ZTT Records & Co. | Videos, Lives, Collaborations

ZTT Records & Co.


ZTT Records | #zttrecords
(Trevor Horn, Jill Sinclair, Paul Morley)
[1983-…], London, Greater London, United Kingdom


ZTT Records is a British record label founded in 1983 by record producer Trevor Horn, Horn’s wife, businesswoman Jill Sinclair, and NME journalist Paul Morley. The label’s name was also printed as “Zang Tumb Tuum” and “Zang Tuum Tumb” on various releases.

ZTT is an initialism of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s sound poem Zang Tumb Tumb, which described “zang tumb tumb” as the sound of a machine gun. The majority of the creative team at ZTT had first assembled when Horn produced the acclaimed album The Lexicon of Love for British pop band ABC. A precursor to ZTT was the short-lived Perfect Recordings label, spun off from the newly founded Perfect Songs publishing subsidiary of Trevor Horn and Jill Sinclair’s company. Perfect Recordings only released The Buggles‘ Adventures in Modern Recording and the singles derived from it.

In 1983 Horn, Sinclair and Morley founded ZTT Records, which soon boomed into success. Sinclair became ZTT’s managing director, while Paul Morley concentrated on marketing. In the same year Sinclair and Horn acquired Basing Street Studios from Island Records in exchange for distributing the ZTT label.

ZTT’s first major signing was Frankie Goes to Hollywood, whose hits « Relax » and « Two Tribes » were among the most influential and best-selling singles of the decade. It was the label’s second single, « Relax », that became the label’s first number one in January 1984. « Relax » stayed in the Top 75 for a full year and ZTT was well and truly established. During the 1980s also Grace Jones and Art of Noise were ZTT acts to chart. In the early days, the label also helped to shape the very structure and format of pop music (its 12” remixes getting chart positions of their own and its T-shirts becoming the uniform of the 80s) and turned every aspect of the business of pop into entertainment.

In 1984, the Horn-Sinclair family businesses were reorganized as SPZ Group, which then consisted of Sarm West Studios, Perfect Songs and ZTT records. From the beginning, the majority of ZTT releases were published by Perfect Songs and recorded at Sarm West Studios. The latter part of the decade was eclipsed by the bitter legal battle between ZTT and Holly Johnson who fought his way out of the strict, long recording agreement. Similarly, in disagreement, a few other ZTT artists, such as Art of Noise and Propaganda, left the label. Propaganda‘s case was settled out of court; Johnson won his outright.

In the late 1990s ZTT refocused on the emerging dance music scene. Manchester group 808 State would reach the top 10 with its anthemic song « Pacific State » and three other singles and one album during early Nineties. Seal was the next major ZTT act to emerge in 1990s, and the label also scored hit singles and albums with MC Tunes and Shades of Rhythm.

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