": ZTT / 12ISZTAS 1 6.3
    • 12": ZTT / 12 ZTAS 1 & CD MAXI: ZTT 651096 6.4
    • 12": ZTT / 200 068-6 6.5
    • 12": Island / 0-96975 6.6
    • MC: ZTT / CTIS 102 6.7
    • MC: ZTT 6.8
  • Charts and certifications 7
    • Original version (1983 to 1985) 7.1
    • 1993 and 2001 reissues 7.2
    • Relax '93 7.3
    • Sales and certifications 7.4
  • Re-issues 8
    • 1993 re-issues 8.1
      • CD: ZTT / FGTH1CD 8.1.1
      • 2x12": ZTT / SAM 1231 8.1.2
    • 2001 re-issue 8.2
      • Cd maxi rep 8027 8.2.1
      • CD: Star 69 / STARCD 520 (US) 8.2.2
  • Covers 9
  • See also 10
  • Bibliography 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13

Background and recording

An excerpt from Relax (Demo)

Problems playing this file? See .

ZTT Records signed Frankie Goes to Hollywood after producer-turned-ZTT cofounder Trevor Horn saw the band play on the television show The Tube, on which the group played an early version of "Relax". Horn described the original version of "Relax" as "More a jingle than a song", but he preferred to work with songs that were not professionally finished because he could then "fix them up" in his own style.[4] Once the band was signed, ZTT co-founder Paul Morley mapped out the marketing campaign fashioned as a "strategic assault on pop". Morley opted to tackle the biggest possible themes in the band's singles ("sex, war, religion"), of which "Relax" would be the first, and emphasized the shock impact of Frankie members Holly Johnson's and Paul Rutherford's open homosexuality in the packaging and music videos.[5]

Horn dominated the recording of "Relax" in his effort for perfectionism. The band were overawed and intimidated by Horn's reputation, and thus were too nervous to make suggestions. Johnson said in his autobiography, "Whatever he said we went along with".[5] When attempts to record with the full band proved unsatisfactory, Horn hired former Ian Dury backing band the Blockheads for the sessions, with Norman Watt-Roy providing the original bass line. Those sessions were later deemed to be not modern sounding enough. Horn then constructed a more electronic-based version of the song with keyboards by session musician Andy Richards and with rhythm programming assistance from J. J. Jeczalik of Art of Noise. Horn developed this version of the recording in his west London studio while the band remained in their hometown of Liverpool. Horn had made 3 versions of "Relax" prior to Richards and guitarist Stephen Lipson joining his ZTT Production 'Theam' in late 1983. Horn left the studio late one night asking for Lipson to erase the multitrack (of version 3) due to lack of progress, but came back into the studio some time later to hear Richards playing a variety of modal chords based around the key of E minor with Lipson playing guitar along to the unerased multitrack.[6][7] Ultimately lead vocalist Johnson was the only band member to perform on the record; the only contribution by the other members was a sample crafted from the sound of the rest of the band jumping into a swimming pool. Horn explained years later, "I was just . . . Look, 'Relax' had to be a hit." Despite the band's absence from the record, Horn said, "I could never have done these records in isolation. There was no actual playing by the band, but the whole feeling came from the band." Horn completed the recording having spent £70,000 in studio time.[8]

Release, controversy and ban by the BBC

Morley intentionally courted scandal with the promotion of "Relax". ZTT initiated the ad campaign for "Relax" with two quarter-page ads in the British music press. The first ad featured images of Rutherford in a sailor cap and a leather vest, and Johnson with a shaved head and rubber gloves. The images were accompanied by the phrase "ALL THE NICE BOYS LOVE SEA MEN" and declared "Frankie Goes to Hollywood are coming ... making Duran Duran lick the shit off their shoes ... Nineteen inches that must be taken always." The second ad promised "theories of bliss, a history of Liverpool from 1963 to 1983, a guide to Amsterdam bars".[9]

When first released in November 1983, the initial progress of "Relax" on the UK Top 75 was sluggish. First charting at number 67, by its seventh week on the chart it had progressed only to number 35, even falling back slightly during that time. But then on Thursday 5 January 1984, Frankie Goes to Hollywood performed "Relax" on the BBC flagship television chart show, Top of the Pops. The following week it soared to number 6. On 11 January 1984, Radio 1 disc jockey Mike Read expressed on air his distaste for both the record's suggestive sleeve (designed by Anne Yvonne Gilbert) and its lyrics, which centered on the oft-repeated "Relax, don't do it/When you want to suck it, do it/Relax, don't do it/ When you want to come."[10] He announced his refusal to play the record, not knowing that the BBC had just decided that the song was not to be played on the BBC anyway.

In support of their disc jockey, BBC Radio banned the single from its shows a reported two days later (although certain prominent night-time BBC shows — including those of Kid Jensen and John Peel — continued to play the record, as they saw fit, throughout 1984).[11] The now-banned "Relax" rose to number 2 in the charts by 17 January, and hit the number-one spot on 24 January. By this time, the BBC Radio ban had extended to Top of the Pops as well, which displayed a still picture of the group during its climactic Number One announcement, before airing a performance by a non-Number One artist.

This went on for the five weeks that "Relax" was at number one. It then began a slow decline on the charts, falling back as far as number 31 in May 1984 before returning to number two in July whilst Frankie's follow-up single "Two Tribes" held the UK number-one spot. In the end, "Relax" remained on the Top 75 for 48 consecutive weeks and returned in February 1985 for four more, giving a total of 52.[12]

The ban became an embarrassment for the BBC, especially given that UK commercial radio and television stations were still playing the song. Later in 1984 the ban was lifted and "Relax" featured on both the Christmas Day edition of Top of the Pops and Radio 1's rundown of the best-selling singles of the year.

Throughout the "Relax" controversy, the band continued to publicly deny that the song's lyrics were sexual. Nevertheless, by 1984, it was clear that the public were aware of the sexual nature of the lyrics, but the scandal had fuelled sales anyway. In 1985, with the release of the Welcome to the Pleasuredome album (which included "Relax"), the band dropped any public pretense about the lyrics:

Everything I say is complete lies. Like, when people ask you what 'Relax' was about, when it first came out we used to pretend it was about motivation, and really it was about shagging.
— Mark O'Toole, Welcome to the Pleasuredome album liner notes

The track was reissued in September 1993, the first of a string of Frankie Goes to Hollywood singles to be reissued that year. It debuted at a high number six on the UK singles chart and peaked at number five the next week. It spent seven weeks on the Top 75 this time, thus extending its combined total to 59, making it the third longest runner of all time (seven other singles have since surpassed it; now it is in joint 10th place).[13]

Original 1983–1984 mixes

Relax "The Last Seven Inches"
Although the 7-inch version of the single remained unchanged throughout its initial release (a mix generally known as "Relax (Move)"), promotional 7-inch records featuring a substantially different mix of "Relax" (entitled either "The Last Seven Inches" or "Warp Mix" because it is a compilation of other versions) were the subject of a limited 1984 release.
An excerpt from Relax (The Last Seven Inches)

Problems playing this file? See .

Three principal 12-inch remixes of "Relax" were eventually created by producer Trevor Horn:

One of the reasons we did all the remixes was that the initial 12-inch version of 'Relax' contained something called 'The Sex Mix', which was 16 minutes long and didn't even contain a song. It was really Holly Johnson just jamming, as well as a bunch of samples of the group jumping in the swimming pool and me sort of making disgusting noises by dropping stuff into buckets of water! We got so many complaints about it — particularly from gay clubs, who found it offensive — that we cut it in half and reduced it down to eight minutes, by taking out some of the slightly more offensive parts [this became the "New York Mix"]. Then we got another load of complaints, because the single version wasn't on the 12-inch — I didn't see the point in this at the time, but I was eventually put straight about it.[14]

Horn attested that visits to New York's Paradise Garage club led to the creation of the final "Relax (U.S. Mix)", which ultimately replaced the original "Sex Mix"/"New York Mix" releases:

It was only when I went to this club and heard the sort of things they were playing that I really understood about 12-inch remixes. Although I myself had already had a couple of big 12-inch hits, I'd never heard them being played on a big sound system, and so I then went back and mixed 'Relax' again and that was the version which sold a couple of million over here [in the UK].[14]
Relax picture 12" disk
The original 12-inch version of "Relax", labelled "Sex Mix", ran for over 16 minutes, and is broadly as described by Horn above. The subsequent "New York Mix" was an 8-minute-plus edit of the "Sex Mix", and can only be distinguished by having 12ISZTAS1 etched on the vinyl. The final 12-inch mix, containing no elements from the foregoing versions, was designated the "U.S. Mix", and ran for approximately 7:20. This was the most commonly available 12-inch version of "Relax" during its worldwide 1984 chart success.

The UK cassette single featured as the title track a unique amalgam of excerpts from the "Sex Mix", "U.S. Mix", "Move" and an instrumental version of "Move".

Since virtually all of the UK "Relax" 12-inch singles were labeled "Sex Mix", a method of differentiating between versions by reference to the record's matrix numbers necessarily became de rigueur for collectors of Frankie Goes to Hollywood releases (and ultimately collectors of ZTT records in general).

"Relax (Come Fighting)" was the version of the song included on the Welcome to the Pleasuredome album. This is ostensibly a variant of the 7-inch "Move" mix, but readily distinguishable from it in many ways, of which the most obvious are the fade-in (virtually no fade-in and the vocal is always central on the album track), plus a prominent reverbed-kick-drum sound during the introduction and third sung chorus (completely missing from the album version). The "Come Fighting" version also shares with the later "1993 Classic Mix" reissue (which is almost identical to the album version) a certain post-production sheen (greater stereo separation of parts, more strategic uses of reverb, etc.) that is absent from the original 1983 7-inch single mix.

The original airing of Relax on The Tube, before the band were signed to ZTT, featured another verse that was edited from all the released versions, "In heaven everything is fine, you've got yours and I've got mine", presumably removed as it was taken directly from the David Lynch film Eraserhead.


The 7-inch featured "One September Monday", an interview between ZTT's Paul Morley, Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford. During the interview, Holly revealed that the group's name derived from a page of the New Yorker magazine, headlined "Frankie Goes to Hollywood" and featuring Frank Sinatra "getting mobbed by teenyboppers".

On all of the original 12-inch releases, the B-side featured a cover of "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey", followed by a brief dialogue involving Rutherford attempting to sign on, and an a cappella version of the title track's chorus, segueing into an instrumental version of "Relax", known as "From Soft to Hard". "From Soft to Hard" has the same structure as the 7-inch "Move" mix, but is not simply an instrumental of this mix.

The UK cassette single included "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey" and interview sections not included on "One September Monday".


The first official video for "Relax", directed by Bernard Rose and set in a S&M themed gay nightclub, featuring the bandmembers accosted by buff leathermen, a glamorous drag queen, and an obese admirer dressed up as a Roman emperor, was allegedly banned by MTV and the BBC, prompting the recording of a second video, directed by Godley and Creme[15] in early 1984, featuring the group performing with the help of laser beams. However, after the second video was made the song was banned completely by the BBC, meaning that neither video was ever broadcast on any BBC music programmes.

In addition, a version including footage from the Brian De Palma film Body Double as well as a live version, directed by David Mallet, also made the rounds at MTV.

Track listings

  • All discographical information pertains to original UK releases only unless noted
  • "Relax" written by Peter Gill/Johnson/Mark O'Toole
  • "One September Monday" credited to Gill/Johnson/Morley/Brian Nash/O'Toole/Rutherford
  • "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey" written by Gerry Marsden

7": ZTT / ZTAS 1 (UK)

  1. "Relax" (move) – 3:52
  2. "One September Monday" – 4:47
  • Also released as a 7" picture disc (P ZTAS 1)

12": ZTT / 12 ZTAS 1

An excerpt from the 16-minute version of "Relax (Sex Mix)"

Problems playing this file? See .
  1. "Relax" (sex mix) (16:24)
  2. "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey" – 4:03
  3. "Relax" (from soft to hard) – 4:21
  • Also released as a 12" picture disc (12 PZTAS 1).
  • The Sex Mix on the picture disc is actually the U.S. Mix a.k.a. Long Mix, running time approximately 7:20.

12": ZTT / 12ISZTAS 1

  1. "Relax" (New York mix) (8:20)
  2. "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey" – 4:03
  3. "Relax" (from soft to hard) – 4:21
  • "New York mix" is an edit of "Sex mix"

12": ZTT / 12 ZTAS 1 & CD MAXI: ZTT 651096

An excerpt from "Relax (U.S. Mix)"

Problems playing this file? See .
  1. "Relax" (U.S. mix) – 7:20
  2. "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey" – 4:03
  3. "Relax" (from soft to hard) – 4:21
  • "Relax" (U.S. mix) is also nown as "Relax" (Long version)

12": ZTT / 200 068-6

  1. "Relax" (Disco mix) (6:15)
  2. "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey" – 4:03
  3. "Relax" (from soft to hard) – 4:21
  • "Disco mix" (a.k.a. "The Greek Disco Mix") is a combination of "Relax (move)" and the "New York Mix"
  • "Disco mix" (a.k.a. "The Greek Disco Mix") is labelled as "Relax" (Sex Mix) on the original 12", which is incorrect.

12": Island / 0-96975

  1. "Relax" (U.S. mix) – 7:20
  2. "Relax" (move) – 3:52
  3. "Relax" (from soft to hard) – 4:21
  • "U.S. Mix" labelled as "Long version"
  • "Move" labelled as "7" Version"
  • "from soft to hard" labelled as "Instrumental"
  • also released on MC in Canada (Island / ISC-69750)

MC: ZTT / CTIS 102

An excerpt from Relax (cassette single)

Problems playing this file? See .
  • "From Soft To Hard – From Dry To Moist"
  1. "The Party Trick" (acting dumb) – 0:36
  2. "The Special Act" (adapted from the sex mix) – 7:46
  3. "The US Mix" (come dancing) – 4:38
  4. "The Single" (the act) – 3:55
  5. "Later On" (from One September Monday) – 1:36
  6. "Ferry Across The Mersey (...and here I'll stay)" – 4:06


  • "Relax"
  1. "Relax" – 3:57
  2. "Relax MCMXCIII"– 3:43
  3. "Ollie J Remix" (come dancing) – 6:31
  4. "Jam & Spoon trip - O-Matic Fairn Tale Mix" - 7:50
  5. "Jam & Sppon Hi N6R6G Mix" – 7:54
  6. "New York Mix - The original" – 7:26

Charts and certifications

Original version (1983 to 1985)


The title track has periodically been reissued as a single in a number of remix forms.

1993 re-issues


  1. "Relax" – 3:55
  2. "Relax" (MCMXCIII) – 3:42
  3. "Relax" (Ollie J. Remix) – 6:38
  4. "Relax" (Jam & Spoon Trip-O-Matic Fairy Tale Remix) – 7:52
  5. "Relax" (Jam & Spoon HI N-R-G Remix) – 7:55
  6. "Relax" (U.S. Mix) – 7:22

2x12": ZTT / SAM 1231

  1. "Relax" (Ollie J. Remix) – 6:38
  2. "Relax" (Trip-Ship Edit) – 6:12
  3. "Relax" (Ollie J's Seven Inches) – 3:30
  4. "Relax" (Jam & Spoon HI N-R-G Remix) – 7:55
  5. "Relax" (Jam & Spoon Trip-O-Matic Fairy Tale Remix) – 7:52
  6. "Relax" (MCMXCIII) – 3:42
  • UK 12" promo

2001 re-issue

Cd maxi rep 8027

  1. "Relax" 4:11 (original single A side)
  2. "One September Monday" 4:50 (original single B side)
  3. "Ferry Cross The Mersey"4:06 (original 12inch B side)
  4. "Relax MCMXIII" 3:43
  5. "Relax" 4:07 [enhanced section](original video)

CD: Star 69 / STARCD 520 (US)

  1. "Relax" (Peter Rauhofer's Doomsday Radio Mix) – 3:45
  2. "Relax" (Peter Rauhofer's Doomsday Club Mix) – 9:47
  3. "Relax" (Saeed & Palash Addictive Journey) – 11:16
  4. "Relax" (Coldcut Remix) – 4:59
  5. "Relax" (Peter Rauhofer's Doomsday Dub) – 6:27
  6. "Relax" (Original New York 12" Mix) – 7:31
  7. "Relax" (Original Radio Mix) – 3:54


See also


  • Reynolds, Simon. Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. Penguin, 2005. ISBN 0-14-303672-6


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Reynolds, p. 377
  5. ^ a b Reynolds, p. 379
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Reynolds, p. 380
  9. ^ Reynolds, p. 381
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ [1] Archived October 19, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ [2] Archived October 19, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i
  17. ^ " – Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b c
  20. ^ You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Frankie Goes to Hollywood"
  21. ^ " – Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax". GfK Entertainment.
  22. ^ a b Two last results when searching "Relax"
  23. ^
    11. Relax - Frankie Goes to Hollywood [#1]
  24. ^ " – Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  25. ^ a b " – Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax". Top 40 Singles.
  26. ^ a b " – Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax". VG-lista.
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b " – Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax". Singles Top 60.
  29. ^ " – Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax". Swiss Singles Chart.
  30. ^ a b
  31. ^ a b c d e
  32. ^ Charted twice. The 3:02 version peaked at #67 on 5/5/1984; the 3:56 version peaked at #10 3/16/1985.
  33. ^
  34. ^ " – Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax" (in French). Les classement single.
  35. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Frankie Goes To Hollywood search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^

External links

Preceded by
"Pipes of Peace" by Paul McCartney
UK Singles Chart number-one single
24 January 1984
Succeeded by
"99 Red Balloons" by Nena
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