A Young Person’s Guide To: Snobbery + Decay

The poster that came with 12 XACT 28, but you knew that, didn’t you?

It’s already been established that I hold a torch for Propaganda’s first ZTT album, but I also cherish Claudia Brücken’s post-Propaganda work for the label almost as much. I’d go as far as saying that this debut single by Act, Claudia with synth player Thomas Leer, is ZTT’s final, finest hour. The label astonished record collectors by marketing the hell out of their releases and making each one a perfect object, worthy of adoration. That they did it with immeasurable wit and style made it all go down a lot easier. It’s hard to believe it now, but there was a time when the multiple remixes of Frankie Goes To Hollywood were an unprecedented development in the marketing of records. Such that they confused me the first time it happened. For Claudia’s next project, ZTT pulled out all of the stops and made sure that ZTT worshippers had plenty to chew on for perhaps the last time in their history to this level of overkill.

ZTT | UK | 7″ | 1987 | ZTAS 28

Act: Snobbery + Decay UK 7″ [1987]

  1. Snobbery + Decay [7″ edit]
  2. Poison

The humble 7″ version has the iconic Quentin Crisp/Liberace sleeve that got extensive bending and shaping during the course of this series. The edit of the track on 7″ takes the song to a concise 4:07 but retains all of the satiric bite inherent in the song. The tune’s scathing riposte to Thatcher’s materialism has dated not a whit in the ensuing quarter century.

“Lifestyles of the Rich + Famous
Look at them, who can blame us?”

The B-side is the potent “Poison,” not included on their first long player. The mix favors lots of  orchestral touches and percussion to contrast with the throbbing synths of Leer.

ZTT | UK | Cassette | 1987 | CTIS 28

Act: Snobbery + Decay UK Cassette [1987]

  1. Snobbery + Decay [That’s Entertainment]
  2. I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You
  3. Poison
  4. [Theme From] Snobbery + Decay [edit]

Back in the mid-late Eighties, one could not yet discount the compact cassette single. The ubiquitous portable tape players made this format highly popular, in spite of its lack of quality. Anyone who’s tried to listen to an old tape with binder squeal can attest to that! But being a ZTT release, it’s the packaging that justifies this puppy. The A-side remix is a nearly ten minute extravaganza with gratuitous Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey samples from “Cabaret,” in addition to other contemporary phenomena like Joan Rivers [brr!].

A new B-side of “I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You” from Andrew Lloyd-Weber’s inescapable “Evita” musical co-opts Weber’s crass, aspirational ethos for frissons of ironic dissonance. That said, was it worth the effort? At the end of the day, even a Deconstruction of Andrew Lloyd-Weber still sounds like mush. The final new B-side is a lush, orchestral arrangement of the A-side, which is uniquely curtailed on the cassette, probably due to space considerations.

ZTT | UK | 12″ | 1987 | 12ZTAS 28

Act: Snobbery + Decay [That’s Entertainment] UK 12″#1 [1987]

  1. Snobbery + Decay [That’s Entertainment]
  2. Poison
  3. I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You

The first of four twelve inch singles hews closely to the cassette program, lacking only the instrumental Theme. Of course, the cover design is delightfully different, emphasizing Liberace on the front and Crisp on the back.

ZTT | UK | 12″ | 1987 | 12 ZACT 28

Act: Snobbery + Decay [That’s Entertainment] UK gatefold 12″#2 [1987]

  1. Snobbery + Decay [That’s Entertainment]
  2. Poison
  3. I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You

The second of four twelve inch singles is exactly the same as the first, except for the deluxe gatefold cover. And the delightfully precise ZTT catalog numbers, of course!

ZTT | UK | 12″ | 1987 | 12 XACT 28

Act: [Naked Civil] Snobbery + Decay UK 12″#3 [1987]

  1. [Naked Civil] Snobbery + Decay
  2. [Strong] Poison
  3. [Theme From] Snobbery + Decay

The third of four twelve inch singles is a radical take on the entire enterprise with a dramatically different cover, the bonus poster included [as seen above] and a radical mix of the track that for its first four to five minutes, features numerous sound bites from the then-hit TV series “Moonlighting,” so this is the mix for fans of Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepard. The structure of the mix is wide open and touches on dub space, inasmuch as this ornate, orchestral pop number can slum in the dub ghetto.

For this single, the omnipresent B-side even got a 6:02 extended remix they named “[Strong] Poison.” The mix is longer but for me loses some of the vehemence of the succinct original. Finally, the Theme, last heard on the cassette, appears here in its fully flowered 3:22 running time.

ZTT | UK Promo | 12″ | 1987 | CT 01

Act: Snobbery + Decay [Moonlighting Mix]  UK promo 12″#4 [1987]

  1. Snobbery + Decay [Moonlighting Mix]
  2. Snobbery + Decay [Moonlighting Mix 2]
  3. Snobbery + Decay [Instant]
  4. Snobbery + Decay [Instant 2]

And finally, here is 12″ number four: the UK promo mixes by “Herbie [from Mastermind].” In spite of the title, ironically none of these mixes contain sound bites from “Moonlighting.” What they do offer are instrumental remixes; heavy on the Latin percussion. There’s some serious quica abuse on some of these tracks. They have a tendency to sound truncated on vinyl, making them sound inconclusive. As though they were edited with crude fades from longer [but not necessarily better] mixes.

ZTT | UK | CD5″ | 1987 | CID 28

Act: Snobbery + Decay [Compacted] UK gatefold CD [1987]

  1. Snobbery + Decay [Extended, for Stephanie Beacham]
  2. I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You
  3. Poison
  4. [Theme From] Snobbery + Decay

Rounding the series out is the glittering new CD single as never offered better by the digital gremlins of ZTT. Of course, this disc has an overall smattering of all of the B-sides from the other issues, but the A-side is an excellent extended remix exclusive to this format, as is the lushly airbrushed cover. Of course, ten years later, this would be rendered in 3D computer graphics, but for now one is left with the charm of a painting. The remix is the closest to an extended version of the nearly six minute album version, though this mix clocks in at 8:36. Claudia’s sound bite of “I’d like to organize a small, private jet… I’m flying to Las Vegas in the morning,” manages to nail their target with aplomb and is frankly missed on all other mixes of this single.

There would be deluxe ZTT releases after this single, of course, but this really represents the last hurrah for ZTT’s expert marketing overkill as we grew to know and love it in the mid Eighties. This single was tragically rebuffed from the then-PWL-besotted UK charts and their urbane humor fell on utterly deaf ears; which by then, were accustomed to the clatter of Linn drums on yet another Pete Hammond mix.

Sigh.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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9 Responses to A Young Person’s Guide To: Snobbery + Decay

  1. ronkanefiles says:

    I remember the CD single. It cost almost as much as a regular CD, as a new release!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      ronkanefiles – The first CD singles I bought were ZTT objects and yes, they were in the $13-15 range as rarified import CD singles. I didn’t mind. I was ecstatic to have singles on CD finally!

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  2. Echorich says:

    WONDERFUL!!!! The Success of Excess!! Ms. Brucken can do no wrong. I will join you on the road traveling down Claudia’s career. She has a singular voice. I would always obey any orders she gave! I guess I have a thing for German chanteuses – I also love another fave of yours Billie Ray Martin. Act was such a return to form for ZTT. I was SO underwhelmed by Frankie at the time.

    You are so right about the UK charts at the time…Pete Hammond and Phil Harding owned them!! Even ABC couldn’t avoid the PWL treatment. At least there was some respect to the level of work of the original on Hammond’s remix of The Night You Murdered Love and King Without a Crown.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I was not really underwhelmed by FGTH during their “Liverpool” period since I felt that they had delivered the missing Ultravox record for that year instead of the actual band! Think about it. “Kill The Pain” is an Ultravox song much more than “All Fall Down,” isn’t it?

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Don’t forget Gina Kikoine! Without her, Grace Jones as we know her might not exist!

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      • Echorich says:

        I have to agree Gina X and Cristina definitely had their influence on Ms. Jones both muscially and visually.
        I think I am going to have to revisit Liverpool now that you have brought that comparison!. Again no real blame need be heaped on FGTH, I will always default to Trevor Horn for blame… I always kinda thought that Frankie was Horn’s Sex Pistols….Holly and Paul were his Rotten & Vicious and The Lads were his Cook & Jones.
        On a slight side note….I am a big fan of Paul Rutherford’s solo album with much help from Fry & White.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Echorich – Well, Jean Paul Goode did the Cristina cover before he did it for Grace Jones. I think it can be argued that middle period Grace Jones was the influence on Cristina, musically at least, so Ze’s decision to employ Goode for her 2nd album cover makes a certain amount of sense. You can’t blame Goode for working that action a second time on an album that poeple actually would see, eh?

          I have to admit that I never had the slightest curiosity about the Paul Rutherford album, ever. It seemed like the idea of a Bez [Happy Mondays] solo album, albeit less frightening. Oh, I was certainly aware of the ABC connection, but at that time I was off of ABC any way. I also think you have a much greater appreciation of house music than I do, so…

          I’m of the opinion that the best house album is “FLM” by the awesome Mel + Kim; truly the apex of the PWL sound, for me. No wait… the best house album is “Electribal Memories!!!” It’s in a class all of its own, no matter how much I love “FLM!”

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          • Echorich says:

            Electribal Memories is one of the great albums of the the 1990’s, which is a feat in itself as it only came out in 1990…but then the decade did decend quickly with Grunge and Brit Pop/Rock and the Spice Grrrrrls…. Billy Ray Martin is a gift to music – she should have hit after hit and the fact that she doesn’t as at once a disappointment but also makes her all that much more personal to me.
            As for the Grace/Cristina angle… I will give Grace her due with the Sly and Robbie/Compas Point sound being very much her own, but she and Ms. Zilkha do have the French/Euro Disco scene in their background and I think it greatly informed them both. Grace’s Nightclubbing album isn’t a million miles away from the New Funk/No Wave scene that Cristina broke out in. They also had svengali’s in common in that their careers were guided by influential men in Zilkha and Goode.
            I have to admit, I am still trying to wrap my head around the Mel + Kim admission… I can only counter it with the fact that I was a big Wham! supporter at one time…

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            • postpunkmonk says:

              Echorich – When I played “FLM” contemporaneously for a friend of mine, thinking rightly he’d like it, he made a sage observation. He said that that album was filled with songs that we should be sick of through overexposure. He said in a proper world, that album would be another “Control” by Janet Jackson; an extremely popular dance record that was played everywhere and mined-to-death for singles. I agree, but 25 years later, I still love it!!

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