Belinda Carlisle – “Heaven On Earth”
Following the break up of The Go Go’s, Belinda Carlisle was the first band member to enjoy solo success with her self-titled debut album in 1986. But the album and its singles only held an American audience, what Belinda wanted was international success, something that had eluded her and the band, particularly in the UK, where their version of “Our Lips Are Sealed” had only made it as far as No.47. Shortly after “Belinda”, Carlisle had recorded “In My Wildest Dreams” for the soundtrack of the film ‘Manniquin’, her song being used over the opening titles, while the film’s best known anthem, “Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now“, was used over the end credits.
For album number two, Belinda enlisted the services of songwriting team Rick Nowles and Ellen Shipley while two tracks would come from Diane Warren, co-writer of “Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now”, and two songs that would eventually be released as singles from the album. Any number of outstanding songs that made the final cut could have been the lead single, but only one stood out as that killer track and all hopes for a global hit as well as securing the success of the album worldwide were pinned on it. By September 1987 the second chapter of Belinda’s solo career was ready to reveal with the album number two following close behind.
1. Heaven Is A Place On Earth
That killer track aforementioned was also the lead single of the new album. Nowels and Shipley gave Belinda her own anthem and one which she would be best identified with forever more. “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” is the quintessential pop-rock song of the late 80’s with a feelgood factor about it from the word go. Belinda’s vocals are spot on against the guitar strewn backing track while the mid-section is pure pop ‘heaven’. “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” was another hit for Belinda in America upon release, and what a hit, topping the chart to become her very first number one on home soil. More importantly as 1987 closed and 1988 opened, the song began to make waves across the rest of the world, but most importantly in the UK, which it was sitting under the Pet Shop Boys‘ number one “Always On My Mind” at the turn of the new year. One week on and Belinda was number one! Was it ever going to get any better than this? Some would say no.
2. Circle In The Sand
Almost immediately things begin to cool off with the sultry “Circle In The Sand”, another Nowels/Shipley written song in which Belinda shimmers with this Summer classic down-tempo number. With distant echoes of electric guitar, “Circle In The Sand” sparkles and brims with class and sophistication and it was bound to be released as a single. Although Belinda would later acknowledge it as one for doctor’s waiting rooms! The song was released as the third single in the Spring of 1988 and achieved top ten placing on both sides of the Atlantic (No.7 at home, No.4 in the UK). A must hear at any Belinda concert and certainly an inclusion on any Carlisle compilation album, this also remains one of her most memorable and best loved songs.
3. I Feel Free
Back to 80’s Rock-Pop as Belinda takes on Cream’s “I Feel Free” from 1966 and given a Rick Nowels production this could almost be an original that had never previously been recorded. Belinda stamps her own mark on this track making it her own and although it wasn’t, it could have been a big global hit for her. As it was, the song received only a US release, only getting as far as No.88, but oh, if only… Seductive vocals accompany the long drawn out fade of the song with a hint of what was to come from the title track of her next studio album. Hypnotising and sexy is what we call it. Simplicity with a tang of 60’s street Pop.
4. Should I Let You In?
Fellow Go Go Charlotte Caffrey provides the next original number for Belinda with the Rock-y “Should I Let You In?”, another great live number and a potential single. For an album much heavier on guitars than her first this is a real treat, with power vocals and power backing vocals with Belinda getting really gritty and passionate with the last few minutes of the track asking, again and again “Should I Let You In?” Should she? No complaints here.
5. World Without You
The first of the Diane Warren penned tracks is up next and what a glorious opening to this lush, down-tempo guitar epic. Instantly memorable and with a big two-part chorus makes it playable over and over again. Rick Nowels’ production ensures the track sits perfectly within the album while the lyrics tell a story of knowing the person you want to be with and being completely lost without that special someone. “Where would I be?” cries Belinda at the end. “…without you, baby?” she continues. While America got “I Feel Free” as a single, internationally the rest of us got “World Without You” in September 1988. Edited and ‘souped up’ with more guitars, the revived and revitalised “World Without You” was a UK chart hit peaking at No.34 and spending two months on the sales chart.
6. I Get Weak
The second of the two Diane Warren songs follows straight on and it doesn’t disappoint. More uptempo than “World Without You”, “I Get Weak” is another superb slice of late 80’s power Pop-Rock that is just as much an anthem as “Heaven” or any other track on this album. From its opening words “convincing eyes, persuasiveness…” you just can’t resist the pull of this track. “I Get Weak” was the second single released in January 1988 and it went to No.2 in America, No.4 in Canada and No.10 in the UK, where it was released while “Heaven” was still top 40. Of note is the video, which is directed by American actress Diane Keaton, who also directed that for “Heaven”!
7. We Can Change
Some more joyous Pop now as “We Can Change” kicks off and it’s another track co-written by Charlotte Caffrey and it just oozes 80’s feelgood beats and rhythms from the drum stick opening through to the rise of the verses to the unashamed chorus all set to the backdrop of acoustic and electric guitar. “Ooh…we can change, anything we want to now”. A positive outlook comes from this song that again uses a glorious guitar mid-section to bridge to the final chorus sung in a higher note. “We Can Change” was used as the B side to “Heaven”.
8. Fool For Love
Fast-paced Rock-Pop now with “Fool For Love” courtesy of Robbie Seidman, who had previously worked with Irene Cara in the 80’s. Like “Should I Let You In?” and “We Can Change”, which is another track that gives you the late-80’s buzz and spot on for those hot Summer nights. Belinda does not care if she’s a fool for love. And who does when it happens? “I don’t care, I don’t care!” Ok, we heard you!
9. Nobody Owns Me
The fast-paced Rock anthems come thick and frequent in the second half of the album and that continues with “Nobody Owns Me”, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a Bryan Adams album of the same period! Charlotte Caffrey returns for the co-writing credits on this track, but as with all that have gone before, this is very much a Rick Nowels production replete with multiple guitar solos over the mid-section. Belinda enforces after having admitted to being a fool for love that “nobody owns me, nobody but you”.
10. Love Never Dies
Belinda’s second album closes all too soon and with a ballad and the gorgeous “Love Never Dies”, which comes from the pen of Caffrey and Nowels and allows Belinda for the first time on this album to demonstrate her ability to deal with a softer, less harsher vocal and with sensitivity. “Love Never Dies” was released in the UK as the fifth and final single at the end of 1988 and would only peak at No.54, the only single not to make the all important top 40, but, as we shall find out, perhaps most people had bought the album by then. A romantic ending to a very uplifting album all the same.
Belinda’s second album would take its title from the lead single, “Heaven On Earth”. Recording took place in the Spring and Summer of 1987 and following “Heaven Is A Place On Earth’s” release in September, the album would follow a month later in America on 5th October. Oddly, despite bigger and more successful singles, “Heaven On Earth” would only equal the chart placing of its predecessor of No.13. Sales, however, were far stronger with well over a million copies sold Stateside, double that of “Belinda” a year and a bit earlier.
It was internationally that “Heaven On Earth” really shone the brightest and most importantly, in the UK market, where Belinda had yet to achieve broad appeal with as a solo artist or with The Go Go’s. With the success of “Heaven Is A Place On Earth”, the album took off in early 1988 and would peak at No.4, spending over a year on the album chart and claiming three Platinum discs for sales of 900,000 copies. “Heaven On Earth” was also a big seller in Canada, Australia and across much of Europe, particularly in Norway, where it went to No.1.
With Belinda now secure in the hearts of a worldwide audience, she would repeat the formula of “Heaven On Earth” with her next album, which would achieve almost identical success, especially in the UK and to a lesser extent in 1991 with “Live Your Life Be Free”. “Heaven On Earth” has a sound that is of its time and a place in music, social and cultural history. But for 1987-88, heaven was a place on earth for Belinda Carlisle. Can you imagine living in a world without her?(!)
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