well, as Paul's solo album is now available in an excellent 2 CD set, what better time than now to look at his career?
when Frankie Goes To Hollywood, to use the diplomatic term for it as far as possible, split up in 1987, there was and there was not some surprise when it was Paul Rutherford who surfaced as the first ex-Frankie with a release. i guess that opening needs some clarification!
outside of the fact that Holly Johnson was involved in a legal battle to free himself of the Frankie contract, and the rest of the band (Mark, Nasher and Ped) could not get a deal going since they had been blocked from using the Frankie name and thus could not really record or release anything, certain corners saw Paul as some sort of "novelty presence" in the band. rather lazy music journalists sort of saw him as a "dancer" who every now and then muttered something into a microphone as a sort of quasi-backing singer. fans of the band, however, knew and respected what a good vocalist he was. more or less free of the political side of the Frankie split, then, it was no surprise and with great delight to the fans that he made a relatively quick appearance on record.
the first single, Get Real, was a bit of a mindblowing experience when first heard. there was talk that Frankie split over the choice of musical direction at the time; Holly wanted to do more pop and dance stuff, the lads wishing to pursue an all out rock sound. with his first single, Paul stuck an absolutely massive flag in the ground that declared "dance".
to call it a "rave" song is a bit misleading, but bear with me. looking back on this single, it is clear that Paul and his co-writing and producing team of Dave Clayton, Martin Fry and Mark White had their fingers firmly on the pulse of the way the dance scene was moving. the song takes all of the best of the Chicago House & Acid House sound, injecting it with the new, still underground Ibiza groove. within a year of this Ecstacy warehouse parties were all the rage and several acts and DJs were clearly influenced by this track, whether they care to admit it or not.
sadly, the world was not quite ready for this direction, and it didn't crack the Top 40. those involved in the production of it must have been very annoyed when, just about two months later, the similar sounding Fine Time by New Order climbed into the Top 20. Paul's is the better single, as much as i like New Order. it probably didn't help that whereas the BBC were happy to give New Order as much airtime as they cared for, Get Real got an airplay ban from them. i did my best to get it to chart; i bought the 12" and the CD single, which is all my budget would allow for.
the second single, I Want Your Love, was a dramatic change of pace really. a wonderful song hopping between a ballad and a pop sound, it did not do at all well in the charts. this is a huge shame, as not only is the song itself a great track, but the b-side, Pushed Away is awesome. really awesome. it's like an ambient style trance number with Paul giving what for me is his best vocal delivery. how fortunate that i have the CD single, and now a new copy on the at last issued album!
a third single, Oh World, did slightly better in the charts, but still the all important Top 40 eluded him. whereas it's not my top single, it is still a great song. it certainly tapped into the mood of the time - what with Berlin walls falling and democracy rising back in 1989, it was as good an anthem as any had produced at the time to mark how there was the chance to make the world a better place.
three singles in, respectable if not earth shattering sales - time for an album, right? yes, and no as it turned out. for some reason, and it's not one that i am aware of, Island and 4th & B'Way went as far as recording and pressing the album, only not to bother getting around to releasing it in the UK; at least not on CD which was the only format anyone was buying in 1989. i of course managed to get a copy - no easy thing back then with no internet to order from anywhere in the world - but it was like they were trying to just bury his career or something.
skip forward 22 (!) years and at last it has a proper release in the UK, if somewhat delayed by a few months. Cherry Red, who have been busy reissuing expanded versions of Holly Johnson's superb solo albums, are to thank for it finally seeing light of day.
where do you want me to begin with a review? well, of the three singles, the tone across the album is probably closer to I Want Your Love than the other two. Get Real is very much a one off on the album, bar the extra remixes you get on disc two. most of it is very much in touch with the non-Stock, Aitken & Waterman produced chart dominating pop, really. there's an interesting layer of Gospel music across certain tracks, The Gospel Truth being the most obvious. a number of songs, if in production and not in actual sound, also feature values that would appear across the whole baggy / Madchester scene over the next few years. picking a selection of favourites is tough as i would say "the whole album", but beyond the singles i guess Who Said It Was Easy, Catch A Falling Star and Deep At The Centre are the outstanding album-only tunes.
vocally, the best place i can put the sound of Paul Rutherford is somewhere in between the range of Dave Gahan and George Michael. and he is just as good as those two, despite them selling millions more records in comparison. he is, quite frankly, a superb and gifted vocalist. the sacrifice of Paul to be "just" the backing singer and dancing fashion god of Frankie Goes To Hollywood shows how much he believed in the band, to be honest - if he had gone alone in the mid-80s any producer worth their salt would have soon created a band around him and he could have had plenty of hits back then in his own right. and let there be no doubt about Paul's commitment or love of Frankie - a recent interview reveals just how heartbreaking it is for Paul that the reality is the band shall probably never even been in the same room as each other ever again.
everything about Paul's album screams out, loud and clear, what many of us Frankie fans have argued for years - the band could and should have continued after Holly left with Paul on vocals, no matter what name they used. as it went, Paul kind of drifted off into privacy after 1989, and we all lost out on what could have been a great solo career.
as for Paul now, he's happily living in New Zealand. he is wonderful with fans via the grand social network, which is where i pinched this picture from (hope you don't mind, Paul).
if you have any interest in Frankie Goes To Hollywood, the whole Ibiza / Ecstacy Rave scene or a damned good vocalist, the Paul's album is one that really, really belongs in your collection. disc one features the album and the b-sides, disc two features an amazing range of remixes of the singles. i am not going to choose between the remixes, they are all bangin'. well OK, the Get Real remixes do make me wish i was half my age and half my size, really, as i would get into some serious clubbing armed with them!
hopefully this post has convinced you to consider purchasing Paul's album to give it a try. it's available directly from Cherry Red Records, or if you prefer amazon and hmv have it available. i believe all three ship worldwide. enjoy and celebrate the tunes when your copy arrives!
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!