In 1983 (The Best Year For Music Ever!) Heaven 17 must have been inspired by the worldwide smash success of Human League Mark II’s Dare LP. Since splitting with the League and singer Phil Oakey, Ian Marsh and Martyn Ware had recruited Oakey soundalike Glenn Gregory to form Heaven 17, scoring some hits in the UK, but nothing near Dare‘s level. Listening to their second album, The Luxury Gap, you can sense the trio upping their game to compete. The songwriting takes a giant stride forward, as songs like “Let Me Go” are more focused on hooks than synth wizardry and dancefloor domination.
“Let Me Go” was only a minor hit in the UK, but it was the closest Heaven 17 came to a breakthrough in the States, charting in the 70s, but garnering significant airplay on KROQ and other cutting edge New Wave radio stations of the time. When it came time for a follow-up, you’d think the logical choice would be “Come Live With Me,” a Top 5 smash in the UK. “Come Live With Me” (download) was a ballad in the classic canon of pop songs about Skeevy Old Guys With Underage Girls — judging by this tune, along with Winger’s “17” and Bill Summers & Summers Heat’s “17,” that seems to be the magic age all these songs decide it’s “okay” to lust after a teenage girl:
I was thirty-seven
You were seventeen
You were half my age
The youth I’d never seen
A 20-year spread — yowza. Vocalist Glenn Gregory sort of vindicates himself with a bit of self-realization and a nice twist of phrase later in the song:
Dinner parties followed
And all my age implies
My friends began to talk
I began to realise
If half the things they say
Are quarter true of me
Then how can I eclipse the youth
You gave to set me free
So, was “Come Live With Me” selected as The Luxury Gap‘s second single in the U.S.? Nope. “We Live So Fast” (download) got the honor, a frenetic ode to the fast-paced ’80s lifestyle. The single was remixed for American radio, downplaying the hyper sequencers on the album version and beefing up the beat — that superior version is the one featured here (direct from my little 45 to you). Sadly, despite a video being shot specifically for the U.S. (which is not on YouTube at the moment), “We Live So Fast” didn’t fare as well as even “Let Me Go’s” anemic charting, failing to even crack the Hot 100.
If you don’t own it already, The Luxury Gap is a fantastic album, packed with hits — besides “Let Me Go,” “Come Live With Me,” and “We Live So Fast,” it also includes “Temptation” and “Crushed By The Wheels of Industry.” Caroline Records put out a sumptuous-sounding deluxe remaster two years ago that’s packed with 12″ versions (except for the U.S. single and 12″ mixes of “We Live So Fast,” drat it!). It’s still in print and pretty darned cheap.
“We Live So Fast” peaked at #102 on the Billboard Bubbling Under Chart and at #34 on the Club Play Singles Chart (as a double A-side with “Temptation”) in 1983.
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