From their earliest albums Penthouse and Pavement and Luxury Gap Heaven 17 have always managed to subtly – sometimes overtly – and effectively marry their electronic pop appeal with a well-honed political bite.
The die was cast with (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang, the first track they recorded: “it set the tone and feel for Heaven 17 pretty much through ‘til now; political, something to say lyrically, but also very dance orientated. It’s more relevant now than when we wrote it”, they say.
This combination of sharp social and political commentary and widescreen musical accessibility remains firmly intact on the group’s work-in-progress new album, Not For Public Broadcast, available exclusively in digital form this month on Society of Sound. Here, founding members of Heaven 17, Martyn Ware and Glenn Gregory stay true to their founding ideals with a playlist of protest songs taken from their own catalogue, their B.E.F. production arm and a diverse array of other artists.
Heaven 17 and B.E.F.
(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang – Heaven 17
Our proud and very fast first effort at a protest song – straight to the point with a dry ironic undercurrent – banned by the BBC
Five Minutes To Midnight – Heaven 17
Full on expressionistic sound/word poem about the existential terror of the thought of nuclear war
Let’s All Make A Bomb – Heaven 17
… which points out the ludicrous logic of the principle of ‘mutually assured destruction’ – extrapolating that logic to ‘hey, in which case, why don’t we all have a nuclear bomb, then we’d be much safer…’
A Change Is Gonna Come – Tina Turner
Sam Cooke’s inspiring encouragement to have faith in the face of adversity
Favourite protest/social conscience songs
Standing In The Way Of Control – Gossip
This is full of anger and raw power, Beth Ditto’s song in response to the US government’s ban on homosexual marriage. Loud, raucous and fantastic.
Idioteque – Radiohead
“This is really happening.” A global warming warning… A call to shake your heads and wipe the sleep from your eyes.
No More Weapons – Steel Pulse and Damian Marley
No more weapons of mass destruction. And some very serious bass as well.
Glad To Be Gay – Tom Robinson
Just “Straight” to the point, all sing along now…
Chocolate City – Parliament
A slice of Washington’s black poverty.
Alabama – Neil Young
A plea to the southern states to forget their slavery–tainted past.
This Is Not America – David Bowie & Pat Metheny Group
Bowie’s take on America is so beautiful and poetic.
Ghost Town – The Specials
UK’s own gritty urban decay realism
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott Heron
One of the greatest protest songs ever created – an inspirational template for future political rap and hip hop
Mercy Mercy Me – Marvin Gaye
Marvin had to fight with the record company to get this released, but he felt compelled to create this definitive work – thank God he did.
The Message – Grandmaster Flash
Providing a voice for the unrepresented in black urban USA
Across 110th Street – Bobby Womack
Fantastic evocation of reality in Manhattan for what was needed just to survive…