The Psychedelic Furs only had one hit, didn't they?
Formed in London in 1977, initially as a post-punk rock outfit but with their musical styles encompassing everything from art rock to new wave, the band were led by brothers Richard and Tim Butler with what appeared to be an endlessly rotating cast of additional musicians and temporary members in accompaniment.
They recorded seven albums together between 1980 and 1991, going on hiatus the following year before playing to the spirit of the age and reforming a few years ago. Their comeback album Made Of Rain released to rapturous reviews in the summer of 2020.
But ask most people to name their hits and they will almost certainly only be able to call one to mind - Pretty In Pink. Originally recorded for their 1981 album Talk That Talk it reached a mere No.43 when released as a single that same year but famously inspired the 1986 John Hughes film of the same name. The band would re-record the song in a slightly fresher style for the movie soundtrack and be rewarded with a No.18 hit, their most significant chart success.
Yet Pretty In Pink wasn't their first or even their only Top 40 hit. That honour goes to Heaven, a track released as a single in March 1984 to promote their fourth album Mirror Moves. History would have you believe that everything the band did at the time was wildly and critically acclaimed, although Jimmy Reid writing in Record Mirror that week was to say the least unimpressed.
Nonetheless, the song defied his sneering and became the Psychedelic Furs' first Top 40 hit, reaching No.29 in early April. You suspect it could have gone further, but it had the misfortune to coincide with a series of strikes at the BBC which severely disrupted the broadcasts of Top Of The Pops at the time. The edition of April 5th (when the song was a new entry to the charts) was cancelled, while the following week's show (when the single was at its chart peak) was a severely disrupted edition with most of its running order taken up with a video rundown of that week's Top 10. If the Psychedelic Furs were to appear with Heaven it would have been at that time, but they were squeezed out by circumstances.
Heaven itself is one of those wonderfully oblique songs whose true meaning is open to liberal interpretation. Richard Butler once suggested that the line "there's a hole in the sky/where the sun don't shine" was a reference to nuclear war, but that sits uncomfortably with the otherwise joyful vibe of the lyrics which could just as easily be about the ecstasy of true love. Search online and you can find people insisting the song is replete with biblical references: "too many Kings/want to hold you down" a call back to Jesus lecturing the Pharisees about their misdirection of God's laws.
But aren't the best pop songs the ones you can take any way you wish?
Despite its quickly-eclipsed status in the band's canon, Heaven has over the years been the subject of a rather startling number of covers - even if none of them has ever come close to replicating the chart success of the original.
First out the gates were Buffalo Tom, their live acoustic take on the song appearing as a bonus track on the CD edition of their 1990 album Birdbrain.
The most radical of treatments came via Annie Lennox. Her 1995 covers album Medusa had succeeded in dragging one other notorious 80s pop flop No More I Love Yous into the charts, and although her take on Heaven didn't make the cut for the full album it was included as a bonus track on the Japanese edition. Its omission from the main running order perhaps intended to sidestep confusion with the Eurythmics track of the same name that was on their 1987 album Savage. Oddly it was never even used as a b-side for any of the album's other singles, meaning for years it was the 'lost' Annie Lennox track..
My favourite version of the song, and the reason I fell in love with it in the first place, is that performed by cult Norwegian trio Lorraine. Their take on Heaven was recorded for a one-off EP in 2006 but unwittingly became their most prominent recording of all when it was licensed for the soundtrack of the movie "I Could Never Be Your Woman", released the following year. Of all the different versions, it is the one which pays both the closest homage to the Psychedelic Furs' original while at the same time taking it in exciting new directions. Ole Gundersen's silky-smooth vocals serve as a fascinating counterpoint to the mellifluous baritone of Richard Butler on the original, while the production shimmers hypnotically. I close my eyes and I'm taken to the same paradise that the singer claims to be reaching for. You could almost argue it is the greatest song The Killers never recorded.
Wow, now there's an idea. Make it happen Brandon.