Book Review: “A Bone in My Flute” by Holly Johnson

Despite being a fan of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, I didn’t come across this book until nearly 20 years after it was published (the lack of promotion for Holly’s works is a theme that comes up more than once in the book itself). I have recently re-read to help with writing my book Frankie Fans Say Welcome to Our World, which is about Frankie and their fans.

Having read A Bone in My Flute before and also having read (and listened to) Nasher Says Relax by Brian Nash, another member of Frankie, I had a better idea of what to expect this time. I remember that when I read it the first time – having avoided tabloid press and many music magazines when I was growing up – I had been shocked at the level of dis-unity in Frankie. In that respect it made it a difficult read that time.

Reading the book a second time, and with the additional knowledge of Nasher’s book and approaching it with an eye on how my own book will be put together, I was able to appreciate it in different ways.

The main thing that someone who reads this needs to appreciate, I think, is when it was written and the circumstances surrounding Holly at that time. The book was published in 1994 and the story really stops around a year or two earlier. The book was written around the time Holly had been diagnosed as having HIV and, given what had happened to so many of his friends who also had HIV, you can feel the anger with the belief that he would soon die. Happily, 27 years on as I read the book again, Holly is still with us. But I wonder, would he have written some of things that he wrote then had he known that he would be around for so many more years? The latter parts of the book really feel like the words of someone who wanted to have the final say on certain matters and not worrying about the consequences as he wouldn’t be around.

Rather than the parts about what happened during the Frankie years, I found the parts (about half of the book) about Holly’s early life the most interesting. These were, in many respects, the most detailed parts of the book and seemed a lot less rushed than some other parts. Still, I am left with question marks. For example, given Holly’s lack of academic ambition (or even participation at times) – where did some of his knowledge of literature come from? Welcome to the Pleasuredome and Rage Hard (as noted in the book) have poetic influences, but when did Holly learn about such poetry?

That the book was first published in 1994 – a time when none of us really were using the Internet much and what was available was fairly sparse – may also account for why there are some factual inaccuracies in the book as it would have been hard to check certain details in a way that can be done so easily today.

Just as I hope that Nasher will update his book since some time has passed since that was first published and it would be great to know more about what he has been doing in recent years, so A Bone in My Flute desperately needs an update. It will soon be 30 years since the book was first published. Holly has done so much since then – with the incredible album Europa worthy of particular mention (see my post about Influential Albums). With recent programmes like It’s A Sin (why was there no Frankie music in this – despite at least one scene apparently being filmed with it in?) doing so well, it would be really refreshing to read Holly’s long-term perspective of HIV and AIDS. There is so much that Holly has to tell us. Perhaps the added time would lead to a different approach to some of the other parts of the book.

Click here for information about the book on Amazon.

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