Heaven 17 Biography
When Martyn Ware and lan Craig Marsh lift The Human League in the Autumn of 1980, there was a great deal of speculation about what they would do next. What they did was form the British Electric Foundation, "a thinking production company" whose purpose is to act as the cornerstone to a number of varied musical activities. B.E.F. announced their existence in England with the release of a cassette-only album called Music For Stowaways. At the same time, the blueprint for Heaven 17 had been formulated, and the work begun.
Martyn and Ian -- producers, singers, musicians synthesizers, sax, piano), programmers (computers, Linn drums) -- went into the studio with vocalist Glenn Gregory and, as Heaven 17, cut their debut single, the highly acclaimed "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang." Since then, Glenn, Martyn and Ian have been concentrating their energies on Heaven 17. Their first album in the U.K., Penthouse and Pavement, consisted of two very different sides, with the "pavement" side representinq Heaven 17's more dance-oriented material, and the "penthouse" side containing music "for mind and body as well as the feet." The record was produced by B.E.F. in association with Pete Walsh, who has previously worked with Stevie Wonder (it is, in fact, a member of Wonderlove who shares vocals with Glenn on the title track).
"One comment made about us, "Ware states, "is that we assemble things like a jigsaw. Absolutely right we do! I think it shows some intellectual awareness of the way things effect people emotionally."
Penthouse and Payment had an immediate effect an the British press, who hailed the LP (which earned the group a silver disc) as a remarkable achievement. Melody Maker stated, "Heaven 17 acct that rare space in contemporary pop reserved for true originals." NME called the album "brilliantly satisfying," and a five-star review in Sounds said that the LP was "a perfect record."
Arista's Heaven 17 combines the best tracks from that album with new songs that are already causing excitement in the U.S. "Who Will Stop The Rain," released prior to the LP as an exclusive 12" single on Arista, and "Let Me Go" have both generated exceptional rock club activity, following the tradition of such prior successes as "Play To Win," and "The Height of The Fighting." Among connoisseurs of cutting-edge rock, few albums have been as eagerly anticipated as this American debut of Heaven 17.
Ware explained the concept of B.E.F. to The Face by saying, "We're stripping away the veneer of pseudo-mysticism that surrounds the artist saying, 'Look, if you work with a record company, you create music to make a living out of it, and to satisfy your own artistic worth. The best and least hypocritical way of doing that is to act as a business."
B.E.F. is not exclusively associated with Heaven 17. in addition, Marsh and Ware have worked on an album with Hot Gossip, and devised the intriguing musical concept of Music Of Quality and Distinction. The Quality and Distinction LP that was released on Virgin in Great Britain last year invited same of B.E.F.'s favorite vocalists -- Paul Jones, Tina Turner, Gregory, Gary Glitter, Sandie Shaw, Bill McKenzie (of the Associates) -- to perform classic songs such as Roy Orbison's "It's Over," The Temptations' "Ball Of Confusion," Dianne Warwick's "Anyone Who Had A Heart" and others. The team calls Q & D "just number one in a series, not just a one-off," and if same of their planned singer-song match-ups came to fruition there should be fascinating music in store from that corner of their corporation.
For now, Heaven 17 is about to make an impact in the U.S. comparable to that created in the V.K. As NME said, Heaven 17 has "seized the AMENT and the moment's language and mode and resonance with hurler and a personal dab of political humidity, without metaphoric sweat, without platitude." They have caused controversy (their radio ads have been censored, and the band was forced to change certain lyrics in their song - pertaining to Ronald Reagan -- to get BBC airplay and a Top Of The Pops appearance), and although "Ian Craig Marsh has never danced in his entire life," they are getting many other people out on the floor. They are an important new group.
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