Songwriting, from Dusty Springfield to Art of Noise

Trevor Horn is well known as a groundbreaking record producer, but his songwriting credits are almost equally successful and certainly as varied. They date back to 1979 and a song for Dusty Springfield, ‘Baby Blue’ which was written in collaboration with Geoff Downes with whom he went on to form The Buggles.

All the Buggles' hits – including ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’, ‘Living In The Plastic Age’, ‘Elstree’ and ‘I Am A Camera’ - were written collaboratively between Horn and Downes and, occasionally, Bruce Woolley. From The Buggles, Horn moved to Yes, where he co-wrote all of their 1980 album, Drama. He returned to the band in 1984 to co-write 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.

Across 1982 and 1983, Horn formed a winning songwriting trio with Malcolm McLaren and Anne Dudley. Between them they scored worldwide hits with ‘Buffalo Girls’, ‘Double Dutch’, Duck For The Oyster’ and the Duck Rock album of world beats and new hip-hop styles. Horn co-wrote McLaren’s subsequent album, 1985’s Swamp Thing, too.

The Art of Noise was Trevor Horn’s main songwriting platform in 1984, with whom he co-wrote classic hits such as ‘Close (To The Edit)’, ‘Beatbox’ and ‘Moments In Love’. The next year he co-wrote ‘Slave To The Rhythm’. Originally intended as Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s second single, he instead gave it to Grace Jones. The superstar model and singer made the song her own and Horn and his studio team reworked and reinterpreted it, jazz style into six separate songs to form the Slave To The Rhythm album.

The 1990s saw Horn write two songs for solo female singers. ‘Riding Into Blue (Cowboy Song)‘ was recorded by Inge a/k/a German artist Inge Humpe (Swimming With Sharks, 2Raumwohnung) and Docklands was recorded by Betsy Cook. He also co-wrote two songs with Terry Reid for his 1991 album, The Driver.

By the end of the 90s Horn was writing songs with Lol Creme for their two ‘virtual’ bands, Art of Noise (who returned in 1999 with the single Metaforce and the album The Seduction of Claude Debussy) and The Glam Metal Detectives, and also for Cher (‘The Shape of Things to Come’ on her 1995 album It’s A Man’s World). On film soundtracks, Horn’s songwriting can be heard in the hands of various artists. Toys (1992) for example, included interpretations by Tori Amos, Pet Metheny and Thomas Dolby.

With tATu, Horn has written three international hits in the form of ‘All The Things She Said’, ‘Not Gonna Get Us’ and ‘Clowns (Can You See Me Now)’. Add to that ‘Pass The Flame’ (the official 2004 Olympic song) and co-writing the title track from Lisa Stansfield’s 2004 album The Moment, and the 2000s could well prove to be Trevor Horn’s most prolific and successful decade as a songwriter yet.