Friday, January 28, 2011

Heaven 17 - Heaven 17 / the Luxury Gap

It was my senior year of high school (1982-1983). I would spend my Saturday afternoons listening to the local SUNY Fredonia college radio station - in particular a show called "Vito's Saturday Afternoon Tea Party". The DJ would play a lot of different things, including some new wave acts that weren't making much of an appearance on the mainstream stations. One such band was Heaven 17.

This synthypop trio immediately caught my interest. Their songs were full of catchy dance hooks and political lyrics. I immediately was a fan. It didn't take long for me to go to the local Record Giant to seek out any albums by this band. While their debut Penthouse and Pavement (1981) was not readily available in the US, they did have a self-titled platter that was most of the tracks of that debut album (slightly shuffled) along with two tracks from their second UK album.

Before too long, I was able to get the US verion of that second album - The Luxury Gap (1983). Two of the songs that appeared on the debut album but not Heaven 17 (1982) showed up here, so it was all good. Between the two US albums I had all the tracks from the first two UK albums. I was in heaven - Heaven 17!

Here are the track breakdowns of these two US albums:

1. "Who'll Stop The Rain" was released as a single in 1982.
2. "Penthouse and Pavement" went to number 57 in the UK and number 37 in New Zealand.
3. "Play To Win" went to number 46 in the UK.
4. "Let Me Go" did fairly well as a single internationally. It went to number 41 in the UK, number 26 in Ireland, number 41 in Canada and number 74 in the United States.
5. "(We Don't Need This) Facist Groove Thang" was the first single ever from the band and it went to number 45 in their native UK. The lyrics make reference to both UK and US political figures and denounces racism and fascism. The song was actually banned by the BBC. In the US it went to number 29 on the Billboard Dance charts.
6. "Height of the Fighting" did not chart in the UK but it did reach number 20 in New Zealand.
7. "Geisha Boys and Temple Girls"
8. "I'm Your Money" was the second single from the band.
9. "We're Going to Live for a Very Long Time" ends the record. On the original vinyl, the final chorus ran up to and onto the runoff groove. This basically gave a looping effect of the phrase "for a very long time", making the song run indefinitely until the needle was picked up.

1. "Crushed by the Wheels of Industry" was the final single from the record. It went to number 17 in the UK and number 10 in Ireland.
2. "We Live So Fast" was released in 1983 as a single.
3. "Let's All Make a Bomb"
4. "Key To the World"
5. "Temptation" was one of the band's biggest hits. It went to number 2 in the UK, number 3 in Ireland, number 11 in Germany, number 25 in the Netherlands, number 45 in Italy and number 15 in New Zealand.
6. "Come Live With Me" went to number 5 in the UK and number 7 in Ireland.
7. "Lady Ice and Mr. Hex"
8. "Song With No Name"
9. "The Best Kept Secret"

To pick out which songs are my favorites would be pretty much be listing almost all of these songs again. Both albums are in heavy rotation on my iPod and also appear in the subcategory of disks that I always carry on my iPhone and my iPad. The reason would be is that listening to them instantly takes me back to the early 80's - listening to music in my bedroom and later in my college dorm rooms. These were times when the only responsibilities I had in the world were my studies and thinking about the next evening to go out dancing.

Heaven 17's original debut Penthouse and Pavement is one of "the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die". I fully endorse its placement there. If you've never heard it, you need to check it out. If you have heard it, you'll very likely enjoy it. And if you like the first, I strongly recommend you seek out the Luxury Gap as well. It continues on the foundation that the debut album started.

I think I'm going to pop these tunes on now when we go to dinner. "...come and join the fun on the way to heaven...we're going to live for a very long time...for a very long time...for a very long time...for a very long time..."