Back in the winter of 2009, on a bleak, windy Monday, I died and went to heaven.
Actually, I tell a lie, it was Slough.
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When I think of Slough I see the opening credits to the UK comedy ‘The Office’ which was supposedly based there. It’s all industrial buildings, dull office blocks and council estates, absolutely nothing to write home about (sorry any Slough dwellers reading this). I’d been invited by my friend Ian Peel to visit him at an address owned by the record label ZTT – home of Trevor Horn, his associated productions as well as the back catalogue of Stiff records, which they acquired in the mid 80’s. Arriving at the address revealed a nondescript ‘premises’ – it wasn’t a house or office in the conventional sense and – while searching for an entrance round the back – Ian popped his head out and beckoned me inside.
I’ve known Ian for a few years now, initially through a shared love for the Zang Tuum Tumb (ZTT) label and it’s golden period in the 80’s, but also for our fondness of the music of that decade. He regularly writes for the Guardian, Record Collector and the like as well as co-ordinating reissues and releases for ZTT, Stiff and occasionally his own label Karvavena. On occasion he picks my brains for something and disappears back into the ether although this time I’d provided him with much more than a soundbite for a magazine feature. An email arrived one day from Philip Marshall who was helping Ian with the reissue of a deluxe 2 CD edition of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ album for ZTT. Could I help with sourcing images for the release?
For those unaware, (probably most of you) Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and more importantly the whole aesthetic of the ZTT label in the 80’s, had a huge effect on me in my formative years. Most people have one or two bands that they ‘grew up’ with, moments where a bands rise to fame and the mania that surrounded them dovetailed with your own musical tastes and that group becomes forever linked with your memories of the period. For most of ’84 and ’85 I bought little else than the bands on the ZTT roster, Frankie, Art of Noise, Propaganda, Grace Jones’ incredible Slave To The Rhythm LP, even venturing into contemporary classical waters with Andrew Poppy, and of course, the Frankie Say… T-shirts.
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Jumping 20 years forward in time I was perusing a ZTT fan forum when I chanced upon someone selling the original artwork for the ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ album. To cut another digression short, I ended up buying the paintings of the front, inner gatefold and back from the original artist Lo Cole and they now hang proudly in my studio. Another jump, 5 years to the present, and Ian is trying to source unique images for the 28 page booklet that will accompany the reissue. The ZTT archive is incomplete, a lot of it having either been binned over time or destroyed in a fire at an Island records warehouse over a decade ago and this was where I fitted in.
Being a fan, over the years I’ve been trawling eBay and used magazine shops for copies of the music press from the 80’s and collecting the ads for all the releases – mini graphic masterpieces in themselves that had influenced my design tastes greatly. Ian had seen this collection and asked if I had any more including the scans of the Pleasuredome preliminary sketches and paintings Lo had sent me when I’d been discussing the purchase of his work. I did and photographed various promo and flyposters too big to include in the folders as well as details from the cover paintings. Then he dropped the bombshell. He was spending a couple of days a week in a property owned by ZTT, sorting out all the master tapes from their archive – the fabled ‘ZTT cupboard’ as it’s known to collectors. Because the artwork required from my collection was so valuable, we agreed I should should drop it off in person to Ian whilst he was working there.
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The thought that I would be in a room with boxes of master tapes all connected directly to the label and music I loved was thrilling but nothing prepared me for the sight I saw upon stepping into the room. It was the whole downstairs floor of the building, the size of a small office or a very large living room. Boxes covered nearly every inch of floorspace and were piled up to chest height, Ian had started to sort them into stacks relating to each artist and there was a small warren of footpaths between the piles. Half of the room was barely touched and the sheer volume of boxes was overwhelming.
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I looked down and saw a stack marked ‘Grace Jones’, in it were various master tapes for the ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ LP and single, duplicates for different territories but no session tapes, yet. Several boxes of Art of Noise reels revealed 24 track tapes of various ‘Moments In Love’ versions, the ‘Beatbox’ and ‘Into Battle’ 12″s, an early, unreleased version of their first album entitled ‘Worship’, already split into an A and B side for the cutting house. Fairlight discs and studio session sheets where inside the boxes too, containing info on what was recorded when, by whom and, no doubt, the original samples used on the tracks. One had the words “I never want to hear this ever again – A. Dudley” on it, another “Anne in tears” written on the metal reel itself.
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“Here’s the Frankie pile”, offered Ian, pointing to about 50 boxes, each stuffed with reels of master tape, cans of film used for videos, VHS, Hi-8, DAT and cassettes. There were session tapes for the ‘Liverpool’ album, I think I saw at least 50+ reels, mixes upon mixes, vocal sessions from actors like Joanna Lumley, Pamela Stephenson and Jeff Palmer. A version of ‘Two Tribes’ finished on my birthday in 1984 marked ‘mix 115’. The reels of an unreleased 7 & 12 inch remix by Paul Morley of their last single, ‘Watching The Wildlife’, ready for the cutting house to master. A ‘Welcome To the Pleasuredome’ ‘continuous wacky jam’ between Trevor Horn Steve Lipson and JJ Jeczalik entitled ‘the shit mix’. This was like entering one of those lost temples in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the ultimate digging in the crates session with the added appeal of teenage nostalgia.
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After four hours my hands were black and I had to get back to London but I felt I’d barely scratched the surface. A couple of boxes were filled between the two of us, full of interesting or important tapes that needed to be baked and transferred to DAT for future compilations. Pleasuredomes indeed as an old Paul Morley-penned sleeve note read.
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The deluxe reissue of Frankie’s ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ is out April 12th from ZTT / Salvo / Union Square Music. It comes with a second CD of unheard works in progress, rare alternate 12″ and cassette only cuts including a completely unheard extended version of ‘Ballad of 32’ from the original album. Included is a 28 page booklet featuring text by Ian, design and layout in the style of the original releases from Philip and many picture contributions from myself. Ian even let me have a hand in the track selection and order on the bonus CD, running it past me and taking on board suggestions for inclusions and omissions. Last but not least, I get a nice credit inside
Buy it here
More design, visuals and tape shots in the gallery below, click to enlarge. I’ve been writing and researching a long piece entitled ‘Who’s Afraid of the Art of ZTT?’ for about 5 years now, it’s nearly finished and will make an appearance someday…