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19 Eighties / Into Battle: Searching for the Art Of Noise

search_of_artofnoise

Who’s Afraid? – SDE’s Paul Sinclair with Art Of Noise T-shirt

SuperDeluxeEdition editor and ZTT Records fan Paul Sinclair goes in search of 1980s avant garde pop group, the Art Of Noise.


I was a child of the 1980s. Or rather a teenager. The Gods had decreed that those most impressionable of years would not overlap into any other decade and after many years buying and listening to music I duly turned 20 in December 1989 and became a ‘grown up’ just in time for the nineties.

It was the decade of the eighties that was celebrated last Saturday evening in London, at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, with a performance by the BBC Concert Orchestra called 19 Eighties: The Rhythm Of A Decade. The centrepiece of this event was the world premiere of the Art Of Noise‘s 1983 debut release, Into Battle, ‘remixed’ for orchestra. AON’s very own Anne Dudley had created this in addition to another lengthy piece called Rhythm of a Decade. Founding Art of Noise member, Paul Morley, would host the evening and the strong connection with the ZTT record label continued with the inclusion of two pieces by composer and musician Andrew Poppy, who like the Art Of Noise, was signed to the Zang Tumb Tuum in the 1980s.

I’m a hardened rock/pop fan, so classic concerts are not my natural domain, but as a lifelong ZTT aficionado I knew I had to be there. Into Battle – remix for orchestra sounded amazing, With Paul Morley and Anne Dudley both in attendance that would be 40% of the original Art Of Noise straight off the bat. Perhaps producer Trevor Horn would make an appearance. Then it struck me – surely this is a perfect, perhaps unique, opportunity regress into pure fan-boy mode and get some autographs!

In general, I’m not one for autographs. As a music blogger who’s been lucky enough to interview quite a few musicians over the years, it rather gets in the way and puts up unnecessary barriers. Let’s sit down and have a serious discussion about your work, but first off all would you sign my T-shirt please…

But hey – always willing to make an exception. It occurred to me that getting the band’s collective scrawl on one item would be pretty amazing. That most anonymous of groups, made very real in pen and ink, 30 years on. I mean, how often do Trevor Horn, Anne Dudley, Paul Morley, J.J. Jeczalik, and Gary Langan actually get together? Have they even been in the same room together since 1985 when Dudley, Jeczalik and Langan walked out of ZTT (apparently with acrimony) and signed for China records taking the name Art Of Noise with them?

In the unlikely event that would find all five members, what would I get them to sign? After some consideration, I decided the most appropriate item was the Into Battle EP. This was after all, what was being performed for 19 Eighties. I own the original vinyl, the cassette single and the CD reissue from 2011. The CD was eliminated straight away (not exclusive enough), and although the twelve-inch single was tempting (lots of space on the front) I ruled it out largely due to laziness. Couldn’t be doing with carrying it around all evening. I had visions of leaving it at my feet at the interval as I knocked back a whisky and coke. It was settled then, cassette single was the object I’d take with me. A relatively rare and quirky item (I’m a proper fan, honest) and the ‘cassingle’ was synonymous with Zang Tuum Tumb. More importantly it was easy to carry in the inside of a coat pocket.

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“Into Battle with the Art Of Noise” 1983 “cassingle”

But I had one more trick up my sleeve. Like rock fans who wear the T-shirt from the-tour-before-this-one, when attending a gig, I would show my credentials by donning my Art Of Noise T-shirt. Officially licensed merchandise (of course), but ONLY available in Japan (via retailer Uniqlo) from quite a few years back (told you I was a fan-boy).  The T-shirt in question has the cover art from the 2006 4CD box set And What Have You Done With My Body, God? on the front, featuring those iconic masks. Actually, that’s not quite correct, the art work is an exact replica of the promo sampler CD that was produced, so the T-shirt actually has the text “Box Set Sampler. Promotional Use Only. Not For Resale” at the bottom. A bit strange.

Anyway, the plan had been hatched and last Saturday evening we took our seats. My wife and I were seated in row D, on the left hand side, right behind the piano and quite close to where Paul Morley stood when he came on to introduce the evening’s entertainment. Andrew Poppy‘s 32 Frames For Orchestra kicked things off and “Paul Music” as Morley inadvertently called himself at one point, disappeared behind a curtain.

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Paul “Music” Morley introduces Andrew Poppy on Saturday evening

The show itself was superb, and Into Battle remix for orchestra lived up to expectations. The richness and warmth of those strings during Moments in Love was incredible and there were plenty of playful moments like when all the musicians in the orchestra shouted “And what happens now?” at the appropriate point. Conductor Richard Balcombe encouraged a reluctant Anne Dudley down from her seat in the audience to take a bow.

After some music from other composers –  John Tavener, Steve Martland and Michael Nyman – the evening ended with Anne Dudley (on stage this time playing piano) and her Rhythm Of A Decade, a superb orchestral mash-up of eighties music with a narration by Paul Morley. It started with the orchestral/piano intro from Two Tribes and took in a wonderful selection of Eighties music and rhythms including Ryuichi Sakamoto’s beautiful theme from Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, Tears For Fears’ Mad World, David Bowie’s Let’s Dance and New Order’s Blue Monday. Morley did a great job with his stream-of-consciousness ’80s narration and getting the timing right and coming in on cue.

But despite all my apparent planning (cassette single, T-shirt) it occurred to me sitting listening to this musical feast that I didn’t know what two of the members of the Art Of Noise looked like (J.J. and Gary). Jesus, what was I thinking! Surely, the first rule of the autograph seeker is to know who you need to approach with your request. The hunter must recognise his prey! This was starting to feel like major folly – “let’s just forget the whole thing and go home” I thought to myself. Then the door of opportunity opened…

# 1: Paul Morley

The show was over and the auditorium was emptying when Paul “Music” Morley reappeared from behind the curtain. “Go on!” my wife encouraged in a ‘get-on-with-it-I-want-to-go-home’ kind of a way. Cue me trotting down towards the man as I whipped the inlay card out of the cassette. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Paul. He has the demeanour of someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I remember him giving Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Holly Johnson a very hard time on The Tube once, as Muriel Gray interviewed them. This was an artist he was supposed to be marketing and supporting! Perhaps fan interaction isn’t a ‘concept’ he subscribes to. He might just tell me to ‘fuck off’. In the end, he was charming. My lucky rabbit’s foot, the Into Battle cassette single had the desired effect “Wow, the cassette” he said clearly impressed (I’m a proper fan, honest). I handed him my pen and he wrote “the best version ever, the cassette! Paul Morley 30.11.13“. Yes! I thanked him, told him the show was fantastic, we shook hands and he said “thanks for coming”. I hovered for a few seconds as he signed a couple of ticket stubs for other people with my pen. The awkward ‘can-I-have-my-pen-back’ moment didn’t spoil the high. One Art-Of-Noiser down, four to go.

#2 Trevor Horn

We headed back to the foyer/bar area to hover for a little while. I was genuinely thinking that I would likely just get one signature, and would have to be pleased with that, when… hang on? Isn’t that Trevor Horn?! Indeed it was. He was there looking relaxed, coat on, chatting to a few people. Without breaking stride, and with a spring in my step thanks to the Paul Morley encounter, I went straight up to Trevor and asked him if he’d sign the cassette inlay.  “Sure”, the answer came. I told him that Paul had signed it and that I was hoping to get a few more, “where is Paul?” he asked, handing back the now signed inlay. I told him he was still down in the concert hall somewhere and Trevor walked off, presumably to find him. Two down, three to go.

#3 Anne Dudley

I bumped into Ian Peel, label manager of ZTT Records and started chatting to him about the show and my autograph quest. He confirmed that everyone from the original line-up was around somewhere and I admitted that I had a problem in that I didn’t know what J.J. and Gary looked like. At that moment Anne Dudley walked up to us and started talking to Ian about the performance. “Hi Anne, would you mind signing this for me, please?” She obliged. 60% was now showing on my own mental Art Of Noise ‘totaliser’.

#4 J.J. Jecazlik

This is where the T-shirt earned its stripes, the mountain certainly made a path to Mohammed. Someone came bounding up to me as I was talking to Ian, VERY impressed with my And What Have You Done With My Body, God? attire. “Paul, J.J. – J.J., Paul, ” Ian introduced. I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat. “How come I didn’t get one of these?” J.J. quizzed Ian, gesturing towards my T-shirt. I offered up my cassette inlay to J.J. “A tape” he laughed, “is this for real?” I showed him CTIS 100 naked in the tape box, much to his amazement. Anyway, he happily added his autograph to my quickly growing collection. Only one left now.

#5 Gary Langan

Gary had arrived around the same time as J.J. Jeczalik. I can’t remember who introduced me, but we walked over to a nearby table and he became the fifth and final original member of the Art Of Noise to sign the cassette edition of their debut release Into Battle with the Art Of Noise. I was so happy that I forgot to tell Gary that I loved his Shot Gun Mix of Billy Idol’s White Wedding, and I failed to ask him about when Paul McCartney came to the studio while he worked on a remix of Spies Like Us.


What was already a memorable evening of music had been elevated into something very special. I’d met the band and secured a set of autographs in one place. I’ll wager there aren’t many Art Of Noise records, CDs or tapes fully autographed by the ZTT-era band and there is a high chance that this could be the only Into Battle cassette single to boast such a claim.

To a ZTT fan who spent five or six intense years in the eighties buying picture discs, cassette singles, multiple twelve-inch remixes and hours poring over Paul Morley’s sleeve notes, the events of Saturday night are not far from an alternate, rewritten pop universe where a sixties music fan bumps into John, Paul, George and Ringo in the early nineties and gets them to sign a seven-inch of Love Me Do.

My improbable, unlikely search for the Art Of Noise was over and I now no longer have to consider what my favourite item in my ZTT collection is.

Into Battle with the Art Of Noise “to the death for life.”

Paul Sinclair / Super Deluxe Edition

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“Into Battle with the Art Of Noise” signed by all five original members in London on 30 November 2013 (click to enlarge)

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43 responses to 19 Eighties / Into Battle: Searching for the Art Of Noise

  1. Bert says:

    Brilliant story.

    Which reminds me of the time I got to talk to Kate Bush at a small press conference, and at the end everybody asked her to sign some records and other memorabilia. And I realized I hadn’t brought anything. Still kicking myself for being so incredibly stupid.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Thanks Bert. Meeting Kate must’ve been good though?!

      • Bert says:

        Meeting Kate was amazing, yes. One of those people you never think you’ll ever meet, and then suddenly she’s mere meters away. I was utterly starstruck for several minutes. And she was so nice, down to earth,…

        What I loved about your story is how nice those AON people were. Morley especially seems like he can be really grumpy (and I’ve heard horror stories about Trevor Horn), so it’s great to see they can be so accommodating — but then you obviously were a big fan.

  2. Mike F says:

    I am a little embarrassed as a forty year old to say that I found that an exciting read!

  3. Mike F says:

    … a page scroller, I suppose you could call it.

  4. Chris says:

    I very much enjoyed that tale thanks Paul

  5. Paul Rymer says:

    It was a great night, I also really enjoyed the talk beforehand with Martyn Ware and the chap whose name I shamefully forget from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

  6. Ben Richardson says:

    Well done. I was one of the people who used your pen (thanks) although I had actually come prepared with my own – it was actually Paul who carried on using it! Absolutely fantastic evening and well done on the autographs. Superb story, well told. An exciting evening for people of a certain age.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Hi Ben! Haha, yes, Paul’s fault! Brilliant evening. Glad you enjoyed it to. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! Paul

  7. Derek Murray says:

    To quote Rwick from the Young Ones…”you complete and utter UTTER bastard!”
    Kudos Paul

  8. Strictly Kev says:

    Result! great story, I think I may have witnessed you getting that signed at one point. Great review too

  9. Koen says:

    well, I have the same feeling every time I have a meeting with Anne Clark. I feel little and thankful for meeting a great artist who’s not ‘grown out of her shoes’….
    cherish the moment, you’ll never forget it!

  10. Eric says:

    Great story! And glad it had a happy ending. Art of Noise were legendary for posing behind masks, so I wouldn’t have known what J.J. and Gary Langan looked like either…I think I only saw a picture of Anne Dudley for the first time this year as well!

  11. Gregg P says:

    Wow, what a wonderful tale – and I can think of no one more deserving of such a great opportunity. It’s the universe’s way of saying “thank you” on behalf of all of us who read and appreciate your efforts to share great details, information and insights into the music we love.
    = Gregg from Seattle =

  12. Raj says:

    Great story. Thanks for sharing. Have been an AoN fan from their early days. Any idea if this was filmed for future release?

  13. andrew says:

    What a great story, and so well written. I found myself egging you on, wanting to jump to the end to see of you completed your quest, but holding back, reading it as I were there with you.
    So nice when heroes turn out like that as so many have feet of clay.
    Well derved sir!

  14. trash says:

    Lovely read! Great story – it must have been lovely to meet them all. Despite being in my late 40s I still have a soft spot for collecting autographs :-)
    I’m a bit disappointed at myself though – I live and work right by the Southbank and can’t think how I managed not to notice that this was on :-(
    Sounds like it was a wonderful evening all round.

  15. Lanny Justice says:

    So happy for you. I would have loved to been there. We will have to settle living thru you. A concert this special really should be released on DVD.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Didn’t spot any cameras, so I don’t think it was filmed, but was recorded by the BBC, so might surface somewhere in the future.

  16. Checker Can says:

    Hey Paul,

    I am happy for you. Non-Fans maybe shake their heads, but for a fan it is always speacial to get in contact with the “stars” altough stardom ends after teenage years, usually. But hey, I’m sure I would be exicted, too when meeting Depeche Mode in person.

  17. Adam R says:

    Mike F, don’t feel bad. I’m 41 and felt the same way.

  18. Tim Harrison says:

    It’s always a joy to read your pieces Paul, your obvious and infectious joy and enthusiasm for music, your work and various interactions (very jealous you met ‘the gang’!) . Agree with Andrew in regard meeting our heroes, as I met Fish (ex-Marillion) some years back whilst helping with a video project at his home (the legendary Farm) and whilst his wife (who since left him) was lovely, he was not just aloof but (excuse the friends reference) also a doof! Will continue to read avidly…thanku

  19. Melvin says:

    Great story and happy that you managed to collect all five autographs! Wonderful!!!

  20. A very cool story i wish i was there!Long time ZTT fan from The Netherlands.

  21. A very cool story!I wish a was there!

  22. Steve Marine says:

    Thank you so, so much for writing this article. (a.k.a. The best article yet on this website.) As someone who not only is the same age as you but also appreciates Art of Noise as enthusiastically as you, it was such a delight to read this well-written tale. A rather riveting one, at that! I’m glad your quest was a tremendous success. It’s always a pleasure to meet the artists that bring so much joy to our lives.

  23. Steve Thorpe says:

    Wow Paul – what a fab story and end result!! Loved the sense of drama in how you wrote the account, and must admit that I’m more than a little envious of you meeting Trevor Horn. He is still my all-time music hero ;-) Thanks for sharing

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Thanks Steve. As I mentioned in the piece, unfortunately Trevor didn’t hang around, he went off to find Mr Morley so it was very brief! Hoping to interview him for the blog for the ZTT 30th celebrations, but not sure yet if it’s going to happen. cheers, P

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  25. Mark Pugh says:

    First I’ve heard about his gig,sounds like it was an amazing experience and YES I would like to hear this on CD or DVD,you may not have seen cameras but gigs can be recorded on small static HD cameras so fingers crossed

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  28. Eric Mead says:

    Having been a serious “gotta have every single note they recorded” type of fan since I first heard them in 1984 (at age 5!), I’m happy to hear the original 5 members can actually be in the same building at the same time and are even talking of a tour! SERIOUS congratulation on getting all their signatures!

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