London clubland in the 1970s was a fairly dismal place. It compared very unfavourably with New York and many european cities and the concept of ‘clubbing’ as we understand the term today simply did not exist.
To that end a group of innovative characters got together and took over the site that was a run down old roller disco called Global Village and in December 1979 Heaven opened its doors for the first time. It was timed perfectly. Six months earlier Mrs Thatcher had been elected and an era began that saw unemployment rise to levels last seen in the 1930s. The sense of decay and gloom was palpable. The ‘Swinging London’ of the 1960s a distant memory. London needed a splash of colour & flamboyance to counter balance the otherwise grey monochrome that was the reality of the british capital.
Heaven was the brainchild of Jeremy Norman, responsible for the Embassy club, and which was seen as the nearest London had to Studio 54 in new york. Heaven quickly became the focal point for what had until then been a fairly understated gay scene that hitherto had been based in small hidden cellar bars or pub discos. When Heaven opened its doors in 1979 only 12 years had elapsed since the decriminalisation of homosexuality and at the time there was still a lot of overt prejudice against gay men & lesbians. Heaven bore the brunt of some of that intolerance and in those days was regarded warily by the authorities.
It did however establish itself as a club venue that constantly re-invented itself. Its long standing creative director and general manager David Inches ensured that it never grew tired and always had a bookings policy that set it apart from its rivals. Not just gay club events either. Over the years nights such as ‘Bedrock’ ‘Pyramid’, ‘ Shoom’, ‘Rage’, ‘Megatripolis’ amongst many others all attracted a predominantly straight crowd for whom Heaven represented a delicious step into the decadent unknown.
There were periodic live shows featuring bands who fancied playing an off the wall venue rather than the usual spit and sawdust live music venues. New Order played their first London show here in 1981. Barely six months earlier, when they had been called Joy Division their lead singer Ian Curtis had committed suicide. The renamed band minus Curtis had much to prove. Their London show 33 years ago has since passed into legend.
Throbbing Gristle, the original industrial pioneers played at Heaven in 1980 – and reacquainted themselves with the place 29 years later in what became their last London show before splitting.
Nick Cave’s original band The Birthday Party played a storming set at Heaven in 1982 that 33 years on is still spoken about. Bauhaus were filmed at Heaven also in 1982 performing their classic ‘Belo Legosi’s Dead’ the footage for which was used in the Catherine Deneuve / David Bowie film ‘The Hunger’ – one of the original ‘sexy vampire’ movies.
In 2008 MAMA Group (now MAMA & Company) went into partnership with G-A-Y founder Jeremy Joseph and purchased Heaven from the pure group (Jeremy took over sole ownership of Heaven in 2013). G-A-Y was moved over from the Astoria, which was in the process of closing down and this now occupies the main club sessions on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday and has featured notable performances since that time by Adele, Lady Gaga, Jessie J, Miley Cyrus, One Direction amongst many others.
Popcorn – the UK’s busiest monday night continues to pack them in each week with a rousing all nighter featuring the best house and R & B – 15 years old and still going strong.
With the demise of the Astoria, Mark Ellicott – the Astoria’s long standing general manager and previously at the Kentish Town Forum & Brixton Fridge, moved over to Heaven with the remit to get going a regular live music scene and to put the place on the live map. Over the course of the past six years some of the best live bands have graced the stage here – both established artists and up and coming. Public Image Ltd, Throbbing Gristle, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, The Cribs, MGMT, Killing Joke, Culture Club, Foals, Bombay Bicycle Club, Two Door Cinema club, a-Ha, Everything Everything, N*E*R*D*, Tame Impala, Little Dragon, Yeasayer, John Grant, Hot Chip, Azealia Banks amongst hundreds of others.
Heaven is now central London’s only one thousand capacity venue for live music. Its sound and lighting system is comparable with anything else on offer to live music promoters in other venues. The atmosphere created for live music in this basement space, so full of history right underneath Charing Cross station, is unique and the question if often posed why it took some three decades into its time before it was discovered by live event promoters as a venue to stage their acts… A good question indeed.
This year – 2015 – Heaven will be 36 years old. Middle aged if it were human. But it is not human. It’s still in its stroppy adolescence. Restless and moody. Wanting to try new things out still. Wanting to experiment and push back boundaries. If you haven’t checked us out yet – it’s about time you did!
The following are film clips of live shows that have been at Heaven all can be found on You Tube.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVYJYQMD4uw&sns=em – FIDLAR – LIVE AT HEAVEN 23.6.2015 – performing ‘ Cocaine’
www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_bVSR8OHTs – PUBLIC IMAGE LTD – LIVE AT HEAVEN 2.4.2012 – whole gig
www.youtube.com/watch?v=33IOvB2bUaI – TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB – LIVE AT HEAVEN 26.5.2010
www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyc6K6lTeOU – BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB – LIVE AT HEAVEN 24.6.2010
www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWeP4T-iSOk – THROBBING GRISTLE – LIVE AT HEAVEN 23.12.1980
www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6WEBpRcCXA – – THROBBING GRISTLE – LIVE AT HEAVEN 23.6.2009
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewa6CqRWbnc – BLACK LIPS – LIVE AT HEAVEN 21.12.2011
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Os-WLCIZgz8 – WU LYF – LIVE AT HEAVEN 22.3.2012
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg_00NBCvLc – BAUHAUS – FOOTAGE FROM HEAVEN 22.3.1982 USED FOR THE CATHERINE DENEUVE / DAVID BOWIE FILM ‘THE HUNGER’ PERFORMING ‘BELO LEGOSI’S DEAD’
www.youtube.com/watch?v=pU_D2Nk-GwU – MGMT – LIVE AT HEAVEN 19.3.2010
www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jqbt-48wSI – KILLING JOKE – LIVE AT HEAVEN 6.5.2009
www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbFCq24bXc8 – – THE GO! TEAM – LIVE AT HEAVEN 8.2.2011
www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3YEtEjAxNIV – MAGNETIC MAN / MISS DYNAMITE – LIVE AT HEAVEN 3.11.2010
www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaf9k0d7-WM – MOUNT KIMBIE – LIVE AT HEAVEN 28.4.2011
www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NChw56IUoE – CARIBOU – LIVE AT HEAVEN 17.6.2010
www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Qs0yCUXSFs – YEARS AND YEARS – LIVE AT HEAVEN 6.3.2015