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).
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!Continue »