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Heaven 17 Tickets

Heaven 17, please remember, were not even intended to be a group. In the beginning was the British Electric Foundation, or B.E.F., for short.  Born out of the collapse of the original Human League, and the brainchild of Martyn Ware, that band’s leader, B.E.F. was less a record label, as a portfolio of future musical projects of which Heaven 17 would be just one.  Ian Craig Marsh, co-founder of the Human League, would join Ware along with Glenn Gregory as lead vocalist the man who would have been the original Human League singer had he not been unavailable.

Penthouse and Pavement is a musically schizoid slab of modern art.  Side 1 fires off in the new, funky direction, whilst Side 2, the all-synth side gives a taste of what a third Human League album with Ware and Marsh on-side might have sounded – wonderful melodies and audacious arrangements with tracks such as ‘Let’s All Make A Bomb’ and ‘Song With No Name’ the very best of British electronica.

A defining feature of Heaven 17 was their total artistic control over their music. Whereas the sound and the success of the Human League’s Dare was very much a collaboration between the band and Martin Rushent, Heaven 17 were performers, writers and designers creating not just their own music but every aspect of the music’s presentation and packaging.

It was written into our contract that we had complete control over the content of what we presented. Each stage of production was integral to the band’s ethos, from cover artwork to their own sartorial elegance in video and on photo shoots. We were influenced by Kraftwerk because what they presented was this world view of which the music was an integrated part.

Their next album, The Luxury Gap, was their pop masterpiece, the moment when everything just clicked into place to devastating effect. The bands favourite-ever song, ‘Let Me Go’ so nearly broke them into the UK Top 40. There would be no such disappointment with its follow up. The band convinced their sceptical record company that ‘Temptation’ had to be the next single. A duet between Glenn Gregory and Carol Kenyon, this song of lust, brilliantly framed by a musical structure which just kept building and building, Escher-like to an electric orgasm that seems never to come, it reached Number 2 in the UK charts in May 1983.

For their next album, Heaven 17 pulled off that most difficult of tricks. How Men Are was a set of experimental tracks which were also pop songs. Although it spawned hits ‘Sunset Now’ and ‘This Is Mine’, the band’s popularity had peaked, and although they remained productive and always intelligent, Pleasure One (1986), and Teddy Bear, Duke, and Pyscho(1988) lacked direction.

Their next album, The Luxury Gap, was their pop masterpiece, the moment when everything just clicked into place to devastating effect. The bands favourite-ever song, ‘Let Me Go’ so nearly broke them into the UK Top 40.  There would be no such disappoint with its follow up. The band convinced their sceptical record company that ‘Temptation’ had to be the next single.  A duet between Glenn Gregory and Carol Kenyon, this song of lust, brilliantly framed by a musical structure which just kept building and building, Escher-like to an electric orgasm that seems never to come, it reached Number 2 in the UK charts in May 1983.

By the late 2000’s, Heaven 17 were down to two of their original members, Ian Craig Marsh having left the band to take a degree course in Psychology.  Yet demand for Heaven 17 live which had run dry a decade earlier had now picked up dramatically.  A whole new generation of artists began to sight Heaven 17 as prime influences, not least La Roux who would join Heaven 17 for a storming session for Six Music in 2010.  

In October 2011, a reconstructed Music Of Quality And Distinction concert at the Roundhouse on night one (featuring original artists from the projects such as Sandie Shaw, and new talent such as Polly Scattergood) would be followed on the second by a dramatic reconstruction of their biggest commercial success, The Luxury Gap.

The Luxury Gap has never been more relevant.  Written during the height of Thatcherism by three Left-leaning young men against a backdrop of over 3 million unemployed the parallels with the Austerity Britain of today are obvious.  Today with a Millionaire cabinet, bankers’ bonuses, yet with once again three million unemployed and doom and depression everywhere, Heaven 17’s sly, post-modern critique of modern society has never sounded so resonant, nor been so necessary.

  

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