Title: ZTT come out to play
Author: Chris Heath
Source: Smash Hits
Chris Heath sees five bands, a sausage, throwing comedian, ice-creams in the interval and a lot of very weird goings-on in a posh London theatre.
ZTT, the record label behind Frankie Goes To Hollywood, certainly like to do things their own peculiar way. It’s pretty obvious as we file in to see “The Value Of Entertainment”, ZTT’s live presentation of all their other artists that this isn’t going to be like a normal concert.
To begin with, the venue’s not a sweaty cinema but rather the plush surroundings of the Ambassador’s Theatre in London’s West End. Surprisingly although it’s quite small, only just over half the seats are filled — mainly with people in their early 20s who look a bit stern and intellectual.
Once I’ve bought my ‘guide’ — £1.50 for a glossy folder holding black-and-white sheets on each of the acts — I shuffle to my seat. The lights dim and the curtains open to reveal Instinct (the band formed by three ex-members of the wacky funk-and-jazz group Pig bag). Perhaps the five funk based songs they play, including their forthcoming “Sleepwalking” single, would be better suited to a dance venue but even sitting down it sounds pretty good to me.
Before Andrew Poppy, ZTT’s other new signing, takes his turn the comedian who’s been hired to keep us amused during the change-overs comes on. He’s terrible — his jokes are either tedious or offensive and the funniest thing he does all evening is to throw sausages at the audience.
Not many people seem very impressed by Andrew Poppy and his eight-piece band either. They’re a strange cross between a classical orchestra and a pop group, and they play just one long piece called “Post Past The —” which sounded more like the theme from Star Trek than any1hing else.
Next on are The Art Of Noise. Most people expected that we’d be watching a performance featuring keyboard player Anne Dudley, engineer Gary Langan and Fairlight operator J.J. Jeczalik — the three people who actually record the music and who appeared behind the masks on Top Of The Pops. Instead there’s just two huge hollow heads hanging from the stage ceiling which have lots of weird slogans (“Mutation And Privilege”, “No Facts To Grind”) projected onto them. As “Close (To The Edit)/Beatbox” begins, three dancers bound round the stage. Then, as the beautiful melody of their last single “Moments In Love” appears from nowhere in particular, Paul Morley, the ex-journalist responsible for the Frankie sleevenotes, ads and t-shirts and who gives Art Of Noise their titles, gets out of his seat in the audience. He climbs onto the stage and, drink in one hand, microphone in the other, starts explaining the Art Of Noise.
The point of the Art Of Noise is, he says, just the music. All the rest — the spanner photos (“a spanner is intrinsically more interesting than Howard Jones”), the masks, Anne, Gary and J.J. are just things to help the music get noticed. “Last Monday when Anne, Gary and J.J. turned up for rehearsals we shot them,” he lies. “And now we’re back with no group, no names, no faces. We’re going to try again, just the music.”
Very strange. During the interval that follows, people scratch their heads, trying to work out what’s been going on, and buy ice-creams from the ice-cream girl.
After the break it’s Anne Pigalle’s turn. The French singer strolls on nonchalantly to join her band — pianist, saxophonist and percussionist calmly lights a cigarette, puffs on it, and begins to sing in her distinctive croaky style. Her voice is actually a bit ropey but the whole performance — full of melancholy, moody songs mixing French and English work quite well.
Last, and best, are Propaganda. They’re joined by Steve Jansen (ex-Japan), who drums unobtrusively at the back, and Derek Forbes (ex-Simple Minds), who makes a bit of a prat of himself bouncing around the front of the stage while everyone else is trying to look very cool but for some reason there’s no sign of Propaganda’s Ralf Dorper. Maybe he missed the plane from Germany. After a few songs from their forthcoming LP they close with the two brilliant singles, “Dr Mabuse” and “Duel”. But by then it seemed that everyone had had enough there’s quite a lot of clapping but only Paul Morley (who’s married to Propaganda’s Claudia) shouts for more.
As the exhausted crowd stumble out comparing notes (“Rubbish! So pretentious!” “Really? I thought it was good”) Paul stays sitting on the edge of the stage looking very fed up. I don’t know why. The evening’s best bits were brilliant and even the worst bits were interesting to watch. Not a complete success — but who else but ZZT would even have tried anything like it?