ZTT Records

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.[1] The label's name was also printed as "Zang Tumb Tuum" and "Zang Tuum Tumb" on various releases.

Parent companyUniversal Music Group
BMG Rights Management
Distributor(s)Universal Music Group
Union Square Music
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Official websitewww.ztt.com

In December 2017, Universal Music Group acquired ZTT Records and Stiff Records.[2] The ZTT and Stiff back catalogue are owned by BMG Rights Management under Union Square Music.


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] The majority of the creative team 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 and the singles derived from it.

In 1983, Horn, Sinclair and Morley founded ZTT Records,[1][4] which soon boomed into success. It was later proved that unlawful contracts were used by them against many of the artists they produced. 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.[5]

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.[6] It was the label's second single, "Relax", that became the label's first number one in January 1984.[6] Relax stayed in the UK Singles Chart 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.[6] 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 1980s) and turned every aspect of the business of pop into entertainment.[1]

In 1984, the Horn-Sinclair family businesses were reorganized as SPZ Group, which then consisted of Sarm West Studios, Perfect Songs and ZTT Records.[7] 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.[6] 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.[6]

In the late 1980s, 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 the early 1990s.[6] Seal was the next major ZTT act to emerge in the 1990s, and the label also scored hit singles and albums with MC Tunes and Shades of Rhythm.[3]

Music videos and cover art

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 Accident, Malcolm Garrett/Assorted Images, AJ Barratt, Anton Corbijn, Mark Farrow, Jean-Paul Goude, Johnson Panas, The London Design Partnership, Mat Maitland, Me Company, John Stoddard, Stylorouge, T&CP Associates and XL.

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."[8]

In 2008, Ian Peel curated a first exhibition of ZTT sleeve art for galleries in London and Tokyo[9], 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 15 Certificate.[10]

Acts on the ZTT label

1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s

† as one-time UK distributor for Tommy Boy Records

Action Series

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[11] and was restarted by label manager Ian Peel in 2012.

  • 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
  • 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: 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
  • 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


  1. "Salvo". Salvo-music.co.uk. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  2. "The influence of ZTT Records". BBC. UK. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  3. "Universal Inks Deal With ZTT Records". Ztt.com.
  4. "Our History". Sarmmusicvillage.com. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  5. Colin Larkin, ed. (2003). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 513. ISBN 1-85227-969-9.
  6. 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.
  7. Tony Enoch (13 February 2009). "ZTT in Design Week". ZTT.com. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  8. "The Art of ZTT Records". ArtVinyl.com. 13 October 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  9. "Album: Zang Tumb Tuum: The ZTT Box Set". Relayer35.com. 28 October 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  10. "BBC - h2g2 - ZTT Records 1983-1988". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 19 August 2007.
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