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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > March 2019 - The Specials > REISSUES

REISSUES

HEAVEN 17

PLAY TO WIN: THE VIRGIN YEARS

EDSEL/DEMON

© Virginia Turbett/Redferns

FORMED FROM THE ASHES OF THE HUMAN LEAGUE (VERSION #1), HEAVEN 17 WOULD GO ON TO BECOME ONE OF THE 1980S’ MOST PROVOCATIVE AND POLITICALLY-ENGAGED ELECTRO-POP ACTS…

Heaven 17 were founded in adversity. Their genesis lay in conflict, as Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh were defenestrated from the early Human League in 1980 as their label, Virgin Records, opted to focus on the band’s photogenic frontman, Philip Oakey.

Forming Heaven 17 with vocalist Glenn Gregory (their original first choice of singer for The Human League), the band then saw debut single (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang banned by the BBC for its political content. Yet they overcame these setbacks to rank amongst 80s electropop’s most brilliant visionaries.

Their genius is beautifully collated in this 10CD (or five coloured-vinyl albums) boxset of their five-LP Virgin career. As the tremendous sleevenotes detail, their initial inspirations were A Clockwork Orange and the space race: “[I thought] this is our future!’ recalls Ware. ‘I’ll be an astronaut one day!”

Yet despite the nascent Heaven 17’s defining futurism, 1981 debut album Penthouse And Pavement was also firmly rooted in the here and now. Let’s All Make A Bomb, The Height Of The Fighting and …Fascist Groove Thang all unfolded in the nuclear shadow of the Cold War: the cover image of deal-striking, pony-tailed businessmen was a playful satire of Thatcherite excess.

If Penthouse And Pavement was their stylish callingcard, 1983’s The Luxury Gap crashed the chart party, incorporating slick funk into the electro-throb and spawning towering Top 10 hits in Temptation and Come Live With Me. These were insightful songs about a) lust and b) love: beneath their machine sheen, Heaven 17 dealt in vulnerable, universal human emotions.

It went platinum, and in the sleevenotes here, Ware freely admits that by the following year’s How Men Are they were “drunk with power”, hiring orchestras and Earth, Wind & Fire’s brass section and doing 72-track mixes. It had no huge hits, but hidden gems aplenty: …(And That’s No Lie) was a gentle masterpiece.

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About Classic Pop

Issue 50 of Classic Pop is on sale now! For our 50th issue, we had to come up with something very special – and we certainly have… our cover stars this month are The Specials, hot on the heels of the release of their superb chart-topping album, Encore. Our must-read interview with the band delves into their remarkable comeback and the story behind their superb new record. We also catch up with the iconic Gloria Estefan who tells us how she brought Latin grooves to the world and Bonnie Tyler talks us through her new studio album, which features a hotly-anticipated duet with Sir Rod Stewart. 30 years on, we celebrate New Order’s Technique in our latest Classic Album feature and we also serve up a buyer’s guide to the blue-eyed soul of Simply Red. As Wet Wet Wet face the future without Marti Pellow, we meet the band as they embark on a fresh chapter with new frontman, The Voice winner Kevin Simm. Our packed new album reviews section features the wonderful return of Chaka Khan plus Dido, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Paul Weller. On the reissues front, we check out a must-have 10-CD Heaven 17 boxset plus re-releases from David Bowie, Sparks, Erasure and more. In our live reviews section, we elbow our way down to the front for Gary Numan and Echo & The Bunnymen at the Rockaway Beach Festival plus gigs by Chrvches and The Christians. Enjoy the issue!