ZTT Records

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Zang Tumb Tuum
Stylised logo of ZTT Records. All in upper-case capital letters; the 'Z' is enclosed within a pink and black square, followed by 'ANG'; the 'T' is enclosed within a light-blue and black square, followed by 'UMB'; and the final 'T' is enclosed within a yellow and black square, followed by 'UUM'.
ZTT Records logo
Parent companyUMC (Universal Music catalogue)
Founded1983 (1983)
FounderJill Sinclair
Trevor Horn
Paul Morley
Distributor(s) Universal Music Operations
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Official websiteZTT.com

ZTT Records is a British record label founded in 1983 by the record producer Trevor Horn, the businesswoman Jill Sinclair and the NME journalist Paul Morley.[1] They released music by acts including Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Grace Jones, the Art of Noise and Seal.

In December 2017, Universal Music Group (UMG) acquired ZTT Records, along with Stiff Records.[2] The ZTT and Stiff back catalogues were licensed to BMG Rights Management under Union Square Music until 2022, when Universal relaunched the label.


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.[3] It is believed that they likely got the idea for the name via John McGeoch, who produced the Swedish pop-funk band Zzzang Tumb's eponymous 1983 album around the same time as the label was founded.[4]

The majority of the creative team[clarification needed] at ZTT had first assembled when Horn produced the album The Lexicon of Love for the 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, along with the singles derived from it.

In 1983, Horn, Sinclair and Morley founded ZTT Records,[1][5] which after a slow start boomed. Sinclair became ZTT's managing director, while Paul Morley concentrated on marketing.[3] In the same year, Sinclair and Horn acquired Basing Street Studios from Island Records in exchange for distributing the ZTT label.[6]

ZTT's first signing was Frankie Goes to Hollywood (FGTH),[1] whose hits "Relax" and "Two Tribes" were among the best-selling singles of the decade.[7] It was the label's second single, Relax, that became the label's first number one in January 1984.[7] Relax stayed in the UK Singles Chart for a full year, and ZTT was well and truly established. During the 1980s, Grace Jones and Art of Noise[1] were other ZTT acts to chart.[7] ZTT Records also helped define the structure and formats of the UK pop music scene; as part of their marketing efforts to prolong the life of a single release, ZTT issued multiple 12" remixes which charted at positions in their own right as a separate 12" single.[1] ZTT Records also licensed or produced t-shirts with graphic messages related to its artists' singles (eg. Frankie Say Arm the Unemployed),[8] which themselves became 1980s icons.[1] ZTT were unafraid to invert the business of pop and turn it into entertainment.[1]

In 1984, the Horn-Sinclair family businesses were reorganised as SPZ Group, which then consisted of Sarm West Studios, Perfect Songs, and ZTT Records.[9] 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 a bitter legal battle between ZTT and Holly Johnson, who fought his way out of the strict, long recording agreement.[7] Similarly, other ZTT artists, such as Art of Noise and Propaganda, were disenchanted and left the label. Propaganda's case was settled out of court; Johnson won his outright.[7]

By the late 1980s, ZTT began to focus on the emerging dance music scene. Manchester trance group 808 State[1] would reach the top 10 with Pacific State, and three other singles and one album during the early 1990s.[7] Seal[1] was the next major ZTT act to emerge in the 1990s, and the label also achieved hits with MC Tunes and Shades of Rhythm.[3]

ZTT Records have produced forty-five Top 40 hits in the United Kingdom, fifteen of which were Top 10 hits.[1]

In May 2022, UMG released the new album by Propaganda vocalists Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag on the reactivated ZTT Label. Credited to xPropaganda, the album was recorded with producer Stephen Lipson, titled The Heart Is Strange and received a generally positive reception. [10][11] [12]

Music videos and cover art[edit]

ZTT Records in London (1986)

ZTT Records pioneered music video and cover art as forms of high art in their own right. Paul Morley commissioned videos from then-unknown directors, who would go on to become acclaimed in their field, such as Anton Corbijn, Godley & Creme, Zbigniew Rybczyński and Andy Morahan.

Morley also commissioned early ZTT sleeve design and photography to pioneers of the medium such as Malcolm Garrett, Anton Corbijn, Mark Farrow and Jean-Paul Goude.

The label's work in the visual field was profiled by Tony Enoch in Design Week, who positioned ZTT as "from a time when a record label meant something – a happening, a sense of belonging. Labels defined people's youth. Think Apple, Virgin, Beggar's Banquet, ZTT, and Stiff: small, independent British labels appearing to be able to do anything they wanted, reinventing the rules."[13]

In 2008, journalist Ian Peel curated a first exhibition of ZTT sleeve art for galleries in London and Tokyo,[14] and in 2013, he curated the visual archives of ZTT and Sarm West Studios before the studios were demolished. In 2009, Peel compiled a DVD of the labels' most acclaimed videos, entitled 'The Television is Watching You', which received a British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) 15 Certificate.[15]

Notable acts on the ZTT label[edit]

1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 2020s

† as one-time UK distributor for Tommy Boy Records

Action Series[edit]

As part of ZTT internal cataloguing of releases, they maintained two series; the Action Series, and the Incidental Series. The Action Series was issued mainly to singles and albums by a majority of the labels artists. However to confuse matters, the series also contains a booklet and a concert.

The Action series paused in 1988,[17] and was restarted by record label manager Ian Peel in 2012.

Artist Song
AS1 Frankie Goes to Hollywood Relax
AS2 Propaganda Dr. Mabuse
AS3 Frankie Goes to Hollywood Two Tribes/War
AS4 Frankie Goes to Hollywood Welcome to the Pleasuredome (album)
AS5 Frankie Goes to Hollywood The Power of Love
AS6 Frankie Goes to Hollywood And Suddenly There Came A Bang! (booklet)
AS7 Frankie Goes to Hollywood Welcome to the Pleasuredome (single)
AS8 Propaganda Duel
AS9 Roy Orbison Wild Hearts
AS10 Various The Value Of Entertainment (concert)
AS11 Art of Noise Who's Afraid of the Art of Noise
AS12 Propaganda p:Machinery
AS13 Propaganda A Secret Wish
AS14 Various The Shape of the Universe, Original Soundtrack
AS15 Glenn Gregory & Claudia Brucken When Your Heart Runs Out of Time
AS16 Grace Jones Slave to the Rhythm (A Biography)
AS17 Andrew Poppy The Beating of Wings
AS18 Various Zang Tuum Tumb Sampled
AS19 Anne Pigalle Everything Could Be So Perfect...
AS20 Propaganda Wishful Thinking
AS21 Propaganda p:Machinery (Reactivated)
AS22 Frankie Goes to Hollywood Rage Hard
AS23 Frankie Goes to Hollywood Liverpool
AS24 Das Psycho Rangers Starve God There's Choice
AS25 Frankie Goes to Hollywood Warriors of the Wasteland
AS26 Frankie Goes to Hollywood Watching the Wildlife
AS27 Andrew Poppy Alphabed (A Mystery Dance)
AS28 ACT Snobbery and Decay

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Salvo – ZTT". Salvo-Music.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2 November 2019. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  2. ^ "Universal Music acquires iconic British indie labels Stiff". Billboard. Archived from the original on 12 May 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "The influence of ZTT Records". BBC.co.uk. United Kingdom: BBC News. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  4. ^ Kristina Adolfsson (June 1990). "Latte Kronlund" (in Swedish). Slitz.
  5. ^ "Universal inks deal with ZTT Records". ZTT.com. ZTT Records. Archived from the original on 2 September 2016. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  6. ^ "Our history". SarmMusicVillage.com. Archived from the original on 25 August 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Colin Larkin, ed. (2003). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 513. ISBN 1-85227-969-9.
  8. ^ "FGTH Home Page". Frankie-say.net. Retrieved 24 March 2023.
  9. ^ Rayner, Gordon (25 March 2014). "Record company boss Jill Sinclair, wife of Trevor Horn, dies eight years after shooting accident". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  10. ^ "Propaganda / The Heart Is Strange. New album available on SDE-exclusive blu-ray audio". SuperDeluxeEdition.com. 15 February 2022. Retrieved 24 March 2023.
  11. ^ "Claudia Brücken, Susanne Freytag and Steve Lipson announce xPropaganda album". Loudersound.com. 15 February 2022.
  12. ^ "Review: xPropaganda - The Heart Is Strange - Classic Pop Magazine". Classicpopmag.com. Retrieved 24 March 2023.
  13. ^ Tony Enoch (13 February 2009). "ZTT in Design Week". ZTT.com. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  14. ^ "The art of ZTT Records". ArtVinyl.com. 13 October 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  15. ^ "Album: Zang Tumb Tuum: The ZTT Box Set". Relayer35.com. 28 October 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  16. ^ "Spill News: Xpropaganda New Album 'The Heart is Strange' Coming May 20 Via ZTT Records". The Spill Magazine. 17 February 2022.
  17. ^ "BBC – h2g2 – ZTT Records 1983-1988". BBC.co.uk. BBC. Retrieved 19 August 2007.

External links[edit]