Trevor Horn Week – A Power from Above!

The UK’s late nod to summer was down to one thing – the return of the Producer Week! The latest short season is dedicated to the immense production work of Trevor Horn… Yes, it’s #TrevWeek

Buggles Trevor Horn

Last August I single-handedly prolonged the late British summer with a glorious week-long tour through the production work of electro-genius Giorgio Moroder. Or that’s the way I saw it. That Disco Sun Dance bridged the ’70s glory of Donna Summer, Sparks and Blondie, through to the synthed-up film songs of Berlin and Bowie, the New Romanticism of Japan and, bang up-to-date, a Britney reinterpretation.

Lest we forget it ended with what I comfortably, and no-way ironically, called the “cultural peak” of Western civilisation in 1984. So, no surprise that this year, with the sun failing to ignite a follow-up, a sequel Producer week burst onto the scene to spark the flint…

A bold claim, but few have a better case for following Gorgio Moroder. So the Sun Dance started again with #TrevWeek, and a great success it was too, kick-starting a blinding late summer for the UK although this recap is set up for a perfect late autumn coda.

Unlike the Moroder tour that ended with the uber-producer’s video-cameo, this time it started with Trev on the stage…

Yes, #TrevWeek kicked off with Buggles. A Munich Special clip from the band that refuses to fade away, simultaneously irritating and crucially important as a high-profile slice of 1979 that set out the stall for the 1980s. Whoever said the proto-Gorillaz should never have appeared on stage probably had a point…

Was there a worse time for Prog-rock than the early 1980s? 15 years after their formation, Rick Wakeman melodies, flowing robes and Wondrous Stories had made way for denim and Trevor Horn. it’s 1983 and Danny Webb headlines a phobia-packed video – an early precursor of the karmic sub-genre including Metallica’s I Disappear or, er, Olly Murs’ Troublemaker. Although it’s almost stolen by the parrots. After the retro-dig of Buggles it was rather fitting that a Trevor Horn production found itself on rapid MTV rotation. This surreal live cut with less than enthusiastic lip sync was preferred to the arachnid-baiting promo…

Sticking with 1983, a blistering jump into Electro New Romanticism with the superb, constantly surprising 12″ dub mix Look of Love from ABC’s Lexicon of Love. Of course, the mix diminishes the role of arranger and composer Anne Dudley in proceedings. Her superb orchestrations for this LP are as important as her collaborations with Trevor Horn, particularly through avant-garde synthpoppers Art of Noise, a group that emerged the same year. What a busy year that was.

It’s astonishing that media outside Denmark took until 2016 to fall over the concept of Hygge. It’s clear as a cosy and contented evening around the 4.46 mark.

In the inevitable pause following that mix, there was the temptation to go for the monumental version at the Trevor Horn Slaves to the Rhythm concert featuring Trev himself… But instead, there was a side-step to Hell. Or what looked like it, via the late 1980s and Trevor’s epic collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys. The Boys recalled that Horn promised to complete production of Left to My Own Devices in a few weeks, only for it to surface months later, after hundreds of hours wrangling lavish live orchestration and intricate studio tinkering. Three decades on, things are moving faster – the original post’s already disappeared, so here’s a rather fetching Spanish subtitled version;

That video has overtones of a Cenobitical hell, the Boys arriving at Pandemonium just prior to a Hellraiser-style conversion. Which must have been exactly how the Boys felt when they received the bill for Horn’s studio time.

Stop. the. Press. She couldn’t be kept down for long. Grace Jones’ Slave to the Rhythm came next. Or more specifically, a part of it. Jones’ commercial and critical peak was the Slave to the Rhythm album, a conceptual masterpiece that interpreted the same song eight times. Here’s the familiar single, with matching ‘eccentric’ video, more correctly termed Ladies and Gentleman: Miss Grace Jones.

Following Grace Jones was no easy feat, but there was one collaborator in the Horn oeuvre who could hack it. Sex, (the shop), punk (the Sex Pistols) may stand as his defining contributions to society, but Malcolm McLaren’s debut solo album Duck Rock isn’t far behind. Its role in bringing hip hop to wider UK awareness can’t be understated.

An eccentric classic, Double Dutch was its most successful single and probably the catchiest song on this list. Particular mention must go to the video that put many other 1983 efforts to shame. It’s a simple concept that manages to be both creepily bizarre – McLaren hangs around a skipping competition, half narrating and half leading chants from the sidelines (3.37), and manages to chuck out some phenomenal cinematography, camerawork and editing (3.31). Hey Ebo, Ebonettes!

As with Moroder week, #TrevWeek soon jumped to film. A change of pace and century came with this intriguing collaboration for 2008’s Wanted: Trevor Horn producing Danny Elfman’s vocals.

Then came the first cover of the week, when Trevor teamed up with Marc Almond for 1992’s The Days of Pearly Spencer. David McWilliams’ original might be the only classic it was okay to “phone in”. A tough song to remake but Horn and Almond absolutely went for it.

Back to the future, and another change of pace in the 21st century. In 2003, Horn took on production duties for Belle & Sebastian’s sixth studio album Dear Catastophe Waitress. It threw up Ivor Novello and Mercury nominations for kicks.

A few names are synonymous with Horn. There’s Buggles, Yes, a small post-punk Liverpudlian band that dominated the early 1980s (yet to come)… And then there’s Seal. Killer may have launched the Paddingtonite on the back of Adamski’s production, but it was Horn who lay behind the bulk of his ’90s and ‘oo’s work. There was Kiss from a Rose, but there was also Crazy. “Crazy wasn’t an easy record to make… We were aiming high”

#TrevWeek headed to its conclusion with the juxtaposition of two Horn-produced records. First a return to prog rock with Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells II. Sentinel, was the remix that cast back to the horror of 1973 and reconceptualised it for the early 1990s. Well, it was almost Halloween…

And what could outshine Tubular Bells? Ending on a high, came the band that cut a swathe through the early 1980s. Though no longer worthy of a BBC ban, they remain intoxicating today. #TrevWeek could only end with one band. And the finger pointed at the timely Video Destructo version of Two Tribes. Enjoy the next 380 seconds of Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Chris Barrie as Reagan there.

#TrevWeek covered a gamut, paying tribute to McLaren in the year much of his punk memorabilia went up in smoke, effortlessly reawakening political satire as another celebrity prepared to enter the Whitehouse, and doffing Father Merrin’s wide-brimmed fedora at Halloween.

And as it was so difficult to choose any one song from Welcome to the Pleasuredome

As it’s the first day of December, here’s a Christmas bonus from undoubtedly one of the greatest acts to ever benefit from Trevor Horn’s production. In 1984, Horn was prevented from producing Bob Geldof’s Band Aid, instead offering his studio for free. But that year he’d already helped craft this masterpiece; a song that went on to take the UK number one slot in early December 32 years ago.

It’s a surprising video, but as Holly Johnson said, “There is a biblical aspect to its spirituality and passion; the fact that love is the only thing that matters in the end.”

The greatest Christmas pop song of all time? The greatest never to make Christmas Number One? The greatest not to mention Christmas? Quite possibly…

Trevor Horn Week

2 thoughts on “Trevor Horn Week – A Power from Above!

Add yours

  1. FactFans: According to Youtube, the ‘Power of Love’ ranking is as follows:

    1. Huey Lewis and the News – Power of Love
    2. Jennifer Rush – The Power Of Love
    3. Céline Dion – The Power Of Love
    3. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – The Power Of Love

    Unbelievable. But lucky that Gabrielle Aplin’s cover didn’t leapfrog the original.


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