Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The A-Z of All Time Great Pop Singles: "H"

H is for: "Heaven Is A Place On Earth", by Belinda Carlisle

Few pop-music related things seem as wrongheaded to me as the concept of the "guilty pleasure". Nobody should feel guilty about the pop music they take pleasure from, at least not if the cause of guilt is simply the perception that the music which pleasures them is not Cool. For the pleasure someone derives from listening to a pop record to be found Guilty, we must accept that somewhere there is a judge and jury passing sentance on what is the Right Sort Of Music and what is The Wrong Sort Of Music. This sort of joy-killing fascism is the antithesis of everything pop music should be about, and is largely a construct of an entertainment industry which, in order to market it's product effectively, divides it's consumer demographic into managable sub-sections and pitches them in opposition against one another in an eternal battle of My Scene Is Better Than Your Scene.

The consequence of this tactic is that pop music becomes a tool of exclusivity, of elitism, a way of establishing who's Out and who's In. When you're a kid, this has it's uses. Maybe it's even a healthy part of growing up. But there comes a point when you're meant to out-grow that shit, and it strikes me that Babyboomer culture, with a premium placed on Cool, and Youth, and Being Hip To The Latest Groove, has prolonged the period of somebody's life where this sort of mentality is acceptable, or smart, or healthy, pretty much indefinately. I think that's a shame, because it means that people are more uptight, for longer, and feel less empowered to stand up and say "You know what. I think Gang Of Four are OK. But it's really more of an intellectual thing. What really gets my blood pumping is Heaven Is A Place on Earth by Belinda Carlisle, and Uncut Magazine can Go To Hell."

(Note: I DJ'd at the wedding of my very good friends Lee & Jud, and 'dropping' this record during my 'set' still stands as the most fun I've ever had behind a pair of decks.)

(Another Note: Belinda would have been one of two ex-Go-Go Girls to make an appearence on this A-Z, had 'R' not already been over-subscribed. Jane Wiedlin's unbelievably great 'Rush Hour', unfortunately, won't quite make the cut.)


Dazzy Hitch said...

Thumbs up for another great left-field choice!
I have good memories of this song, not least because when it hit the charts, I developed a major crush on the lovely Belinda. I think it was a combination of her gorgeous looks and sultry, mellow vocals that did it, but I was completely smitten, as only a hormonely charged teenager can be.
I'd argue that her "Heaven On Earth" album still sounds pretty good today - tracks like "Heaven","I Get Weak" & "Circle In The Sand" have a yearning, timeless quality that puts me in mind of "Tapestry" era Carole King.

And a big "hear hear!" on the subject of guilty pleasures. I loathe that phrase for exactly the same reasons as you do, and pity those arrogant musos who sneer at anything that isn't considered "cool" or "credible" - I often wonder what sort of dusty, joyless world they must inhabit when there's no room for The Jackson 5, Girls Aloud or The Dooleys in your musical landscape...

Paul 'Fuzz' Lowman said...

Yeah, she did a bunch of good stuff, I agree that the album stands up. I've a real soft spot for female 80s / early 90s pop-rock; Pat Benatar, Belinda, Bangles, Shakespeares Sister, Wilson Philips etc etc - even the unduly forgotten Scarlet(Independant Love Song may just miss a place on this list, but has been a definate contender). I think these acts say a lot about how important 'image' or branding is - 'Heaven is a Place On Earth' or 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' are just stadium rock tracks, only the artist has been marketed in a glossy, teen-pop way. Nobody would blink if you stuck a Jon Bon Jovi vocal on them and re-shot the video with dudes in denim and cowboy boots. Not that you'd really want to.