Ptang Zang Tuum Tuum kipperbang — Ugh!
Once upon a time, producer Trevor Horn and writer Paul Morley decided they would create the biggest and most exciting groups of the ‘80s. Now with the like of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Propaganda and The Art Of Noise on their books, their story seems set to have a happy ending. By Kim Fenton.
Behind every group there lurks a successful mouth. Behind Frankie Goes To Hollywood the gob with the gift of the gab belongs to ex-N.M.E. writer Paul Morley. Assisted by the world’s number one producer, Trevor Horn, Paul has created Zang Tuum Tuum (Z.T.T.), a record company with zest intelligence and a master plan to create the biggest and most exciting groups of the ‘80s. I spoke to him on the sunny roof of the Z.T.T. building. Meanwhile Frankie Fans sat outside waiting for a glimpse of Holly…
How did Zang Tuum Tuum come about?
“While Trevor Horn was in Buggles I interviewed him for N.M.E. and slagged him off something rotten. Trevor said afterwards that the interview really made him think about what he was doing. When producing Malcolm Mclaren and A.B.C., I interviewed him again, this time to say I liked what he was doing. Then I decided to leave N.M.E. I was at my wits end deciding what to do when he rang me and suggested we should set up a record label. I thought great, the possibilities are endless. I couldn’t be playful without having the best producers in the world. Trevor could knock out a China Crisis record over night, but I won’t let him do that. He gets worried sometimes when I’m planting adverts in the press and he hasn’t even finished the record. But this is good, it means he has to produce one hell of a record.”
“Our intention was to release three records, and be the best record label in the world. Most groups when they get success calm down, Frankie Goes To Hollywood will get wilder and sillier.”
Why was ‘Relax’ such a success?
“‘Relax was banned because I put the word suck on the cover, that’s what offended Mike Read, not the record. Why keep it under the counter? We received over 20,000 letters for Frankie, most of them unrepeatable. One fifteen year old girl sent a photo of herself dressed in suspenders and knickers sitting on her Dad’s mercedes. Magazines like Smash Hits have misled people. It’s not shiny white teeth and floppy hairstyles that appeal to today’s teens, it’s sex. Relax brought this out into the open. But Frankie Goes To Hollywood are not sex and rubber full stop. This was only the beginning, the first stage of the plan.
“The next single is called “Two Tribes”. It pokes fun at those pop groups who believe they can change the world with their lyrics. At the same time it’s a very serious and agressive anti-war song about the stupidity and futility of war. Holly and his group have humour, when they’re at No 1 they want to say something a bit more exciting than “I know what it means to work hard on machines”. With this single it’s almost like launching a new group. They’re dressed in Russian and American uniforms, this is stage two of the plan; stage three will see something completely different, by stage four, Frankie Goes To Hollywood will be the biggest group in the world.”
What do you think of videos yourself?
“I hate videos, I think videos are stupid, but you have to do them to sell records. For the Propaganda video we tried to make something that was a little more than your average pop promo. But because it didn’t have that Thompson Twin’s tinny slickness, the T.V. companies wouldn’t show it. For the next one we’ll admit defeat and get Godley and Creme to direct it.
“The most creative brains in Britain today go into advertising. People like Sony or Benson and Hedges use their advertising space to entertain people. Most record companies say things like “out now” or “coming soon” which is fairly obvious, and very boring. Z.T.T. treat their adverts as part of the whole entertainment package.”
Is pop dead then?
“It’s not even started yet because no-one has yet applied real intelligence to it. Frankie Goes To Hollywood are the last pop group, a cross between the Sex Pistols and the Monkeys. Everyone says pop is dead, but that’s because no-one has thought of new forms. The Art Of Noise is not a group. Using an engineer, a producer, a computer operator and a conventional musician, we use the studio as our instrument. As a result The Art Of Noise make great, different, danceable Pop music.”
Did you ever want to be a pop star?
“No, but it’s funny, because of my involvement with The Art Of Noise, I’ve been interviewed as if I was one, by Sounds, Record Mirror etc. I don’t mind because I think I talk about things better than Gary Kemp or Morrisey.”
Where does the name Zang Tuum Tuum come from?
“It’s an old futurist word to represent the sound of a machine gun, I used it to indicate the Z.T.T. drum sound.
And the future?
“In 1984 people have got so many stimuli, you can’t be gentle and mild, you’ve got to be aggressive and glamorous. Give them something that after they’ve lived they feel they’ve had an adventure. The only thing you can give people is dreams.”
Spot the contradictions. This man hates the chart dominators, yet wants to dominate the charts, loves pop and loathes pop groups. Paul Morley uses the word intelligent a great deal. Groups like Propaganda and Frankie Goes To Hollywood apart from being glamorous and exciting, are most definitely ANTI STUPID. So get smart, forget the candy floss gloss pop of the chart fakers and go for some real Zang Tuum Tuum gold.