May 10

BELINDA CARLISLE – “Heaven Is A Place On Earth”

Popular108 comments • 8,131 views

#602, 16th January 1988, video

Another supersized AOR number one, but “Heaven” is more unashamedly bubblegum than Starship or T’Pau, and a great deal more effective for that. Its fat-free, chorus-led songwriting cuts out most of the portentiousness or instrumental high-fiving that often works against AOR’s pop impact. And it’s happy to let its roots show: behind the bombast are layers of pleasingly plasticky new wave keyboards and Flashdance-style synth-rock moves. In fact, beyond the echo and the heads-down chugalong rhythm there’s hints of the spirit of ’84 about “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” – that giddy season of American music when rock and pop and disco and funk all melted together under the MTV studio lights; what the US did instead of New Pop.

Maybe it’s just the singer that has me following those trails though – ex-Go Go Carlisle was a living link to New Wave (and further back – this is the only Number One hitmaker to have played in The Germs!). “Heaven” sets the tone for pretty much all her solo stuff – take care of the chorus and the rest will sort itself out. As a result her hits are hardly ever less than likeable: at the time, having no memory of the Go-Gos, I thought of Belinda C as broadly a Good Thing without ever crossing over into exciting, and I’ve never really changed my mind. And as a solo vocalist she fit the needs of the times – plenty of volume and passion papering over some very flimsy content, with “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” no exception: it feels like a lyric built to fit a title and a song built to fit a chorus. An undeniable, surging, chorus, one of her best, but still a record I can imagine being enjoyed by everyone while mattering to no-one.



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  1. 91
    punctum on 19 May 2010 #

    #86: I didn’t say “the only reason”; please avoid casual rudeness.

    Furthermore, TOTP dipped because its producers thought they knew better than the public and changed the show from a passive reflection of the chart to an active attempt to influence the chart. The show was killed slowly by the Cool Police; TOTP was never meant to be “cool.”

    #90: I certainly agree that some Billboard-style regulation of the album chart is needed. Observers might say, well it’s fair, these are the hundred best-selling albums this week (which is debatable since hype and chain store preferential treatment also play major parts in what charts where) regardless of age, but I understand that it must be frustrating for new acts in particular trying to get heard and they can’t even break into the Top 100 because it’s clogged up with Abba Gold, Legend et al for years on end (again, largely because of permanent discounting on the part of chain stores). I’d say establish a separate catalogue chart for albums available for more than 18 months; given the need for promoting an album long-term with singles, tours, remixes etc., this is probably a reasonable cut-off point.

    I don’t quite know, however, where that would leave a situation where Exile On Main Street is currently set to be number one next Sunday.

  2. 92
    lockedintheattic on 19 May 2010 #

    Actually the biggest single drop in viewers to TOTP came when the BBC switched the show from Thursday to Friday, and stuck it opposite Coronation Street, the UK’s most popular show. Sticking it in that slot meant it instantly became a niche show for a much smaller demographic. The changes I think you’re referring too – which were certainly annoying – were really just rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.

  3. 93
    punctum on 19 May 2010 #

    We’ve had some thoughts about the decline of TOTP before and I think the history can be summed up as follows:

    1. Central problem: charts from late eighties onward dominated by tune-not-artist club bangers.

    2. Immediate problem for TOTP: endless streams of anonymous chaps standing behind keyboards is not good television but show is duty-bound to adhere to the charts.

    3. Stanley Appel tries to drag it back into the mainstream by inviting people like Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand onto the show but they look awkward and do not regenerate ratings.

    4. Ric Blaxill tries to make it more “relevant” and televisual and happily (for him) this coincides with rise of Britpop.

    5. Residual problem: Britpop fades out and back to square one. Show now has no character. Anonymous presenters who are told they can’t wear any colour except black or stand out in any way. Time wasted “interviewing” when they should be getting on with the music.

    6. Solution: Put the show down gently and long-term, first moving it to Fridays against Corrie so they can justify absence of ratings as reason for closure. Then move to BBC2 Sundays.

    There were, I feel, other ways, and point 5) is really where the show went wrong.

  4. 94
    weej on 19 May 2010 #

    The “Moving it to clash with Corrie” is a time-honoured BBC tradition for series they want to get rid of – that’s also what happened to the original Doctor Who.

  5. 95
    Billy Smart on 19 May 2010 #

    The only two BBC1 programmes I’m aware of that ever really effectively competed with Coronation Street were Til Death Us Do Part (more popular) and Blake’s 7 (which attracted a substantial alternative audience).

  6. 96
    Hofmeister Bear on 19 May 2010 #

    Personally the end of Britpop now feels like the great cut-off point in which many of the old certainties surrounding popular music in the UK began to crumble. How much of this is down to technological advancement (specifically the internet) and how much just a general cultural shift, I’ll leave to the far more eloquent commentators on here to pick over.

    HIAPOE is an easy 6 for me, like much of Carlisle’s canon of hits it holds up pretty well. And frankly bollocks to Billy Bragg.

  7. 97
    AndyPandy on 19 May 2010 #

    @86 yes I’m surprised that Punctum said. When its known that many dance records (both pre and post 1988)sold far more than their chart positions would indicate because of a plethora of reasons but probably the biggest being that many were bought in dance specialist shops which were rarely chart return shops.And their penetration into the consciousness of the youth was immensely bigger because of their ubiquitousness on mixtapes/pirate radio tapes and compilation albums which were equally/more important to bringing these tracks into the public consciousness.

    It’s been mentioned on here that certain tracks (and this was especially prevalent 1988-92 but also in the trance/hard house era) barely scraped the Top 40 but sold enough to be Top 10 hits if sold in the shops where pop/rock singles were bought. I’ve read that if by some miracle the late 90s/early00s charts had represented the exact amount of every single sold including those sold in the specialist shops the charts they would have been crammed with completely underground trance/hardhouse and jungle tracks. And that still excludes all those who only bought mixes or compilation albums.

    To most working-class kids (once again especially in the 88-92 period) these tracks were the soundtrack of their youth.

    And what an outrage that Acen “Trip II The Moon” got to about 39 but sold well at least 50,000. I doubt there’s very few people of a certain age with the slightest interest in popular music who don’t remember this track or something like “Dominator” by Human Resource but the pop charts criminally under-represented both and many others.

  8. 98
    AndyPandy on 19 May 2010 #

    But surely the whole point of charts (both album and single)is to gauge what are the biggest selling records that week if anything else is introduced to change this the whole idea of charts becomes meaningless and pointless.

    Admittedly with Facebook (Leeds United fans are hoping to get “Marching All Together” to number one next week)its become a bit ridiculous but perhaps thats just a sign that charts )along with the old verities of popular music are now redundant)and have reached the end of their life.
    After all RATM was blatant chart-rigging which surely once and for all killed off the idea of “the Christmas Number One” forever.

  9. 99
    thefatgit on 19 May 2010 #

    There’s another Facebook group trying to get “Holy Diver” to #1 in Ronnie James Dio’s memory.

  10. 100
    punctum on 20 May 2010 #

    #98: The structure of the charts gives the illusion of public democracy where every record has a fair and equal chance of getting to the top. Not so. The people who get number ones are those whom the industry wants to get to number one. And very few others besides. Over the decades that hasn’t changed.

  11. 101
    Ian on 20 May 2010 #

    Come on, how is this not a 9 or 10?

  12. 102
    rosie on 25 May 2010 #

    On one day or other (one so loses track of time in hospital) I was doing a therapeutic walk past the day room and heard this coming out. For the rest of the day it was wriggling round in my head (it’s an infection little ditty isn’t it!). And to make matters worse, I was desperately trying to work out which 1970s rock anthem it borrows so heavily from. Or maybe I I imagined that – funny things have happened to my brain lately!

  13. 103

    […] Shipley, brought something believably adolescent out of her. When she falls in love, I feel it. Tom Ewing on “Heaven…”: “beyond the echo and the heads-down chugalong rhythm […]

  14. 104
    DanH on 27 Jan 2013 #

    “Circle in the Sand” is as good as late ’80s mainstream pop gets. It’s the Shangri-Las “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” fused with Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy” or “Sara.” Great stuff.

  15. 105
    hectorthebat on 15 Feb 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Gary Mulholland (UK) – This Is Uncool: The 500 Best Singles Since Punk Rock (2002)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  16. 106
    swanstep on 28 Oct 2016 #

    HIAPOE is given a very specific, possibly definitive interpretation in one of the best episodes of the latest season of Black Mirror. The ep. also bruits a kind of interp. of Popular. Interesting…

  17. 107
    James Holmes on 6 Jun 2018 #


  18. 108
    Gareth Parker on 23 May 2021 #

    Good write up from Tom, and I broadly share his views on Belinda. I think I could stretch to a 7/10 here.

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