….SO PREPARE FOR A THRILLING RETURN!
Heavenly are back.
That’s because all of the band’s four LPs are to be re-released on Skep Wax, the label run by two of the group’s founding members Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey.
It’s great news, and will make these difficult-to-locate records – Heavenly Vs. Satan; Le Jardin de Heavenly; The Decline and Fall of Heavenly; and Operation Heavenly – easily available on vinyl and download.
First up is Heavenly Vs. Satan. It kicks off a staggered, two-year release schedule and is available from 11 November.
The original wiry eight-song record has become a twelve-track beefcake more than capable of kicking sand in the faces of weedier albums. That’s because, in a blatant raspberry-blow to Sarah Records’ no-singles-on-albums policy, Heavenly’s first and second 7” releases have been pulled into this reissue. So look out for I Fell in Love Last Night/Over and Over and Our Love is Heavenly/Wrap My Arms Around Him.
And all this in the month that one of us, in a huff at no sign at all of a long-hoped-for box set, at last began creating their own bootleg collection. A venture mulled over for a hopeless number of years. Well it’s too far down the line to abandon Heavenly Have Plenty of Fun now. Blank CDs have been bought and everything. And a box has been located.
But these new releases will be purchased. Such is the logic-free world of even a curious-level collector of records. Plus, inside each sleeve will be found a 7” booklet. A glance at the one accompanying Heavenly Vs. Satan confirms a comforting cut ‘n’ paste design. It recalls the typical aesthetics that characterised the chopped-type, Pritt-Sticked fanzines of the day. These would be legitimately belched out by print shops and, possibly more often, college photocopiers or the after-hours workplace device.
So, new Heavenly treats are – officially – on the way. That’s the cake.
And here’s the cherry:
The band were to play a one-off gig in west London – at Bush Hall. It’s the first for 28 years, sold out within two days, and happens next year, on May 20. That’s clearly a red-letter date for pioneering Amelias, as Wikipedia tells us that on that day in 1932 another fun Amelia – Earhart – commenced a world-first for a female pilot: a solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. However, a new date has been added, May 19th. Tickets are on sale now…..
But back on terra firma, regular visitors will know that all things Amelia (Fletcher) have been celebrated a good few times on this blog. On offer most recently was this ICA. It collected tracks from the assorted projects both Amelia and Rob have been milling since way back in 1986: the days of the mighty Talulah Gosh. Next up would be Heavenly, of course. Then Marine Research, Tender Trap and Catenary Wires followed. And most recently it’s been Swansea Sound (to say nothing of numerous side projects). Not bad for someone who claims that “I was never cut out to be a proper pop star anyway.”
This incoming Heavenly activity follows the pair of lavish double-pack 7” singles of the group’s two Peel Sessions, recorded in 1991 and 94. Those emerged this year, courtesy of the Precious label, and added an official and recommended couple of releases to the discography.
(This incarnation of Heavenly was fortified with the addition of vocalist and keyboard player Cathy Rogers (far left) who, from the 1993 P.U.N.K. Girl single, joined Amelia Fletcher, Peter Momtchlioff, Rob Pursey, and Mathew Fletcher.)
Now, with the LPs stepping out once more, we have a super reason to give props to a band that was so often dismissed as twee and fey, cute and saccharin. But even a cursory listen to Heavenly Vs. Satan would reveal half an album’s worth of musings on disappointment and duplicity, cruelty and callousness: Boyfriend Stays the Same for starters, alongside Shallow, Wish Me Gone and It’s You.
Amelia makes the point well in the notes that form part of the release’s accompanying booklet:
“Listening back now, I had forgotten how many of my lyrics involve girls falling for boys who treat them badly. This was well before Riot Grrrl and the tone is gently descriptive rather than angry, but I remember feeling it was important to tell these stories.”
And Rob comments that:
“Heavenly were a ‘female-fronted’ band, which set up an additional tension with the audience, some of whom had expectations of what that ought to mean. We tried to undermine those expectations too. It annoyed some people, but they were probably the right people to annoy.”
To wrap up, here’s a (new) Vinyl Villain tribute: Heavenly Go Adventuring Again – an imaginary EP with a track taken from each of the group’s four albums….as imagined by The Three Masketeers
1. Stop Before You Say It (Heavenly Vs. Satan, Sarah Records, 1991)
The last track on the first album is largely a rush about a crush. Only at the end does it take a breather, and a gentle coda provides the perfect nightlighty closer. (Kathy Kane)
2. C is the Heavenly Option (Le Jardin de Heavenly, Sarah Records, 1992)
As indie pop classics go this has to be up with the very best of them.
As well as a link to the studio version of the song we decided to add a little more joy to your life with the wonderfully chaotic live, acoustic version filmed in 2019. I dare you not to smile as you Rob, Amelia and Calvin Johnson enjoy being in each other’s company as musicians, as friends. (Don Diego de la Vega, Eustache Duager and Kathy Kane)
3. Sacramento (The Decline and Fall of Heavenly, Sarah Records, 1994)
A surf-infused instrumental wig-out that further illustrates that Heavenly were adept writers and musicians. I’ve never been to Sacramento but if I did go, and it didn’t sound like this, I’d be sorely disappointed. I’ve often thought that as the lights went up at the end of an indie-disco this is the song that revellers should stagger out the door to and the run back in again for one last shimmy. (Don Diego de la Vega)
4. Ben Sherman (Operation Heavenly, Wiiija, 1996)
The unexpected use of the word ‘fuck’ early on in the lyric is an indication that this isn’t your typical Heavenly number. The highly infectious and toe-tapping tune disguises the fact that the female protagonist is far from happy. Indeed, she’s at her wit’s end, all thanks to having a shallow boyfriend making suggestions about a change of hairstyle so that she more resembles the Hollywood actress he fancies and fantasises about.
The good news is that, by the end of the song, the listener is left in no doubt the boyfriend is soon to be an ex, and our heroine will move on to a better and more fulfilling life…. complete with the sort of haircut she’s most happy with. (Eustache Duager)
If you’ve read this far, first of all: congratulations. Secondly, and more soberly, you’ll probably know that Heavenly chose not to carry on after the passing, in 1996, of the band’s drummer Mathew Fletcher. We think you’d all agree that widening access now to the songs of Mathew and his bandmates is a wholly appropriate tribute to, and celebration of, his memory.
On Heavenly Vs. Satan, the band comprised:
Amelia Fletcher (vocals and guitar)
Mathew Fletcher (drums)
Peter Momtchiloff (guitar)
Rob Pursey (bass)
And on the track Our Love is Heavenly, the group was ably assisted by the Catherines of Arrogance (ex-Talulahs Eithne Farry and Elizabeth Price).