"Relax (Don't Do It)" is the debut single by British dance group Frankie Goes to Hollywood, released in the UK by ZTT Records in 1984. The song was later included on the album Welcome to the Pleasuredome (1984).
Although fairly inauspicious upon initial release, "Relax (Don't Do It)" finally reached number one in the UK singles chart on 24 January 1984, ultimately becoming one of the most controversial and most commercially successful records of the entire decade. The single eventually sold a reported 1.91 million copies in the UK alone, making it the seventh best-selling UK single of all time. Following the release of the group's second single, "Two Tribes", "Relax (Don't Do It)" rallied from a declining UK chart position during June 1984 to climb back up the UK charts and re-attain number two spot behind "Two Tribes" at number one, representing simultaneous chart success by a single act unprecedented since the early 1960s.
Upon release in the United States in late 1984, "Relax (Don't Do It)" repeated its slow UK progress, reaching number 67 upon initial release, but eventually reaching number 10 in March 1985.
Horn dominated the recording of "Relax (Don't Do It)" in his effort for perfectionism. The band were overawed and intimidated by Horn's reputation, and thus were too nervous to make suggestions. Johnson said in his autobiography, "Whatever he said we went along with". When attempts to record with the full band proved unsatisfactory, Horn hired former Ian Dury backing band the Blockheads for the sessions. Those sessions were later deemed to be not modern sounding enough. Horn then constructed a more electronic-based version of the song with keyboardist by session musician Andy Richards and with rhythm programming assistance from J. J. Jeczalik of Art of Noise. Horn developed this version of the recording in his West London studio while the band remained in their hometown of Liverpool. Ultimately lead vocalist Johnson was the only band member to perform on the record; the only contribution by the other members was a sample crafted from the sound of the rest of the band jumping into a swimming pool. Horn explained years later, "I was just . . . Look, 'Relax' had to be a hit." Despite the band's absence from the record, Horn said, "I could never have done these records in isolation. There was no actual playing by the band, but the whole feeling came from the band." Horn completed the recording having spent £70,000 in studio time.
On Thursday 5 January, Frankie Goes to Hollywood performed "Relax (Don't Do It)" on the BBC flagship TV chart show, Top Of The Pops, and in less than a week, the song had risen to number 6 in the UK singles chart. On 11 January 1984, Radio 1 disc jockey Mike Read expressed on air his distaste for both the record's suggestive sleeve (designed by Anne Yvonne Gilbert) and its lyrics. Perhaps Read's decision was based on his interpretation of the song's lyrics as being sexually explicit: "Relax, don't do it, when you want to sock it to it, Relax don't do it, when you want to come." He announced his refusal to play the record, not knowing that the BBC had just decided that the song was not to be played on the BBC anyway.
In support of their DJ, BBC Radio banned the single from its shows a reported two days later (although certain prominent night-time BBC shows - including those of Kid Jensen and John Peel - continued to play the record, as they saw fit, throughout 1984).. The now-banned "Relax (Don't Do It)" rose to number 2 in the charts by 17 January, and hit the number one spot on 24 January. By this time, the BBC Radio ban had extended to Top of the Pops as well, which displayed a still picture of the group during its climactic Number One announcement, before airing a performance by a non-Number One artist.
This went on for the five weeks that "Relax (Don't Do It)" was at number one. The single remained on the charts for a record consecutive forty-two weeks. It would rise up from a declining chart position to number two during the UK summer of 1984 whilst Frankie's follow-up single "Two Tribes" held the UK number one spot.
The ban became an embarrassment for the BBC, especially given that UK commercial radio stations were still playing the song. Later in 1984 the ban was lifted and "Relax (Don't Do It)" featured on both the Christmas Day edition of Top of the Pops and Radio 1's rundown of the best-selling singles of the year.
The track was re-issued in 1993, first of a string of Frankie Goes to Hollywood singles to be re-issued in this year. It debuted at a high number six on the UK singles chart and peaked at number five the next week.
One of the reasons we did all the remixes was that the initial 12-inch version of 'Relax' contained something called 'The Sex Mix', which was 16 minutes long and didn't even contain a song. It was really Holly Johnson just jamming, as well as a bunch of samples of the group jumping in the swimming pool and me sort of making disgusting noises by dropping stuff into buckets of water! We got so many complaints about it -- particularly from gay clubs, who found it offensive -- that we cut it in half and reduced it down to eight minutes, by taking out some of the slightly more offensive parts [this became the "New York Mix"]. Then we got another load of complaints, because the single version wasn't on the 12-inch -- I didn't see the point in this at the time, but I was eventually put straight about it.
It was only when I went to this club and heard the sort of things they were playing that I really understood about 12-inch remixes. Although I myself had already had a couple of big 12-inch hits, I'd never heard them being played on a big sound system, and so I then went back and mixed 'Relax' again and that was the version which sold a couple of million over here [in the UK].
The original 12-inch version of "Relax", labeled "Sex Mix", ran for over sixteen minutes, and is broadly as described by Horn above. The subsequent "New York Mix" was an 8-minute-plus edit of the "Sex Mix", and can only be distinguished by having 12ISZTAS1 etched on the vinyl. The final 12-inch mix, containing no elements from the foregoing versions, was designated the "U.S. Mix", and ran for approximately seven minutes twenty seconds. This was the most commonly available 12-inch version of "Relax" during its worldwide 1984 chart success.
The UK cassette single featured as the title track a unique amalgam of excerpts from the "Sex Mix", "U.S. Mix" , "Move" and an instrumental version of "Move".
Since virtually all of the UK "Relax" 12-inch singles were labeled "Sex Mix", a method of differentiating between versions by reference to the record's matrix numbers necessarily became de rigueur for collectors of Frankie Goes to Hollywood releases (and ultimately collectors of ZTT records in general).
"Relax (Come Fighting)" was the version of the song included on the Welcome to the Pleasuredome album. This is ostensibly a variant of the 7-inch "Move" mix, but readily distinguishable from it in many ways, of which the most obvious are the fade-in (virtually no fade-in and the vocal is always central on the album track), plus a prominent reverbed-kick-drum sound during the introduction and third sung chorus (completely missing from the album version). The "Come Fighting" version also shares with the later "1993 Classic Mix" reissue (which is almost identical to the album version) a certain post-production sheen (greater stereo separation of parts, more strategic uses of reverb, etc.) that is absent from the original 1983 7-inch single mix.
The original airing of Relax on The Tube, before the band were signed to ZTT, featured another verse that was edited from all the released versions, "In heaven everything is fine, you've got yours and I've got mine", presumably removed as it was taken directly from the David Lynch film Eraserhead.
On all of the original 12-inch releases, the B-side featured a cover of "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey", followed by a brief dialogue involving Rutherford attempting to sign on, and an acapella version of the title track's chorus, segueing into an instrumental version of "Relax", known as "From Soft to Hard". "From Soft to Hard" has the same structure as the 7-inch "Move" mix, but is not simply an instrumental of this mix.
The UK cassette single included "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey" and interview sections not included on "One September Monday".
|UK Singles Chart||1|
|German Singles Charts||1|
|Italian Singles Charts||1|
|Swiss Singles Chart||1|
|Norwegian Singles Chart||4|
|Austrian Singles Chart||4|
|Swedish Singles Chart||4|
|Billboard Hot 100||10|
|French Singles Chart||21|
|Australian Singles Chart||5|
|New Zealand Singles Chart||35|