In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: We’re talking about songs we heard once and then had to seek out.
Although at the time it was maddening, now it almost seems quaint how difficult it could be to find a song in the world that preceded the internet, much less Shazam. There was even an entire subplot of Married…With Children devoted to Al’s crushing search for Arthur Alexander’s “Anna (Go To Him).”
About eight or nine years after this episode aired, I found myself in a similar situation as I drank from the firehose of free music Napster offered. I enjoyed downloading songs I hadn’t thought about or heard in years, but tracking them down could be tricky. In the case of what I came to know as Peter Godwin’s “Images Of Heaven,” I could only remember a dramatic synthesizer and the words “images of heaven.” Now when I search “images of heaven song,” Google delivers 33,400,000 results in .45 seconds, and the top result is a YouTube embed of a fan-made lyric video.
Of course, searching in Napster probably wasn’t too difficult, either, because Godwin’s song happens to be called the only words I could remember. Successfully downloading the correct, undamaged audio file via Napster was another challenge entirely, but I eventually tracked down “Images Of Heaven.” I don’t remember thinking much of it, and I probably just burned it onto a CD of MP3 files and moved on, because the iPod didn’t exist yet.
I haven’t revisited the song since the Napster gold rush. Today, it definitely sounds like the kind of thing I would have heard in the late ’80s while I was up late, when radio stations would play lesser-known songs. Every element of the music is rigorously synthesized in a way that makes no mystery of the decade that produced it, and the keyboard sweep in the chorus is every bit as dramatic (and hooky) as I remember. Speaking of drama, check Godwin’s vocals and lyrics: “Somebody killed me / And tore out my heart, my love / Somebody killed me / Because of you.”
A bunch of versions of the song circulated around its release, which Godwin explained to a blog in 2012. One version missed Billboard’s Hot 100 by one spot, and another live, unreleased one has a synthetic bass played by noted film composer Hans Zimmer. Considering it has the guy who gave us those Inception horns, that version must be extra dramatic.
By the time I originally heard it, “Images Of Heaven”—and the EP of the same name—had been out for years. Godwin released it way back in 1982, but it remains his best-known song more than three decades later. As easy as it is to Google, it’s not available on any digital service. Napster wins again.