Heaven 17: Let Me Go – UK – 12″ 
- Let Me Go [12″ version] 6:14
- Let Me Go [instrumental] 4:54
It was 40 years ago this month when the first single from Heaven 17’s sophomore album was released and I immediately glommed onto a copy of the UK 12″ import as soon as it hit my local racks. I was an early convert to the Heaven 17 cause when my friend chasinvictoria sent me a cassette tape of “Penthouse + Pavement” a year earlier, which started a lifelong love affair with the band.
The debut album had proffered two sides of alternatively brittle Minimal Synth or lubriciously bass-heavy Synth Funk. I loved both faces the band chose to show, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the uptick in sophistication as manifest in this outrageously accomplished single! The Linn Drum was a holdover from the debut album, but the band’s secret weapon, bass player John Wilson, was relegated here to rhythm guitar duties instead.
The bass instead was programmed by member Ian Craig Marsh on the newly released Roland TB-303 and the bass synthesizer went a long way towards making this an especially memorable single. But more than just the sound design made this single pop.
The Linn Drum intro was dubbed out to create a vast sonic space, and the 12″ version used the extra room for a buildup of the themes before vocalist Glenn Gregory entered the song. Vocals were where this song especially shone. From Gregory’s commanding baritone leads to the sensitive contrapuntal tenor BVs from Martyn Ware, or the downpitched BV inserts to give a split-octave punch to select portions of the mix, the careful attention to vocal arrangements made this song really stand out from the crowd. Its calling card was ultimately an impressively arranged vocal treatment that saw a vertiginous lattice of stacked vocal harmonies which created a Broadway-like edifice of dazzling sound in the buildup to the show-stopping middle eight.
The 12″ B-side was an instrumental version; longer than the 7″ mix, but about 75 seconds shorter than the 12″ A-side. I would normally be annoyed at there not being a non-LP B-side for a single, but given the effort put into the A-side, I’ll let the band slide that time. And all of that effort was because the band thought for certain that this single, their sixth, would be their ticket to the Top Of The Pops.
Incredibly, that would not be the case. This world-straddling song stalled just outside of the UK Top for at a maddening number 41! While the song placed at a lowly 74 on the Billboard Hot 100™, elsewhere on the US specialist charts the song was a bigger hit than in Britain. Number four on the Billboard Dance chart was nothing to sneeze at, but the one that had me scratching my heard was number 32 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart! But I can vouch that the one time I ever heard the song on US radio was while in art classes and the FM-Rock station WDIZ-FM actually played the song one morning! This was a station that any other time than early 1983, was playing Classic Rock and Hard Rock!
Late in 1982, Heaven 17 signed to Arista Records in the US and the label immediately set to meddling with their “Penthouse + Pavement” album to more or less completely destroy its integrity, albeit in fascinating ways. The US “Heaven 17” album as pictured above was a crazy mashup of their first and second albums with a non-LP single thrown in for good measure. And the ugliest cover in the Record Cell. The fascinating thing was that the group’s second album had not yet been released in England, yet “Let Me Go” and “Who Will Stop The Rain” were released on this disc. The latter cut in advance of the UK debut! And of course, there was a US 12″ with the song charting so well on the Dance Chart.
As we can see on the back cover art, which was virtually identical to the UK edition, the track listing featured:
- Let Me Go [extended] 6:10
- Let Me Go 4:19
- Let Me Go [dub] 4:50
The presence of the “dub” mix haunted me for years until I finally managed to source one of these in the early noughts, only to find it was a re-branding of the common UK instrumental mix. Nothing to see here, people. Move along.
It’s also worth mentioning that the US printing was not as dazzling as on the UK edition. Designer Malcolm Garrett framed beautiful photography by Jamie Morgan in a bold layout that even used serif typography and centered type in a sidestep of the designer’s usual hardcore modernism. And best of all, the UK sleeve was a two color affair with the photos printed on silver ink to really give them the look of photographic prints, with the song title knocked out in pure white. [Chef’s kiss]
It remained until the second Heaven 17 single from “The Luxury Gap” that their fortune cookie would crack open and they would ascend to number two on the UK charts with “Temptation;” giving them a perennial calling card UK hit that managed the neat trick of reaching the same charting a decade later in an impressive post-modern remix by Brothers In Rhythm. But that was another story.
That US sleeve screams 1982.
The only thing missing is a vinyl sized leg warmer instead of the standard plastic protective outer sleeve.
Yes, while everyone else is hating on it, I’m loving it for being so thoroughly of its moment.
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I didn’t say I hated it, more like “tell me you’re from 1982 using only a photo.”
I still think it needs an outer sleeve that resembles a leg warmer.
Tim – OMG!!! …a Synthwave band seriously needs to do this!!!!!
The “Oh My Gawd Gag Me With A Spoon” best of 80’s collection.
Every installment comes with a different colored leg warmer sleeve.
We *have* our kickstarter project.
Tim – Collect all 4 designs!!
Probably in my Top Ten eighties track. It’s just the way it moves through its phases with that bass line. Tears in the eye experience.
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djjedredy – Nice to see some appropriate UK love for this should-have-been-massive single that fell strangely flat in the Top 40 there! The selective use of portamento in the bass line was also quite a treat.
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“Let Me Go” received heavy airplay for several months on San Francisco’s KFOG, a pioneer in what came to be known as AAA radio. I would imagine that airplay of this sort was responsible for its showing on the mainstream rock chart.
Big Mark – San Francisky? Did you droven or did you flew?
Also, I fully concur as regards the horrid US LP cover.
Big Mark – Yet even with that cover I bought a copy! It had “Who Will Stop the Rain” on it months before “The Luxury Gap” came out, so it was worth it! I already had “Let Me Go” and “Who Will Stop the Rain” on the US H17 LP. I found it perverse that two songs were swapped from what were very different sounding albums in the US, though the new versions of “The Song With No Name” and “Let’s All Make A Bomb” at least fit the production of “The Luxury Gap” on the US copy. Those two later turned up as B-sides for “Come Live With Me” on 12″ single. I should ask Martyn if Arista was behind asking for the new versions since they needed something to include on the US “Luxury Gap” in place of the two songs they split up from it. I recall this US H17 LP may have been an Arista low price release as well. I also recall that Mr. Ware bought all of the Heaven 17 Arista albums on cassette format, but I can’t remember exactly why.
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Yes, this first US H17 LP was budget priced.
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Commenter JT…. “bought all of the Heaven 17 Arista albums on cassette format…” because they sounded killer on his brand new Sony Walkman on the way to school every morning.
Also, this “Broadway-like edifice” is present in a lot of H17 songs. So many of them sound like repurposed showtunes, particularly in the vocal phrasing and arrangement (less in the instrumentation, perhaps). Imagine “We Live So Fast”, “Come Live With Me”, “Best Kept Secret”, and basically all of “How Men Are” as sung a capella or with different instruments, and they could have been plucked from any number of musicals. It seems like refraining from taking the stage themselves for so many years left H17 a lot of time to attend plenty of musical theater. It had an influence.
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JT – You hit the nail on the head, particualrly in regards to “How Men Are!” “Sunset Now” sounds like it was ripped from the Great White Way. I can SEE that middle eight onstage right now! As does “This Is Mine,” and…well, everything. Good call. With Martyn arranging the vocals [and he’s very good at it] I guess he was of the age where you grew up in a home with a copy of the mega-million selling “South Pacific” soundtrack in it. Everyone his age who grew up in a home with a record player had one! I’m also of that age. Only the fact that my parents didn’t have a record player saved me from the same fate. That stuff seeps in at that impressionable age.
‘Let Me Go’ is one of those great lost 80s tracks. Utterly sublime and I would advise anyone who doesn’t know it to go find it. It’s an absolute gem.
Hugh Hall – Yes, it boggles my mind that in the UK it is a buried track. In America, it was the one thing that people might be able to name. MTV gave lots of play to that equally sublime music video; their finest. It had that incredible 40 second [I timed it when seeing it many years ago] tracking shot that made it the “Touch Of Evil” of music videos in an era where edits were coming faster and more furious. Hey, I need to see if I can embed that in this post…[checks]…yes!
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Gonna chime in with the masses – Let Me Go is perfect, H17’s apex to these ears. At September’s Boston show (and no doubt every date) Glenn told us that it was his favorite of their songs. I concur.
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Taffy – It certainly took H17 up to a whole new level which they expertly [if expensively] fulfilled on “The Luxury Gap.” Martyn claimed as recently as a dozen years ago that they had finally paid off the debt of recording it.
For me this is Heaven 17’s best song. I bought the 12” on release and thought it would odds on be their first hit here in the UK. Couldn’t believe it when just failed to make the top 40.
I wondered what the hell they would have to do to get a hit. And then the following Spring they released Temptation….
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Andy B – “Temptation” is all right, but “Let Me Go” was head and shoulders above it. Yet… we were wrong. And “Temptation” reached number two…twice!!
Let Me Go is wonderful….but Penthouse & Pavement is better!
Big Mark – Well, it certainly cornered the market in syncopation! I can’t think of anything I’ve ever heard that was more tightly syncopated.
They played this song in AZ at the new wave night clubs and KROQ in Los Angeles. This is a great song…..Heaven17 are playing in Saarbrucken next spring, may get some tix and go see them. I do like the album cover above and it does scream early 80s. I had leg warmers back then. Any girl who like Flashdance did ;-)
Speaking of live music, headed to Dortmund Monday (Westfallenhalle) to see OMD, Midge Ure, Real Life and Sandra (have no idea who the last two bands are) – looking forward to seeing OMD again this year and Midge Ure for the first time.
Deserat – Are you kidding me? You don’t know Real Life even after their big hit “Send Me An Angel?” You are pulling my leg, right? Their “Heartland” album of 1983 was fantastic! I saw them open up on that tour in 1983 for Berlin who? Sandra is a German singer best known for being the vocalist in her husband Michael Cretu’s big 90s band Enigma. Everyone would know “Sadeness.” I bought one of her 80s shoulder pad 12” singles at a record show in 1985 since Cretu was an interesting producer but didn’t care for it. Your mileage may vary. OMD and Midge will provide the usual thrills. It should be a good show!
Concert report from WDR in Dortmund: line-up changed – first up was Sydney Youngblood – very good entertainer; next up Sandra – she lip synced – popular with the Germans but as I and my posse were in the front row, we saw the lip syncing – disappointing; next-up Midge Ure – he has been going around Europe on his own tour so only did about five songs – great, although the power of his voice has receded over time – Vienna was GREAT along with some other cool Ultravox and solo songs – he had on the coolest blue suit – very professional; last up – OMD – great across the board – Andy has such a powerful voice and such great clarity in comparison with his peers who are still singing; note, I noticed toward the end he was going a bit hoarse and midway through I saw he used an inhaler of some sort and was inadvertently stroking his throat in between songs (front-row girl here, so saw lots going on); he announced before the last song he had suffered from COVID the week before!!! Amazing!!!! He still sounded great. The crowd was disappointed that OMD and Midge Ure did not do encores – but the concert started about 0815 and we didn’t get out of there until 1245, so long night. Enjoyed myself and after seeing OMD 7 times in the last year, have decided they are one of the best live bands I’ve seen who give a consistently professional live product. Talked with one of my friends who bought Depeche Mode tix for four gigs in Europe – basic VIP ticket was 140 Euros (these people I’ve been hanging with are the ones that wait in line four hours before door opens for standing at stage) with another 140 Euros for a 20 minute early entry – she dropped about 1200 Euros for four shows. I cannot imagine how much DM is going to make on this *world* tour…..and is pretty much sold out.
Break – I bought Heaven17 tix for next April at the Saarbrucken Garage (normally a metal band live hall) – should be interesting to see and wasn’t too expensive (40 Euros).
Oops, forgot one band. Claudia Brueken, of xPropoganda, played before Midge Ure. She was so cool. The music was mainly instrumental with very interesting lyrics. She was very graceful and her vocals were very smooth and clear. I’d never heard her or this band before, but I really like it. It had a kind if electro-synth-pop-jazz feel to it. I bought the Vangelis Odyssey CD and the vibe is similar but with provoking lyrics. I will probably buy some of her new music. She herself had a very restrained yet confident presence on stage. I like her show.
Deserat – Gaaaah…!!!! Claudia Brücken is one of my very favorite artists! She is amazing to me. Interestingly enough, she was Paul Humphreys’ partner from about 2001 to 2011 in both life and their band OneTwo. But that changed very abruptly in 2011; like a steel firewall severing their union completely. Paul was her music director and she cancelled a tour she had planned on very short notice. That must have cost plenty. So I’m a bit surprised that they were on the same bill but lucky you!!
Got another DM ticket cost report. Front of Stage (FoS) standing area 144 Euro. Cure FoS standing 80 Euro.
Deserat – Sad that Real Life were not there. They are excellent. My 2nd favorite Oz band after Icehouse. Depressing about Sandra, but not shocking. 7 OMD shows! Only in Europe! And the beauty of Europe is that all of those major cities are so close together. Try than in America and you’d need more than two weeks for all of those miles between gigs! Those Cure/DM prices are high, but at least in Europe they probably don’t allow TicketMobster™ to charge “dynamic pricing.” A.K.A. scalping where if there’s online demand for tickets the price can skyrocket dynamically! But at least we ain’t no DANG Comies in the US of A!! I’ll bet DM tickets here would be scraping high three-four figures if your timing was bad. At least H17 won’t be costing you a small fortune. All of my friends saw them in their US tour, but I’m not going to any shows yet.
A friend of mine recently attended 5 OMD shows in quick succession, following them down the west coast from Vancouver BC down to L.A.
Big Mark – I can’t say I’ve ever seen more that two shows from any tour, ever. We did Roxy Music twice on the 2001 tour, and caught two legs of Midge Ure in what were diametrically opposed venue circumstances, so the vibe in the audience was dramatically different each time from dive bar to City Winery! Of course, Midge and his band were excellent no matter what. Oh, and there were three legs of Duran Duran in 1993 as their comeback happened, then blew up as they just kept on touring and touring. Each one of those shows was very different, and it’s not like I hadn’t had 21 years of pent up fandom with exactly zero Duran Duran shows under my belt by that time!
Was going to do St Petersburg, Austin, Oakland, San Diego and LA as the plan was to be back in USA…did Germany tour instead. Still nearly killed me as it was five shows in six days (I missed Dresden) – long train rides for first show and then 3-5 hours drives for all of the other shows, plus waiting in line to get to front row, etc. I lasted that week but realized I am *not* in my teens or 20s anymore. My body was rebelling at the pace even though I work out regularly. I can’t imagine how the band felt, although they do have the bus and someone else doing all of the logistics and they aren’t standing in line for up to four hours before the show. Nevertheless, it is draining physically. I can at times see why they would need some extra pharmaceutical help for the stresses of the tour.
Deserat – I used to push myself with clubbing and concerts several nights a week 20-30 years ago. Lots of nights in bed at 2 am. I can’t imagine that now.
hi mr. monk,
thanks for hilighting my favorite song from heaven 17.
its the song that introduced me to them. i’m sure i heard
it in a club, and not on the radio.
the beats, and bass were very unique, and i still have never
heard a song that sounds like it.
i too got the US heaven 17 album, but didn’t mind the artwork,
as generic as it was. it was the music that appealed to me.
i also managed to get the razormaid mix on class-x on vinyl early on:
although the redid temptation many, many, too many times, and
same with penthouse and pavement, i was hoping they would redo
‘let me go’ also. well at that time i switched over to cd singles. so i
missed out on vinyl. well i found out in 1992, that the new temptation
12 inch in the US had 3 new versions :
A1 Temptation (Brothers In Rhythm Remix)
A2 Let Me Go (“Hon, Its Flawless” Mix) 6:30
B1 Let Me Go (I Trance Alone Mix) 6:30
B2 Let Me Go (Let Me House You) 6:33
Yes, they were trancey, and pretty decent too. they would
not show up on cd, until the remix boxsets came out.
well worth getting.
also, in 2011 an acoustic version was released for free:
1 Penthouse & Pavement (Live) 6:37
2 (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (Live) 4:49
3 Let Me Go (Exclusive Acoustic Version) 4:07
the last cool one to find was on the remix collection
‘endless’ which had some mixed versions on cd, and
a cool cassette linen box:
the cassette version had extra tracks too.
all in all, one of their best songs, and an all time classic
negative1ne – I finally got those modern remixes of “Let Me Go” in the great [once the errors were fixed] “Virgin Years” BSOG. Which I’ve yet to find the time to properly listen to! Echorich rated the “Hon, It’s Flawless” mix so I need to hear them.
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