Penthouse and Pavement

heaven_17_1So it’s 30 years since Heaven 17’s uberstylish debut album came storming out of the traps, heralding a new high in synthpopular culture. They seemed to be saying that we could have it all and still stick two fingers up at Thatcherite help yourselfism. We all needed a decent suit and a haircut, and a few bob in our pockets, but we didn’t need her..

Now considered to be one of the 100 Albums To Hear Before You Die, but back in the day it was simply one of the best Albums To Play Before You Went Out..

Sheffield, in the early 80’s was a thrilling place musically. Pulp were still larval and The Arctic Monkeys were mere glints in their parents’ steel city cutlery, but there was truly exciting and groundbreaking live music on offer all across town, every night of the week. And of course there was The Limit.

I’ll always remember standing in the infamous nightclub on West St one night during the Falklands war. The HMS Sheffield had recently been sunk by exocet missiles and no one knew how long the battle would would last. One of the tracks from Penthouse and Pavement came on. The Height of The Fighting.

As the portentous chorus blasted from the speakers, there were the inevitable jingoistic chants from a few but the overriding feeling was one of  ‘fuck the war, let’s dance’. And the subdued air of uneasy tension dissipated, as dance we did..

The Suits were Zoot, the lager was Ayingerbrau and when it was kicking out time, there was always the chippy next door. And if you never saw a chip shop queue of New Romantics before, then you haven’t lived. And so it was that a very particular period in British youth culture  meant that for a ‘Limited’ period, you could stand behind a Pirate and a Harlequin Clown and a Dandy Highwayman, whilst they waited for small cod n chips. ”Have you gorrany scraps…?” And always in paper. Never a tray. Not then..

So good luck to Martyn Ware  and Glenn Gregory on their anniversary tour. The pony-tails may be long gone, The Limit, no more. But The Penthouses and The Pavements and the pop songs..oh yeah..

He-la-Hu.

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