Title: The ZTT label: part 1
Author: Ian Peel
Source: Record Collector
Publish date: Oct. 88
THE ZTT LABEL
THE FIRST OF THREE PARTS OF IAN PEEL’S SURVEY OF THE VERY COLLECTABLE LABEL
Early in 1983, top producer and former member of Yes, Trevor Horn, launched his pet project: his own record label. With an entirely new approach to creating and marketing music, his label had a radical effect on many of those in the music business.
Horn recruited his wife, Jill Sinc1air, as Managing Director. They had met when he had taken the demo tape for “Video Killed The Radio Star” by his band Buggles to Island Records’ Sarm West studios, which she ran.
In 1979, when “Video Killed The Radio Star” had topped the British charts, Horn was interviewed by radical music journalist Paul Morley for the ‘NME’. Horn was impressed by his style and later appointed him as his Marketing Executive.
The record label was Zang Tumb Tuum, or ZTT for short, named after the words which an Italian futurist, Russulo, used to describe the sound of machine-gun fire.
Paul Morley’s job was to organise the marketing of ZTT. This ranged from helping to choose the bands to designing their image, record sleeves and even the videos, if necessary.
If you mention that you collect ZTT records, people immediately think of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, their most commercial signing. There is more to the label than that one group: Art Of Noise and Propaganda have only had minor commercial success, but are very popular with collectors.
Much of this popularity stems from the controversial marketing approach, wholeheartedly approved by Morley, of multiple releases. The variety of different mixes available of “Two Tribes” by FGTH helped give the single a major push towards becoming the best selling 12” single of all time.
For the acts mentioned above and the ten or more others, ZTT has released a mass of different pressings aimed directly at the collector. These include multiple 7” and 12” pressings, 7” and 12” gatefold double-packs, 7”, 12” and shaped picture discs, cassingles, CD singles and rare promotional records.
In these features I hope to present biographies and discographies, as accurate as possible, of the many artists who have recorded for ZTT over the past five years. Other schemes that have been used to market these acts will also be explored.
As well as the artists, the actual record label has had an interesting history. In the beginning ZTT was distributed by Island Records, owned by Trevor Horn’s friend Chris Blackwell. In August 1986, they bought the bankrupt Stiff Records (taking on their debts of £1.5 million). In 1987 ZTT cut their links with Island Records, consequently becoming a completely independent label. Also in 1987, Paul Morley left ZTT to further his career as a journalist. At the moment ZTT are considering becoming part of the Warners group.
We have divided our ZTT history into three parts. This month we deal with Art of Noise and Propaganda; next month Frankie Goes To Hollywood; and in December the remainder of the acts on the label’s roster.
There are a number of general points concerning the following discographies that should be born in mind. Firstly, values given are averages, as prices for ZTT records vary greatly. As one astute reader observed, the “Dr. Mabuse” 12” remix by Propaganda has been advertised for sale from £7 up to £20, but he saw it at a record fair for £4, after seeing it in a wanted list where someone was prepared to pay up to £30!
Paul Morley invented ‘Incidental Series’ numbers to be written on the sleeves of many early ZTT records. They seem to be just a marketing concept to encourage collectors to part with their money, as the numbers are not consecutive and seem very randomized. If you are collecting ZTT, take my advice and don’t go by the Incidental Series numbers as you will be misled. For example, the 7” single of “Close (To The Edit)” by Art Of Noise is: “No. 41 in ZTT’s questioning incidental series”, the first 12” version becomes: “No. 60 in ZTT’s maturing incidental series”, and the U.S. 7” version is “No. 15 in ZTT’s alien incidental series”. Media manipulation, joke or mistake? You never can tell with ZTT!
Many of the early releases also carried a ‘ZTT Action Series’ number on their sleeves. These are not so misleading, as the number is the same as the number after the ZTAS prefix in the catalogue number.
I am referring to the record label as simply ZTT, as over the past five years they have spelled their name in various ways! In most instances they are Zang Tumb Tuum, although on Act’s first 12” they were Zang Tuumb Tumb, on Art Of Noise’s “Love Beat 12”” they were Zang Tuum Tumb and on Anne Pigalle’s album they were Zang Tumb Tang. Confused? I don’t blame you!
Art of Noise
The first band signed to ZTT consisted of Anne Dudley and J.J. Jeczalik who worked on Frankie’s “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome” album, Gary Langan, Trevor Horn and Paul Morley. Morley didn’t actually contribute to the music but he wrote the sleeve notes and named the songs. The Art Of Noise’s most successful ZTT release was “Close (To The Edit)” in 1984. Like all other AoN material it was instrumental, played using a variety of synthesizers and innovative production techniques. Gary Langan and J.J. Jeczalik, the founder members, created the avant-garde sounds and rhythms and Anne Dudley — who has worked with Paul McCartney, George Michael and ABC — put in the melodies.
According to J.J., in an interview conducted in 1986, Trevor Horn “let us use his studio and made us cups of coffee”. Of Paul Morley he said “(he) is an evil and wicked man and we will not be drawn into a slanging match with him, although I must admit he appreciates a good game of cricket”!
The aim of the marketing of the Art Of Noise must have been to completely confuse the collector into buying anything for a complete collection! Many standard ZTT marketing ploys were used, for example three different sleeves for the album and different B-sides for 12” singles with the same catalgue number and sleeve. However, some ‘genuine’ collectables have also surfaced. Most confusing of all (and cruel to the collector), have been the different titles used for the same track: for instance, “Beatbox Diversion 2” is the same as the LP version of “Close (To The Edit)”; similarly “Beatbox’Diversion 10” is the same as “Beatbox”, the B-side of the “Moments In Love” single, which is completely different from “Beatbox” on the “Into Battle…” EP.
In 1985 Dudley, Jeczalik and Langan left ZTT over marketing disputes, namely the huge conceptual smoke screen pulled over the faces of the three main members. If you have ever seen an AoN ZTT record sleeve, you’ll know what I mean!
The break-away members, who said they were responsible for “98.98% of the music”, quickly signed to China Records (distributed by Chrysalis and recently bought up by Polydor). Many ZTT fans also collect these releases — which include the “Peter Gunn” hit with legendary guitarist Duane Eddy — and there is scope for a complete AoN discography in a future issue of RC.
Since the split, ZTT have re-released some Art Of Noise material, including a CD-only compilation “Daft”, and 7” and 12” releases of “Moments In Love”. In addition “Into Battle With The Art Of Noise”, which was their first release on ZTT (as a now rare and valuable 12” and cassette EP), has mysteriously reappeared in 12” format in some larger record stores at normal 12” price, but in only a standard ZTT bag.
“Into Battle…” was ZTT’s first cassingle, a format they used for many subsequent singles. The only Art Of Noise album, “Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Noise?” was released in October 1984. The vinyl version came in no less than three different picture sleeves. This conceptual album featured tracks ranging in length from over ten minutes to one minute exactly! Trevor Horn signed 250 copies, which adds an extra £4 to their value.
12” promo copies of the AoN’s second single, “Close (To The Edit)”, are in circulation on the collectors’ market, selling for between £5 and £10. The U.S. 7” version has a different sleeve and B-side, which is a rare remix of “Donna” from “Into Battle…”. Entitled “(do) Donna (do)”, it is extended by over two minutes.
The U.K. B-side was “A Time To Hear (Who’s Listening)”, which was a medley of themes from the album. Part of this 7” sleeve acted as a voucher which gave the buyer 50p off the “Who’s Afraid” LP.
The “Moments In Love” 12” is quite confusing and warrants some explanation for potential buyers. The jacket calls it: “The Art Of Noise’s Love Beat 12””. On the sleeve and label, Side One is listed as “Moments In Love (Beaten)”, whilst you actually also get “Moments In Love (7”)”. On the sleeve, Side Two is listed as “Beatbox” and “Love Beat”, whilst the label reads “Beatbox (Diversion 10)”. This time the actual record plays “Beatbox” (which is the same as the “Moments In Love” 7” B-side, as mentioned earlier) and “Love Beat”.
The “Daft” CD-only compilation was made up of tracks from the “Who’s Afraid…” album and the “Into Battle…” and “Love Beat” 12” singles. There is no CD release for “Who’s Afraid”. No U.K. Art Of Noise CD singles were produced while they were signed to ZTT, but recently a German import of “Moments In Love” has started to circulate in the U.K., and this is worth around £9.
Finally, there is a unique mix of “Moments In Love” on the recently-released various artists compilation, “Horizons — 16 Innovative Instrumentals” (K- Tel NE 1360).
In 1983 Propaganda came to England from Dusseldorf in Germany, where they all lived, to search for a record deal. The “music project”, as founder member Ralf Dorper preferred to call it, comprised himself, Michael Mertens who had played with the Dusseldorf Symphonia, Susanne Freytag, and most recently Claudia Brucken whose last musical post had been in the female German band ‘The Toppolinos’.
When Paul Morley was given a copy of Propaganda’s demo tape he invited them back, over to England to work in ZTT’s studio. They were quickly signed and released their first single, “Dr Mabuse”, soon after. It was one of the biggest near-hits of 1984.
During their stay at ZTT, Propaganda were very much into ‘line extension’, in other words the continual remixing of their material and releasing the results on a variety of formats: 7” and 12” singles, clear vinyl, cassingles and shaped picture discs.
“Dr. Mabuse” was a famous case for multiple releases and Propaganda’s third single, “P Machinery”, was reissued or ‘reactivated’ late in 1985, having surprisingly stiffed first time around. Collectors should note that the 12” reissue mix, “The Beta Wrap Around Of…” is the same as “P Machinery Beta”, which was the original 12”.
In August 1985 Propaganda released their only album on ZTT, “A Secret Wish”, although a remix LP, “Wishful Thinking”, followed in December. Some Propaganda remixes can be a little misleading for the collector. For instance “Lied” and “The Lesson”, found on the free single given away with some copies of “Duel”, are actually remixes. “Lied” is an exclusive mix of an album track, “The Chase”, and “The Lesson” incorporates samples and vocal fragments from “Dr. Mabuse”.
In 1984 Propaganda’s main vocalist, Claudia Brucken, married Paul Morley and moved permanently to England to live with him. At the time of the release of “Duel”, the band’s second single, she didn’t think this would interfere with the group. “I don’t want Propaganda to be involved in our marriage”, she declared, “It is just an accident that we work together.” Unfortunately things were not to stay as calm as she had hoped and Propaganda split late in 1986. “Propaganda had split up after rows with Claudia Brucken after she married Paul Morley”, Jill Sinclair told press, “we can hardly be blamed for that, she can’t help who she falls in love with.”
After the split Claudia Brucken went on to form Act with Thomas Leer. As for other band members, only rumours circulate as to their whereabouts. What is fairly certain is that synth player Susanne Freytag has also left and that Propaganda will be carrying on in one form or another. What is definite is that as yet no Propaganda records have been released on a new label.
The following discographical information may be of assistance to collectors. After 7” and 12” releases of “Dr. Mabuse”, instrumental versions were also issued in these formats, but in a new cover. The original pressings in a white cover have now become much rarer than the instrumentals, which were available in a dark picture cover depicting the group members.
Early pressings of “Duel”, the second single which followed a year later, carne with a picture label. These were phased out in favour of a standard ZTT label and are now quite rare. Also gaining in value is the 7” shaped picture disc version. It shows a picture of — and is in the shape of — the distinctive ZTT logo. The disc states that it should be played at 33rpm. Playing at this speed reveals this to be a printing error!
The most valuable of the “Duel” pressings is a 12” U.K. white label promo which sports a rare remix, “Bejewelled”.
The largest number of Propaganda multiple was for “P Machinery”, their last single for ZTT. Most collectable are the clear releases: 7” and 12” vinyl and a cassingle in a stunning clear case. Some of the normal 12” copies came with a free 12” pressing of “Duel”, but overall the most valuable version was the second “Beta” mix with a free copy of the 12” clear vinyl version and a promo poster, all in a gatefold sleeve. This package is now worth £15.
It was once said of ZTT that they specialised in two kinds of music: music that was art and music that was money. FGTH were the latter, Art Of Noise were a bit of both, which left Andrew Poppy with the art.
He was signed in 1984 and has so far released two albums of innovative instrumental material. There have been few multiple issues, but his first release, a 12”-only single, is becoming sought after by ZTT collectors.
“32 Frames/The Impossible Net” was released in 1986 and subsequently appeared on the album, “The Beating Of Wings”. In 1987 he released a second album, “Alphabed (A Mystery Dance)”, containing only three tracks: “45 is”, “Goodbye Mr G.” and “The Amusement”, the latter also appearing as a single.
None of these singles or albums made any impact on the charts, so Poppy’s most notable achievement was the theme music for what was to be the last series of Channel 4’s ‘The Tube’. This music was actually a remake of the last few sections of the track “The Object Is A Hungry Wolf’, found on his first album.