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Heavenly Recordings is a London-based independent record label founded by Jeff Barrett. In its history spanning over two decades, the label has discovered and released records by influential artists including Manic Street Preachers, Saint Etienne, Beth Orton and Doves and is currently home to Temples, TOY, Stealing Sheep, Charlie Boyer and The Voyeurs, Hooton Tennis Club, Cherry Ghost, James Levy and the Blood Red Rose, Sea of Bees, The Head and the Heart, Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood & AD90.
Barrett came to the attention of Alan McGee (Creation Records) in 1984 while operating as a club runner/DJ and record shop employee in Plymouth where he promoted early gigs by Creation bands The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, The Loft and The Pastels. This led to Jeff being offered a job with Creation in the summer of 1985, which saw him in the role of general assistant for three years, until in 1988, when he founded the press company Capersville. In its short life, Capersville represented Factory Records (Happy Mondays/ New Order), several Creation acts (The House of Love, My Bloody Valentine) and many successful independent bands of the time (including The KLF, McCarthy and Inspiral Carpets). During this period, Jeff began promoting gigs and club-nights in London and started two short-lived record labels - Head and Sub-Aqua - releasing records by Loop, East Village and Laugh. Head was funded and distributed by Mike Chadwick's Revolver Distribution, a relationship that started when Jeff worked for Mike at his Revolver record shop in Bristol in 1983. He also took great interest in AD90, an ambient house outift hailed by the Evening Standard, who were sent on their way to the studio of London bass legend, Ernie McKone. The tapes were mysteriously destroyed in a fire in Brighton. In 1990, Mike re-appeared in Jeff's life with the offer of a partnership deal to run an in-house label for Revolver. The offer was well-timed as Jeff was then so inspired and invigorated by the energy of the acid-house club scene and excitement that went with it, that he took up the offer and Heavenly was born.
The first release on Heavenly was a 12" single by London house act Sly & Lovechild, produced by DJ Andrew Weatherall (who Jeff went on to manage). "This was swiftly followed by debut releases from two groups who were very much of that scene: Croydon's Saint Etienne (‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’) and north London's Flowered Up (‘It’s On’). Both releases created a fuss at media and in the clubs, with Flowered Up appearing on the covers of the weekly music press in advance of their record release, and ‘Only Love’ becoming a huge underground club hit. The next signing was the then-unknown (and indeed at the time, unfashionable) Manic Street Preachers, who Jeff and his colleague Martin Kelly considered to be the most exciting British rock ‘n’ roll band in years. This opinion polarised people, and the cost of promoting these three bands fell outside of the budget of Jeff’s partner Mike, leading to the partnership dissolving – but not before they released one of Jeff’s favourite Heavenly singles, ‘Circles’ by East Village.
After fulfilling their two-single agreement with Heavenly, Manic Street Preachers went on to sign with Columbia Records but Heavenly lost Flowered Up to London Records (but only for one album, returning to Heavenly to release the seminal ‘Weekender’ (1992). Martin Kelly became the manager of Saint Etienne (a position he still holds today) who signed an ex-UK deal with Warner Brothers, remaining on Heavenly (through Creation) in the UK. Saint Etienne garnered a Mercury Music Prize nomination for their debut album ‘Foxbase Alpha’ which was released in 1991 to international critical acclaim.
With Revolver no longer involved, Heavenly found itself without funding but during 1992 signed a two year deal with Columbia, which saw the label release records by The Rockingbirds, Espiritu and Flowered Up.
By early 1995 Barrett had brokered a new deal for Heavenly with Deconstruction Records/BMG by which time colleague and friend Martin Kelly had become a partner in the label. During this period Heavenly signed and released records by Beth Orton, The Hybirds, Monkey Mafia, Dot Allison, Q-Tee and Espiritu. Beth Orton's first album ‘Trailer Park’ was well received by critics in the UK and USA and resulted in two BRIT Award nominations and a Mercury Music Prize nomination. She won a BRIT Award for Best British Female in 2000 for her second album, Central Reservation and continues to have a strong following in the US. Heavenly's relationship with BMG came to an end during 1999 as Deconstruction's deal with the major ended.
In 2000 Heavenly entered into a joint venture deal with EMI and soon after signed Manchester band Doves, 22-20s, Cherry Ghost, Edwyn Collins and singer/songwriter Ed Harcourt. Doves became a great success for the label, scoring four platinum albums in a row with Lost Souls (2000), The Last Broadcast (2002), Some Cities (2005), and Kingdom of Rust (2009). The Last Broadcast and Some Cities gave the label their first #1 album.
In 2004 the label signed brother/sister quartet The Magic Numbers. The Magic Numbers debut album went on to out-sell anything else the label had ever released, quickly becoming one of the biggest British bands of 2005 and earning them a BRIT Award Nomination in 2006 for Best British Newcomer. This successful partnership with EMI led to the deal being extended, only to fall foul of EMI’s sale to venture capital company Terra Firma and the label being dropped in 2009.
This came as something of a shock to Heavenly and the financial implications resulted in the break-up of the partnership between Barrett and Kelly, with Kelly taking the publishing arm, Heavenly Songs, and going on to create Heavenly Films with his brother Paul. Barrett downsized the company and entered Heavenly Recordings into a deal with Cooperative Music.
2010 and beyond
In 2010/2011, the label released albums by Cherry Ghost, Edwyn Collins, Pete Greenwood, Fionn Regan, Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou and American acts The Soft Pack, Sea of Bees, The Little Ones, The Head and the Heart and James Levy and the Blood Red Rose. In the autumn of 2011, Heavenly signed Liverpool all-girl trio Stealing Sheep and the London-based rock ‘n’ roll five-piece, TOY, both of whom released their debut albums in 2012 to much critical acclaim. In May 2012, Saint Etienne released their eighth studio album, 'Words and Music' on the label.
As of October 2012, Heavenly’s latest signings Charlie Boyer and The Voyeurs are about to release their debut single, swiftly followed in November by the debut single from Temples.
The Heavenly Social
The label created The Heavenly Social club in 1994. Initially a Sunday evening club in the basement of The Albany pub in Central London, it was created to showcase the talents of two young DJs the label was championing at the time- Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, together known as The Dust Brothers and then - due to legal issues with another production team of the same name - The Chemical Brothers. The Heavenly Sunday Social was a pivotal moment in London club culture and the music created there by The Chemical Brothers spawned an entire genre known as Big Beat. The club was frequented by indie royalty of the era including Oasis, Primal Scream, Manic Street Preachers and The Charlatans. The club was closed when it began to draw too many people for its modest capacity. Barrett and Kelly, along with Heavenly Records press officer Robin Turner and Chemical Brothers manager Nick Dewey launched further club nights at Turnmills and Smithfields in East London and at The Bomb in Barrett's home town of Nottingham. These club nights saw The Chemical Brothers grow from underground cult DJs to international rock stars, signing to Virgin Records and releasing a string of hit albums, many of them featuring guest vocals from recording artists they had encountered at The Heavenly Social - including Beth Orton, Tim Burgess of The Charlatans and Noel Gallagher of Oasis.
In 1999 Heavenly opened their first bar in Central London near Oxford Circus, The Social. It was soon followed by another restaurant/bar in Islington North London, Bristol and a fourth in Nottingham. All are known as The Social, except the Bristol branch, which is on a permanently moored boat and known as the Thekla Social.
The Chemical Brothers released Live at the Social Volume 1 in 1996, through Heavenly.
- Charlie Boyer and The Voyeurs
- Cherry Ghost
- H. Hawkline
- Hooton Tennis Club
- Jimi Goodwin
- Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou
- James Levy and the Blood Red Rose
- Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood
- Saint Etienne
- Sea of Bees
- Stealing Sheep
- The Head and the Heart
- James Walbourne
- The Wytches
Former (Forever Heavenly)
- Bronx Dogs
- Dr. Robert
- Dot Allison
- East Village
- Edwyn Collins
- Fabulous (band)
- Fionn Regan
- Flowered Up
- Pete Fowler
- Pete Greenwood
- Ed Harcourt
- The Hybirds
- The Magic Numbers
- Manic Street Preachers
- Monkey Mafia
- Nada Surf
- Northern Uproar
- Omega Amoeba
- Beth Orton
- The Soft Pack
- The Little Ones
- The Loose Salute
- The Rockingbirds
- Sly and Lovechild
- The Vines
- The Wishing Stones
The Fred EP
Similar to Food Records' Christmas EP of 1989, Heavenly Records released an EP in 1992 (Heavenly/Columbia HVN 19CD). However, unlike the Food Christmas EP that featured the label's acts covering each other's songs, Heavenly's EP featured Heavenly acts covering Right Said Fred songs for the charity the Terrence Higgins Trust.
The artists and songs involved on The Fred EP were:
- Flowered Up - "Don't Talk Just Kiss"
- Saint Etienne - "I'm Too Sexy"
- The Rockingbirds - "Deeply Dippy"
The Saint Etienne version of "I'm Too Sexy" had different lyrics to the original, managing to reference both Right Said Fred and Jeff Barrett, the founder of Heavenly Records in the same sentence.