Sunday, December 22, 2013

Heaven 17 (1982)

Released: 1982 (Arista)
Produced by: British Electric Foundation
Peak on the US Billboard 200: 68

Side One Side Two
Who Will Stop the Rain
Penthouse and Pavement
Play to Win
Let Me Go

(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang
The Height of the Fighting
Geisha Boys and Temple Girls
I'm Your Money
We're Going to Live for a Very Long Time

Charted singles: Hot 100DanceRock
Let Me Go 74432
Play to Win/Penthouse and Pavement
(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang
Who Will Stop The Rain

Heaven 17 was singer Glenn Gregory with producers, synth players and former Human League members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh.  Critic Robert Christgau once called the band "pet shop godfathers" and he was pretty close.  This British synthfunk band was right in my wheelhouse back in '82.  This self-titled compilation was a US release and took tracks from the band's first two UK releases, Penthouse And Pavement and The Luxury Gap, plus the song I'm Your Money.  Side one is very strong, while side two fades a bit towards the end.

This album was a "best of" compilation to introduce a successful band to the States.  I don't think Arista was as successful as they would have liked, but it helped me discover the group even though I was living on the Gulf Coast of Texas at the time.  This album was only available in the US on vinyl and cassette in the early '80s; CD releases of the band's work were issued following the original UK albums' sequencing.  But if you're looking for a place to start with this band, just go straight to The Luxury Gap

The song Play To win ended up on the soundtrack album for the movie Summer Lovers while Penthouse And Pavement was included on the Night Shift soundtrack.

  • Who Will Stop The Rain: Funky descending bass line, female background vocals, and fantastic synth programming.  A great way to kick off an album.  I was hooked from the get-go.**
  • Penthouse and Pavement: More of the same. I particularly like when the bass player (John Wilson) takes it up a notch on the chorus behind guest vocals from Josie James.  Tasty synth solos throughout.*
  • Play to Win: Great rhythm guitar. I also dig the chromatic bassline in the chorus and the frantic synth solo. That whistle lick is hella catchy.*
  • Le Me Go: I didn't like this song at first listen because it was too slow for my dance tastes.  Now I appreciate the way it builds and, by the end, I'm dancin' and singing along with the nonsense background vocals.  Still, a strange choice for the group's first US single release.**

  • (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang: A political statement with a dance beat (killing two birds with one stone for this pseudo-activist teenager).  Famously banned by the BBC for the line "Reagan is president-elect/Fascist god in motion".  But that beat is relentless.*
  • The Height of the Fighting: A waste of a great bass line.*
  • Geisha Boys and Temple Girls: The synth intro is one of my favorite parts of the whole album.  The rest of the song doesn't quite measure up and lyrically I have no idea what's going on.*
  • I'm Your Money: I like the way this one chugs along, but there's really not a lot going on melodically over a basic blues progression.
  • We're Going to Live for a Very Long Time: Sounds like the boys just like the title for an album closer and they just built a song around that line which was recorded up to and onto the runoff groove; meaning the run time of this track (as labelled on the LP sleeve) and the album is infinite, looping the line "for a very long time".  Gimmicky, but it didn't work on my cassette version.*
*on the 1981 UK release of Penthouse And Pavement
**on the 1982 UK release of The Luxury Gap

  1. Who Will Stop the Rain
  2. (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang
  3. Let Me Go
  4. Penthouse and Pavement
  5. Play to Win
  6. Geisha Boys and Temple Girls
  7. I'm Your Money
  8. The Height of the Fighting
  9. We're Going To Live For A Very Long Time


  1. Aside from the awesome music (I give it an A- and my preferred track listing would swap numbers 1 and 3 on yours), what I remember about this album is that it was reviewed along with a few other favorites of mine all in the same issue of Rolling Stone: #392 March 31, 1983 with Dudley Moore on the cover. Usually, there was at least one maybe two albums I liked that were reviewed but that issue had SEVEN!

    My picks from that issue - Nick Lowe and Ultravox failed to make my cut:

    War - U2 [4 stars]
    Kihnspiracy - Greg Kihn Band [4 stars]
    Blinded By Science EP - Thomas Dolby [3.5 stars]
    Pyromania - Def Leppard [3.5 stars]
    Heaven 17 - Heaven 17 [3.5 stars]
    Spring Session M - Missing Persons [2 stars]
    Pleasure Victim - Berlin [1 star]

    There's a also a sweet article in that issue on the first CD player released in America: Sony's CDP-101 with a suggested retail price of $1000!!!

  2. I LOVE this album! I had it on vinyl and played it a ton. This one remains on my must-have-everywhere list (iPod, iPad, iPhone) and would be on my Desert Island list as well. My full review is here - Martin's View: Heaven 17 - Heaven 17.