British Electric Foundation (B.E.F.)

B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation) are a band/production company formed by former Human League members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh who later became Heaven 17 (with lead singer Glenn Gregory).

Ware and Marsh’s first release as B.E.F. in 1980, a collection of instrumentals entitled Music For Stowaways, was initially available only on cassette and was named after the first incarnation of the Sony Walkman, marketed in the UK as the Sony Stowaway. There was also a vinyl release, Music For Listening To, mainly targeted for export sales, which was slightly edited, although one track was exclusive to this release. In the late 1990s, a CD release with this title contained the complete contents from both versions.

In 1982, with Heaven 17 already established with Glenn Gregory as the lead vocalist, B.E.F. released an album entitled ‘Music of Quality and Distinction Volume One’ on Virgin Records, which involved other artists covering classic songs. The production was mainly in the Heaven 17/ B.E.F. style (i.e. synthesisers and LinnDrums). Tina Turner’s version of The Temptations’s ‘Ball of Confusion’ drew the attention of Capitol Records and her next single ‘Let’s Stay Together’, co-produced by Ware, peaked at number six in the UK chart and made the US Top 20. B.E.F.’s album also featured covers by Billy Mackenzie, Paul Jones, Paula Yates, Gary Glitter, Bernie Nolan and Sandie Shaw.

It was not until 1991 that a second volume appeared, again featuring Tina Turner and Billy Mackenzie. Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside was another guest on the album.

In May 2013, the third volume was released as ‘Dark’, featuring “very dark versions of tunes that have to be of a certain type. Basically it’s dark reinterpretations, primarily looking at things differently from a lyrical point of view. It’s almost like soundscape stuff, in much the same way as ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ on ‘Reproduction’ was kind of like a soundscape.”, according to Martyn Ware. Kim Wilde is featured on the album’s opening track, singing Every Time I See You I Go Wild.

Live performances

B.E.F. have only performed live a few times. Their first appearance happened on March 28, 2007 as part of the line-up for the Tribute to Billy MacKenzie Concert at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, in memory of the singer who’d worked with B.E.F. three times. The line-up featured Martyn Ware, Glenn Gregory and Billie Godfrey, performing five songs, one of them being ‘Temptation’ with guest vocalist Claudia Brücken.

On October 15, 2011, B.E.F. staged a concert based on their recorded output plus some new tracks from the forthcoming collection ‘Dark’, with an impressive line-up of guests, featuring Midge Ure, Sandie Shaw, Boy George, Green Gartside (from Scritti Politti), Shingai Shoniwa (from the Noisettes), Kate Jackson (from the Long Blondes) and Polly Scattergood. Kim Wilde appeared on stage together with Ricky and Scarlett, performing There’s a Ghost in My House, Every Time I See You I Go Wild and You Keep Me Hangin’ On.

In May 2013, just before the official release date of ‘Dark’, two concerts happened with another line-up of guest stars.