Art Of Noise: white kids with toys, or purveyors of the funk?







roots of the battle--by John Book


Art Of Noise originally started in 1982 as a way to combat the British pop charts, just as George Clinton wanted to steer the world away from the doldrums in the 70's. At the time, music was in an unusual state. New wave was still hip on both sides of the Atlantic, but in different forms. It was 1980-1982, and music fans were all disco'd out, and punk was dead. The good funk was almost non-existent, and heavy metal fans tried to cope in a Led Zeppelin-less world.

Art Of Noise originally began as an in-studio project by producer Trevor Horn. Horn was the last vocalist to join progressive rock group Yes before they split up in 1980. Along with friend Geoff Downes, they created the group The Buggles', known for their song "Video Killed The Radio Star". In the early 80's, Horn's production became a signature sound, as recognizable as his trademarked round glasses and sly grin. He would use the best and latest in keyboards to create some of the most lush recordings of its time. It was "artificial", but the choral and orchestral sounds he was able to create would soon be copied by every other producer in the business. But it was three projects that would turn the idea of Art Of Noise into full blooded reality.

Horn's first major hit as a producer as ABC's "The Look of Love", and their album The Lexicon Of Love (Mercury Records; 1982) hit the Top 10 in the U.S. and England. In 1982, ex-Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren asked Horn to produce an album of music taken from all parts of the world, from South Africa to Alabama to the streets of New York City. The first song from this project was "Buffalo Gals", which also featured a duo of New York radio DJ's who called themselves The World Famous Supreme Team. Many argue that "Buffalo Gals" became the song that took rap music out of the ghetto for the very first time and into mainstream America. (Jazz artist Herbie Hancock went on record to say that it was "Buffalo Gals" where he first heard someone "scratch" a record.) Horn and McLaren would create the classic Duck Rock album (Island; 1983). If anything, the album has become a historical landmark of days gone by, before hip hop on the radio and TV became controversial. On Duck Rock, Horn used two musicians named Anne Dudley and Jonathan "J.J." Jeczalik, and engineer Gary Langan. He would later use them for Yes' big comeback album of 1983, 90125 (Atco; 1993). Yes came back in a big way with their #1 song "Owner Of A Lonely Heart", and what made people take notice to was the mechanized beats of the intro, and the unusual bursts of horns during the songs bridge. These sounds would soon produce some of the most interesting songs of the 80's, an audio experiment in the making. The Art Of Noise had begun.






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