Trevor Charles Horn, born 15 July 1949 in Durham, England, is a British pop music record producer, songwriter and musician. Horn has produced commercially successful songs and albums for numerous British and international artists. He won a Grammy Award for co-writing "Kiss From a Rose" with Seal. As an artist himself, he has had chart success with his own bands the Buggles, Yes and Art of Noise. He also owns a significant stake in the recording company, ZTT Records, Sarm Studios and a music publishing company, Perfect Songs. The three are combined under the corporate umbrella of SPZ. Horn was regarded for much of the 1980's as the best producer in Britain, evidenced by a note that the band China Crisis made on their 1985 album Flaunt the Imperfection (not produced by Horn). They addressed their producer as "Walter (Trevor Who?) Becker". (Walter Becker is one half of Steely Dan). There are many such casual references to Horn in British culture, and he is one of the few British record producers to become a household name.
Horn began his professional career as a backing musician in the late 70's for disco star Tina Charles. One of the other members of her backing band was keyboard player Geoff Downes. Horn and Downes formed the Buggles in 1977, in which Horn played bass, guitar and percussion as well as providing vocals. Horn and Bruce Woolley (Tina Charles' guitarist) co-wrote "Video Killed the Radio Star", which was released by The Buggles in 1979 reaching No 1 in the UK charts. The song also appeared on the group's first album, The Age of Plastic, which was released in 1980. Later in the same year Horn and Downes were invited to join the rock group Yes. Horn became the lead vocalist, replacing Jon Anderson. He recorded one album with the band, Drama, on which he also plays bass on one track. However, he left after seven months, at the beginning of 1981, to concentrate on his production work. He also completed a second Buggles album, Adventures In Modern Recording, mainly alone after a falling out with Geoff Downes. Horn did work with Yes again, not as a band member, instead (co-)producing their next two studio albums, including the noted 1983 "comeback" album 90125, and also went on to be a founding member of Art of Noise. He is known for performing on albums he produces. His latest role is as part of The Producers with various musicians/producers including Lol Crème and Steve Lipson. The band performed its first gig at the Camden Barfly in November 2006.
Horn's first production success came with the pop band Dollar in 1981 and 1982. He then went on to produce The Lexicon of Love (1982) by ABC, which reached no. 1 in the UK album charts, and has since been acclaimed as one of the 100 best albums of all time. It was during the Lexicon sessions that Horn first assembled the production "team" that would characterize and define the sound of a Trevor Horn production in the 1980s: Anne Dudley on keyboards and arrangements, Gary Langan (later Stephen Lipson) as chief engineer, J.J. Jeczalik on the lion's share of programming for the Fairlight CMI (which was still a novelty but would prove integral to Horn's production technique), background vocalist Tessa Webb, percussionist Luis Jardim and others. Originally brought in to flesh-out keyboard parts, Dudley was soon co-writing with the group and scoring the album's much-noted orchestrations. She (and the others) would soon be in great demand due to their contributions to Horn's successes.
He achieved his greatest commercial success in 1984, firstly with the Liverpudlian band Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and secondly with the charity group Band Aid and their enormous hit "Do They Know It's Christmas?" In the UK, Frankie Goes to Hollywood was the best-selling band of 1984; the success of singles such as "Relax" and "Two Tribes" helped to bankroll ZTT Records, which Horn had co-founded in 1983. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" became one of the best-selling singles of all time.
Other artists he has produced include Cher, Grace Jones, Seal and Propaganda, also Tina Turner, Lisa Stansfield, Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, Pet Shop Boys, Simple Minds, Mike Oldfield, Marc Almond, Charlotte Church, t.A.T.u, LeAnn Rimes, and Belle & Sebastian. Horn received a Grammy in 1996 for Seal's second album.
On November 11, 2004, a Prince's Trust charity concert celebrating Horn's 25 years as a record producer took place at Wembley Arena. Performers at the show included the Buggles, Bruce Woolley, ABC, Art of Noise, Belle & Sebastian, Lisa Stansfield, Pet Shop Boys, Seal, Dollar, t.A.T.u., Yes, Grace Jones and Frankie Goes to Hollywood (with Ryan Molloy replacing original vocalist Holly Johnson). Simple Minds were scheduled to perform but did not. A double CD compilation titled Produced by Trevor Horn was released in conjunction with the concert. An edited version of the concert has been broadcast on television in several countries under the title 25 Years Of Pop: Produced by Trevor Horn, and a DVD release of the full concert is planned.
On 22 May 2006, the Pet Shop Boys released their album Fundamental which was produced by Horn. The album reached number five in the UK charts. In the same month, he featured in a Pet Shop Boys concert specially recorded for BBC Radio 2. Following the critical success of the event Horn has produced an album version, called Concrete, which was released 23 October 2006. The show included songs from Fundamental, classic PSB tracks and special guests including Robbie Williams singing 'Jealousy', Rufus Wainwright singing 'Casanova in Hell' and Frances Barber singing 'Friendly fire'. Horn also produced Captain's debut album, This is Hazelville, released late 2006.
Trevor Horn's songwriting credits date back to 1979 when he co-wrote a song for Dusty Springfield, ‘Baby Blue’ with Bruce Woolley and Geoff Downes.
All the Buggles' hits – including Video Killed The Radio Star, ‘Living In The Plastic Age’, ‘Elstree’ and ‘I Am A Camera’ - were co-written by Horn and Downes and, occasionally, Bruce Woolley. Horn also co-wrote all of the 1980 Yes album, Drama. On his return to the band (as producer) in 1983 he contributed to their biggest ever hit, ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ and the dance hit ‘Leave It’.
For Dollar’s The Dollar Album (1982), Horn wrote a love story across four songs: ‘Hand Held in Black and White’ (the meeting), ‘Mirror Mirror’ (the loving), ‘Give Me Back My Heart’ (the break-up) and ‘Videotheque’ (the postscript). All four singles broke the top twenty and two, ‘Mirror Mirror’ and ‘Give Me Back My Heart’, both reached number four on the UK singles chart.
During 1982 and 1983, Horn worked with Malcolm McLaren and Anne Dudley, writing numerous worldwide hits including ‘Buffalo Gals’, ‘Double Dutch’, 'Duck for the Oyster’ and the Duck Rock album of world beats and new hip-hop styles.
In 1984, he co-wrote several classic hits with the Art of Noise including ‘Close (To The Edit)’, ‘Beat Box’ and ‘Moments in Love’. The next year he co-wrote ‘Slave to the Rhythm’. This was originally intended as Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s second single, but was instead given to Grace Jones. Horn and his studio team reworked and reinterpreted it, jazz style, into six separate songs to form the Slave to the Rhythm album.
In the 1990s Horn wrote two songs for solo female singers. 'Riding Into Blue (Cowboy Song)' was recorded by Inge a/k/a German artist Inga Humpe (Neonbabies, 2raumwohnung) and 'Docklands' which was recorded by Betsy Cook. He also co-wrote two songs with Terry Reid for his 1991 album, The Driver and ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ for Cher's 1995 album It’s a Man’s World).
For yet another tangential career progression, Horn co-wrote the theme song 'Everybody Up' to the TV programme The Glam Metal Detectives, a comedy sketch show which appeared on BBC2 in 1995. This was another collaboration with Lol Creme, a member of the Art of Noise, 10cc and Godley and Creme
Horn’s songwriting can be heard on numerous film soundtracks. In 1992, Horn collaborated with composer Hans Zimmer to produce the score for the movie Toys starring Robin Williams, which included interpretations by Tori Amos, Pat Metheny and Thomas Dolby.
In the 2000s Horn provided additional production on three international hits for t.A.T.u, ‘All the Things She Said’, ‘Not Gonna Get Us’ and ‘Clowns (Can You See Me Now)’. He also wrote ‘Pass the Flame’ (the official 2004 Olympic song) and co-wrote the title track from Lisa Stansfield’s 2004 album The Moment.
In 1982, Horn founded the musical publishing company Perfect Songs together with his wife, Jill Sinclair. This coincided with their then recent acquisition of Basing Street Studios, which also housed the fledgling publishing company. Perfect Songs was able to harness and develop the up and coming young artists working in the recording studio.
The first to be signed were Frankie Goes to Hollywood, followed by the Art of Noise and Propaganda. These first few signings to the company were instrumental in establishing the company ethos of "innovation and artiste development, taking risks and signing acts far into the left field".
Successful songwriters he has signed since include Seal, Ian Brown, Gabrielle, Chris Braide, Shane MacGowan, Marsha Ambrosius, Alistair Griffin and Paul Simm (writer of the hit "Overload" for Sugababes).
Trevor Horn always wore large "nerdish" style glasses when he performed however as that style was a fashion in the 1980s, he always wore them until the 1990s. However he still wears the hard-framed glasses whenever he performs. One of his jokes beyond wearing the large glasses was that "he was a camera," as went along with his hit "Video Killed the Radio Star" and his other hit "I Am A Camera." However today, he wears the more modern smaller glasses.
In his music videos with The Buggles, he frequently wore a silver suit and wore a white sports jacket in his live performances.
Horn married former mathematics teacher and business partner Jill Sinclair in 1980. They have four children, a son Aaron (born 1984) and three daughters. Their main home is a £2 million mansion in Checkendon near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire; while other property includes in St John's Wood, North London, and the United States. Horn has one brother – Kenneth, formerly a lighting cameraman then director of TV programmes such as Brookside and now a producer for ITV – and two sisters who live in Canada.
On 25 June 2006, while at home from Goldsmiths College, University of London, Aaron was practising with his air rifle. Not realising his mother was close by, a .22 pellet accidentally hit Jill in the neck, severing an artery. She was rushed to Reading hospital intensive care unit where her condition was described as "critical but stable". She was initially reported to be under deep sedation in an induced coma, possibly suffering from brain damage. Communication from ZTT Records confirmed, as of 1 September 2006, that Jill is in a natural coma and has been moved to a rehabilitation centre. As of June 2007, Sinclair remains unresponsive and in a coma.
Solo Discography Edit
- Produced By Trevor Horn - 2004