July 10, 2024

Ex-The Human League founders see early British Electric Foundation material reissued including early version ‘Groove Thang’

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Out on April 21st via Cold Spring on CD and vinyl LP is the reissue of some of the earliest material written by Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh for their post-The Human league project British Electric Foundation (B.E.F.), the tape “Music for Stowaways”.

Following two groundbreaking albums (“Reproduction” and “Travelogue”), the original line-up of Sheffield-based The Human League split in half in late 1980. The two primary musicians in the group, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, formed a new production company – British Electric Foundation – and signed a deal with Virgin to write and produce up to six albums a year. The artists they were to produce would include Heaven 17, their own new band formed with vocalist Glenn Gregory.

B.E.F. would also release their own material, commencing with a limited edition numbered eight song cassette entitled “Music for Stowaways”, with “Stowaways” being a reference to the original name for the then-new Sony portable cassette player – later renamed the Walkman – which allowed owners to “design a soundtrack for your everyday life for the first time and have it playing while you walked around.”

“[That] became the theory behind [Music for Stowaways],” explains Ware. “It was about how you could play your music and change your mood wherever you were. Basically, the Walkman liberated music. And there we were at the sharp end with this cassette-only release.”

The cassette was followed by a seven song LP, “Music For Listening To”, which had a slightly different tracklisting, while other B.E.F. music was utilised for B-sides of early singles by Heaven 17.

This music was among the first recorded by Martyn and Ian directly after their departure from The Human League. Some tracks had evolved from other recordings they were working on at the time, such as “Groove Thang” – an instrumental version of the debut single by Heaven 17 released on the same day as the cassette – and “The Old At Rest”, which derived from a version of “Wichita Lineman” by Jimmy Webb, their very first recording with Glenn that would subsequently appear on B.E.F.’s “Music of Quality and Distinction, Volume One” covers album in 1982.

Supporting musicians on “Music For Stowaways” included Adi Newton of Clock DVA (who had been a member of The Future with Martyn and Ian pre-Human League) on the track “Uptown Apocalyse”, with John Wilson (who provided incredible guitar and bass for Heaven 17) appearing on “Groove Thang”.

Note that the following tracks on this release either never were on the original 1981 cassette or were uncredited bringing the total to 12 tracks.

  • B.E.F. Ident *
  • A Baby Called Billy *
  • Honeymoon In New York *
  • B.E.F. Ident **

*not on 1981 cassette release
** uncredited on 1981 cassette release

author avatar
Bernard - Side-Line Staff Chief editor
Bernard Van Isacker is the Chief Editor of Side-Line Magazine. With a career spanning more than two decades, Van Isacker has established himself as a respected figure in the darkwave scene.

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