By Emily Carney
Confession: I am a massive fan of the early output of the Human League (Reproduction and Travelogue era) and Heaven 17. I still have my vinyl copies of Penthouse and Pavement, The Luxury Gap, and How Men Are at my disposal. If anyone needs some surprisingly undated anti-capitalistic-fat-cat synthesizer masterpieces, please locate these albums right now.
At any rate, the small contingent of Heaven 17 fans which still linger to this day are well aware that the group still exists with two of its iconic three-man lineup—Glenn Gregory, the Rutger Hauer-esque, smooth-as-hell lead singer; and Martyn Ware, the mustachioed evil synth genius who had an ax to grind with one Phil Oakey (you know, the asymmetrically-haired one from the Human League).
But my question is, what the hell ever happened to my personal favorite member of H17, Ian Craig Marsh?
A lot of the girly H17 fans from back in the day had massive synth-crushes on Mr. Craig Marsh (probably not his real name, it was probably something like “Smith” or “Jones,” but “Ian Craig Marsh” sounded futuristic and yuppie-ish all at the same time, which fit in perfectly with the late 1970s, early 1980s ethos in Sheffield, the “steel city” which produced other acts like Clock DVA and Cabaret Voltaire).
Ian looked like the bastard son of Anthony Andrews from Brideshead Revisited and the insane guy from your neighborhood who had been hospitalized for a while after attempting to get high by drinking something toxic called “angel’s trumpet tea.” He was slight, usually wore a dapper suit, and always had a slightly psychotic smirk on his face. His general demeanor suggested something slick and utterly nuts at the same time. I recently tried to do some research on him, and what I found sort of substantiated my suspicions.
Ian Craig Marsh apparently had been kicked out of school in the midst of his A Level studies for being an “undesirable subversive element,” whatever that means. He had been part of an outfit called Meatwhistle (!!!) in the early 1970s, and then was in a shambolic punk band called Musical Vomit, which was characterized by one Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex as being one of the first punk bands ever.
He then secured some kind of meaningful employment, and after a while was able to purchase a Roland System 100M (a modular synthesizer, which is prominently on display in this 1979 video). Ian’s the one hunched behind glass (a spittle barrier—really!) playing the synthesizer with the dyed blond thatch and the snazzy white suit. In a 1980 press release he was described as digging militaristic items like tanks and hand grenades, and was painted as being “the oddest member in a totally predictable way.” Completely unsurprising, then.
In the last few years, Ian has apparently disappeared from the face of the Earth. He was prominently featured in a documentary film about the sound of Sheffield from the early 2000s; he actually proved to be pretty talkative about the early years of the Human League. The last time I saw him was in some Heaven 17 short video from 2005, in which he had short platinum hair and still looked as irascible as ever.
By 2006, even Martyn Ware and Glenn Gregory didn’t know where he had gone. (I personally tried getting Ware’s input on this. That result is another story entirely.)
According to Wikipedia (I take this with a grain of salt, because Wikipedia has been proven over and over again to be, well. . . not a very reliable source for anything) he announced that he would not return to Heaven 17 in 2007, whereupon he then went back to. . . college. To study what, nobody knows, and the world of academia’s gain is every H17 fan’s loss.
Other than these facts, information about Ian Craig Marsh is scant at best. Which is a total loss to music journalists like me. My attempts to interview any other members of Heaven 17 have been rather unceremoniously cock blocked.
So, I guess the purpose of this blog post is to put it out there: Ian Craig Marsh, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, put down the angel’s trumpet tea and give us a holler! We miss you, and think you’re the best ever member of Heaven 17 forced to mime “Temptation” (check out this video; he’s the one behind Glenn Gregory, smirking).