Rock ‘n’ Roll High School 43: Frankie Says “Relax”, But What Is He On About?

So excited about today’s RNRHS from author Lily Harlem. I adore her books, especially since she has a penchant for rock stars, and she and I have some eerily similar adolescent memories. I must, however, quibble with her about one thing. (Lily’s a Brit. You quibble with Brits. You disagree with everyone else.) The Cult? Lily, Lily, Lily! I loved The Cult. I have the best memories of driving to the lake during summer vacation with my BFF, Jane. I drove my brother’s beater car, which was painted entirely with gray primer, and we blasted “Love Removal Machine” from a cassette with the windows rolled down, singing at the top of our lungs (Salt shaker!). There was this one lifeguard…oh, never mind. On with it!

Lily Harlem

London, Currently: Author of erotic romance

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: Oh, lots, but probably Madonna stands out. Like a Virgin, Papa Don’t Preach. They were in the charts at the time my friends and I were all huddled in the playground talking about sex and who had done what with who. The songs were sassy and daring and we all wanted to be Madonna. I remember having the jewelry, the legwarmers, the fingerless gloves and practicing my pout and my jaunty walk. I remember totally lusting after the guy in Papa Don’t Preach, when he shoots out from under the car he’s working on looking all oily and gorgeous – Phew!

Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: My Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Relax’ t-shirt. Everyone had one and I remember the teachers and parents being horrified at the hidden meanings but we never really got it at the time, we just wanted the white t-shirt with the big bold letters. I remember going to a school disco when ‘Relax’ came to number one. We were all talking about it but it was banned from Top of the Pops (our weekly update on the charts) so only a lucky few, with older siblings, had heard it. Anyway, we had a cool DJ that night who put it on at the end of the evening and everyone had a good bop, pretending to know what the hell Frankie was on about – ah, the innocence of youth!

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: The Cult. A couple of their songs were tuneful, the rest went over my head in a loud blur of noisy screeching. But my best friend was completely into them, always swooning over the drippy lead singer and playing their tapes (Argh, I know, tapes) at full volume. I pretended to like them for a long time, even singing along to some of their songs when I’d deciphered the lyrics. But eventually I had to give up and confess to much preferring Wham! I still, to this day, adore George Michael’s voice, especially his ballads. There is something about the emotion in his songs that sends me a bit gooey.

Best show or concert you saw in high school: U2. Best show ever, in school and since. They are such ace performers and whenever I’ve had the chance to nab tickets I have, even at some ridiculous prices. But its so worth it, they always deliver the goods. Playing a great assortment of both old and new songs and their stage sets are so wild, I remember one time the band all emerged from a giant lemon! That was cool.

Best high school make-out song: (I Just) Died in Your Arms by the Cutting Crew. I love the words, and the tune express-trains in memories of dancing with the first guy I ever had a seriously massive crush on, no make that loved with a capital L (you know, the obsessive teenage love that grips you by the lapels and drags you along for the ride whether you want to go or not). He was gorgeous, soft, olive skin that smelled heavenly, he wore a thick cable sweater that I could sink my fingers into, and we danced and danced and danced to this song. In fact I think we were still dancing when the music stopped.

So you can see I adore music, particularly from the 80’s which was when all these wild youthful emotions were springing up. It was this love of music and obsession with bands and rock/pop stars that inspired my Mattress Music series. At the time Kings of Leon and The Script were the two CDs being played the most in my house and so they kind of inspired The Manic Machines, which consists of Ian, Robbie, Tim and Dean.

Lily Harlem is a multi-published author of erotic romance, including Mirror Music. Visit her website at

9 Comments on “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School 43: Frankie Says “Relax”, But What Is He On About?

  1. I love The Cult! Love Removal Machine is on my IPOD. I just never got into Madonna. I will start reading her books. Love this blog.

    • Thanks, Andi. True confession time: I was obsessed with Madonna. I even won third place in a Madonna look-alike contest sponsored by Star Hits magazine. I won an autographed copy of the first Alarm record. Sort of an odd prize, but it turned me on to the Alarm. Anyhoo…yes, love The Cult.

  2. Hey, great to see you all here, sharing the love of rock and roll and all the sex gods that come with it!!

    I can’t believe I forgot to mention Simple Minds! Were they big in the US? I loved them….sigh.

    Lily 🙂

  3. Hey, great to see you all here, sharing the love of rock and roll and all the sex gods that come with it!!

    I can’t believe I forgot to mention Simple Minds! Were they big in the US? I loved them….sigh.

    Lily 🙂

    • Thanks so much Lily for being here! Simple Minds were huge in the US, especially after The Breakfast Club. “Don’t You Forget About Me” was our senior class song. I’m guessing about a million other schools chose it too!

      • OMG! The Breakfast Club! That was on TV a few months ago and I had to watch it. Such a cult film. I saw Simple Minds in concert many years ago, they were amazing. That was way back when Jim Kerr was married to Patsy Kensit.

        Lily x

        • I love all of John Hughes’ films. He was such a huge influence on my youth. My hubby and I are constantly quoting Sixteen Candles. I even mention JH in my bio for goodness sakes. I actually got to speak with him on the phone once, when I worked in music. He was interested in having one of our bands score a film he was working on. That part never happened, but I fondly remember making a sign mid-phonecall that said “I’m talking to John Hughes!” and flashing it all over the office. I was so giddy, it’s silly.

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