Heavenly emerged, in 1989, from the rubble of the disintegration of Talulah Gosh, a band that has very much come to represent all that folk love/loath about the genre referred to as twee-pop. To begin with, there wasn’t much to distinguish between Heavenly and Talulah Gosh, which is no great surprise given that four of the musicians were common to both line-ups and there was less than a year between the last single from one band and the first single from the other.
There was a gradual, if slight, shift in the music made by Heavenly during the first half of the 90s. The tunes remained very upbeat and perfect for much airing at the indie-disco, but the subject matters were less innocent or far from flimsy. The band members were aging gracefully and their growing confidence, both on stage and inside the recording studio, looked like putting them on the ladder to a wider commercial success, especially as the UK music press was in the middle of its Britpop frenzy period and were talking up all sorts of bands, many of whose collective charms and talents were minuscule in comparison. The fourth studio album was in the can and there were a number of songs that had ‘likely hit’ stamped all over them.
Tragically, the group’s drummer Matthew Fletcher took his own life in June 1996 shortly after the recording of the album was complete. It was devastating for all concerned, none more so than his sister, Amelia, the lead vocalist and in the eyes of many, the main focus of the band. The album, Operation: Heavenly, was released in October 1996. It was an absolute classic of its kind, cutting the ties almost entirely with twee and packed with tunes that were tailor-made for the daytime radio of the times. Understandably, the band members didn’t/couldn’t do much to promote it and it faded away into obscurity, other than having one 45 issued to help things along:-
mp3: Heavenly – Space Manatee
It took a while to get over the loss but the remaining came back together some 18 months later as Marine Research, by which time the Britpop era was over and very few executives were interested in four-piece bands who relied on catchy pop tunes.
I’ve long had a copy of the final album on CD but I recently picked up a copy of that final single and was delighted to discover that its two b-sides were both cover versions:-
mp3: Heavenly – You Tore Me Down
mp3: Heavenly – Art School
The former was originally by The Flamin’ Groovies and is from their 1976 album, Shake Some Action. The latter is a homage to The Jam with a fairly faithful musical interpretation, short and sharp at under two minutes, of a track from In The City (1977).