How Belinda Carlisle Soared With ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’


It may be tempting typically to put in writing off the ’80s as a decade of bouncy pop music that does not run rather more than floor deep. Peel again the layers of any one of many decade’s attractive shiny hits, nevertheless, and you’ll nearly at all times discover not solely fascinating music, however fascinating tales.

An incredible instance could be present in Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” which hit No. 1 on Dec. 5, 1987, and was as anthemic a single as the last decade ever produced.

Her profession in music had begun a decade earlier than, when she signed on because the drummer of the Germs, solely to catch mononucleosis and be prevented from ever really performing with the long-lasting L.A. punk group. Not one to be held down by misfortune, she resurfaced nearly instantly, this time because the vocalist and founding member of the seminal all-woman band the Go-Go’s in 1978.

They’re typically remembered as a new-wave power-pop band, the Go-Go’s initially arose out of a a lot grittier scene. Carlisle had been raised in powerful circumstances within the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, and the no-holds-barred ethos of the punk sound then sweeping into America from England appealed to her, because it did to the remainder of the group.

Again then, she and guitarist Jane Wiedlin “lived in a punk-rock commune in an outdated residence constructing in Hollywood,” enjoying performed gigs at befittingly seedy and infamous venues just like the Whisky a Go Go and the Masque, Carlisle instructed Vulture in 2021.

They stood out as an all-female group smashing their manner by a male-dominated music scene. “We simply had a blast; it was a women’ membership,” she instructed The Guardian in 2021. “No guys allowed, no boyfriends. We had lady roadies, feminine administration.”

Watch Belinda Carlisle Carry out in Live performance

By 1981, the Go-Go’s had been opening for the Police as their debut album, Beauty and the Beat, went double-platinum and topped the U.S. charts for six weeks. They turned stars, whereas additionally serving as an inspiration to ladies in every single place: The Go-Go’s had been the primary all-female band to have a chart-topping album, and are nonetheless the one one who writes their very own songs and performs their very own devices to perform that feat.

Their preliminary run got here to a halt in 1985, nevertheless, and the Go-Go’s break up up. Carlisle launched into a solo profession, and her first album, Belinda did nicely. It was licensed gold and the primary single, “Mad About You,” reached No. 3 on the charts. However Carlisle wasn’t but a family title, regardless of fronting some of the vital bands of the last decade and attaining the success most musicians can solely dream of.

That every one adjustments with the September 1987 launch of “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” the title-track first single from her second album. The one reached the highest of the U.S. charts a few months later, then hit the highest of the charts within the U.Ok. in January, and repeated the feat in quite a few international locations world wide.

Immediately, the music was on the radio in every single place, and Carlisle was starring in a music video directed by actress Diane Keaton. All of it occurred so quick, that she was moved to her husband “if it was actual or if I used to be dreaming,” she stated within the 2010 autobiography Lips Unsealed. “It appeared like a mistake.”

As her husband reminded her, nevertheless, Carlisle was there as a result of she had put in years of exhausting work. It is obviously evident within the music that despatched her to superstardom.

“Heaven is a Place on Earth” was written by Rick Nowels and Ellen Shipley (who additionally sing backup vocals on the observe), together with songwriter Diane Warren, Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, and Chynna Phillips of Wilson Phillips. The result’s a superbly crafted and executed piece of ’80s energy pop.

Watch Belinda Carlisle’s Video for ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’

The music opens with Carlisle – her voice each angelic and teasing – singing the refrain, seconded by background vocalists in a refrain and a few beats on a base drum. “Ooh child, are you aware what that is price?” she asks, “ooh, heaven is a spot on earth. They are saying in heaven, love comes first – we’ll make heaven a spot on earth.”

So the query is concerning the worth of affection itself, and the reply is the promise she’s making: Their love is so highly effective that it will flip earth into heaven. As quickly because the listener registers this, “Heaven is a Place on Earth” kicks in with that traditional ’80s sound that repetition and radio-play might boring into familiarity however cannot ever actually diminish. It is all right here: the massive, sweeping guitar chords backed by a synthesizer, the straight-ahead, snare-driven drum beat, and the Andy Summers-style arpeggiated lead guitar work.

Excessive of all of it runs Belinda Carlisle’s voice, matching a befittingly ethereal high quality that belies her roots within the punk scene with a sensuousness that equals any vocal of her profession.

“Heaven is a Place on Earth” stays Carlisle’s signature music, and rightfully so. It is probably the greatest No. 1 hits from the ’80s. However that is greater than only a nice music; it additionally represents the hidden complexities of that decade. “Heaven is a Place on Earth” illustrates how the period’s greatest artists wove their manner by scenes and genres to create pop masterpieces.

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