Holly Johnson

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Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson2014.jpg
2014 in Berlin
Background information
Birth name William Johnson
Born (1960-02-09) 9 February 1960 (age 56)
Liverpool, England
Genres Pop, dance, new wave
Occupation(s) Musician, painter, writer
Instruments Vocals, bass guitar
Years active 1977–present
Labels Uni Records, MCA Records, Eric's Club, ZTT Records
Associated acts Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Big in Japan
Website www.hollyjohnson.com

Holly Johnson (born William Johnson, 9 February 1960; legal name William Holly Johnson[1]) is an English artist, musician and writer, best known as the lead vocalist of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, who achieved huge commercial success in the mid-1980s. Prior to that, in the late 1970s he was a bassist for the band Big in Japan. In 1989, Johnson's debut solo album, Blast, reached number one in the UK albums chart. Two singles from the album – "Love Train" and "Americanos" – reached the top 5 of the UK Singles Chart. In the 1990s he embarked on a painting career.[2]

Biography[edit]

Johnson was born in Liverpool, and was actively involved in that city's punk rock/new wave scene of the late 1970s. Johnson played bass with local band Big in Japan and also released two solo singles on the Eric's label. Both "Yankee Rose" and "Hobo Joe" failed to chart however. Johnson later found fame as the lead singer and lyricist of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, who experienced both controversy and phenomenal commercial success during 1984.[3]

Frankie Goes To Hollywood[edit]

After gaining some measure of local celebrity from being a member of Big In Japan, Johnson became involved with a group of younger musicians who together would become the nucleus of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Johnson himself named the new band [4] after seeing the headline of an article about Frank Sinatra. This new band quickly gained a reputation for their stage show which had strong SM overtones. It was during this period that guitarist Brian Nash and backing vocalist Paul Rutherford completed the band's established line up.

Commercial Success and Fame[edit]

After the band's reputation grew large enough to attract record company interest, they were eventually signed to a new record company, ZTT. Johnson became exposed to the general public via the phenomenal success of their debut single Relax, which was a huge, and controversial, hit in 1984. After such success during 1984, when the band spent nearly four months at the top of the singles chart, Johnson was firmly established as a household name.

By autumn 1986, however, his star had faded considerably. Frankie Goes to Hollywood had not released any material since early 1985 and were absent from that year's Live Aid event. In addition, he did not perform on the successful charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid in December 1984. By 1987 his relationship with the rest of the band had broken down irretrievably, not helped by his decision to gain legal rights to exclusive use of the band's name, without consultation with other members.[5] So far, he has not utilised this privilege, however, and during a reunion on the TV show Bands Reunited many years later, refused to perform with them but did not rule out a future possibility. In his own words; "If it happens, we do it properly. We have a reputation. I'm not a wedding singer!"[6]

Solo Career and later projects[edit]

Johnson left Frankie Goes to Hollywood in 1987 due to disagreements regarding their musical direction. He became the subject of an injunction from the group's record company, ZTT Records, and its sister publishing company, Perfect Songs, which cited a breach of his prior recording and publishing contracts, thus barring him from pursuing a solo career with any other new label.[7] He embarked on a two-year legal battle with ZTT, the case being settled in Johnson's favour on 10 February 1988, the judge ruling that the original contracts had constituted an unreasonable restraint of trade, remarking that "Mr. Johnson could be 70 years old and still be bound to this contract".[7]

ZTT unsuccessfully appealed against the judge's decision, the Appeal Court concluding on 26 July 1989 that the original recording and publishing contracts were "not a fair bargain".[8] The result represented a landmark legal outcome, contemporary press reports stating that the result "set a legal precedent which rocked the music business", adding that ZTT had by this time released most of its artists from their original contracts.[7]

Johnson's relationship with ZTT owners Trevor Horn and Jill Sinclair broke down irretrievably due to the court case: "They, [Horn and Sinclair] have never really forgiven me for winning my freedom in the law courts", the singer said in 2001, adding that the worst part of being in FGTH was "the contract we signed with ZTT."[7]

In 1989, Johnson finally made his first solo debut with the album Blast, for MCA Records. Singles "Love Train", "Americanos" and "Atomic City" met with warm reception, the former two both charting in the UK's top 5. Johnson took part in a charity project for the Hillsborough disaster fund and recorded a popular single "Ferry Cross the Mersey" with Paul McCartney, the Christians and others. The single reached number 1 in the UK and Ireland.[9]

After the 1990 remix album Hollelujah, Johnson released his second solo album in 1991. Dreams That Money Can't Buy was a commercial failure and did not chart in the UK, while the singles "Where Has Love Gone?" and "Across the Universe" performed very poorly on UK singles chart. In November 1991, Johnson learned that he was HIV positive. This triggered a temporary withdrawal from the music business and public life in general, with one of his last TV performances around the time being at the Diamond Record Awards, Antwerp, where he performed "Americanos" and "Where Has Love Gone?".[10] His HIV status was made public during an interview with The Times in April 1993.[7]

In March 1994, Johnson's critically acclaimed autobiography A Bone in My Flute was published, in which he discusses his struggle with, and acceptance of, his homosexuality.[11][12][13] The same year, he recorded a new single, "Legendary Children (All of Them Queer)", whose lyrics referred to famous LGBT people throughout history. During 1994, he performed live at London's Gay Pride show, where he performed "Relax", "Legendary Children" and "The Power of Love".[14]

In April 1998, he performed "The Power of Love" live at the Easter Gay Happening in Krefeld, Germany at Club Königsburg.[15]

Since the mid-1990s, Johnson has worked primarily as a painter. His works have been exhibited at the Tate Liverpool and the Royal Academy. He has contributed to Modern Painters and the Paul Smith-sponsored Carlos magazine. He made a musical comeback in 1999, with an album called Soulstream, preceded by the 1998 single "Hallelujah!". The video for his next single "Disco Heaven" featured a cameo performance from Boy George. However, the album passed fairly unnoticed and didn't chart. The only charting single from Soulstream was the new version of "The Power of Love". For the release of Soulstream, Johnson appeared on the Jools Holland Show performing "The Power of Love" and performed the song again in 2004 for ZDF Love Songs.[16]

In August 2009, Johnson presented an hour-long show "In the Beginning" on BBC Radio 2 about the Beatles, whilst he also appeared in the new video for Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax" as the DJ. Since then, he has performed The Power of Love twice in Germany, also performing the song at the opening of Life Ball 2011 in Vienna. In an interview at the Q Awards, Johnson announced plans for an album of new material. In 2010, Johnson performed "Americanos" on German TV,[17] and "Relax" on French TV. During February 2011, Johnson joined Jools Holland and his band for a version of the Animals' "The House of the Rising Sun" song, a track that Johnson covered on his Soulstream album. In August 2011, he performed a full set live at the Rewind Festival, using a mix of Frankie Goes to Hollywood songs together with some of his solo hits "Americanos", "Heaven's Here" and "Love Train".

In May 2014, Johnson announced his first UK solo tour, named "Dancing with No Fear". The seven date tour was preceded by a new solo album, released on 15 September.[18] The album, titled Europa, was preceded by a lead single, "Follow Your Heart".[19] The second single from Europa, "In And Out Of Love", was released on 4 September 2014 with a special pop promo directed by Chris Shepherd.[16] In October 2014 Europa entered the UK Album Chart at # 63, becoming Johnson's first album to chart in the UK since his debut Blast.[20] In December 2014, Johnson released a live album, titled Unleashed From the Pleasuredome.[21]

In 2015, Johnson began working with Gary Barlow on a song for the film Eddie The Eagle. The song "Ascension" was released in March 2016.[22]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions Certifications
UK
[23]
AUT
[24]
GER
[25]
ITA
[26]
NLD
[27]
NOR
[28]
NZL
[29]
SWE
[30]
SWI
[31]
1989 Blast 1 12 5 10 27 10 11 11 10
1989 Hollelujah
1991 Dreams That Money Can't Buy
1999 Soulstream
2014 Europa 63
Unleashed From the Pleasuredome

Singles[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions Album
UK
[23][34]
AUS
[35]
AUT
[24]
CAN
[36]
GER
[25]
IRE
[37]
ITA
[38]
NLD
[27]
NOR
[28]
NZL
[29]
SWE
[30]
SWI
[31]
US
[39]
1979 "Yankee Rose" single only
1980 "Hobo Joe"
1989 "Love Train" 4 35 17 56 4 5 21 12 10 20 14 8 65 Blast
"Americanos" 4 77 1 2 6 10 8 6 10 7 4
"Atomic City" 18 19 16 9 29 40 20 10
"Heaven's Here" 62 58 22
1990 "Where Has Love Gone?" 73 Dreams That Money Can't Buy
1991 "Across the Universe" 99
"The People Want to Dance"
1994 "Legendary Children" 85 single only
1998 "Hallelujah!" Soulstream
1999 "Disco Heaven" 85
"The Power of Love" 56
2014 "Follow Your Heart" Europa
"In and Out of Love"
2015 "Heaven's Eyes"
"Dancing With No Fear"
2016 "Ascension" Eddie the Eagle (soundtrack)

Guest appearances[edit]

2016 Fly (eddie the eagle soundtrack) No1 Soundtrack chart Album
UK
AUS
[35]
AUT
[24]
GER
[25]
IRE
[37]
ITA
[38]
NLD
[27]
NOR
[28]
SWI
[31]
1989 "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey"
(with The Christians, Paul McCartney, Gerry Marsden and Stock Aitken Waterman)
1[40] 45 15 5 1 15 21 4 11 Non-album single
1994 "Love & Hate"
(with Ryūichi Sakamoto)
97 Sweet Revenge
2012 "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"
(as part of The Justice Collective)
1 4 Non-album single

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Trade mark decision O/140/07" (PDF). UK Intellectual Property Office. Retrieved 21 March 2009. 
  2. ^ "strip4.jpg". HOLLY JOHNSON. 
  3. ^ "Famous bands from Liverpool: Frankie Goes to Hollywood". BBC. Retrieved 21 March 2009. 
  4. ^ A Bone In My Flute Autobiography
  5. ^ A Bone In My Flute autobiography
  6. ^ Bands Reunited: Frankie Goes To Hollywood episode
  7. ^ a b c d e Southall, Brian (2008). Pop Goes to Court. Omnibus Press, London, UK. pp. 114–121. ISBN 978-1-84772-113-6. 
  8. ^ Cited in Southall (2008), p. 119.
  9. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". 
  10. ^ "Holly Johnson - 'Americanos' - Diamond Record Awards 1991". YouTube. 7 November 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  11. ^ "The Advocate". 
  12. ^ "Queer Noises". 
  13. ^ "Queers in History". 
  14. ^ "Holly Johnson @ Gay Pride London 1994 Relax". YouTube. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  15. ^ "Holly Johnson - The Power Of Love @ Gay Happening 1998, Königsburg Krefeld". YouTube. 9 July 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Holly Johnson - The Power Of Love (Live on ZDF Love Songs 2004). 12 January 2010 – via YouTube. 
  17. ^ "Holly Johnson - Americanos 2010". YouTube. 6 July 2010. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  18. ^ "Announces 'Dancing With No Fear' Solo Uk Tour: Unleashed From The Pleasuredome". Holly Johnson. 27 May 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  19. ^ "LISTEN: Holly Johnson - Follow Your Heart". The Quietus. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  20. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". 
  21. ^ https://www.discogs.com/Holly-Johnson-Unleashed-From-The-Pleasuredome-Holly-Johnson-Live/release/6410560
  22. ^ http://www.hollyjohnson.rocks/ascension-the-new-single-from-holly-johnson/
  23. ^ a b "HOLLY JOHNSON". 
  24. ^ a b c "Discographie Holly Johnson" (in German). austriancharts.at. Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
  25. ^ a b c "Suche nach "holly johnson"". www.charts.de (in German). Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  26. ^ "Hit Parade Italia - ALBUM 1989" (in Italian). www.hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
  27. ^ a b c "Discografie Holly Johnson" (in Dutch). dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
  28. ^ a b c "Discography Holly Johnson". norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
  29. ^ a b "Discography Holly Johnson". charts.org.nz. Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
  30. ^ a b "Discography Holly Johnson". swedishcharts.com. Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
  31. ^ a b c "Discography Holly Johnson". swisscharts.com. Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
  32. ^ "Certified Awards Search". www.bpi.co.uk. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  33. ^ "Bundesverband Musikindustrie: Gold-/Platin-Datenbank" (in German). www.musikindustrie.de. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  34. ^ "Chart Log UK: Candy J. - JX". Zobbel.de. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  35. ^ a b Australian (ARIA Chart) peaks:
  36. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". www.collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  37. ^ a b "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". www.irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
  38. ^ a b "Hit Parade Italia - Indice per Interprete: J" (in Italian). www.hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
  39. ^ "Holly Johnson". www.allmusic.com. Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
  40. ^ "GERRY MARSDEN, PAUL MCCARTNEY, HOLLY JOHNSON AND THE CHRISTIANS". 

External links[edit]