HEAVENLY – ” A Bout De Heavenly “

Posted: January 22, 2023 in MUSIC

Heavenly were one of the pioneers of indie-pop. Formed from the smouldering ashes of Talulah Gosh, they took all that energy and attitude and used it to fuel catchy, infectious pop melodies. The influence of 60s girl groups was never far from the surface. This was girl-pop, but with the girls in control. Loved by many but derided as ‘twee’ by some, Heavenly ignored the increasingly macho environment of the contemporary UK scene and forged a separate path, along with other bands on the Sarah Records label. Later, having co-released their albums on K Records in Olympia, Heavenly toured the US, hooking up with bands in the embryonic riot grrrl scene. Heavenly’s quiet feminism became louder and more articulate, and the hostility of the UK music press became irrelevant.

Heavenly’s classic singles on a brand new compilation album!, A potted history of HeavenlyHeavenly debuted with the 7″ single ‘I Fell in Love Last Night’, followed by another 7″, ‘Our Love Is Heavenly’, both released in 1990 on Sarah Records. “Heavenly vs. Satan“, the group’s debut album, came out in 1991.

At this stage in their career, Heavenly’s songs were still mainly concerned with an innocent view of love, whether or not requited, and the instrumentation remained very much the same jangly guitar style used by Talulah Gosh.

Before releasing the critically acclaimed “Le Jardin de Heavenly”, Cathy Rogers (keyboard, back-up vocals) joined the band. Her harmony vocals and keyboards became an integral part of the group’s sound. Her harmony vocals and keyboards became an integral part of the group’s sound. Another strikingly different element of the group’s second album was the inclusion of the track, “C is the Heavenly Option,” featuring the guest vocals of K Records founder Calvin Johnson, who released Heavenly’s records in the US.

“Heavenly vs Satan”. The first LP. Recorded in the Oxfordshire countryside, the first Heavenly album was a bid to make a pure pop record. The punk noise of Talulah Gosh had exploded and expired. Amelia had had a go at making a disco hit (‘Can You Keep A Secret’, subsequently released on Fierce Recordings), which was fun, but wasn’t going to trouble the charts.

Unbothered by critical or popular reactions, the new band decided to immerse themselves in the creation of a sweet, tuneful pop record. It’s true that the punk influences aren’t hard to discern (Mathew’s favourite band was The Ramones), but it’s Pete’s elegant guitar and Amelia’s melodies and multi-layered harmonies that win out on these recordings.

The Skep Wax re-issue of “Heavenly vs Satan” includes Heavenly’s first two Sarah Records singles – ‘I Fell In Love Last Night/Over And Over’ and ‘Our Love Is Heavenly/Wrap My Arms Around Him’.

Before their next long-player, Heavenly released two non-album 7″ singles, ‘P.U.N.K. Girl’ and ‘Atta Girl’. These signalled a growing complexity in Amelia’s songwriting, particularly ‘Atta Girl’, in which Amelia and Cathy sung in rapid-fire trade-off vocals. A broadening (and darkening) of lyrical subject matter was shown in the B-side, ‘Hearts and Crosses’, which told the story of a date rape, with an upbeat keyboard riff providing an ironic counterpoint.

The band’s third LP was “The Decline and Fall of Heavenly” (1994). Here the group were at their most commercial and at their most attuned with the growing Britpop movement. The arrangements expanded even more to include strings and a large amount of percussion, and the dual-vocal trick was used on several tracks.

Lyrically, the old romantic view of love was largely banished, but the tunes remained as upbeat and joyful as ever. In 1995, the band contributed the song ‘Snail Trail’ to the AIDS benefit album “Red Hot + Bothered” produced by the Red Hot Organization.

The group’s last album was “Operation Heavenly” (1996). Arriving in the middle of the Britpop boom, the album contained such fine singles as ‘Space Manatee’ and ‘Trophy Girlfriend’. Despite the closing of Sarah Records and release on Wiiija, the album was still recognisably the Heavenly sound. Shortly before the release of “Operation Heavenly”, Mathew Fletcher, the band’s drummer and Amelia’s brother, took his own life. The remaining members announced that the band name Heavenly was to be retired.

Heavenly came to an abrupt after the tragic end. After a year’s hiatus, the group reformed as the short-lived Marine Research, before going their separate ways musically. Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey currently play in The Catenary Wires and Swansea Sound. Peter Momtchiloff plays in Would-Be-Goods and Tufthunter.

Here’s a review from 1996… “Heavenly plays like a pop fan’s wish for what might result from scrambling genres, the singer/songwriter preoccupation with relationships, punk’s linking of personal and public politics, and pop’s undimmed promise of romance. When they’re really cooking, Heavenly simultaneously suggest the Slits, Abba and Joni Mitchell. They’re not about to opt for just one thing, anymore than the girl in “Trophy Girlfriend”, of whom we’re told “She’s kissing boys/ and girls/ Trying to decide which she prefers.” – Boston Phoenix

Albums

  • Heavenly vs. Satan (1991)
  • Le Jardin de Heavenly (1992)
  • The Decline and Fall of Heavenly (1994)
  • Operation Heavenly (1996)

EPs

  • P.U.N.K. Girl (1995)

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