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Baker's Dozen

Strange Refuge: Holly Johnson Discusses His Favourite Albums
Ian Wade , December 23rd, 2014 14:26

In our final Baker's Dozen of 2014, Ian Wade talks to the former Frankie Goes To Hollywood frontman following the release of Europa, his first solo album in 15 years, about his all-time top 13 LPs


The Human League - Dare
Dare was amazing. It came out around the same time as Soft Cell's Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret. You can't not mention Soft Cell, and you can't not mention Gary Numan either, in popularising electronic music. I'd seen The Human League perform at Eric's in front of three people - me, Jane Casey and some drunk lying on the floor - and it was in the Martyn Ware era, with Phil Oakey looking amazing with his asymmetric haircut, and the fabulous slides and the little constructed archways which had the synthesizers, which looked - I suppose - rather Kraftwerk. And you know, "Listen to the voice of Buddha" [on 'Being Boiled'], the Travelogue album, was amazing and groundbreaking in many ways. It was not commercially successful at all, and I remember in particular their version of 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' being incredible.

But when Dare came, it was an attempt at global pop superstardom and ABBA-ness, as well as being groundbreaking and electronic. It was time I became aware of the Linn drum machine, and the programming on that album is fantastic. The engineer Dave Allen at night time would be editing instrumentals together and that became The League Unlimited Orchestra album [1982's Love And Dancing], which was also incredible to dance to in seedy gay nightclubs, which I also did [laughs].

I was then more aware of technology by this point and had been working in a recording studio with the TR-808 drum machine which, although a plastic instrument, seemed slightly paltry to the meaty sounds of the sampled bass and snare of Dare, which was the Linn LM-1. It sounded like a real drummer but obviously wasn't and was intrinsic to the sound of that album.

My favourite was 'Love Action', not 'Don't You Want Me', which is always cited and is the most successful. 'Love Action' was always the one for me.

That's spooky. 'Love Action' and 'I Feel Love' take it in turns at no. 1 as the best singles ever made for me.

For me, only the Patrick Cowley remix of 'I Feel Love', for some reason [chuckles cheekily]... oh I don't know. I bought several copies when that came out and still have them for my imaginary DJ career that never transpired. I did DJ for a bit in The Masquerade Bar, but I was never one of those that wanted to drive up and down motorways at night. That never appealed to me really.