Depeche Mode's 50th UK single (I'm including Little 15 in that although, as we know, no-one knows where that was released if indeed it was released at all) was their first since The Meaning Of Love not to have a BONG catalogue number.
Heaven followed Precious and Dream On by being a slower first release from the new album than you might expect a band to release on their big comeback. There were certainly more obvious singles on Delta Machine, none of which were chosen as singles oddly.
With Heaven we got only three official releases, some poor attempts at remixing and a dreary video. Oh well. On that explosion of enthusiasm, let's dive right in.
I STAND IN GOLDEN RAYS - HEAVEN
The band, who had stayed with EMI after Mute freed itself from that label, were not kept on by EMI after the Remixes 2: 81-11 completed their contractual obligation to the label. They moved to Sony/Columbia and the BONG prefix disappeared forever. That was a real shame as it was a unique Depeche Mode thing and its use on the Strangelove releases was majestic. The catalogue number for the CD single of Heaven is 8765461572 for those of you who find that sort of thing important.
Heaven was released digitally in most corners of the world on 31st January 2013 but not released in the UK until 17th March. There is obviously some major label corporate thinking behind that but it does seem very odd indeed. Physical formats were available in the US from 1st February but the UK, and Europe, didn't get those until March 18th 2013. Again - no idea why.
Heaven's reviews appeared more in the album reviews sections than single reviews sections of whatever format media was taking in 2013. Louder Than War had this to say:
"Like Bowie, Depeche chose a ballad as their comeback single. Heaven broods in its downright patronising braveness and displays that even the 80s stalwarts can produce a ballad of rather magical quality. Again, the mix is so sparsely put together that every click, beat and tap can be heard. Whilst the press was raving about the single, the groups PR smugly admitted it wasn’t the best track on the album."
The Quietus said:
"I must admit I wasn't sure about this as a single. It felt a little too focussed at the mainstream American radio market, a little too much Lennon twisted into the piano, a little of Radiohead's 'Karma Police', and it's fair to say it is a marked contrast to that opening salvo. Still, it's not too much of a passion-killer as far as the sequencing goes, though fans of the tougher side of Depeche Mode will not be left hoping for more. Actually, the great thing about 'Heaven' is that it sounds like the sort of song U2 ought to be writing if they weren't constantly spinning songs out of a gigantic cloud of wind... and there's always that Blawan remix."
I think Radiohead's lawyers might have been in touch about that. Billboard said nothing of any interest:
"The most personal and coincidentally beautiful vocal of “Delta Machine” comes on “Heaven,” the official lead single. It’s a synth-rock slow jam that goes very alt-rock on the chorus, with some ripping vocal harmonies."
I wouldn't call Heaven "alt-rock," though I am in my mid 40's (that's a tad generous), so I have no idea what alt-rock is anymore.
Top Of The Pops was dead by this point in time and, Jools aside, there were no shows in the UK that show live music, so Depeche Mode took to the chat show circuit, appearing on The Jonathan Ross Show on ITV. This was a big(ish) thing as they really hadn't done this for years and, slightly awkward interview aside, they played a live version of Heaven:
Happily, Martin had dropped the Barbara Cartland look of the Sounds Of The Universe era and was looking rather cool. as was Dave. Fletch was still rocking the Elton John vibe however and, as for the performance itself, it was fine.
Heaven rocketed into the UK charts at number 60 for one week then disappeared again. Oh well. I greeted the release of Heaven with great joy at the time, as you would all expect of me by now but it's really not stood the test of time as a single. It's nice enough but really doesn't do much at all and something like Broken or Angel would have surely been a much bolder choice of return single. As it was the lead single for Delta Machine, the band jammed it into the Delta Machine tour sets whether they liked it or not. and it was played 104 times on the tour, last being heard at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow on 7th March 2014. It's not been played since and that's perhaps not surprising.
The B-Side, or track two on the first CD as we had come to know B-sides by 2013, was All That's Mine, a song Dave wrote with Kurt Uenala which features as an extra track on the Delta Machine deluxe versions. I really like that song and it would have been a nice addition to the main album. It's not been played live and unless Dave and Soulsavers prove me wrong in a week or so, it never will be.
The almost entirely joyless video for Heaven was directed by Timothy Saccenti and was filmed in the Marigny Opera House in New Orleans in November 2012.
We start off with an exploding tree and quickly move to the Opera House where the band plus Christian are running through the song with Fletch curiously battering away at an upright piano, an instrument he had last played at St Nicholas School when auditioning for Composition Of Sound (erm...really?) when he played a perfect note by note cover of Bohemian Rhapsody (are you REALLY sure).
It rumbles on all stylishly and moodily until 40 seconds in when a spooky masked person appears and they are not happy. The tree that we saw at the start is where they live so they're rightfully annoyed that it's been tampered with for a video by the band that brought you classics like A Photograph Of You, It's Called A Heart and...wait for it....Hole To Feed.
Angry Mask Person is so annoyed that they bring a friend to the opera house, cast a spell and suddenly, or more accurately at 1 minute 49, the ghost of Strangelove appears. Yes, as a result of BONG going, the underwear clad Strangelove video star has returned in ghost form to take revenge on the band (bear with me here...).
She dances around and clamps two halves of a skull together to cast a spell and - boom! - the Dave is dressed in white just like in the Strangelove 88 video. "You thought that video was an inferior version of the one I starred in with my rubber bra on?" cackles the ghost, "well, take this! Now this admittedly drab video will feature the singer dressed like the Strangelove 88 video. Hang on, where's the guy with the massive hair who did the keyboard demos?" An odd type of revenge for dropping a catalogue number I will admit but this is what happened and you can't prove otherwise.
Reeling from this black magic, the video carries on with the band playing, Dave dressed in black and sometimes white as Angry Mask Person and Rubber Bra Women mope about.
I really didn't have much to work with there.
There were no promos to chase this time so all we had were three formats. The first, CDBON....oh, I mean, the first CD is pictured above.
Anton did the sleeve and CD design and obviously didn't spend that much time on either. The band appear on the rear as you can see. There are two tracks on this - Heaven (Album Version) and All That's Mine (Deluxe Album Version). Confusingly, the word Heaven appears above the track numbers on the back meaning that one could conclude that there are two remixes of the song here with the second being a bold reworking of the track. Or perhaps, 51 blogs into this, I have lost all reason.
CD 2 is notably different from CD 1 because the title is bigger on the front and the word Heaven is in red, as is the D on the CD.
The content of the CD is of course different too as we have five versions of Heaven and, this time, the song title's position on the rear sleeve makes sense. The remixes are:
1. Album version
2. Owlle Remix - People got excited about this at the time and rightly so. It still stands up today and is very enjoyable. Instead of a 145 minute long club mix that features one note from the song, this is a very nice remix indeed.
3. Steps To Heaven RMX - this is a remix by popular UK novelty band Steps based on their famous cover of the Bee Gees song Tragedy. No, not really, this...ahem...rmx is a fairly unexciting thing
4. Blawan Remix - this Quietus favoured remix is quite interesting. It's a dark loud thing that doesn't do a great deal but is much better than most recent remixes of Depeche singles
5. Matthew Dear vs Audion Vocal Mix - Matthew Dear takes on himself in a very one sided fight and produces a remix that isn't as exciting as it should have been.
There was of course a 12" too. Side A (above) features the Blawan Dub (not as good as the Blawan Remix) and the Owlle Remix.
Side B contains two further remixes of Heaven neither of which are worth making too much fuss about - Steps To Heaven Voxdub and Matthew Dear vs Audion Instrumental Mix.
Elsewhere, you could get yourself promo CD-Rs in the UK and in Europe together with a Greek promo DVD-R. The two CD singles above were released in Taiwan with the usual sticker on the front and there was a Portuguese FNAC only release on the second CD which came in a cardboard package. Here it is, courtesy of depmod.com :
The two CD singles were available in the US but, contrary to what the official site says, there was no US 12". There was a promo CD-R in the US too featuring three remixes by Freemasons, a statement that has very different meanings in the US and Glasgow,
The final physical release is this Swiss only 7" which came with a limited and insanely priced Hublot watch thing which was sold for charity. It features the Album Version of Heaven and the record looks like this, again thanks to depmod.com :
Finally, all of the remixes were available digitally.
So that was Heaven. Not the most inspiring return for the band but better was to come when Delta Machine arrived.
Well, better in the sense of better songs. Sadly, I don't mean better in terms of the choice of singles as Soothe My Soul will amply demonstrate next time.