Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Couple Of Ex Human-Leaguers

In 1980 ex-Human League foundation members Ian Craig-Marsh and Martyn Ware split from Phil Oakey and formed the new trio Heaven 17, recruiting new front man Glenn Gregory. The name Heaven 17 was taken from that of a fictional pop group in the novel 'A Clockwork Orange'. Within a year they released their debut single '(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang'. The hybrid synth-pop protest number narrowly missed the UK Top 40 and the follow up debut album 'Penthouse And Pavement' was received well reaching the top 20. This was a particularly prolific period of creativity for Craig-Marsh and Ware who simultaneously undertook the studio project B.E.F. (British Electronic Foundation), releasing an album of synthed-up covers.

Heaven 17's greatest commercial success came with the 1983 album 'The Luxury Gap' (UK #4, US #72, OZ # 53). The album featured one of the seminal new wave songs in 'Temptation'. The song combined all the cutting edge elements of synth-pop with sublime vocal arrangements melding the rich bass of Glenn Gregory's voice with the powerful vocals of Karol Kenyon, to deliver a virtual three minute electronic pop-opera. The song surged to #2 in the U.K. and #38 in Australia but failed to break the group in the U.S.

The song was also accompanied by a clever promo clip featuring Heaven 17 standing at pops pulpit and warning of the consequences to giving into 'Temptation'. Well, I didn't listen and gave in to listening to 'Temptation' over and over, the only consequence being wearing out the grooves on my original 45 vinyl copy.

Heaven 17 failed to ascend to the heavenly heights of 'Temptation' again, though did score another UK top 5 hit soon after with 'Come Live With Me'. It seems Craig-Marsh and Ware weren't destined to match the commercial success of Phil Oakey's revamped Human League. But though Human League recorded some outstanding music, in my view nothing they did matched the sheer brilliance of 'Temptation'. Testament to this is the fact a remix of the song (by Brothers In Rhythm) reached #4 on the UK charts in 1992.

Oh and if you were wondering why Heaven 17 followed their name up with 'Sheffield - Edinburgh - London' on their record cover artwork, it reflected the path the trio had taken. All three hailed originally from Sheffield, Craig-Marsh and Ware enjoyed their breakthrough record deal with Human League via the Edinburgh label Fast in 1978, and eventually the trio Gregory, Craig-Marsh and Ware joined forces as Heaven 17 basing themselves in London. I bet you can all sleep a little better having finally worked that one out ;)

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