Holly Johnson is best known as the architect, lead vocalist and principle songwriter of Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
The band achieved massive commercial success in the mid-1980s. Prior to that, in the late 1970s he was a bassist for the band Big in Japan, and acoustic guitar playing solo artist on the Eric’s label : but it was Frankie Goes to Hollywood that would catapult Holly to stardom following the phenomenal success of their debut single Relax which became one of the best-selling singles of all time. Following the release of the group’s second single, “Two Tribes”, “Relax” started to climb back up the UK charts again and re-attain number-two spot behind “Two Tribes” 9-week tenure at number one, representing unprecedented simultaneous chart success by a single act, since the early 1960s.
Having spent nearly 4 months of 1984 at the top of the charts Johnson had firmly established himself as a household name.
Johnson outgrew Frankie Goes to Hollywood which he describes Frankie as his Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars , and left in 1987. 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.
He embarked on a two-year legal battle with ZTT and Perfect Songs v Holly Johnson, 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.
As a singer songwriter Johnson had penned the hits from the Frankie years and enjoyed success as a solo artist with the platinum selling solo album Blast which reached number 1 in the UK on it’s first week of release in 1989. Subsequent solo albums include Hollelujah, Dreams that Money Can’t Buy, Soulsteam and the recently critically acclaimed Europa.
In 1991 Holly learned he was HIV positive, this triggered a temporary withdrawal from the music business and public life in general. His HIV status was made public during an interview with The Times in April 1993. During this period Holly returned to his first love painting, 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.
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. 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”. The same month Holly Johnson featured on and co wrote the single “Love and Hate” with Ryuichi Sakamoto (from his Sweet Revenge album).
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. The album, titled Europa, was preceded by a lead single, “Follow Your Heart”.
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. In October 2014 Europa entered the UK Album Chart becoming Johnson’s first album to chart in the UK since his debut Blasts. In December 2014, Johnson released a live album titled Unleashed From the Pleasuredome.
In late 2015, Johnson co-wrote a song with Gary Barlow on for the film Eddie The Eagle. The song “Ascension” was released in March 2016 as the focus track for the album Fly (songs inspired by the film Eddie The Eagle) and the song appears on the end credits for the film.
Holly continues to perform around the world with regularly appearances on the summer festival calendar. Holly appears as himself in the 2018 series of Benidorm (the long running comedy series produced by Tiger Aspect) in an episode directed by it’s writer and creator Derren Litten