Saturday, April 25, 2020


Well, this was a link-up too good to miss, Human League-r Phillip Oakey's Together in Electric Dreams with Giorgio Moroder, and, now, the ones that got away with their own side project. I'm not going to revisit the League backstory two posts in a row, but, take it from me, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh were the two to watch on their escape from that band, being the musical brains to Oakey's brawn. And the B.E.F., for a while, were their only project, the only release coming out of cassette, in 1980. This was Music for Stowaways, the "stowaway" being the original name given Sony's Walkman in the UK, listening to music on the move being then a novelty and in its infancy. Tell me then about mp3 streaming on a telephone, which doubles as a camera, and I'd laugh in your face.

Decline of the West/B.E.F. (Music for Stowaways)

Heaven 17, the band, were initially just part of B.E.F., Glenn Gregory merely one of the circus of singers used for their next record, Music of Quality and Distinction, Volume 1, although, confusingly, H17, the band, had hit the ground running first. Music of Quality and Distinction was an ambitious covers project featuring a mix of singers drawn from disparate backgrounds, tacked to the electronic production techniques Marsh and Ware were also liberally applying to individual recordings by such as Tina Turner and Terence Trent D'Arby. Gregory was a photographer friend who had been involved with an early incarnation of Wang Chung, and had the sort of voice they were looking for, ironically not a million miles removed from that of Phil Oakey. Other participants were 60's popstrel Sandie Shaw, the yet to be disgraced and denounced Gary Glitter and the aforesaid Tina Turner, alongside more contemporaneous names as Billy McKenzie and Paula Yates, the now deceased ex-wife of Bob Geldof, better then known as a TV face on breakfast television.

Perfect Day/B.E.F. feat. Glenn Gregory (MoQaD V1)

The project seemed to be then put aside, as H17 built themselves a sturdy and reliable name. But, following a nine year gap, a second volume appeared, reprising the appearances of Gregory, McKenzie and Turner, and introducing the likes of Green Gartside (Scritti Politti), Mavis Staples and Lalah Hathaway to the team, the latter providing them with a welcome hit single.

Family Affair/B.E.F. feat. Lalah Hathaway (MoQaD V2)

You would think that would have been that, not least as Marsh formally quit working with Ware in 2006, surely signifying the end of both H17 and B.E.F.. However, both projects continued, but given Heaven 17 were also using additional vocalists, notably Billie Godfrey, and performing cover versions, it would sometimes now become difficult to see where one project began and the other ended. This schizophrenia expanded further as a third B.E.F. project slipped out, Volume Three (aka Dark), in 2013, with the likes of Boy George and Kim Wilde entering the fray, each long after their 80s heydays. In 2016 the two projects even toured together, an array of guests plumping out the B.E.F. catalogue ahead of an array of guests plumping out the H17 catalogue. Confused? Here's their website to explain it all again.

God Only Knows/B.E.F. feat. Shingai Soniwa (MoQaD V3)

As of 2020, lockdown has significantly hampered their 40 years anniversary tour, although dates are rescheduled for late in the year, all things equal. I am planning to catch Ware and Gregory as whomsoever/whatsoever they are in December, hoping for some B.E.F. to slip into a nominally H17 celebration.

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