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Heaven 17 are a Britishmarker synthpop band originating from Sheffieldmarker in the early 1980s. The trio comprises Martyn Ware (keyboards), Ian Craig Marsh (keyboards) (both previously with The Human League) and Glenn Gregory (vocals). Although most of the band's output was in the 1980s, they have occasionally reformed to record and perform since then, playing their first ever live gigs in 1997.



Taking their name from a fictional pop group mentioned in Anthony Burgess's novel, A Clockwork Orange, (where 'The Heaven Seventeen' are at number 4 in the charts with "Inside"), Heaven 17 formed when Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware split from their earlier group, The Human League, and formed the production company British Electric Foundation .BEF’s first recording was a cassette-only album called Music for Stowaways and an LP called Music for Listening To. Shortly after, they recruited their friend and photographer Glenn Gregory on vocals to complete their line-up for Heaven 17. Like The Human League, Heaven 17 heavily used synthesizers and drum machines (the Linn LM-1 programmed by Ware). Session musicians were used for bass and guitar (John Wilson) and grand piano (Nick Plytas). Where as the band's former colleagues The Human League had gone on to major chart success in 1981, Heaven 17 struggled to make an impact. Their debut single "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang" attracted some attention and, due to its overtly left-wing political lyrics, was banned by BBC Radio 1 DJ Mike Read (who is a staunch Conservative). However, neither this or the other four singles taken from the band's debut album Penthouse and Pavement managed to reach the UK Top 40. The album itself proved to be a minor success and peaked at #14 on the UK album chart, and was later certified Gold by the BPI in 1982.

Around this time, Ware and Marsh produced two further LPs as BEF, the first being Music of Quality & Distinction (Vol 1) featuring Glenn Gregory, Tina Turner, Paula Yates, Billy Mackenzie, Hank Marvin, Paul Jones, Bernadette Nolan and Gary Glitter. The tracks were cover versions of songs that Ware, Marsh and Gregory had grown up listening to. The album peaked at #25.

The second album was Geisha Boys and Temple Girls for the dance troupe Hot Gossip, which used songs formerly recorded by The Human League and Heaven 17, and a track each from Sting and Talking Heads. BEF took over production duties when Richard Burgess of the group Landscape was unable to do so.

In October 1982, Heaven 17 released their new single "Let Me Go", but this too charted just outside the UK Top 40. However, in 1983, the band's fortunes changed. Their next single, "Temptation" (on which they were augmented by vocalist Carol Kenyon), reached #2 on the UK Singles Chart in Spring 1983 and became their biggest hit. The song was taken from their second album, The Luxury Gap, which featured further chart hits "Come Live With Me" (UK #5) and "Crushed By The Wheels of Industry" (UK #17). The album itself charted at #4 in the UK Albums Chart, their highest ever position , and was certified Platinum by the BPI in 1984.

In the United Statesmarker, the self-titled Heaven 17 album was a re-working of Penthouse and Pavement with three songs deleted and replaced by "Let Me Go" and "Who'll Stop the Rain". Americanmarker new wave audiences were most familiar with "Let Me Go", which received high rotation airplay on 'Rock Of The 80s' format radio stations, such as Los Angelesmarker, Californiamarker's KROQ, plus frequent MTV exposure.

Towards the end of 1983, the band (under their BEF guise and assisted by Greg Walsh) helped relaunch Tina Turner's career, producing and providing backing vocals on her hit "Let's Stay Together", a cover of the Al Green song. 1984 saw the release of the third Heaven 17 album, How Men Are, which reached #12 in the UK chart and was certified Silver by the BPI. The album featured the Earth, Wind and Fire brass section, and two singles from the album ("Sunset Now" and "This Is Mine") both reached the UK top 40, but would the band's last singles to do so until various remixes were released in the 1990s.

The band also worked on the Band Aid single at the end of 1984, with Gregory supplying vocals alongside Midge Ure and Sting, after a personal request from Ure that he attend. However, they did not perform at Live Aid the following year. Heaven 17's first "live" performance was in 1986 on the UK television programme The Tube (though the band made use of backing tapes during this performance).

After the remix album Endless peaked at #70 in July 1986, the band's fourth studio album Pleasure One was released in November 1986 and featured the single "Trouble" (UK #51, GER #17). The album contained a number of songs that were originally intended for a Frenchmarker film project that never came to be. This was also the first Heaven 17 album to not mention production credits for BEF and the abbreviation would not appear again until Bigger Than America in 1996. It was followed up in 1988 with the album Teddy Bear, Duke & Psycho (featuring the singles "Train of Love in Motion" and "The Ballad of Go-Go Brown"), although these two albums were poorly received and had little commercial success.


The early 1990s was a quiet period for the band, though Ware produced a second BEF album in 1991, to follow 1982's original Music of Quality and Distinction (again featuring Tina Turner and Billy Mackenzie, but this time also featuring artists such as Scritti Politti's Green Gartside, Lalah Hathaway, Billy Preston, and Chaka Khan). Ware also became a producer for the likes of Terence Trent D'Arby, Marc Almond, and Erasure. Gregory, meanwhile, went on to form the band Ugly.

In late 1992, a remix of "Temptation" reached #4 and was followed by the compilation album Higher and Higher - The Best of Heaven 17 in 1993. Remixes of "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thing" and "Penthouse and Pavement" were also minor hits in 1993. However, the band would not release any new material as Heaven 17 until 1996's Bigger Than America album, though this failed to chart.


2005 saw the release of a new album, Before After, which had a much more contemporary dance sound compared to previous albums. A CD of remixes of "Hands Up To Heaven" from the album reached number 6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart in May 2006. In October the same year Virgin Records issued a greatest hits compilation album entitled Sight and Sound, which included a previously-unheard version of "Temptation" with spoken vocals by an unknown student from Germany whom the band met in 1982. It had been discovered on 1-inch tape by Gregory's mother and was remastered by Simon Heyworth. In November 2005, Heaven 17 were filmed for a live DVD playing to a packed house at The Scala in London. The DVD contains an in-depth question-and-answer session with both Ware and Gregory, and fans' reactions to the gig.

In 2006, Marsh stopped making live appearances with the band. In an interview in late 2008, Ware admitted he had not spoken to Marsh for months. In 2008, prior to The Steel City Tour, it was declared that Marsh no longer wanted to be part of the band and would no longer be appearing with them at concerts.

Since the mid 1990s, Billie Godfrey has worked with the band as a backing vocalist and appears with them at concerts. She appeared with them as part of the band on 21 November 2008 for their highest profile TV appearance of recent years on Now That's What I Call 1983 on ITV1.

In December 2008, Heaven 17 toured the UK as part of the Sheffield band based Steel City Tour alongside The Human League and ABC. Coinciding with this was the release of their new album, Naked as Advertised - Versions 08, issued through the Just Music record label. The album contained re-workings of tracks such as "Temptation" along with versions of Ware songs best known from his time with the Human League, including "Being Boiled" and "Empire State Human", as well as a cover of the Associates' hit "Party Fears Two".

In December 2009, Heaven 17 will be touring again with appearances at the "Nokia Night of the Proms" in Germany.


The Heaven 17 discography:

Studio albums

Compilation, live, and tribute albums

  • Heaven 17 (1982)
  • Endless (1986) (UK #70)
  • The Best of Heaven 17 (1992)
  • Higher and Higher - The Best of Heaven 17 (1993) (UK #31)
  • The Remix Collection (1995)
  • Executive Summary (1996)
  • Retox/Detox (1998)
  • How Live Is (1999)
  • Virgin Voices Vol. 1: A Tribute To Madonna (1999)
  • We Will Follow: A Tribute To U2 (1999)
  • Party O' the Times (1999)
  • Live at Scala, London (2005)
  • Sight and Sound (2006)
  • Live at Last (2008)


  • (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (1981) (UK 45)
  • I'm Your Money (1981)
  • Play To Win (1981) (UK #46)
  • Penthouse and Pavement (1981) (UK #57)
  • At The Height Of The Fighting (12" only) (1982)
  • Let Me Go (1982) (UK #41)
  • Temptation (1983) (UK #2)
  • Come Live With Me (1983) (UK #5)
  • Crushed by the Wheels of Industry (1983) (UK #17)
  • Sunset Now (1984) (UK #24)
  • This Is Mine (1984) (UK #23)
  • And That's No Lie (1985) (UK #52)
  • The Foolish Thing To Do [featuring Jimmy Ruffin] (1986) (UK #80)
  • Contenders (1986) (UK #80)
  • Trouble (1987) (UK #51)
  • Ballad of Go Go Brown (1988) (UK #91)
  • Train of Love in Motion (1988)
  • Temptation [Brothers in Rhythm Remix] (1992) (UK #4)
  • (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang [Rapino Club Remix] (1993) (UK #40)
  • Penthouse and Pavement [Tommy D Remix] (1993) (UK #54)
  • Designing Heaven (1996)
  • We Blame Love (1997)


  1. Heaven 17 discography
  2. The Guardian - Mike Read interview about politics
  3. Martyn Ware interview - BHOS website 2009
  4. Discography at

External links

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