Heavenly Recordings

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Heavenly Recordings
Founded 1990
Founder Jeff Barrett
Distributor(s) Cooperative Music
Genre Indie
Country of origin UK
Official website heavenlyrecordings.com

Heavenly Recordings is a London-based independent record label founded by Jeff Barrett.

Launched in 1990, it has discovered and released artists including Manic Street Preachers, Saint Etienne, Beth Orton, Doves and Temples. Achievements include a Mercury Music Prize nomination for Saint Etienne’s debut album ‘Foxbase Alpha’ and two consecutive Number 1 albums with Doves.

Heavenly Recordings has previously been part of EMI and Sony but as of 2015 remains fully independent again. Alongside the likes of Factory, Creation, Rough Trade and Domino it is considered one of the key British indie record labels.

It is currently home to artists including Temples, Stealing Sheep, The Wytches, Night Beats, H. Hawkline, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Gwenno Saunders, Jimi Goodwin, Mark Lanegan, Amber Arcades, and Duke Garwood.


Early years[edit]

In the early 1980s Jeff Barrett worked as singles buyer for a record shop in Plymouth, where he bought independent releases from record shop / supplier Revolver in Bristol. After selling more records than any other customer in the south-west of England he was offered the position of manager of Revolver by owner Mike Chadwick. The shop enjoyed close ties with the emerging reggae, post-punk and trip-hop scenes of Bristol, as documented in the 2015 book Original Rockers by Richard King.

During this time Barrett promoted early gigs in Plymouth by Creation bands The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, The Loft and The Pastels. This brought him to the attention of Alan McGee (Creation Records) who offered him the job of general assistant at Creation in the summer of 1985 at the age of 23. He was the record label’s first full-time employee and worked there for three years, including tour managing Jesus & Mary Chain in Europe – a band notorious for playing fifteen-minute sets.

Barrett left Creation in 1988 and 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, Barrett began promoted 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. Inspired and invigorated by the energy of the acid-house club scene and also funded by Revolver, Barrett launched new label Heavenly in 1990.

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 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 gained attention in the 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 Chadwick, 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. After two singles on Heavenly Flowered Up signed to London Records for one album, but returned to Heavenly to release the seminal 13-minute-long single ‘Weekender’ (1992). Martin Kelly became the manager of Saint Etienne (a position he still holds today) who signed an ex-UK deal with Warner Bros. Records, remaining on Heavenly (but distributed via 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. Their 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.

In 2008 Heavenly Recordings celebrated its 18th birthday with a weekend of events on the Southbank in London. It was particularly notable for an appearance by Manic Street Preachers who played a set composed solely of their Heavenly-released songs.

The 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. "There was a change of landscape in the industry and there was a change of landscape in our bank balance," Barrett said in 2015. "We were at a point in our lives where for the first time we probably considered ourselves grown ups and that scared us." [1]

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 along with his brother Paul Kelly.

Barrett downsized the record label and entered Heavenly Recordings into a deal with Cooperative Music.

2010 and beyond[edit]

In 2010 and 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.

There followed in autumn 2012 releases by latest Heavenly signings Charlie Boyer and The Voyeurs (now shortened to The Voyeurs) and the debut single from Temples.

In February 2013, Heavenly announced the signing of Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood for their collaboration album 'Black Pudding', released in May 2013.[2] Both Lanegan and Garwood are each now signed to the label in their own right.

Throughout 2014 and 2015 Heavenly Recordings entered arguably its most productive period to date, signing and releasing a clutch of new artists including The Wytches, Gwenno Saunders, Eaves, DRINKS, H. Hawkline, Hooton Tennis Club, Kid Wave and international bands Fever The Ghost (US) and King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard (Australia). Released in February 2014, Temples’ debut album Sun Structures - Heavenly Recordings’ 100th releases - was a Top 10 hit and Rough Trade’s Album Of The Year.

In 2016, the label released the album Fading Lines by the Dutch singer Amber Arcades.[3]

Heavenly at 25[edit]

In January 2015 Heavenly Recordings celebrated its 25th birthday with ‘A Heavenly Weekend In Hebden’, a four-day festival at The Trades Club in the West Yorkshire Pennine town of Hebden Bridge. It featured performances from many of the current roster and also film screenings from Heavenly Films. The event was given its own catalogue number: HVN300

Heavenly Recordings are involved in a number of music festivals, including curating The Garden Stage at End Of The Road Festival in September 2015.

A new Heavenly 25 yearbook and compilation album is scheduled for release on the Rough Trade shops label. It focuses on current label signings. "It’s the broadest, most colourful and most interesting roster that we’ve ever had," Jeff Barrett said in 2015. "To have that in our 25th year we felt was a point worth making - and celebrating."

The Social[edit]

The label created The Heavenly Social club in 1994. Initially a Sunday evening club in thebasement 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 bars in Islington, Bristol and Nottingham are now no longer run as Heavenly venues.

The Social spawned a series of popular mix albums:

Heavenly Presents Live at the Social Volume 1: The Chemical Brothers (1996) Heavenly Presents Live At The Social Volume 2: Jon Carter (Monkey Mafia) (1996) Heavenly Presents Live At The Social Volume 3: Andrew Weatherall & Richard Fearless (1999)

Caught by the River[edit]

Jeff Barrett, along with Heavenly employees Robin Turner and Andrew Walsh, also established the website Caught by the River, a home for writing on nature, landscape, fishing, walking, beer and associated literature and music. Caught by the River also release music, publish books and have hosted stages at festivals such as Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall and Festival N°6 in Portmeirion. Though not directly part of Heavenly Recordings, many of its contributors are associated with the label and the UK independent music scene.




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