Relax (New York Mix)
In his peerless quest for sonic perfection, in 1983, Frankie Goes To Hollywood producer Trevor Horn worked on numerous twelve-inch versions of the band’s soon-to-be hit single ‘Relax’. The most obscure of these was an eight minute, twenty second edit called simply ‘The New York Mix’. I remember my mother buying me this record around 1987 for a pound; by then, I was an avid Frankie fan, owning everything I could find from local shops and record fairs.
I can still remember my astonishment when the needle hit the record; the song was like no version I had heard of ‘Relax’. The only thing remaining from the original international hit was the beat and combination of effects. The lyrics were now a combination of singer Holly Johnson’s improvisations and a list of what I later found out to be hardcore gay clubs. The song itself was gone, but the incredible production and its energy were completely intact.
In 2003, appalled by endlessly hearing limp reworkings of ‘Relax’, I decided to get all my friends to remix the song to mark its twentieth anniversary, then released these on two vinyl 12”s, a 7” picture disc and CD. Every effort was made to make them look like the originals, right down to the label and cover design, with no expense spared. Zang Tumb Tuum, FGTH’s label, found out about it and of course sent me legal notices to destroy and delete all traces of this release which I did, but only after a bout of ridiculous correspondence back and forth which culminated in me telling their solicitors “I have nothing, but if we do go to court then we are the Two Tribes, so I will make sure my friends remix that, too.”
Holly Johnson actually ordered a copy of the CD from me, so it had come full circle by then anyway and I couldn’t care less about ZTT’s demands. I refunded him and sent him all the versions. I later found out from Yvonne Gilbert (who did the original sleeve art and also tried to sue me at first before inviting me out for dinner) that he loved these re-workings. My own version on the collection was of course a remix of this obscure ‘New York Mix’ with Holly’s vocals in reverse as well as forward motion.
The sad shame is that ‘Relax’ had so much energy on release and now the single version is somehow seen as a joke, something to be played at weddings or at ‘80s theme nights. Energy was there and somehow remains in this obscure version that Horn recorded and pieced together. Thankfully it’s never been reissued on any of the raft of Frankie compilations, and nobody has uploaded it even to YouTube. The only way you will get it is to do some research online and find a copy in the diminishing number of record shops out there via the matrix numbers in the run out groove.
As Holly sings “Relax, don’t crack.”
Leyland Kirby’s latest release under his The Caretaker alias, An Empty Bliss Beyond is World, was released by History Always Favours The Winners last summer.