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.