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Sheffield History


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Line Up

  • martyn ware: synths
  • glenn gregory: lead vocals
  • ian craig marsh: synths


Heaven 17 are an English new wave and synth-pop band that formed in Sheffield in 1980. The band were a trio for most of their career, composed of Martyn Ware (keyboards) and Ian Craig Marsh (keyboards) (both previously of the Human League), and Glenn Gregory (vocals).

Although most of the band's music was recorded in the 1980s, they have occasionally reformed to record and perform, playing their first ever live concerts in 1997. Marsh left the band in 2007 and Ware and Gregory continued to perform as Heaven 17.










Pictured above - Heaven 17 live at the Adelphi - Special Guest Stars: Angie Brown & Billie Godfrey Backing Vocals


They recorded their album, 'Penthouse and Pavement', at the same time as Phil Oakey's new version of the Human League were recording their album 'Dare'. Both albums were recorded in the same studio which was co-owned by both bands. Heaven 17 recorded at night and The Human League during the day.

Penthouse and Pavement was, like Dare, also very successful.


Glenn Gregory interview

Taken from - http://www.bbc.co.uk/southyorkshire/conten...interview.shtml

Glenn talks about his Sheffield past, forming Heaven 17, composing film scores and his new project Honeyroot with DJ Keith Lowndes.

Since fronting synth-pop trio Heaven 17, whose biggest hit, Temptation is said by some to have defined the '80s, Glenn Gregory has gone on to work with an exciting range of artists including Tina Turner, Grace Jones, Propaganda, BEF, Terence Trent D'Arby, Ultravox, Midge Ure, John Lydon to name a few!

Now he has teamed up with Keith Lowndes who toured with ABC before becoming an internationally renowned DJ, and the duo have formed Honeyroot where they're producing 'soulful electronica'.

We caught up with Glenn, to talk about his early days in Sheffield and how his career has developed since.

So Glenn, you started off as a photographer then?

Yeah I did actually, that was exactly what I was doing just prior to joining Heaven 17, infact I even took shots of the Human League at the Leadmill for the Melody Maker, then we went out and did a cover shot... and about four or five weeks later I got a call from Martin and he said they're splitting up and the rest of that bit is history.

So did you actually meet Martin and Ian at the Leadmill?

No, I knew Martin and Ian and Phil, all of them... I knew Ian from when I was about 14 actually, and then Martin a little bit later on and then Phil after that.

I mean I was singing in a band with Ian really early on, like 1973/4 or something with the beautiful name of Music of Honour, and I used to play bass actually and later became a singer with Vomit.

Then I was even in a band with Martin before the Human League in a band called VDK and Stud. We played one fateful concert only ever which was at Psalter Lane Art College where our drummer splattered the audience with pigs ears, with him being a butcher and it was just slightly on the punk side.

So you're not returning to those days?

No, the pig's ears days are over...

So you were very much in the scene in Sheffield in those days with other musicians... how was it?

I don't think at that point you could call us musicians, there was something that opened up in the city, I guess it did in cities, in a lot of working class cities, and it was brought around I think probably by punk-rock, where you suddenly realised that you could get up and do this thing and you could be in a band.

Up 'till then it was always, you know like Monsters of Rock or incredibly intellectual guitar bands who were just fantastic players. But suddenly it was like if you could play three chords on a guitar you could get up and do it, it was like "wow, yeah, well I can do that".

That was in the early days of synthesiser technology as well, so that was really interesting. And computers, as early as they were they were still getting involved in music and it was a real eye-opener for the youth of that time.

Cities like Manchester and Liverpool all had the same feel, basically it was a way out, it was a way were you weren't going to end up working in the steel works and weren't going to end up boning bacon.

Actually Martin and I were both employed by the Co-Op at separate times boning bacon.

So from there you guys formed Heaven 17, how was the experience?

Well it was great, fantastic. I always used to follow the Human League whenever they came to London, 'cause I was living in London at that time, I came back to Sheffield when we formed Heaven 17.

But at that time I was living in London, it was like the South Yorkshire Embassy at our flat, anybody who ever came down always stayed at our flat, we only had one bedroom but never had less than about seven people staying, including when the League were down, the League, the roadies and the girlfriends, but it was great fun.

I was actually in Sheffield and I had to take photos of Joe Jackson at the City Hall and I didn't want to go on my own so I phoned Martin and said "fancy going to see Joe Jackson?" and he wasn't that keen to be honest but I said I'll take a few photographs and we'll go for a drink so he came along.

He started asking me loads of questions, are you happy in London, are you happy doing this photography, and I was thinking God, what do you want, do you want to marry me or something? And in fact, he then popped the question.

He said "Look, I'm definitely leaving the Human League, I think Ian's going to leave as well, do you fancy coming up and forming a new band and we'll see how it goes". I said absolutely, and I think that was a Tuesday and by Friday I'd come back to London got my stuff and moved back to Sheffield, back to my mum and dads.

Maybe a couple of months later, not even that we'd recorded Fascist Groove Thang and we were on our way - that was exciting ya know.

So did you gig in Sheffield in the early days?

No we didn't, because we never played live as Heaven 17 for a very long time, probably not until about 10 years ago. We did do a few bits and bobs that were kinda half live.

I remember when Fascist Groove Thang was released we'd stayed up all night at Marsh's house on a Wednesday night waiting for Thursday morning to go down to Sheffield station where you could get the papers early, and we got the music papers and thought "oh please let it be reviewed".

We got the papers, the Music Melody Maker and the NME and it was record of the week in both NME and Melody Maker and there was a photograph and we were like "Jesus Christ!" I couldn't believe it man, I was on the bus, going home on the 75 to tell my mum and dad.

So that wasn't influenced by you and your connection with the music press?

No, not at all no [laughs]. If anything it would probably been a drawback.

So was there a particular reason why you didn't perform live for so long?

There were a couple of reasons actually, one was Martin and Ian had done loads of touring with the Human League and had run up quite a large debt with Virgin Tour Support and were tired of it, which is kinda why they formed BEF (British Electrical Foundation).

They were gonna be like producers basically, and Heaven 17 was gonna be the first project which was gonna be me, but as things like that often happen it got too personal, too big, too successful and they didn't want to leave it. So we suddenly all were Heaven 17.

The other reason was that it was kind of trendy at the time not to play live. Spandau Ballet said they weren't playing live, then Duran Duran said they wouldn't play live, and it was very "Oh no, we don't play live, we're a studio band".

But then of course they went on to play live and made millions and we didn't and made nothing... no fools!! [laughs] Actually I'm glad that we do now, I absolutely love it and I do kick myself and wish we had done from the start.

Well it's not that bad a thing, you're still enjoying it now?

Actually, yeah, if we had done it a load then I wouldn't enjoy it now. I really do enjoy it now, we going to Germany to do a gig out there as Heaven 17.

Glenn has formed Honeyroot with Keith Lowndes. The pair have clubbed together their vast experience and formed after a classic Ibiza moment.

There they were, sitting on the beach, watching the legendary sunset whilst listening to beautiful music when they had the urge to go home and recreate that moment musically.

They did and the result was Summer Sky, a track which epitomized Ibiza and signaled the beginning of Honeyroot.

So you're juggling a lot of projects, including Honeyroot and writing scores?

Yeah, I've been editing a film all day today actually, and yeah I'm busy quite a lot, I've got a studio. I used to have it in the house and then we had a little baby, and little Louis Earl Gregory nicked my studio for a bedroom. So I had to build a studio in the bottom of the garden, which has actually worked out really nicely.

So I am kinda busy with Heaven 17, Honeyroot and Eskimo, which is the name we go under for all our film and TV work, but I like being busy.

You get quite a lot of things rubbing off, like a film score or TV work will be a good starting point for a Honeyroot track because it's more ambient. Honeyroot is very filmic basically.


HEAVEN 17 OFFICIAL WEBSITE - http://www.heaven17.com/

HEAVEN 17 COMPLETE FANSITE - http://www.heaven17.de/

(Heaven 17 are personal heroes of mine so I can't wait to work on this section !!)

More Info Coming Soon..



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Short review of the Adelphi Gig in Sheffield:

Awesome, fantastic and superb are just three words to describe Heaven 17 in concert. The guys were playing in the city where they grew up, to a crowd of mainly Sheffield Wednesday fans, a few Heaven 17 devotees and were in party mood from the off.

They played all the usual old songs Temptation, Come Live With Me, Play To Win etc and three new songs Hands Up to Heaven, What Would It Take and I'm Going To Make You Fall In Love With Me which Glenn said they are now mixing for the new album. By the encore Being Boiled and 20th Century Boy they were all kitted out in Sheffield Wednesday football shirts.

The guys left the stage to a tremendous ovation.

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Ok - time to get this section sorted out and put together properly

Heaven 17 are an iconic, and very important Sheffield band

Stay tuned for updates

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How did Heaven 17 get their name?

Taking their new name from a fictional pop band mentioned in Anthony Burgess's dystopian novel, A Clockwork Orange (where The Heaven Seventeen are at number 4 in the charts with "Inside"), they became Heaven 17 and formed the production company British Electric Foundation (B.E.F.).

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HEAVEN 17 knew the stakes were high when they clocked on for the midnight shift at Monumental Studios in Sheffield.

The electro-pop trio - singer Glenn Gregory and keyboard wizards Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh - were laying the musical foundations of their classic 1981 album, Penthouse And Pavement.

But they were forced to share the studio with bitter rivals The Human League who were working on their own landmark recording Dare which later hit No.1 and produced iconic single, Don't You Want Me? Six months earlier, Ware and Marsh had quit The Human League - after a series of battles with singer Phil Oakey - and formed Heaven 17.

Glenn, 52, said: "To say the atmosphere in the freezing studio was charged was an understatement.

"The League worked days while we did nights. It was a mucky old building which has been demolished . To be honest it should have been demolished then. We'd hear early recordings of Love Action or Open Your Heart seeping through the studio door and think, 'That's what we've got to beat'.

"Or Phil would turn up early for his session to hear us working on (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang and think, 'That's pretty good but I can do better'.

"There was enormous rivalry. That's part of the reason Penthouse And Pavement and Dare are such great albums. You had two bands desperate to outdo each other.

"In one corner, you had Phil saying, 'I was the most talented person in the band'. In the other corner, Martyn and Ian were saying, 'No, it was us who were great'. It inspired two very different groups to make their best ever records."

Heaven 17 - now Glenn and Martyn - perform Penthouse And Pavement at Edinburgh HMV Picture House on November 22 and the O2 ABC in Glasgow the following night to mark the 30th anniversary of the album, which also spawned dance hits At The Height Of The Fighting, Let's All Make A Bomb and the epic title track.

Their music remains an influence on modern electro-pop acts including La Roux, who recorded a BBC live session with the pair and invited Glenn to sing Heaven 17's 1983 hit Temptation at Glastonbury this summer.

Recreating Penthouse And Pavement was a painstaking task.

Glenn said: "We basically had to remake the original 1981 album. We didn't want to use any original samples and be beholden to Virgin Records. It would have cost us a fortune.

"We'd not gone back to the tracks since we wrote them. At times we'd look at each other and say, 'How did we do that?' The big surprise was just how random it was. You are never going to recreate those sounds - even using the original synthesisers. Martyn spent three days just trying to get the brass sound on At The Height Of The Fighting. We wanted the new tracks to sound like Penthouse And Pavement but fuller and fatter.

"When fans come to the shows they're coming to see a memory but they also want to see how it works now."

Heaven 17 take their name from a rock band mentioned in Anthony Burgess' controversial novel A Clockwork Orange and the band chose Ray Smith to paint the sleeve which portrayed Glenn, Martyn and Ian as pony-tailed, besuited City businessmen.

The album's logo "Heaven 17, Sheffield-Edinburgh-London" was a pastiche of an advertising slogan for Dunhill cigarettes and their yuppie look reflected the economic imbalance of growing up in Margaret Thatcher era Britain.

Glenn said: "Ian bought Newsweek magazine and it had a report about a huge corporate US company who were making millions of dollars. The guys who worked for the firm all wore power suits. Ian said we should use it as a template for Penthouse."

They released debut single Fascist Groove Thang but it was banned by Radio 1 DJ Mike Read - a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party - who objected to its left-wing lyrics. The trio also became a target for the National Front.

Other tracks on the album - inspired by nuclear war and religious extremism - reflected the turbulent social climate.

Glenn said: "Sheffield was in a real state.

There were thousands - including most of my family - working in the steelworks. Then Thatcher got into power and shut down all the plants. Within 18 months the area was decimated. There was unrest in the streets, a lot of it created by National Front skinheads. We wrote Fascist Groove Thang to rally against that.

"There was a lot of violence in Sheffield. We thought, 'S***, we're really putting our heads on the chopping block here'. But we wanted to take a stand against it."

Glenn added: "The way life in the Eighties progressed, a lot of people took that whole yuppie thing as real. I've been in bars where yuppies say, 'yah, let's all make a bomb. Let's get the money together'. I'd be shouting back, 'No, that's not what it's all about'.

"Luckily, most people knew where we were coming from."

Despite no Radio 1 airplay the album was an instant hit with music critics and clubbers.

Glenn said: "I remember waiting at Sheffield railway station in the early hours of Thursday morning for the music papers to be delivered. We didn't know if Fascist Groove Thang would even get reviewed but it was single of the week in NME, Melody Maker and Record Mirror.

"Martyn and Ian had already seen their names mentioned in the music press in The Human League but suddenly mine was there too. After all our hard work, people had got the message. I rushed home, woke up my mum and dad and said, 'look at what's happened'."

Heaven 17 achieved more mainstream success with 1983 follow-up album The Luxury Gap - which got to No. 4 in the UK charts - and featured Temptation, one of the year's biggest- selling singles. But Glenn and Martyn credit Penthouse And Pavement creatively as their finest hour.


Glenn said: "The Luxury Gap was more commercially successful but Penthouse had a much bigger impact and stayed in the Top 75 for 76 weeks. Every party we went to, it was on.

"Some people claim the Eighties was the decade music forgot. Heaven 17 - and The Human League - don't quite go along with that."

Penthouse And Pavement is released on EMI Records on November 15.

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Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware were the founding members of pioneering British electro-pop group the Human League; Glenn Gregory had been their original choice when seeking a lead singer for the band but he was unavailable at the time, so they chose Philip Oakey instead. When personal and creative tensions within the group reached a breaking point in late 1980, Marsh and Ware left the band, ceding the Human League name to Oakey. Taking their new name from a fictional pop band mentioned in Anthony Burgess's dystopian novel, A Clockwork Orange (where The Heaven Seventeen are at number 4 in the charts with "Inside"), they became Heaven 17 and formed the production company British Electric Foundation (B.E.F.).

B.E.F.'s first recordings were a cassette-only album called Music For Stowaways and an LP called Music For Listening To, which was re-released on CD in 1997 with two extra tracks. Shortly after, they completed their line-up when they recruited their friend, photographer Glenn Gregory, as vocalist. Like The Human League, Heaven 17 used synthesisers and drum machines heavily (the Linn LM-1 programmed by Ware). Session musicians were used for bass guitar and guitar (John Wilson) and grand piano (Nick Plytas). Whereas 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 the BBC due to concerns by Radio 1's legal department that it libelled Ronald Reagan, who had recently been elected President of the United States.

Neither this nor any other of the four singles taken from the band's debut album Penthouse and Pavement managed to reach the Top 40 in the UK Singles Chart. The album itself proved to be a success, peaking at Number 14 on the UK Albums Chart, and was later certified gold by the BPI in 1982.



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Around this time, Ware and Marsh produced two further albums as B.E.F., the first being Music of Quality & Distinction Volume One featuring Glenn Gregory, Tina Turner, Paula Yates, Billy Mackenzie, Hank Marvin, Paul Jones, Bernie 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 number 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. B.E.F. took over production duties when Richard James Burgess of the band Landscape was unable to complete the album.

In October 1982, Heaven 17 released their new single "Let Me Go", which charted just outside the UK Top 40 (but reached the Irish Top 30). However, in 1983 the band's fortunes changed. Their next single, "Temptation" (on which they were augmented by vocalist Carol Kenyon and a studio orchestra), reached number 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 number 4 on the UK Albums Chart, their highest ever position, and was certified platinum by the BPI in 1984.

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In the United States, their self-titled Heaven 17 album was a re-working of Penthouse and Pavement with three songs deleted and replaced by "Let Me Go", "Who'll Stop the Rain", and "I'm Your Money" (along with a different mix of "The Height of the Fighting"). American new wave audiences were most familiar with "Let Me Go", which received high rotation airplay on alternative rock and new wave format radio stations such as Los Angeles, California's KROQ-FM, and Long Island, New York's WLIR, plus frequent MTV exposure.

Towards the end of 1983, the band (under their B.E.F. 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 Heaven 17's third studio album, How Men Are, which reached number 12 in the UK Albums Chart and was certified silver by the BPI. The album featured the Earth, Wind & Fire brass section, and two singles from the album ("Sunset Now" and "This Is Mine") both reached the UK Top 40, but would be 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 "Do They Know It's Christmas?" at the end of 1984,[8] with Gregory supplying vocals alongside Midge Ure and Sting, after a personal request from Ure that he attend. However, the band 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 number 70 in July 1986, the band's fourth studio album Pleasure One was released in November 1986 and featured the single "Trouble" (UK No. 51, Germany #17). The album contained a number of songs that were originally intended for a French film project that never came to be. This was also the first Heaven 17 album to not mention production credits for B.E.F. and the abbreviation would not appear again until the Bigger Than America album 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. In September 1988, the band appeared on the bill at the Sport Aid event in Sheffield. Heaven 17 were managed by Keith Bourton for Heavenly Management Ltd. during much of this period.

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The early 1990s was a quiet period for the band, though Ware produced a second B.E.F. album in 1991, to follow 1982's original Music of Quality & Distinction. This album again featured Tina Turner and Billy Mackenzie, but this time also featured 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, Soft Cell's Marc Almond, and Erasure. Gregory, meanwhile, went on to form the band Honeyroot with Keith Lowndes, then Ugly with John Uriel and Ian Wright . 

In late 1992, a Brothers in Rhythm remix of "Temptation" reached number 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 Thang" 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. The album failed to chart in the UK.


The year 2005 saw the release of a new studio album, Before After, which had a much more contemporary dance sound compared to previous albums. A CD composed entirely of remixes of the song "Hands Up to Heaven" from the album reached number six on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart in May 2006. In October of 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, along with fans' reactions to the gig.

Billie Godfrey onstage with Heaven 17

In 2006, Marsh stopped making live appearances with the band. In an early 2009 interview, Ware stated that Marsh had left the band and was now studying at university. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Billie Godfrey worked with the band as a backing vocalist and appeared with them at concerts. She performed 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". The band were managed by Nick Ashton-Hart for much of the early 2000s.

In December 2009, Heaven 17 made appearances at the "Nokia Night of the Proms" in Germany.

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On 16 February 2010, Heaven 17 joined La Roux to record a joint live session for the BBC which was shown on the BBC Red Button interactive channel in January 2010. Glenn Gregory joined La Roux on stage at Glastonbury Festival on 26 June 2010, performing "Temptation". (La Roux cite Heaven 17 as one of their main influences). The two acts also appeared live on stage at the War Child Brit Awards aftershow in February 2010.

In the run up to their 30th anniversary, the band announced several dates in which they would perform their 1981 debut album Penthouse and Pavement live in its entirety for the first time. The dates were scheduled over November and December 2010 with the first date held on 10 November 2010 at the well known Leadmill live music venue in Sheffield. By chance the Leadmill also celebrated a 30-year anniversary in 2010. By their own admission this Leadmill gig was one of the band's most successful.

The band performed a couple of dates of the Penthouse and Pavement tour in March 2010, one of which was in Sheffield and was filmed and shown on BBC Two on 16 May 2010. An hour-long documentary about the making of the album was shown on BBC Two the following night. This film was also screened at a special "Music in Sheffield" evening of films at the Showroom in Sheffield, at which Martyn Ware attended, on the eve of the announcement of the City of Culture 2013.

The band appeared on Later... with Jools Holland on 22 October 2010, performing "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang" and "Temptation" and appeared in BBC Children in Need in November 2010. They also made a tongue-in-cheek appearance in TV advertisements for Sheffield-based broadband provider Plusnet. On 22 November, the band released a 2 disc DVD combining never-seen-before documentary and rehearsal footage with the band's full live concert filmed in Sheffield in March 2010. Also included was a unique collection of all the digital videos used in the live show, set to the accompanying live audio from the performance. Each video was commissioned from a different visual artist and included both established up-and-coming artists from the worlds of digital and graphic design, fine art, and film.

Since 2011 the band's regular keyboard player has been Berenice Scott (the daughter of Robin Scott of the group M and "Pop Muzik" fame). In July 2014, they appeared as special guests of John Shuttleworth in his BBC Radio 4 programme John Shuttleworth's Music Lounge and performed some of Shuttleworth's material.

In November 2015, a compilation album called 80s Recovered featured many groups including Heaven 17. They performed a cover of Elton John's "Rocket Man", with a regular version, and a remix. 

During October 2016, Heaven 17 undertook a dual headline tour with their British Electronic Foundation (B.E.F.) The dates included venues in Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow, Gateshead, Manchester, Bury St Edmunds, Basingstoke and London. B.E.F. enlisted Mari Wilson, Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), and Peter Hooton (The Farm) to present new arrangements of songs from the B.E.F. back catalogue. The tour was significant in that it was the first time that Heaven 17 had played the Sheffield City Hall; having not performed there during the 1980s. 

In January 2017, Ware and Gregory started work on a new album at Ware's London studio "The House of Illustrious". A work-in-progress version of this album has been released by Bowers & Wilkins under the title "Not For Public Broadcast" (Society of Sound #105).

In May 2018 the band announced a short tour which took place in late November and early December 2018. Gigs in Liverpool, London, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester and Sheffield celebrated the 35th anniversary of The Luxury Gap album. The tour support was provided by X-Propaganda featuring Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag from '80s band Propaganda.

In November 2018 it was announced that the band would be taking part as 'Special Guests' on 'The Difford And Tilbrook Songbook 2019' tour. The gigs will see South-London legends Squeeze - featuring lyricist Chris Difford and music writer Glenn Tilbrook - play at 25 venues across the UK during October and November.

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Sheffield Studio
Six months after we split the League we sold our share of the 8-track studio in Sheffield. All the electronic side of 'Penthouse' was done there, and 'Groove Thang' was the only one both recorded and mixed there. It was the first thing we released together and the monitors had packed in at the time so it was all done on a pair of Auratones!

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Heaven Spent

Heaven 17

by Tony Bacon

Martyn Ware talks about money and the musician. Make £50,000 without playing a note.


With luck and effort, making music can also mean making money. "Money?" said Martyn Ware of Heaven 17. "My favourite subject." So tell us, just how much can you make from pop music? Get out your calculators and read on.

Once upon a time Martyn Ware was in a group called the Human League with Phil Oakey, Ian Craig Marsh and Adrian Wright.

They had a manager, Bob Last. But they had no money.

Do you know what happened then, boys and girls?

"We signed to Virgin," explains Martyn. "Only then could we justify giving up what were pretty well paid jobs in computers to become 'a rock 'n' roll group'. This was about 1978, and we paid ourselves £30 a week out of the advance."

Record company advances: they're not presents, you know.

"It's basically a hard slog until you have any commercial success. All these Sigue Sigue Sputniks that you hear about getting huge advances, they're only spending money that they will earn anyway. Hopefully.

"The problem comes in spending money before you've earned it. It's not actually your risk at that stage, because the record company is not recoupable against anything except what you earn. But assuming that you want to be successful and you want to earn money, it's worth bearing in mind that you're never going to be given money twice."

Back with the fledgling Human League, however, we discover that their advance on signing the recording contract with Virgin Records was close on £20,000. There was a further £10,000 advance on publishing, too - from Virgin Music.

Now you might deduce that the Human League were lucky to have had their recording and publishing contracts 'linked' in this way: one inter-related bunch of people pushing on their behalf, surely? Martyn suggests otherwise.

"I would never recommend anybody to sign to the same publishing company as the record company, because they have the same interests at heart."

Exactly, one inter-related... "Yes, that should be good," Martyn laughs. "But if you have a publishing company that has nothing whatsoever to do with the record company, then they'll put pressure on the record company to do certain things, and vice versa. They'll keep each other on their toes.

"Whereas if they're the same they'll cover for each other's mistakes. If everything goes well it can work to your advantage: you gain the confidence of the record company because they know their money is safe. But in terms of gambling, which is what it's all about, it's a pretty poor bet. You should keep publishing and recording totally separate, I would advise that to any young band."

Also, Martyn mentions, there's the danger of cross-colateralisation. Cross what? "It means you sign a contract saying that money you owe on the recording contract is recoupable from both the recording contract and the publishing royalties, and vice versa. Which means that you may end up never earning any money because you're in debt to one or the other."

To be frank, Martyn's no big fan at all of music publishers.

"Basically, they rip you off," he reckons. "I think they're disgraceful, anachronistic entities. What do they do? You tell me. They're supposed to get you work, cover versions, film work - in seven years that we've been signed to Virgin Music, and I'm sure that they're not an exception, we've had nothing from them at all. A couple of lunches, perhaps. And for that they take 30%. That's a good deal - a lot of young groups are on 50/50, or 60/40.

"So I'd recommend any new groups not to sign any publishing contract unless you're desperately short of money. I mean desperately."

But what are the alternatives? "Yeah, I know, if somebody waves a cheque for five or ten grand in front of your face, you take it, don't you? You think, oh, it's money for old rope, this. What you don't realise is that if you start earning good money, you're going to be resentful in a couple of years when you discover that these people are taking a third of your publishing income for doing nothing. Literally nothing.

"So I'd say hold on till you've had a hit single, an album in the Top 50, or even a successful independent single, because you'll get a much better deal from the publishing companies once you've got a track record."

Heaven 17 have finally got out of their Virgin Music publishing contract and have just set up their own publishing company.

"I'm seriously thinking that on principle we shouldn't sign anybody else to it apart from ourselves," Martyn says. "It's a disgraceful way of making money out of people. For publishers there's virtually no risk at all: record companies have to take the financial risk, they put up money for recording."

Back once more with the Human League, we learn from Martyn that they had a separate budget for recording costs - quite usual in the late 1970s. Now, record companies have wised up, he says.

"The current 'fashion' is to have a contract where you're given a specific amount of money on bona fide commencement of recording of each album. But you're not 'given' it - this is the relevant point - because recording costs are incorporated into your advance. So in essence they don't give you anything. Usually the recording costs exceed the amount of the advance anyway, or exceeded on the last album so you're in debt to start with.

"So the only money you ever get in real terms is from publishing. I can't remember us ever having cash in our bank accounts directly paid from Virgin Records as an advance, because it's offsetable against recording costs. And to record a state-of-the-art album these days is not a cheap matter."

On the other hand, the first Human League album cost only £15,000 to record ("Reproduction", released October 1979). By the time the second LP appeared ("Travellogue", May 1980) the group had set up their own small 8-track studio. Virgin gave them the money to buy it as an advance against recording costs.

The group still owed money when they split after that second LP, the debts mainly due to touring costs; Martyn estimates the losses at £75,000 over two years. "It suddenly struck us that if it wasn't for that we'd actually have been in credit."

As it turned out, Martyn subsequently made a lot of money from the record that the new Human League made - after he'd gone on to form Heaven 17 with Ian Craig Marsh and new ally Glenn Gregory. How so?

"After the split, the others still wanted to use the name Human League," Martyn remembers. "So we said - and we thought we were giving them an exceptionally good deal at the time - we said, 'For two royalty points on your next album we'll let you have the name.' That album, as it turned out, was 'Dare'. Which was very fortunate."

To say the least. How fortunate?

"I can't remember, to be honest. It was a significant amount of money. I'd just be guessing. How many did it sell, five, seven million worldwide? I'd need a calculator. I probably made about 50, 60 grand out of it. It enabled me to buy a house, which was the nicest thing, and to actually see some reward for those three years of slogging around. It seemed like a just reward, considering that they were earning a lot more. And our reputation did have something to do with the credibility that they achieved, it wasn't just the fact that they were writing really good pop songs."

But now that Heaven 17 had been formed, Martyn and his two colleagues wanted to restructure the business side: "No arguments, everyone can see the accounts, and a three-way split," as Martyn describes it now. Idyllic.

Even so, there were still some compromises to be made. "For the first three years of Heaven 17 we didn't have a manager, we looked after all our own affairs. Good professional advice is certainly a lot cheaper than having a manager, but managers don't demand money, cash sums, they just take a percentage of whatever you get. Six of one, half a dozen of the other."

By and large Heaven 17 have been successful financially, though a temporary hiccup occurred with last year's "How Men Are" album, which cost the group a phenomenal £200,000 to produce. Consequently the group have had a financial shakedown and are planning to bring their new album in for under £80,000 - and included in that budget is their new Twickenham studio (24-track Soundcraft/Soundtracs package) which cost £33,000 to build and set up. "At the end of the album," explains Martyn, "it will have cost less than half the last one, it will sound better, and we'll have our own studio."

How much money can you make from successful records? I asked Martyn to give an example of income from their most successful single, 'Temptation', but he pointed out that even very big singles don't make an awful lot of money, and are still considered as loss leaders for the albums.

Singles and albums make the same percentages for Heaven 17: with their particular deals they get 12% of 90% of the retail price from their recording contract, and about 8% split three ways from their publishing arrangement.

An album would make a better example, says Martyn. "Let's take 'Luxury Gap'," he suggests. "It sold about half a million worldwide. As a rough guide, let's call the recording royalty 10% of the average retail price, which we'll call a fiver. So that's 50p. On half a million copies that's £250,000.

"Against that you've got to offset the recording costs - always the group's expense, the record company don't contribute anything toward recording. That album cost us about £120,000 to record. So, together with ancillary singles, on the recording side we've probably made a bit more than £150,000 on 'Luxury Gap'."

"We were on a 70/30 publishing deal, so we got 70% of the publishing that was due. We'll round it up to 10% of the average retail again, two thirds of £250,000 is about £160,000, split between three. Again, all these things are offset against any advances or previous debts."

So Martyn personally made just under £100,000 from the "Luxury Gap" LP. "But that's a very successful album, and not every album you release is very successful," he adds, thinking, no doubt, of "How Men Are". You've got to pay tax too, of course. And the money isn't left in a big sack on the doorstep one morning. It comes in over maybe three years (because it takes a lot longer to get royalties from abroad).

Martyn's current big earner doesn't come from Heaven 17 at all. No, the source of his really large cheques is the spectacularly successful Tina Turner: Martyn has two royalty points for the two tracks he produced on her "Private Dancer" LP. They earn him a "significant amount of money". He can't put a figure on it. "It's sold 16 million copies worldwide to date," he sighs. "She got awarded a crystal disc for it, whatever that is, I've never heard of one of them before. It must be one of the top 10 albums ever made."

And it is for Miss Turner that we must draw the interview to a close: Martyn is off to have dinner with her in the £2,500-a-week house she's renting in London's Holland Park. They'll discuss the two further tracks he will produce on her next album, which she's currently recording. Any ideas? "Lots. I've got a list of about 20 songs to suggest to her. One I'd really like to do is Lorraine Ellison's 'Stay With Me Baby', a synthesised version of that would be terrific."

From June 1986

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