Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Time For A Party!

After slowing it down yesterday, time to pump it back up today with some Heaven 17. Glenn Gregory, Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware had known each other previously, but formed Heaven 17 when the latter two split from The Human League, initially launching production entity B.E.F. aka the British Electric Foundation.

I think I first took notice of Heaven 17 in 1981 when they performed Play To Win on Top Of The Pops. One of those frequent TOTP oddities in that the single only managed #46 in a 7 week run. However, it left a lasting impression because I found Glenn Gregory's facial expressions both alarming and hilarious and I couldn't work out what Ian Craig Marsh was leaning into the mic to mime. And the ponytails...! I've just found and watched it again on YouTube and it's every bit as entertaining as I remembered.
I probably got into Heaven 17 with either K-Tel's Modern Dance compilation, which featured both Play To Win and Penthouse And Pavement (and which I wrote about last year) or my brother's cassette of the Penthouse And Pavement album. Either way, once I had a Saturday job and some money, I got that and The Luxury Gap on vinyl, plus 12" singles when I could get them. Whilst I enjoyed Sunset Now and ..(And That's No Lie), I'd lost interest by third album How Men Are and only bought a couple more singles (Contenders and Trouble) and the Endless remix cassette compilation during the rest of the 1980s.
Heaven 17 enjoyed a brief resurgence of interest in the early 1990s with a trio of remixed singles and a best of compilation. Brothers In Rhythm's remix of Tempation attained #4 (two places lower than the original) and a (pretty ropey) remix of debut (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang by Rapino Brothers just bettered the original UK chart placing of #45 by scraping to #40. Penthouse And Pavement, arguably the best of three remixes, only managed 1 week and #54, three places higher than it's previous attempt at global domination in 1981.
The trio reunited in the late 1999s and produced new music. Ian Craig Marsh stopped touring with Heaven 17, left the band around 2007 and subsequently became a music teacher. Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware have continued as a touring concern and - pandemic permitting - will resume live performances during 2022.
I've approached today's selection as the first of a series, dip sampling some of the 12" versions from their 1980s heyday. It's been done before and - with the exception of the Let Me Go! / Temptation segue, I wanted to avoid a slipshod retread of the Endless compilation. I had the limited edition box set cassette, which looked lovely and (Heaven 17 Megamix aside) was an almost perfect compilation. Unfortunately, living in a very damp and cold bedsit in Derby in the mid-1990s did for it, the outer box becoming mouldy and the cassette unplayable, so I had to ditch it. 
This selection misses some personal favourites, including the aforementioned Play To Win and Penthouse And Pavement as well as Let's All Make A Bomb, and adds a post-Endless track with the best remix of Contenders. There will be more to come, hopefully this year!
In the meantime, the official Heaven 17 website still appears to be offering a free 3-track EP from 2011, if you join the mailing list.

1) ..(And That's No Lie) (Re-mixed To Enhance Its Danceability) (1985)
2) Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry (Extended Dance Version) (1983)
3) Contenders (U.S. Club Mix By Bruce Forest) (1987)
4) I'm Your Money (Special Fortified Dance Mix!) (1981)
5) Let Me Go! (12" Extended Version) (1982)
6) Temptation (Special Dance Mix) (ft. Carol Kenyon) (1983)
7) (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (Full Length Version) (1981)
8) Sunset Now (Extended Version) (ft. Afrodiziak) (1984)
1981: I'm Your Money (12"): 4 
1981: (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (12") / Penthouse & Pavement: 7
1983: Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry (12"): 2
1983: Temptation (12"): 6
1984: Sunset Now (12"): 8
1985: ..(And That's No Lie) (12"): 1 
1987: Double Trouble (limited edition double pack 12"): 3


  1. Looking forward to the second instalment - can't believe ICM left to become a music teacher!

    1. Nothing concrete, but I found a few testimonials apart from Wikipedia entry otherwise I may have dismissed it. Reportedly, he dropped 'Marsh' and taught music at a girls secondary school in Surrey, though this was many years ago.

      I'm tickled by the thought that he may have been prone to dropping in the occasional H17 lyrics into lessons.

      "Today, we're going to practice percussion...Syncopation for the nation now!"
      "Emily, I appreciate this is your first go at the triangle, but...One needs a great deal more than this, make a master plan!"

  2. Not a bad selection at all! Heaven 17 are one of my foundation bands - along with pre Dare Human League. I am of the opinion they have done little wrong in the recording studio - covering Don’t Fear The Reaper might be the lowest point. I have a lots of good things to say s out all the albums though. I wish the would follow up those most recent singles though as those tracks prove they still have much to offer.

    1. Thanks, Echorich. I ran out of time to do the expanded, 90-odd minute H17 selection that I was originally thinking of, so there are some glaring omissions (Penthouse, Play To Win, This Is Mine) as well as the 12" mixes of album tracks, so 'Side 2' may pop up sooner rather than later. I quite liked the Contenders and Trouble singles, but underwhelmed by The Foolish Thing To do, so I didn't get Pleasure One album or anything of the albums that followed, apart from the Retox/Detox collection. I may try to track them down now.

      I was completely unaware of the Don’t Fear The Reaper cover, and just looked it up. Not a million miles from Apollo 440s version, if a little calmer. I really liked their versions of Buzzcocks' Are Everything and Associates' Party Fears Two. I think Reaper is pipped to lowest point by their 2015 cover of Elton John's Rocket Man. Nothing to recommend it, really.

      Listening to the selection this past couple of days reminded me why I loved them so much back in the day. Party music that packed a punch.