Articles
 
 
 
Source:
Zig Zag
 
Author:
Mick Mercer

Publication Date:
June 1985

 
 
 
Title:
HOW TO BE TOPPS: THE WORLD OF ZTT

 
 
 

There is a row of buildings in Notting Hill, a few blocks from the Portobello Road Gents. It consists, starting with the South End, of a large whitestone that appears fairly new in contrast with the brownstones surrounding it, occupied by a few lower income families living in decrepid terraced properties or operating small ground level business premises. Sarn Studios, one time tailor’s shop occupies the street level space in the middle of the white building. The ground and first floor are occupied by the exclusive ‘Keyhole’ Club where patrons don masks of secrecy to preserve their identity. On the second floor there is a sedate suite of offices that serve the studio owners with expensive coffee machines and executive toys. All these buildings are owned by affiliated members of the ‘Keyhole’ Club.

Behind the outer, crumbling skin of the old building there are steel corridors, painted blue, containing brisk, alert young people as well as highly complex masses of modern machinery for business and communications.

This is the heart and brain of the organisation known as Z.T.T. (the initials themselves standing for something secret). Its work crosses national boundaries so that a mountain top telegram from the Himalayas fails to raise any eyebrows.

The range of duties tackled by Z.T.T. is immense and catholic. There will usually be the smell of something international in the wind, although Z.T.T. will often find itself called into local situations.

Anything affecting large masses of people or what might set up a general reaction across several continents is the work of Z.T.T.

Whatever the situation, certain we are that from his office on the second floor a slight, quiet spoken, dark haired man will set a trap to ensure that all hell lets loose. He will not hesitate to set himself up against seemingly impossible odds. If an agent is lost his one concern is to replace the casualty and salvage the operation.

That man is Paul Morley, lore enforcement agent for Z.T.T.

WAKE ME UP BEFORE YOU GAUGUIN
 
WEARING DALI'S BRA
MICK MERCER
ENTERS THE POISONED WORLD OF
ART OF NOISE
(AS DICTATED BY THE P.M.)
 
A few days before my interview with Paul Morley I waited, watching in horror, as my bus missed a fatal collision with ‘Big Mister Oil Tanker’ by centimetres. The art of noise would have been pretty colourful.

But that never happened and I remain alive; to play the latest record incessantly, because putting it on isn’t like putting a record on. So you could say The Art Of Noise whipped my family.

“One, the parody of the pop group and the second is they’re ZTT’s house band, so if you want to know what ZTT is about you’ll get it in its most undiluted sense through the Art Of Noise. You get the sound of ZTT, you get the feel of ZTT, you’ll get the joke of ZTT and of course — what we’ve been talking about — you’ll get the sense of ZTT coming up for its first real confrontation against the machinery that has killed so many ideas and ideals before now. You’ll get all of that out of The Art of Noise.”

Paul Morley used to pose around in big gloves, but we’ll get to that. When I enter the cosy Portobello Road public house Paul Morley is sitting in the corner. Around him young men drink and caper, dancing on tables, seeking to impress. They kick drinks this way and that, they tickle old men under the chin and goose fat women in crimplene slacks. Morley doesn’t bother himself with this, sitting quietly to one side, chewing on ulcers, a cookbook balanced on his head. Weird.

“Jerry Lee Lewis did a really good record. It was a four track EP with ‘Never Smile At A Crocodile’ on it. ‘Sunday, Sunday Driving’… ‘I Got A Picture Hanging Upside Down’. What we wanted to do — it’ll happen more on ‘Daft’ (AONLP-2) a lot more — was apply that sense of Tex Avery… that sense of turning things upside down a little bit, applied to sophisticated techniques of new recording… which is why the Industry has taken over; Phil Collins is a supreme example of that. I want to combine the spirit of Charlie Drake — ‘Boomerang Won’t Come Back’ — and Jerry Lee Lewis’s ‘I’ve Got A Picture Hanging Upside Down’, with sophisticated recording techniques, where Michael Jackson will simply combine rock‘n’roll tradition with sophisticated recording techniques, which simply becomes fascist in its form. So that was our intention.

“Good answer that. The question was probably, ‘Do you remember Jerry Lee Lewis’s ‘I’ve Got A Picture Hanging Upside Down?’, which of course I do.”

Thunderbird One rises vertically from the gloom.

“Well side one will be a track called ‘Basil d’Olivera’. I’ve always found intelligent people respond quite positively to cricket… Samuel Becket, Harold Pinter… and The Art Of Noise respond heavily to cricket.”

The Art Of Noise look dreadful on TV, rather like the Rah Band.

“Well, yes ... um ...”

Should Gooch and the other traitors be allowed back into the England team?

“Nah. In two seasons time we’ll have about six… I’m talking about the Alan Lambs… they find a way to seep into your culture by becoming English all of a sudden. I don’t like Alan Lamb playing for England, He’s not English! Cricket’s one of the few places where you can be racist. He should play for South Africa and if they can’t play they can’t play.”

He’s got a bloody silly voice as well.

”That’s what I mean. When he speaks it’s like Tony Grieg.”

Alan Ball!

“It was bad enough Mike Denness playing for England, he’s a Scot! Arrhhhh… Alan Ball! Emlyn Hughes!”

I buy him a distillery for this fluency and those men mentioned earlier have taken to seated slimemongering, listening in? A&R men? I can smell ‘em a yard off, but Morley knew what they were all along. CBS (was it?) saw at the chandelier above our heads.

“It was a combination really — what we’re trying to do — between the two things that seem to inspire the nation at the moment. Ice skating and pets. Like a Blue Peter video y’know? Tortoises called Fred and then they turn out to be called Freda so they add the ‘a’ (anarchy!) and then they say, ‘But don’t you do it because the paint might be toxic and seep through the shell’. So it was Torvill & Dean, pets and the video cliches.”

Paul Morley has attracted the arrows of outrageous fortune like a porcupine, but he isn’t flaunting them. Or at least not here. He knows Art Of Noise are rebels. Our A&R companions haven’t twigged (and won’t) so Morley raises his voice. He is, as it turns out, capable of brawling with the best of them, but if you asked him he’d say it was nothing.

“In America Trevor Horn. In Britain Paul Morley and Trevor Horn and in Europe J.J. Jeczalik, Gary Langham and Anne Dudley.”

Tell me something that hurts.

”Hurts who? Hurts me? You want me to admit to an embarrassment?”

A LARGE embarrassment.

“Large?” The spies list anxiously to port. “I think now it’s verging on the ordinary. I think in two years it will be past the extraordinary. The only reason it’s verging on the ordinary is just a manifestation of Frankie in a way… that after a while the rhythm and momentum of that machine finds a way to chuck you. In a couple of years hopefully — because we like cricket — we’ll have the intelligence to overcome that dilemma.

“It is a dilemma,” he adds, raising his voice yet again. “It’s what I disagree with about this fucking business, that they won’t argue or have discussions in a constructive way. They smother you with their logic. Their logic is always based upon their marketing, and marketing techniques, about what a fifteen year old in Hull will enjoy, which is why those magazines like Ms. have come up… and I hope The Art Of Noise will apply a more rigorous logic to it.”

Violence grows. A fop-headed exec delivers hesitant, fast forgotten, sarcasm… regretting it instantly as the PM’s mocking glare sweeps away such idiocy. The whisky is moved aside and Morley leans over to strike.

SLAP! (A pleasing sound.)

“Ha ha ha ha, a precis!” he giggles over the sudden silence. “Why are The Art Of Noise important? Because they have an intelligence, a distance from what they’re doing, so therefore they know it’s a process and have a way of keeping the music intact, so that… people do find out about music, so they can at least put it on and enjoy it. The process around it, which I term a farce, I hope people know it’s meant to be an entertainment, in the sense that Graham Greene writes his books. An entertainment. No more, no less. The music is important. The responses you get from ‘Moments In Love’ is important.”

He slips forward whilst an ogre’s back is turned and plops some scrabble letters into a dry martini. I gasp at his audacity and ask about their recent spate of tedious videos. Morley is unhappy! Art Of Noise records are dedicated to a servile society but Island, the label whose reputation was saved by ZTT, make far too many ultimate decisions for Morley’s liking. His life may seem to be a bed of roses but who wants to wake up with thorns in their side?

“I wish I knew how people can hear albums these days, I really do. When we put out ‘Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Noise?’ that’s why it was called that. Who plays albums? Who can hear albums? It’s a really strange thing. The only thing nowadays is they ride on the back of singles. It never used to be like that. I used to buy loads of albums without hearing a single. And with Peel slowly being elbowed out...”

Aye! But let’s talk about cricket. Morley, a Surrey fan, remembers Ken Barrington fondly but quite rightly keeps most of his admiration in reserve for the British Brando, John Edrich. Morley is a wicket keeper, which surprises me. I would have thought a spin bowler; his sweat artfully employed. Did you dream of throwing yourself around on the big day and then not do it?

“No, I used to throw myself around actually. I used to move myself this way, then dive over. Big gloves? Yeah I did. Bit of a poseur.”

Kicker-booted cretins are smirking. Using words like blades Morley begins to stir the pot.

“You’ll find anything new, like ZTT or Blanco Y Negro that comes along, comes up against a machine that is thirty years old and is really rigid in its set of rules and regulations… and you’re forced to fight against that, and then fighting against that your true fight, which is against banality and secondrate-ness, almost gets lost because you’re too busy fighting against the industry to let you do what you want to do. And if it doesn’t immediately make them a lot of money they don’t want to know. You see, The Art Of Noise I always thought would take three years to be successful. It happened after about eighteen months. I always wanted it to be three years because it was like with U2, in a completely different sense, by the time they’ve got the success they’ve been so patient, so careful that when they get it they’re in a really strong position and sometimes it’s better to sit and wait for your success because then you are allowed to do things in your own way. U2 could do some interesting things but their only act of uncompromising is not to do a Smash Hits interview! 18 months wasn’t long enough really. I mean you must have noticed it yourself how the first single has got to be the hit, otherwise you’re deemed a failure, you’re deemed pathetic, your record label hates you. Anne Pigalle for me would have taken five or six singles. The first one got to 118. It was a miracle!

“I chose the name The Art Of Noise very carefully, because to me the great spirit of this century were things that were happening in art, know what I mean? 1910’s and 1920’s. I got the name Zang Tum Tumb from Futurism and I also got the name Art Of Noise from Futurism and it was done in a very specific sense because Futurism to me, as well as making some serious points about the role that you play on this planet, it also poked fun at all those people…”

His eyes do an intentional 180 degree sweep. “What I hate, what I really hate is people who have made their minds up, completely. And that’s it. They’ve got no fluidity to their approach… everything’s always established, and they won’t budge from it. And I love the Futurists because they poked fun at all those people that ‘knew’ what art was. They’re too confident about it. They know what this is and they know what to sell, so The Art Of Noise was always meant to be this thing that could be anything.

“I mean the industry won’t allow you to say, ‘This could be anything’. The next record could be a glass being smashed over someone’s head, being repeated forty-five times… and I still hope we’re allowed to do that. Whether the industry allows you to is another thing.”

What do The Art of Noise think about Howard Jones?

”We loathe the bastard. He’s a great indication actually of the efficiency that now exists. Everyone is really efficient. I hate efficiency. People like Howard Jones and all these hacks, go into a studio, very efficiently control a melody and ally to that quite an interesting lyric, and when I say interesting I mean in a sense that it sounds as though it should go with the melody. Absolutely appalling gibberish and to me Howard Jones is the ultimate example of that. I mean we used to laugh at people like that because they were called Gilbert O’Sullivan.”

Hee haw. Are The Art Of Noise sexy?

“Well I think they are. Probably the sexiest thing on the label, in the purest sense. Obviously it was toyed around with, with Frankie and all that rubbish but I think The Art Of Noise are really sexy, just on a sensual level of a combination of sounds, flung together. I always like things that are unexpected, that are flung together.”

Spandau Ballet, and their ‘style’?

“I read something they said the other day where they offered their souls to America to be the Number One band in the world and that says it all really. I tell you, if you’re doing that then My God are you nothing! You are NOTHING.”

This sniping at jelly moulds proves too much for one of the slick kids and he stands up, in that way, bolstered by booze. Oooof! Morley finds the target. Time for action!

I have never had a chair smashed over my back before: an interesting experience. Morley unbelievably slugs it out, left and right, laughing through the rough and tumble. Words are pretty irrelevant anyway with The Art Of Noise, it’s the thoughts which are tantalising. Are AON milking a void? If so we should thank them: eh mate, I remember thinking as one more big girl’s blouse backed away from the skirmish. Morley laughs again. “So the NME couldn’t find anyone to do Propaganda!!??” He takes that hate out on these villains. “NME is a shambles,” he hisses, nutting a belly-boy and for a moment the fury and violence escalates and I think we’re goners!

But that never happened and later, in Charing Cross Hospital whilst awaiting check ups and comparing wounds I ask Morley (a split lip but quite content) why Art Of Noise exist?

“Two reasons.”

Eventually Paul Morley, a Grace Darling for a generation, gets put to bed. The blankets are pulled right up to his chin and the sheet turned back on top. Neat. A little bruised smile hovers above the material and he asks for the light to be left on. Good night Peter (Barkworth, just passing through), Good night Paul.

“To be well dressed and in health, and very impudent, in this licentious and undistinguishing age, is enough to constitute a person very much a gentleman.”

EIFFEL TO PIECES

ANNE PIGALLE: ZTT Chanteuse. Hé Stranger on the Shaw (William)

For over a year and a half Anne Pigalle sat around with a pile of songs that she’d written with Nick Plytas waiting for something to happen. To emerge out of the mess, ZTT had signed a rich gaggle of performers but they’d struck a rich lode in Frankie Goes To Hollywood and everyone else had to wait in line. With a French distaste for queueing, Pigalle had bristled with impatience, so throughout 1984 ZTT had tried to placate her with a series of Anne Pigalle ‘coming soon’ ads in the press. But eventually Pigalle decided she couldn’t wait any more… “Trevor (Horn) thought he was the only guy who could do it, because it was a very subtle job and because he’s very clever. But he had to do Frankie. After ‘Relax’ he couldn’t really let them go back to what they would be on their own,” Pigalle explains unpussyfootingly. “So he never had time to do it and I decided to get someone else to do it. I didn’t exactly go great, so I got ill. That’s my way of resigning. ‘Stranger’ wasn’t going to be the single, it was just a song that was ready and I couldn’t wait any more…”

LA PLUME DE MA TANTE… ‘Hé Stranger’, Pigalle’s first offering since her appearance as Via Vagabond on Nick Plytas’s ‘Hot Sagas’ EP, was — truth to tell- an abysmal product, a rambling mess of intentions and mistranslated ideas. The idea was to play the French post-war songstress, the ballroom performer of De Gaulle’s boom time, but just to use that as a springboard for her own song about a stranger being adored and despised in a strange place, and sung of course by a stranger in a strange place… (Albert Camus come on down). But slices of Trevor Horn copybook production emerged from nowhere and withered away and the whole lot emerged as gross caricature… Could do better.

Pigalle’s unprompted opinion doesn’t run much different: “I think it could have been much better than that.”

Why wasn’t it?

“Because you get people involved in the project who just miss the point. I don’t like explaining things in black and white because I think it’s great that people can discover something.”

I’ve probably missed the point as well.

“Perhaps not 100% but quite a bit. What I’m doing is quite a poetic thing. The French girl coming to England from France. It is a poetic thing, but you can quite easily turn it into a really gross situation. The record doesn’t really satisfy me. I mean it’s OK, but the fight goes on.”

DISSOLUE TYPIQUE WENT TO MARKET… In Pigalle there lurks a sense of injustice, not just at the way that her intentions have been misunderstood by the record company, but at the fact that all the press have played on is her French image.

“At the moment I’ve got a record out and nobody speaks about the record,” she complains. “‘Oh yes, She’s called Anne Pigalle, she’s French. Yes she’s got black hair’. It’s ridiculous. I’ve read them and I think ‘How long is it going to take to put the point across?’”

What hasn’t been getting across then?

“Everything. Absolutely everything that I try to do. You get the lesbian types who think that what I’m doing degrades women — which in fact is the complete opposite. All this feminist crap does less good for women’s lib than anything. People just stop on the image.”

Well the image is pretty strong…

“You see what I try to do is to paint on two levels. One is quite obvious, like the image of the French singer, but the other side is completely ambiguous and much more subtle than that. For example ‘Stranger’ sounds like a French song but I’ve never heard a song in French which sounds like that. Obviously here they don’t know so they can’t make a comparison — that’s fair enough — but I think that they should try a little bit more. OK, so it was my first record, but they’re still stuck on the fact that it’s French.”

Perhaps people are a bit confused seeing you as part of ZTT.

“Well that’s it, isn’t it? A lot of people hate me because they don’t like ZTT…”

ZTT practice a deliberate policy of disorientation.

“Yes, but not really. What have they done with me?”

That’s true. They haven’t done much.

“Because I don’t need it. I don’t want all the crap. Everybody is realizing that what I first proposed to the record company is the best thing. On the LP we’ve got a song where we’re going to use a real orchestra, so at least I won’t get the ridiculous drum sounds and synthesizers which I didn’t really want. Now everybody’s realizing that it has to be appreciated in a more subtle way. I don’t need all that stuff.”

ELLE A DES IDÉES AU DESSUS DE SA GARE. “‘Hé Stranger’ is about a stranger, or about people who have a bad time because people think they’re different. It’s not a glamourous or a romantic thing at all. The thing about what I do — and that French thing — is that even if things are bad there is still some hope. It’s actually a sense of humour that the English don’t have. The English are pretty thick you know. Tell me right now, where is the English sense of humour they are so proud of!

“I see it in people like Spike Milligan, but it’s very rare. I can’t see any love of life. At the moment it’s so grim. I just don’t want to stay here any more.”

Would you he quite happy out of it?

“Well I wish I was in France right now but I know that if I was in France I’d want to come back here. I’m one of those people who’s never satisfied because I came here in the first place and there was a reason why. It wasn’t just a whim. It was because there was something that I preferred here, but it doesn’t seem to have evolved that much. All that frustration — instead of turning into something positive — just seems to turn in circles and just creates grim and nothing else.”

Does the French stereotype Pigalle get your back up then?

“Well you see I thought it was quite good in a way because it’s quite funny. The English don’t like the French and vice versa, and I thought it’s quite a good idea to sell them that — but there is something else. I suppose I was expecting people to be a bit more intelligent and here they are getting stuck on a couple of pictures. OK. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I think next time they’re less intelligent.”

The channel tunnel is a ridiculous idea.

Pigalle will very soon be releasing her first LP ‘…Everything Could Be So Perfect…’ — “With three dots before and three dots after,” she explains. “Maybe that will tell people that there was something before and there’s something after.”

Then again…

“Yeah. Then again I’ll have to say it quite a few times, but that’s what I’m here for.”

DOCTRINE IN THE HOUSE

The art of speaking somebody else’s language: Propaganda’s Ralf Dorper’s tersely enounced English verbs boom and echo around a sparsely furnished room adjacent to the Island Records canteen (plate of food 10/6, prices includes spoon). His conversation is best described as non-dithering — a state which equates with an exactitude in Propaganda’s music, or rather their records (Ralf: “We make records rather than music”) which some might interpret as chilliness but which appeals to me through its very lack of clutter or randomness. They sound nice too! Concise pop records. Consise records about pop.

Ralf: “We are working with music in a different way. It might be more economical or disciplined (than other groups). And we are conscious of what we do. We are part of the machinery and we want to use the machinery. (As opposed to the machinery using them.) The machinery is getting a record out, promoting it, touring, going back in the studio — all this what people have lived for a long time. Having maybe one good idea then repeating it till the death of the idea. It is not what we are doing.

“It is a problem that most of the audience are used to this kind of music, they don’t bother if people don’t change. They (the audience) expect them (the groups) not to change because he people want to know what they are to get. If you are the audience and you have to follow something that’s changing every time, it demands something. It is much easier jus to sit down and consume. We want to have the people consume us but also to follow us if we go in very different directions.”

Two records with Propaganda in common; ‘Dr Mabuse’ and ‘Duel’. The first a grand opus of Wagneresque aspiration, the second a calm piece of studied emotion. And the key to their difference is…

“The theme. If you deal with a theme in a song, everything should fit that theme. You shouldn’t use tools that are not equal (to the theme), you shouldn’t use a production that is not going to suit the theme of the record. With ‘Mabuse’ we had a very bombastic sound, the character Mabuse was symbolising something extraordinary, something more of less unreal so we had to have an unreal production — go over the top with it. The idea of selling your soul is an extraordinary situation and you have to make people aware of this.

“For ‘Duel’ we went for a simple approach. We used very consciously the singer — the function of the singer and using both sides of the single to have two opposites fighting each other. Each side is musically symbolising one opponent. One side is poppish and smooth and the other is really hard and percussive. The listener can decide which the winner is. When we do music we go to the extremes and sometimes we meet them together in one song but with ‘Duel’ we wanted to show both extremes in that pure way.”

Twelve months passed between the two discs. As Frankie went to Hollywood, Propaganda relaxed in Dusseldorf and began tinkering with their LP and the blueprint that was to become ‘Duel’.

“We had a few problems with timing as Frankie were ZTT’s top priority. We didn’t want to work and knew that people wouldn’t pay much attention to us because of that. ‘Pleasure Dome’ took a ridiculous long time to make.”

Propaganda use the same engineer as Frankie. During this spell Andreas Thein left the group to be replaced my Michael Mertens. Michael was “already in the band” albeit invisibly.

“When we did ‘Mabuse’ there was no real pressure, we had nothing to prove. I would say’ Mabuse’ was a sort of classic, it was a hit in Germany and we had to follow it with something which was hard work. We realised it wasn’t going to be the constellation we had before.”

The constellation? This is star talk. And Andreas crack under the pressure?

“No comment.”

An LP to be called ‘A Secret Wish’. A headful of ideas and a fistful of themes.

“But not an overall theme because then it would be like a concept album. All the songs work on their own but there is a more or less theme of hunting for something. Something you can’t reach, a certain kind of perfection. This is the kind of feeling we want to get over on the album. With ‘Mabuse’ it was a journey for perfection by selling your soul to someone through whom you could reach it. Another song, is ‘P-Machine’, in this you give up your human values as machines are supposed to be perfect. But I think in the end most of them look like love songs really.”

Really? So the themes have no tangible effect on the listener?

“Like I think that ‘Duel’ doesn’t need an explanation. It is a simple song and like a good movie you can watch it and enjoy it and later discuss it and find things in it that at first you didn’t realise.

“Most records are just for consumption really, the record player then the dustbin. We are just pointing out that there can be more behind the record but it is not like we’re advocating that people have to listen to find something. That’s not really the point. We are not working on a level where you have to understand something — just, if you’re careful about it, it’s worth caring about it, and if you don’t then it is still okay because we deal with simple norm-pop format.”

I first met Ralf at the cold end of 1983. Trevor Horn was downstairs creating the instrumental finale for the 12 inch of ‘Mabuse’. As a treat I was allowed in to hear the work in progress. After a complicated series of instructions had been programmed, many minutes passed until all were ready and the tape was rolled. A vile, cacophonous mess fell from the speakers. “It doesn’t always work” grinned Horn. But on the record it did.

Memorably.

“When we signed to ZTT nobody knew what would happen to ZTT. ZTT are now bigger than any other label just because of the building up of Frankie. We are aware of this and that they are very hip in England. We can see that people pay us attention because we are on ZTT but we see it more generally because, for example, we are a German and in Germany nobody knows ZTT (ZTT readers rush for the airports). People know Frankie and they know us but they don’t know there is a label ZTT. They don’t know who Trevor Horn is and they don’t know who Paul Morley is.

“If you broaden your scope and go to different countries all the aspects which are important here lessen the further you get from England. So, in the end, the idea of ZTT is fine but it is not a worldwide appeal really. We don’t care too much if ZTT is jut a fad, hip for two years then destroyed by the press or whatever. We won’t suffer at all.”

Like I said, Michael Mertens had been an invisible Propagandist until Andreas’ departure left a vacant quarter in a metaphorical pop photo. From Abba came Bucks Fizz. And, in another direction, Propaganda.

“We are very conscious of this band format of having two boys and two girls. Because of the Abba connotation and we think just for the outlook it is the perfect pop group, the perfect modern pop group. The old pop group had guitar, bass, drums and a singer, now we’ve moved into other fields. Two girls and two boys could be the perfect pop group on a broader scale just for the optics.”

The optics? Make mine a large colour transparency.

I think suddenly of Kraftwerk, fellow Dusseldorfians, even if from the posh end of town…

“I wouldn’t mind this comparison, I was influenced by the way they work but not exactly by the music.”

…which is what I was thinking just as Ralf was saying…

“You must be aware that what you do right now might be forgotten in a year or still of value in five years, we prefer the last. That means you have to be very conscious of what you do so you shouldn’t really, even if the market is positive, sell your soul to the market. You could sell your soul to your dream and also to the public so that they are aware that you are doing it. You can follow the path on which other people did go but you have to know where the path is leading and you shouldn’t be blind as you are walking on the path.”

Quite. And ultimately…

“It would be nice to do what no German band has done, that means to be enormous. We are interested to be part of the pop mainstream, flowing with the stream but standing out of it. Like in so many medias, all the groups that are considered to be the pop scene are English groups and I think it is time to have different groups and we are the German group to do it. To prove that it is possible, even on a scale like Wham! Or Culture Club. Propaganda is about mass appeal and in the end good propaganda will be like that — you reach an audience then you can use propaganda. You more or less have to sow the seed.

“We don’t look back. In the end we will.”

Ralf tells me that Propaganda’s least interesting fan mail comes from Britain.

FINALE

** The charges were simple enough! to whit, all those whose names appear on the roll of execution did willingly consent to avoid the central issues of their time, that Great Britain was being ransacked and the people demoralised. Profit, status quo (hoot) and FAME were all important. As such the lack of artists’ concern in mirroring or confronting these or any issues marked them down as sympathisers, cowards and expendable (lest this happen again). The day of the great revolution had come. I mean they really were still writing poppy love songs!

The molotov cocktail landed perfectly — erupting amongst Howard Jones’s tousled coiffure. Where was his angst and toytown care now, as he ran screeching for his jacuzzi? By the time the water was bubbling his face was completely charred.

Out on the street Anne Pigalle had Andrew Ridgeley’s prize possession gripped in a pair of large wire cutters.

Julie Burchill, unaware that she was in the wrong line, cheered her little head off shouting, ‘All good things come to those who wait’, and promptly dropped at the question, ‘Any last request?’

Paul Weller put another call through, extending the pincer movement of his left flank, warmly welcoming Jesse Rae into the HQ control room. Private Eye was demolished. Waugh on pop indeed!

And what a day it was for the Thompson Twins. Fully recovered from exhaustion after recounting their own brand of spoils: how they rued that decision to shoot yet another video on home turf. They were stopped inside the chaos of Heathrow Airport, bundled inside the engine cowling of Concorde and lascerated as the engine began to whirrrr, by the very lovely mastermind of pop himself Mike Read, who was found several days later, dead at the controls.

The Redskins (gawd love ‘em) slept through it all but celebrated over the mourning papers.

Boy George and Spandau Ballet! Prime working class stock and therefore guiltier than most of touting themselves and their wealth like would-be Lords and Ladies. They didn’t look half so glamorous being dragged round Spittalfields behind a tractor.

I myself saw a baffled Nik Kershaw running for cover, ignored by one and all. And there was Malcolm McLaren, his undercarriage shot gloriously away, screaming for a new start.

Bono out on the streets, white flag waving before he knew what was happening. Caught by a gentle breeze and lodged unceremoniously in a weeping willow.

Pete Townshend, right in the thick of it, oblivious-man. ‘I’m making a new album. Anyone interested?’ KABOOOMM!

Joe Strummer’s bath-chair, riddled with woodworm. Pete Burns strangling the contents. Reliable chap, Pierre. Marilyn trying to remind us who he was. Magnificent Simon Bates laughing, John Peel dressed all in red, Peter Powell sky diving without a parachute but fully miked up (‘My goodness… incredible! I’m dropping like a stone. See you in a minute!’) and good old Tears For Fears without a hope in hell, tied on the railway lines as the corpse of Phil Collins (back catalogue included) thundered towards them.

DUGGA DUGGA DUGGA (the sound of vengeance beautifully and swiftly delivered.)

In the war crimes court the following day Big Country wielded some mighty extenuating circumstances as defence but no-one wanted them anyway. The court fell asleep as they danced in tandem, grinning, grinding and sweating. On a balcony overlooking the main gallows Paul Morley took another sip of his import quota, approved the final artwork of the latest execution list and went back to bed, hatching new plans for Britain.

Howard Jones woke up in his bed, drenched with worry. His eyes bulged with terror as he looked around him… at his own bedroom!!! Of course, it had all been a dream!

The molotov cocktail spiralled neatly through his open window.
To be instigated…

 
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