Sunday, 9 November 2014

Nasher Says Relax - an interview with Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Brian Nash

"Beep... Beep!"
Right, last minute checks... OK... Bag packed? Check... Passport up to date? Check... Dollars? Enough... The perfect holiday hat and glasses? Check and check... 
"Beep... Beep..."
The taxi driver was getting inpatient, but I couldn't risk forgetting anything... So with keys and mobile in one hand and suitcase in the other I took one long last look at my apartment, yes, it was only going to be two weeks, but it was the first time I had made such a big trip and I had been saving for years, I couldn't resist anything spoiling it...

"BEEP! BEEP!!!" 

Ok.. Ok... I thought and rushed down the stairs, it was pouring down, I wasn't half glad to be escaping this weather... Where I was going the sun shines everyday!

I got to the cab, opened the door and, shaking my umbrella off, I noticed someone else in the car...
"Hey!" I called to the driver "This is my cab... What the hell?"

The cabbie explained that he had given up on me and this guy needed a ride into town... I couldn't really argue with him, I suppose, after all I had kept him waiting for 15 minutes. He also explained that where this guy needed to be dropped off was only way to the airport and had offered to split the bill! This holiday was getting better by the minute! 

I got in the cab, closed the door and turning to thank this gallant stranger I suddenly realised just who he was... and my god, this beat even the cheaper fare... This beat the amazing deal I'd got on the flight... This had even beat the hotel upgrade I had been offered! The guy sitting next to me was Brian Nash... Nasher... Guitarist from the legendary band Frankie Goes To Hollywood...

Brian Nash (born 20 May 1963, Liverpool, England) was the guitarist for 1980s pop band, Frankie Goes to Hollywood. He was otherwise known as Nasher.
Nash was an electrician when he formed the band Sons And Egypt with Peter Gill and Holly Johnson. In 1980, Gill and Johnson left the band to form Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Nash joined sometime later. The group's first single, "Relax" reached Number 1 on the UK Singles Chart in 1984. The group disbanded in 1987 after Johnson's departure. [Wikipedia]

I thanked him profusely, trying desperately not to let on what a massive fan I was, but I couldn't help it... It would take at least 15 minutes to get to town from here, so well... Silence would be ridiculous and a waste of the time I had... So I started asking questions.... 

The first one was a no-brainer...

So what do I call you? Do you go by Brian or Nasher these days? 
"I don't mind what I get called. When I play live the poster says Nasher so I guess that's my name."

So, Nasher how did you meet the rest of the lads?
"I have know MOT all my life as he is my cousin so we grew up together. I met Ped in my late teens when he joined a band with MOT's brothers. I met Holly through a friend who worked with a friend of Holly's."

And the name 'Frankie Goes to Hollwood' is such an orginal name for a band... Who came up with the name?
"The name originated from a book called Rock Dreams by Guy Peellaert. Holly saw a page from the book pinned to the wall of a rehearsal room.

And, early touring, did you always play original songs or did you do any covers?
"We only did a few covers after we had released our first records. We played "Get It On", "War" and "Born To Run" during the FGTH tours."

What was the early days like? More fun or less than when you made it? I bet it was wild?!
"It was more exiting in a lot of ways because you never knew what was around the corner and everyone was doing it for the buzz and the experience, a little of that disappears when it becomes your "job""

It was this moment that I became aware of my phone buzzing in my pocket, I took it out and hung up on the caller... This was far more important and my mum would understand... Thank god I had it on vibrate, my ring tone was one of the bands biggest hits... 

So, what was your reaction when you first heard Relax?
"First time I ever heard "Relax" was when I saw an early line up playing in a club in Liverpool called Jodie's. MOT's [Mark O'Toole] brother Ged was playing guitar in the band at that time. I saw FGTH play live twice before I joined the band some time later."

And did any of you think "There is no way this is going to be allowed!"?
"The thought never crossed our minds to be honest."

Could you ever imagine that it would be as big as it was? Or as controversial? 
"Nobody could have imagined that the band were going to be as big as it became. If we would have know that we were going to sell millions of records then we would have negotiated a better record deal."

And where were you when you found out it had reached number 1?
"We were all in ZTT's offices when we heard the midweek prediction on Friday that the record was going to be No1."

And of course the song is almost as famous for its ban as the song itself, I wondered what was his initial reaction to the ban?
"We were in the ZTT office again. We were all laughing about it, everybody loved the idea that we were being seen as rebellious."

The car rocked and my suitcase knocked into my knees, Ouch I thought, why did I bring so many clothes?

Clothes... That got me thinking...

So, did you have a Relax t-shirt? 
"I think I had a couple of them. I still have 5 or 6 in a bag in the loft, I think some are unworn. I should flog them on Ebay!!"

We laughed, he would make a mint!

After Relax did you ever think "We can't top that"? Did you ever consider making Two Tribes 'ban-able' or did you make a conscious effort not to?
"We always thought TT should have been a single so we were delighted when it turned out the way it did. There was no intent to get any of our records banned. The record was not officially "banned" it was just "withdrawn from the playlist"

Now, as a child of the 80s I was aware of a lot of other bands... Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and of course Wham!... 

What did you guys think of bands like Wham!? And how did you feel when the good, clean cut George Michael went bad? Did any of you know he was gay? Or suspect?
"I think P & H knew he was gay and told us but we were unsure as he was always with a girl, maybe she was his beard. George is a nice guy and I have some fond memories of being in his company, most notably on stage at Hammersmith Odeon when he jumped up and joined us for "Relax". When he was jailed a few years ago I wrote to him and wished him well and told him to stop slagging off "Listen Without Prejudice" because "Praying For Time" is one of my all time favourites."

Cool, So do you have any good celeb stories then?
"Way too many to mention, there are a few in my autobiography but there are some that will have to remain in my head and private, I am not a grass."

Now my sister worshiped you, how does it feel to be a sex symbol? and be on millions of peoples bedroom walls? Or as fancy dress?!
"I have never perceived myself as being a sex symbol now, or then. It was certainly very strange to have teenage girls screaming at you. Strange but funny as well."

Were there any outfits that you just refused to wear?
"There probably were but I can't think of anything specific at the moment but I am sure there must have been some clothing strops at some point"

I quickly Googled an image on my phone... Maybe this one? I thought...

Who were your (& the bands) musical influences and did you meet any of them?
"My musical influences are very varied. I love Talk Talk and was fortunate to meet them a few times and in the space of 16 days last year I met my two guitar heroes, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. I met Jimmy on Kensington High St when I spotted him going into a health food store. I followed him and shook his hand. He shat himself when I tapped him on the shoulder, I think he must have thought I was the store detective. "

So, what do you think you'd be doing now if you'd never picked up a guitar?
"I would probably be working as an electrician in Liverpool, that is what I was doing before FGTH took off."

So, how does it feel when you hear a tune in the rough that you know is going to be good for the first time? Do you get a tingle or feeling?
"Writing a new song is a great feeling. I have never been one to sit down and think "Right, let's write a tune", they always stumble out. I wrote a song called "Don't Go Yet" recently that I think it the best song I have written and the whole thing came together in ten minutes. It was very strange. It was written about a departed friend who took his life and it just fell out one day."

Was there anything you didn't do that you wish you had done?
"Live Aid."

You guys were such larger than life characters, was this just an act? Or were you like that off stage too? 
"The whole band were larger than life characters and I think that is what appealed to a lot of people after they were exposed to the music. We were all just being ourselves, I don't think there was any pretending going on."

We passed the train station, we were getting close to his stop, bugger, I thought.... I suppose I could squeeze of a couple more questions...

Do you ever get stage fright? 
"Never had stage fright. Why would you be afraid of going out to play to people who have waited months to see you? From the first chord you have them in your pocket. The only reason to be afraid is if you are not prepared and I am always prepared. If something goes wrong then admit it and move on. The audience love seeing people fluff their lines and making mistakes."

After such a fabulous career, what is your personal career highlight? 
"Very difficult to pick one highlight but if I had to pick one then it would be having TT [Two Tribes] at No1 and Relax going back up the charts to join it at No 2. John Lennon had to die to achieve that feat."
... and Low? 
 "I can't really pick a low as the highs outnumber them by hundreds."

But there must have been some crazy rock and roll times... Leading me on to my next question...

What was the wildest thing you have done? 
"It depends what you mean by "wildest"? I did do a bit of room trashing but I am not proud of it. I threw a clothes rail out of a tv studio window once whilst drunk. It was a bit stupid because it could have killed someone. Like the previous question there were so many wild times that it is hard to pick just one."

The taxi radio was blaring out while we were talking, they don't make music like they used to I thought and asked... 
There was so much controversy about the band, do you feel that it would be the same if you guys had released Relax today? Do you think the censors have softened... Or the music has? 
"Sexual boundaries have changed. The first "Relax" video that was deemed "rude" looks like Play school compared to some stuff I have seen recently, especially by mainstream female artists who seem to think the way to the top is wearing very little and showing too much. If a major label could find someone who had singing tits they would be over the moon."

Ha! Wise words I thought... And as we spoke a familiar tune began banging out on the radio and Holly's melodic tones filled the car... " I'll protect you from the hooded claw, keep the vampires from your door..."

So my last question came as easily as the first... I wondered, how did it feel when he hears his hits still being played and enjoyed by kids today? 

"I have had the experience so many times now that it kind of passes me by and the only time I get a buzz is when you hear something in a strange place. Last year, whilst touring the battlefields of Belgium and France I heard TPOL in the reception of a museum. It is great that the music is still being played and people still like hearing the old songs."

Ha! So true! 

Suddenly the taxi driver piped up "Anywhere in particular for the drop off mate?" he asked.

Nasher indicated the corner of the next road and grabbed his things, it was still raining outside so I offered him my umbrella, it wasn't as if I was going to need it where I was going? Yes, sunny L.A. was calling, Beverly Hills, the Chinese Theatre,  Venice Beach and of course Hollywood! I couldn't wait! 

The car pulled up and Nasher opened the door ready to get out, he checked once more that I was sure that I didn't need the umbrella tonight and asked me for my name and address to send it back, I live at the address we got the taxi from,  I told him and my name is Francis... 

... But as he opened the umbrella and got out of the car, silently disappearing into the dark night I shouted after him... 

 "...But most people call me Frankie!"

For more information on Nasher and the boys go to:

And to buy his book go to:

Sunday, 2 November 2014

You can take the girl out of the South... - An interview with Donna Douglas

“Yeeehaw!” shouted the cowpoke, I had never been to an honest to goodness rodeo before and boy, my heart was a racin’ and a patterin’ like a canary on a tightrope!

My goodness, the way them critters kicked and bucked! And them poor cowboys in their plaid shirts and fancy leather cowboy boots! Well, it was enough to make a good girl blush.

I sat there on the rodeo bleachers, watching with excitement, jumpin’ and ahollorin’ along with the rest of them until my voice was as hoarse as a polecats britches an' it was so ding hot too! "Boy"I thought I felt down between my knees to retrieve the coke that I'd stowed away for safe keepin’, "I needed this!" and I tried to lift it up to my mouth with out spillin' it, which wasn't easy with all the folks around me jostling and jiggling, and it didn't help none too that I had lost the lid to the cup! So, carefully up past my best red cowboy boots the cup rose, tentatively up past my Texas shaped belt buckle... up… up... up to my plaid shirt… Nearly there... An' I was just thinkin' all the while that I was going to make when, in the twinkling of a bed-post there was a all mighty cheer from the crowd and whoosh! The whole kit and caboodle was out of my hands and flying in the air… I watched in horror as the cup seemed to be in slow motion as it flew! Coke and ice was everywhere… Oh my goodness gracious! What a coot! What a dunderhead! I was as red as a brand on a Bison’s be-hind…

Directly to my left a large piece of ice started to fall and I knew that if I could just reach out my hand in time I could catch it, but sadly
 my brain was quicker than my hands and just as I stretched out, the ice reached its destination... Right down the back of the dress of the pretty lady sittin' beside me.... And It was only then that I realised just who this pretty lady was!

Oh my gosh! Oh my goodness! It was none other than the critter lovin', beauty queenin', southern belle, Donna 'Elly May Clampett' Douglas! And I was more embarrassed than a holyman with his britches down!

Donna Douglas (born September 26, 1933) is an American actress, best known for her role as Jed Clampett's (played by Buddy Ebsen) only daughter, Elly May Clampett, in the CBS television seriesThe Beverly Hillbillies(1962-1971).  

Douglas was born Doris Smith in the community of Pride in East Baton Rouge Parish, near Zachary, Louisiana. She was the only daughter of Emmett Ratcliff Smith, Sr. (1907–1988)]and his wife, the former Elma Robinson (1910–2003).
The role she was most famous for was Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. She starred on the program for all nine seasons, along with Buddy EbsenIrene RyanNancy KulpRaymond Bailey, and Max Baer, Jr. The Beverly Hillbillies became the number one show in the United States in its first two years. [Wikipedia]

I apologised profusely, but you know what, Donna just smiled, a kind smile you only get from kind folk, the kind of smile I always hoped she'd have and after shakin' the ice from her dress we got'a talkin'...   

So, tell us a little summit' about Donna Douglas...
"Got married back home in Baton Rouge , LA right after graduating high school, 17 yrs. going on 12 yrs., so unprepared, however, back in the early 1950's back home that's just what you did! We married moved into by room at home with mom & daddy, he took a job out of town, I stayed home, got a little job, 6 mos later he can back home, we had little in common, however, during that time I became expecting with my little boy, over time we broke up, by the time my son was born we were separated and then divorced, all the while I was still living with my parents."

And how did you get started, acting and modelling?

"I had several little nothing jobs, took a short modeling course, was in a few little pageants, then I decided if mom & daddy would help me raise my little boy, I would go to NYC and try my hand at modeling"

Ok, two questions down, now I just had to talk about one character and that was Miss Elly May Clampett...

So, Donna, how did you get the part in The Beverly Hill Billies?
"After modeling for awhile in NYC met some people who knew producer Hal Wallis w/ Paramount in Hollywood, they offered me a screen test, did some small tv & film parts, found out about Elly May & the BH's they auditioned over 500 girls, narrowed down to 6, which I was one of the six, got the part, a true slice right out of my life."

Did you feel that Ella May was a kindred spirit, you being a southern bell, an animal lover and, so I have heard, a bit of a Tom-boy too?
"I was a total tomboy, an older brother & all male cousins, so if I wanted to play, you had to keep up, we swung on vines, jumped off sheds, played softball, in fact I played so much softball I was offered to be trained for a girls semi professional team, by then though I had my boyfriend/ soon to be husband and I didn't want to leave him, my only goals were to get married, be a good wife and someday be a mother, really simple!"

You sure handled a lot of 'critters' on the show!

"I always liked animals, trainer for the HB Frank Inn estimated I had worked w/ over 500 animals in the 9yr run of the show."

Wowza's I thought... Thats a heck of a lot of scratches and hairs up the nose, but she seemed to love those critters like a bear loves his honey!

Now Elly May may have been a bit rough around the edges, but she sure could cut a figure in them jeans! And Tiny!! Boy she was so slinky, I had to wonder... 

Were you really that tiny, or did you wear a corset of somekind? You really were winsey! 
"Me Blackwell (Richard) designed all my dresses/gowns of the famous worst dress list,
after the show ended, they gave me my show wardrobe which is all in my spare bedroom closet! Some of them were stunning and no!! They no longer fit, that was my natural waist size back then!!"


And the cast... What were they all like? Fabulous I a guessin'!
"I loved the cast, loved every minute of filming the whole 9 years. Buddy Ebsen (Jed) reminded me so much if my own father, we stayed life long friends, in fact Max Baer Jr (Jethro) and I saw Buddy at the hospital the night before he passed away."

Now Granny was a formidable character... Did Irene Ryan stay in character during filming or did she go back to being herself in between takes? Or was she really that grumpy?! 
"Irene Ryan (Granny), what a woman, only about 7-8 yrs older than Buddy, they did an excellent job aging her, I adored her, she had more scenes w/ Max, once again, we truly were like a family, we had so much fun filming."

You know, I thought as much!

How does it feel to think that people still watch and laugh at the series?
I get questioned about it all the time, 50 something yrs later and people still want to watch it. 

How does it feel to watch yourself today? 
Watching my self now?? Well it brings back a lot of memories, fun times, Elly May sure had opened a lot of doors for me!!" 

Now Donna is so much more than just Elly May... And I was itchin' like a bad rash to ask her some questions about her other projects and just about her, really!
Now, what is it like to be such a stunning woman in Hollywood? I bet you get loads of attention? Any famous names that you can tell me about that asked you on a date? I can't believe that no one did! 

"I tended not to date actors, too vain for my taste. Plus I got remarried right after filming completed."

And what is the fanmail like? Do you ever get obsessive fans? 
"I still get tons of email, photos to be signed, now w/ the internet, lots of emails, which I do answer myself, one week I got over 7,000 letters during the 1st year of the BH, that is still amazing to me."

Now, you were in my ultimately, absolutely, definitely, favourite episode of the Twilight Zone [Eye of the Beholder (1960)]....
"Twilight Zone, Eye of the Beholder was rated #1 by the fans."

Oh my goodness... Those pig faced people were truly disturbing!

"The masks were really something for that time period."

You just played Maxine after the reveal... But I've always wondered, why didn't you play her under the bandages? 

"The woman under the bandages, was a bit older, so when they unwrapped the bandage they used me, it was filmed in two parts a month or so apart, so I was told later."

Aha... Well that answers that mystery! Now I just needed to know why I can't make a chuck wagon Brisket as good as my ma's and I could get a full nights slumber!

But back to the matter at hand.

So, Donna, if you could, what advice would give the younger you?
"Younger Donna, just trust in God, be true to yourself and lead a simple life! I have had a very full & happy life, am just as busy now as I was then!"

That sounded good to me and with that Donna had to go, she got up and dusted herself down and there was another raucous cheer from the crowd, this time I wasn't sure if it was the rodeo clown or Donna herself! But as she grabbed her coat I took my chance and asked one final question, I wondered if she had been a real person, what did she think Elly May would be up to today?
"Well, if Elly May really had access to all those oil millions, she would have an animal preserve & then giving the majority to research for childhood diseases! I think Elly May would need very little of that oil money!!"

What a lovely and generous woman, she was fine as cream gravy! I had thrown ice at her and in return she had given me an experience I would never forget, no sir! And  you know what? I hope you enjoyed it too and remember everyone...

  "You'll come back now y'hear!"
For more information on the fabulous Donna go to: