Love Train (Holly Johnson song)

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"Love Train"
Single by Holly Johnson
from the album Blast
B-side "Murder in Paradise"
Released 1989
Format 7" single, 12" single and CD single
Genre Pop
Length 4:02
Label MCA Records
Writer(s) Holly Johnson
Producer(s) Andy Richards, Steve Lovell
Holly Johnson singles chronology
"Hobo Joe"
"Love Train"

"Love Train" is the leading single, by former Frankie Goes to Hollywood singer Holly Johnson, from his 1989 debut album Blast.

The song was written by Holly Johnson.


Released as Johnson's debut solo single on a major label, the song became Johnson's most successful single, becoming a hit throughout the world.[1] In the UK the song peaked at #4, spending a total of 11 weeks on the chart,[2] whilst in America, the song became Johnson's only solo appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart, where "Love Train" peaked at #65.[3]

The single was certified UK Silver by BPI in February 1989.[4]

In a February 1989 interview with Johnson by Melody Maker, Johnson spoke of the song's lyrics. The author Steve Sutherland asked "Hasn't AIDS done it in for romance? Isn't writing songs about love and sex just moon and June stuff now, fantasies in the face of the horrific reality?" Johnson replied "Well, for me, 'Riding the Love Train' is the actual sexual act and I think it's realistic." Sutherland then stated ""Keep me up all night...", "Stoke it up..." - there's a lot of ooo-er innuendo in "Love Train" isn't there? Part of the thrill must have been to slip some darker purpose or more devious pleasure past the self-appointed censors of our morals, to, in some way, have polluted the mainstream." Johnson replied "If it doesn't work on two levels for me then I don't feel I've achieved the right balance in the song. If I feel that I haven't managed to write a populist tune and I haven't been able to slip some kind of twist into the lyric, then the song isn't good enough for me."[5]


The song was recorded at Studio Guillaum Tell in Paris as well as the Townhouse & Advision Studios in London. The single's non-LP track "Murder in Paradise" was recorded in one day at Marcus Studios in London.[6]

The track contains a guitar solo from Queen guitarist Brian May and backing vocals from both Don Snow and Lance Ellington.[6]


The single was released on 7" vinyl, 12" vinyl, CD and cassette in 1989 across Europe, America and other parts of the world. The single was mainly released through MCA Records, whilst being released via UNI Records in America and Canada, and via WEA Records in Greece and Australia.[7]

The single's b-side "Murder in Paradise" was exclusive to the single and featured on most versions of the single.[7] The 7" vinyl release consisted of the album version of "Love Train" and the b-side,[8] whilst the 12" vinyl featured the additional "Love Train (Ride The 'A' Train)" track which was essentially an extended remix of the song. On the 12" vinyl, the single version of "Love Train" was renamed to "Love Train (Stoke It Up) (7" Mix)".[9] The CD and cassette versions of the single used the same track listing as the 12" vinyl,[10] although the Japanese CD and American cassette used the same track listing as the 7" vinyl instead.[11][12]

An American "Previously Unreleased Mixes" 12" vinyl featured a total of five remixes from Frankie Knuckles.[13]

On the American various artists 12" promotional vinyl compilation Rhythm Stick - With the Adventures of Mikie Man, an exclusive remix of "Love Train" was released, titled "Love Train (The Smooch Chooch CD Edit)".[14][15]

Following the song's original release as a single and on the Blast album, the song has appeared on numerous various artists compilations, including The Greatest Love (1992 - Alex label), Music of the Year: 1989 (2001 - Spectrum Music label), Friends Reunited: Music of the Year 1989 (2004 - Spectrum Music label), Disky Friends Reunited 1989 (2007 - Universal Distribution label) and Dance Classics: Best Of, Vol. 5 (2011 - Bertus Distribution/Universal B.V. label). The latter 2011 compilation used the "Love Train (Ride The 'A' Train)" extended remix version instead of the usual album/single version.[16]


Aside from a promotional music video, the song was performed on the UK music show Top of the Pops,[17] a Spanish TV show[18] and was performed at the San Remo music festival in 1989.[19]

The song was later included as part of Johnson's set list for the Rewind Festival of 2011 and 2012, as well as at Potsdam in June 2012.[20]

Music Video[edit]

A music video was created for the single, featuring animation revolving around Johnson who is mainly seen performing the song on a train. Towards the end of the video, the train goes from land to space and then finally underwater, before various characters wave goodbye to Johnson who flies off into space on the train.[21]

The video for the song was directed by Marco Cerere and features a cameo from John Candy. Since appearing on YouTube in November 2007, the video has gained approximately 312,000 views.[21]

In an article/interview with Johnson by Smash Hits in 1989, the article spoke of a London's clothes shop, which Malcolm McLaren once opened to sell punk clothes, named World's End at the time where Johnson stated he sometimes purchased his clothes there, including the outfit for the "Love Train" music video. Johnson stated "I wouldn't say I buy a lot from there. I usually just buy the occasional thing for a video or something. Y'know that outfit I wore in the video for "Love Train"? The lilac and blue one with the hat and the short trousers? That was from World's End. This shop's very expensive, which is another reason why I don't buy a lot from there."[22]

In a June 1989 article/interview with Johnson by The Face, Johnson spoke of the Love Train video outfit and the World's End clothes shop, stating "World's End is my favourite shop — I don't see how it can't be everybody's. There is something timeless and anti-fashion about Westwood's clothes; they're perfect for performing, like the outfit in the "Love Train" video. But I'm no fashion victim — there are too many people who do it so much better."[23]

Critical reception[edit]

In a UK magazine review of the Blast video release, containing the album's four music videos and one remix video, the author Duncan Webster spoke of the song's video, stating "Elsewhere Holly goes "ridin' the love train" with some unoriginal animation."[24]

In a July 1990 review of the Blast video release by Melody Maker, the author Caren Myers spoke of the song's music video, stating "The best of the lot, "Love Train", may have seemed pink-faced and cherubic last year, but now is about as youthful as a fossilised prune. The singing rhododendrons and Magic Roundabout-type scenery are still cute, as is Holly's elfin dancing, but they're squelched by Holly's patent insincerity when mouthing the over-the-top lurve lyrics."[25]

A UK magazine review of the Blast video release, containing the album's four music videos and one remix video, spoke of the song and referenced the video, with author Stephen Dalton stating ""Love Train" finds us in Noddy territory, a slab of beefy disco-pop with Holly playing The Riddler and delivering some of the most blatant sexual innuendo to top the charts since Frankie Goes to Hollywood. With a straight face too."[26]

Track listing[edit]

7" Single
  1. "Love Train" - 3:59
  2. "Murder in Paradise" - 4:26
7" Single (Mexican promo)
  1. "Love Train" - 4:01
  2. "Love Train" - 4:01
12" Single
  1. "Love Train (Ride The 'A' Train)" - 6:52
  2. "Love Train (Stoke It Up) (7" Mix)" - 3:59
  3. "Murder in Paradise" - 4:26
12" Single (Greek promo)
  1. "Love Train (Ride The 'A' Train)" - 6:52
  2. "Love Train (Stoke It Up) (7" Mix)" - 3:59
  3. "Murder in Paradise" - 4:26
12" Remix Single (American "Previously Unreleased Mixes" release)
  1. "Love Train (Americana Big Beat Version)" - 6:35
  2. "Love Train (Iron-Horse Instrumental)" - 5:00
  3. "Love Train (Americana 12" Version)" - 6:20
  4. "Love Train (Bonus Big Beat Radio Version)" - 4:30
  5. "Love Train (Americana Pop Version)" - 4:00
CD Single
  1. "Love Train (Ride The 'A' Train)" - 6:54
  2. "Love Train (Stoke It Up) (7" Mix)" - 4:02
  3. "Murder in Paradise" - 4:27
CD Single (German release)
  1. "Love Train (12" Mix)" - 6:56
  2. "Love Train (7" Mix)" - 4:03
  3. "Murder in Paradise" - 4:28
CD Single (Japanese release)
  1. "Love Train" - 4:03
  2. "Murder in Paradise" - 4:28
Cassette Single
  1. "Love Train (Ride The 'A' Train)" - 6:54
  2. "Love Train (Stoke It Up) (7" Mix)" - 4:02
  3. "Murder in Paradise" - 4:27
Cassette Single (American release)
  1. "Love Train" - 4:02
  2. "Murder in Paradise" - 4:27

Critical reception[edit]

In a UK magazine, a review of the "Love Train" single read "There was a time when Holly Johnson, as singer of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, was about 20 million times more famous than Matt Goss is now, but then the Frankie story went askew. Now, after years of legal wrangling, Holly Johnson is free to get on with his "solo" career, which he does in a thumping electro disco sort of fashion, exhorting us all to "stoke up" the Love Train. It's not the most devastatingly original of grooves, but it's a sprightly enough re-appearance and will doubtless be very popular in "clubland"."[27]

Upon the release of the Blast album, American newspaper Record-Journal stated "Best songs are cuts such as "Love Train," where Holly shows that soul and dance music are not necessarily exclusive of each other. If Simply Red had any energy these days, this is how Mick Hucknall would sound."[28]

In a 1989 issue of Smash Hits, a review of Blast by Chris Heath stated "If Blast has a single theme it's Holly's insistent optimism, his unusual faith in the human imagination and people's ability to be happy, and he's still got the exuberant Jackanory-storyteller delivery that makes the most cliched lines - "you bring the spring right through my door/you're everything that's worth living for" - sound somehow important. It's a skill used to best effect on his two recent hits, Love Train and Americanos. If everything was that good this would be a remarkable return but most of the other songs are routine efforts, not worth the obvious effort and enthusiasm he puts into singing them."[29]

In a 1989 issue of NME, a review of Blast spoke of the song, stating "Anyone with a mind will have loved 'Love Train', a disco anthem of love with its ace lyric 'You're a work of art/You're the Trevi Fountain/You're a golden heart/You're the highest mountain' and will have sussed the acid irony of 'Americanos'. If not, why bother with pop?"[30]

In an April 1989 issue of Melody Maker, a review of Blast by author Steve Sutherland stated "For "Blast" is essentially a dance LP. There are exceptions but mostly it's smart, ankle-shuffling stuff like the cute mini-masterpiece of pneumatic innuendo, "Love Train"."[31]

In a September 1989 interview with Johnson by Record Mirror, the article author Johnny Dee spoke of the song, stating ""Love Train" was the perfect commercial pop song that didn't belong anywhere but the top 10."[32]

In an unknown magazine from 1989, a review of the album stated "No longer with those Frankies, Holly has turned up with an album much better than a lot of people had expected. Of course you'll find "Americanos" and "Love Train" on here and plenty of other hot songs."[33]

In a UK magazine review of the 1989 single "Atomic City", the review stated "It comes as something of a disappointment to find out that "Atomic City" isn't half as breezy as either "Love Train" or "Americanos"."[34]

In a UK magazine, a review of the "Heaven's Here" single was issued, stating "I love Holly Johnson. He's the rudest man in town on his records — he says exactly what he likes. Anyone who can sing what he does in "Love Train" and get it in the Top Five in the charts and still make a fantastic record has a talent. I wish I could be that funny and that outrageous. If I make one record as good as "Relax" I'll be a happy man. I think "Love Train" was superb, I think "Americanos" was great. I think the production could be better on this but I still like it. Ooooooh!"[35]

In a short 1989 Record Mirror article and quiz based on Johnson and the release of the remix album Hollelujah, the article spoke of the Frankie Knuckles remix "Love Train (Americanos Big Beat 109 BPM Version)", stating "While we're waiting for the next album, there's the intriguing release of a remix album of Holly's singles titled "Hollelujah", featuring three previously unreleased remixes and the acclaimed Frankie Knuckles mix of his debut single "Love Train"."[36]

Jon O'Brien of Allmusic mentioned the song in a review of Johnson's 1991 album Dreams That Money Can't Buy. He stated "It's not a complete write-off. "Boyfriend 65" is a charmingly breezy piece of tropical pop featuring some enchanting backing vocals from the late Kirsty MacColl, the acid-house inspired "When the Party's Over" shows that Johnson was at least aware of the burgeoning rave scene at the time, while "You're a Hit" is a pleasantly melodic affair which sits somewhere between the melodramatic new wave of ABC and the arch synth pop of Pet Shop Boys. But they're only mildly diverting rather than knock-outs and, with nothing here even approaching a "Love Train" or "Americanos," let alone a "Relax" or "Two Tribes," it's a disappointingly bland affair from an artist whose previous career was anything but."[37]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1989) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[38] 35
Austrian Singles Chart[1] 17
Belgian Singles Chart (Vl)[39] 15
Canadian Singles Chart[40][41] 56
Dutch Singles Chart[42] 12
French Singles Chart[citation needed] 9
German Singles Chart[43] 4
Irish Singles Chart[44] 5
Italian Singles Chart[45] 21
Japanese Singles Chart (Tokyo)[46] 15
New Zealand Singles Chart[47] 20
Norwegian Singles Chart[48] 10
Polish Singles Chart[citation needed] 12
Swedish Singles Chart[49] 14
Swiss Singles Chart[50] 8
UK Singles Chart[2] 4
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[3] 65

Remixes and B-sides[edit]

  • "Love Train (Stoke It Up)" (7" Mix) - 4:02
  • "Love Train" (Ride the 'A' Train Mix) - 6:54
  • "Love Train" (Americana Big Beat Version) - 6:42
  • "Love Train" (Iron Horse Instrumental) - 4:53
  • "Love Train" (Americana 12" Version) - 6:24
  • "Love Train" (Bonus Big Beat Radio Version) - 4:38
  • "Love Train" (Americana Pop Version) - 3:58
  • "Murder in Paradise" - 4:26


Love Train[edit]

  • Producer – Andy Richards, Steve Lovell
  • Additional Producer, Mixer – Stephen Hague
  • Keyboard Programming – Andy Richards, Marius de Vries
  • Engineer – Dave Meegan, Mike "Spike" Drake, Tony Phillips
  • Vocals - Holly Johnson
  • Backing Vocals – Don Snow, Lance Ellington
  • Guitar – Brian May, Neil Taylor
  • Writer – Holly Johnson

Frankie Knuckles Remixes[edit]

  • Remixes – Frankie Knuckles
  • Additional Remix Producer – Frankie Knuckles, Peter "Ski" Schwartz, Satoshi Tomiie
  • Remix Engineer – John Poppo

Murder in Paradise[edit]

  • Producer – Holly Johnson
  • Arranger – Guy Chambers, Holly Johnson, Nick Bagnall
  • Keyboard Programming – Holly Johnson, Nick Bagnall, Guy Chambers
  • Engineer – Tim Hunt
  • Vocals - Holly Johnson
  • Guitar – Nick Bagnall
  • Writer – Holly Johnson


  • Single Artwork – Accident


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