Heaven 17, circa early '80s

Classic synthpop group Heaven 17 will reissue its celebrated 1981 debut album Penthouse and Pavement this November as a multi-disc “super luxury box set” that will include a full CD of newly unearthed eight-track demos, co-founder Martyn Ware tells Slicing Up Eyeballs in a new interview.

Ware — whose full Q&A will be posted here Friday — said the reissue will be timed to coincide with Heaven 17’s Penthouse and Pavement 30th anniversary tour of the U.K. in late November. The set, Ware said, likely will include three discs: the original album (which was last reissued in 2006 with five bonus tracks), a second disc of rarities and a third CD with the recently discovered studio tracks, plus full lyrics and a commemorative poster.

The discovery this summer by EMI Music of the album’s original demos, recorded 30 years ago on one-inch tape, was “just mind-bending,” said Ware, also a founding member of The Human League. “These boxes that we found had no notes on them, no track sheets — nothing. … We had no idea what was on those tapes.”

What Ware and Heaven 17 singer Glenn Gregory discovered they’d stumbled onto were the original eight-track demos for Penthouse and Pavement, including early versions of “The Height of Fighting,” “Soul Warfare,” “Play to Win” and the title track, Ware said, plus instrumentals by Ware’s and Ian Craig Marsh’s concurrent side project B.E.F.

As Ware explained:

“Basically, we went into … professional studios in London to re-record the whole album, to start from scratch. So these early versions of the first side of Penthouse and Pavement predated us being introduced to the LinnDrum, so it’s got the kind of Human League rhythm sounds, but with some funk. It’s kind of a weird hybrid. … It’s really good and interesting. It’s got completely different takes of John Wilson’s bass playing and rhythm guitar. It’s just brilliant. It sounds excellent and kind of real groovy.”

Ware, who is at work mixing the newly uncovered tapes, said that “until we found these, (the reissue) was just going to be two CDs.” Now, Ware and Gregory plan to include all of the material they found on the forthcoming reissue, and Ware said it’s possible “the rarities will be separately released next year.”

Check back Friday for our full Q&A with Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware.

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