hit by shrapnel...the downfall of the empire--by John Book
Art Of Noise was now the team of Dudley, Jeczalik, and Langan, and they found a new home with a new label, China Records. They quickly went into the studio to record their second album, In Visible Silence (China/Chrysalis; 1986). They found a hit with the "Beat Box"-soundalike, "Legs". It was obviously missing something, but it was still good, and the song still held that funky edge they would become known for. The song was full of mentions of the word "legs", and an infectious beat that was one part "Beat Box", one part Robert Palmer's "You Are In My System". The "yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah" at the end became a classic moment, and the song ended with a collage of distorted horns. The group quickly followed it up with a cover of the theme to the 60's TV show "Peter Gunn". The song featured the talent of Duane Eddy, a guitarist known for his "twang" style of playing. "Peter Gunn" became their second hit in a row, quickly followed up by a unique remix of their song "Paranoimia". The remix featured Max Headroom, a "computer-generated" TV personality played by actor/comedian Matt Frewer. Headroom was a success over in England, and had become known in the U.S. as the new spokesman for Coca-Cola. With their success, it forced AON to branch out of their anonymity and into the rest of the world. AON would tour for the first time in England and the U.S. to responsive crowds. This was far from the original intentions of the group, but no doubt, they were creating music that was unlike any other.
Besides albums, AON were asked to produce music for television commercials and movie scores. They were also asked to do a lot of outside work, and in time they found themselves working with Paul McCartney, John Parr, and Billy Idol. Gary Langan had wanted to continue working as an engineer and felt confined in AOL, so he would depart. Dudley and Jeczalik were now AON, and their first non-Langan project was "Roller 1", used by the Fat Boys for their movie Disorderlies. They would soon release In No Sense? Nonsense! (China/Chrysalis; 1987). The album contained another hit song, the theme to the new Tom Hanks-Dan Aykroyd movie Dragnet. The rest of the album had its funky and jazzy moments, but Dudley's classical background became a bigger focus this time around.
1988 saw the release of The Best Of The Art Of Noise (China/Chrysalis), which helped revive the career of 60's icon Tom Jones in the form of a Prince song. Their cover of "Kiss" would be the first time an AON song featured a legitimate vocalist. The collaboration got a laugh from everyone, but AON knew what to do, and provided Jones with his first hit song in over ten years. Below The Waste (China/Chrysalis; 1989) was their most experimental album in their career, and in terms of music, their most weakest. The title of the album seemed to explain the music quite well, something the group probably didn't intend to do. It was below anything they had released before, and it became their worst selling album.
As the decade of the 80's came to a close, so did the career of Art Of Noise. Art Of Noise, in more ways than one, began the 80's with a bang. They exited the 80's without a sound. Dudley and Jeczalik (both of whom are married to other people) parted ways and both would continue to write and perform their own music. Trevor Horn continues to produce to this day, recently gaining success and winning a Grammy Award in 1996 for his work with British singer Seal. Horn still runs his label ZTT, where Seal is an artist. When Seal made it big with "Crazy", many fans heard a sound that had not been heard in years... the creativity of combining unrelated sounds... the original "art of noise". When Horn won a Grammy, to me it felt like that "art" was still alive. It may exist artifically, but it comes from the man whose "art" became his sight and sound, and essentially his bread and butter.
Art Of Noise was no more than an experiment in sound, and it would soon become a major influence on pop music in the 80's, as well as hip hop. Much of Horn's work in the ZTT-era AON has been duplicated countless times, and his sampling and production techniques can still be heard to this day in a lot of dance music. Just as Prince and Madonna were staples of 80's music in the U.S., Trevor Horn was the UK equivalent. Horn managed to create funky music without even trying, and it is his original vision, his "art", that will remain alive for many years to come.