Today on ‘Dee’s Favourite ’80s Music Videos All Have Classic Red Phone Boxes In Them’, we’re looking at Heaven 17’s 1982 video for Let Me Go. Fun fact: this was never a Top 40 hit. However, it is my favourite Heaven 17 song, and was my absolute highlight when I saw them at Electric Dreams in December.
The video opens in a black ‘n’ white deserted London, where the members of Heaven 17 are approaching a red phone box with its door hanging open, rather like the ones you see nowadays in areas where councils are not performing proper phone box upkeep. The phone is off the hook and repeating the automated voice from the speaking clock on a loop.
It’s not clear at this point what has happened to everyone else in London – there was a discarded Evening Standard fluttering about at the start of the video with the headline ‘British Electric Foundation crashes – Share prices halved – city rumours confirmed’, but that doesn’t really tell us anything (British Electric Foundation was the predecessor project to Heaven 17, so it’s probably just an in-joke!). However, Heaven 17 are still here and still walking purposefully towards…something.
In addition to the classic red phone box, we have a bonus classic red postbox that has spit out all its post (this doesn’t really make any sense, but the alternative explanation is that when people found it was full, they just dumped their envelopes in front of it instead of going off to find a different one that wasn’t full, and frankly that’s just silly). I’m not as obsessed with postboxes as I am with phone boxes, largely because the former are still in common use and therefore not an endangered species on British streets.
Anyway, this is the point when Glenn Gregory realises that Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh have disappeared into thin air (I suppose that must be what also happened to everyone else, although I’m not sure what it has to do with the British Electric Foundation crashing).
I’m sure this slo-mo sequence of Glenn running past the National Westminster Bank (the old name for NatWest, fact fans) is meant to be very artistic and beautiful, but as a recreational runner, every time I see it I just think, ‘He’s not wearing the appropriate gear!’
Inside the…train station? (it’s sheltered but open to the elements from the sides, and there’s a bench), there’s lots of cash fluttering about, adding to the forboding feeling of ‘London city types in the ’80s all disappeared into thin air’.
The video then briefly turns to colour for a ghostly crowd sequence. This type of ‘single person swimming against the tide of a crowd’ scene is something I associate more with Kate Bush’s 1985 video for Running Up That Hill, but apparently Heaven 17 did it first.
But soon Glenn returns to the empty black ‘n’ white world, and what’s this? Why, it’s a GPO 332, the standard GPO phone issued between 1937 and 1959! Glenn doesn’t bother using it – it’s clearly just here in the video for aesthetic decoration, and it performs that job beautifully.
The video ends with a shot of the swinging receiver in the phone box again, with the speaking clock still repeating itself over and over to a nonexistent listener. A nice, suitably haunting image to finish on!
Watch the full video: