Frankie goes to Bethlehem: how The Power of Love became an unlikely Christmas anthem
Holly Johnson insisted Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s 1984 hit wasn’t a festive song. But he was up against label ZTT’s plans for a nativity video …
Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s single The Power of Love was never a Christmas song, Holly Johnson complained, when a version was used on the John Lewis festive ad in 2012. He wrote it in 1983 while still on the dole, having given up his art school grant and unsure of his future in music – even though the band were on the brink of success. The song was a paean not to another person, he explained, but to love itself – “a force from above”; death-defying, vampire-smiting. His voice still contained that silvery archness (wasn’t the “hooded claw” a reference to Wacky Races?) but the emotional heft was real. Was this really the guy from Relax?
But from day one, Johnson never stood a chance extricating The Power of Love from Christmas. It was Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s third single, and third and final No 1. It had just one week at the top, at the start of December 1984, before Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? knocked it off. After the shock and awe of previous singles Relax and Two Tribes, The Power of Love’s video was a straightforward nativity scene that barely featured the band – “chocolate box”, as Johnson later lamented.