Heaven was a nightclub that ran from 14 June 1985 to the end of 1987 in Johannesburg at 165 Marshall Street. Many will know this address as being that of the original Doors nightclub that opened in 1990 and operated there for many years before moving to Edenvale. Between Heaven and The Doors, two other short-lived clubs called BLUES and BANGS opened (and closed) on the premises.
Heaven was my first proper nightclub experience. I somehow managed to get in on old years eve in 1986 thanks to a friend’s brother who worked at the bar who passed me off as his little brother. As I was tall for my age, some strategically applied eyeliner finished off the illusion. I spent the night upstairs next to the DJ box absorbing the music, watching the crowd and more importantly – watching the DJ.
The music was a mixture of High Energy, Eurobeat and Italo Disco with current radio hits, classics club tracks and disco mixed in. The DJ, Andrew Wood (ex SCANTS), was also responsible for mixing and releasing the popular High Energy series of 2LPs. He compiled and mixed from Vol. 5 right up to Vol.14. At the time of my first visit, Vol.7 or 8 was out and many of the tracks from those compilations were played on any given night.
Andrew worked for Principal Records and became assistant editor at Top 40 music Magazine around the time the two companies joined to become World Of Music (WOM). He only started at Heaven in March 1986 after finishing up a residency at The Res (in Abel Road, Berea) and The Dungeon (Old Three Castles Building also in Marshall Str). DJ Wessel worked at Heaven for the first 9 months.
There was also always a good dose of Depeche Mode, Marc Almond/Soft Cell, Yazoo, DAF and New Order as well as some lighter alternative stuff like Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure and Billy Idol dropped in later in the night.
Back then, the only way you got to hear proper club music was via the limited compilations, buying the actual 12″ singles or getting a tape recorded by a DJ at the club. These tapes were like gold and were copied widely. The club bought their music from Moolla as well as from a close friend of Stan’s who was a flight attendant on the London route. He would go over with lists from Andrew and bring the records back almost weekly.
Heaven was owned and run by Stan Herson and Bruce Kennedy who previously owned SCANTS which was at 180 Fox street. SCANTS closed down after the block it was on was sold for redevelopment. There was a 6-month gap between SCANTS closing and Heaven opening.
Before Heaven, the building, known at the time as Stirling House, was used by a car part distributor called Stirling Accessories. In the early 1900s, there was a warehouse on the stand listed as GRO WHSE. in 1937, the stand was listed as vacant. A guess would put the current building date as early 1940s.
Around the time of SCANTS circa 1984, there were some issues in clubland around gangs, violence and constant police raids. Stan told me he still has buckshot in him from a drive-by! When Heaven opened, he was adamant that these things would not have an effect on Heaven. The law was laid down on opening (see opening night flyer below) and after one or two minor issues in the early weeks, there was never any further trouble.
Heaven never had a liquor license so used to charge R14 entrance (a fortune back then). The upside was that all your alcohol was free. All you paid for was your mix. It was 50c for coke and the like, 80c for orange juice and R1 for a Dom Pedro (whiskey milkshake from the little bar upstairs). If you drank beer, straight spirits or shooters, you just went to the bar, ordered and drank until you fell over.
Friday nights were guys only. Saturdays and New Year were open to all.
One Saturday night in late-1987, I snuck out of the house (leaving a dummy in the bed) and walked, as I often did, from Kensington to town with a pocket full of cash from a few weekends worth of saved up gardening money. When I got to Heaven, the queue was around the block and you could feel the thump of the bass filtering out of the building. It was one of those nights where everything fell into place. I walked up to the entrance and my friend’s brother who worked at the bar was at the door. He ushered me in ahead of the massive queue and got me stamped (without having to pay).
Walking into the main club from the double doors at the entrance I was hit by the crystal clear sound and rib-shaking bass of New Order’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’. Above my head were twisting planes of flat laser light sweeping through the smoke and bodies on the wooden dance floor. It was magical. The closest I’d come to seeing lasers was on that Billy Ocean video for ‘Loverboy’. The club also had a re-paint. It used to be a dark blue and yellow but was now purple and red with strategically placed yellow & black chevrons.
According to Stan, the lasers cost the equivalent of R90 000 back then. He bought the unit in the UK and shipped it over with a technician to install it. It was installed at SCANTS first and then moved over to Heaven. One of the quirks of the laser was that it was water-cooled and had to be connected to the mains. When Heaven opened, there were water restrictions in place so instead, they built a water tank on the roof. Some ingenious refrigeration components and circulation pumps were added so the tank could be kept relatively small while the water was kept cool while being also being recycled.
I was taken up to the DJ box and introduced to Andrew and Jannie (who did the lights). I stood between them while they worked their magic. Jannie showed me how to operate the lights using the effects and sets to work in time with the music. There were scanners of all colours, strobes, dice balls, helicopter lights, spotlights, neon flashes and mirror balls in addition to the lasers.
Heaven was always packed. A trip to the toilet could take 10 minutes squeezing through the crowd. Its capacity was around 650 and around 1000 people could make it through the door during a busy night.
I only went to Heaven a few more times after that before it closed its doors at the end of 1987. The lease ran out and Stan sold the club to Jimmy, who owned Masquerades (the old Dome of Carlton). Stan had started opening clubs as a hobby. They certainly paid off financially but after doing this for a few years, the nightlife starts to have an effect. After Heaven, Stan focused on his other car rental business and left clubland ownership behind on a high.
Over time I became friendly with Andrew and we eventually worked together in 1989 when I came to BANGS (same venue as Heaven) on opening night. I was working at Fat Franks in Braamfontein and one of my colleagues told me that Heaven was re-opening. I rushed there after my shift to find a full (but dark) club with Andrew in the DJ box. There was only one red dice light working. I got into the DJ box and started fiddling with the wiring and switches and got most of the lights working again. As a result, the new owner hired me on the spot. I worked there on weekends and on the special party nights over Nov 89 – Jan 90. The pay was about R100 per night plus a bar tab. It was then that Andrew taught me how to mix and I would come in hours before the club opened each night to practice on the SL1200s . More importantly, it was gaining the confidence of playing to, and keeping, a full dancefloor. The rubbish mixes (or horse races) didn’t really matter. It was about the music selection and building up the night without playing all the big tracks all at once. These are lessons I’ve never forgotten throughout my 20+ years of DJing.
Admittedly, BANGS didn’t really work out. After New Year, the crowds stayed away in droves. It was then I saw the plans of what was to become THE DOORS. I didn’t think it would work at the time, but those early Doors days would introduce new alternative DJs who played some of the most groundbreaking tunes that became dancefloor staples for many years (for another post). Between Heaven & BANGS, my personal music tastes changed quite dramatically. While I had (and still have) this love for High Energy et al, the other music I was listening to started taking over: Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division, Bauhaus, Alien Sex Fiend, The Cult etc.. I started going to Le Club a lot around 1988 (I worked at the Pizza Hut in Smal Street) as well as The Junction in Bree Street. Both clubs introduced me to so much of what I still listen to and use as a benchmark today. It all set me up for my first proper full-time DJ gig at Bella Napoli (downstairs) about 2 years later in 1991. That’s definitely a story for another post.
As luck would have it, I managed to secure (and hold onto after all these years) a set of tapes from Sat 24 October 1987 of a recording of almost a whole night at Heaven. Over the years, TAPE 1 has gone missing, but I managed to transfer the remaining three to MP3. I wasn’t there the night the were recorded but remember having to catch four buses after school on the Friday after to collect them from Jannie’s house in Belgravia. They didn’t disappoint and capture a moment in time of 80s Johannesburg club land.
I won’t spoil the surprise with tracklistings for the tapes, but below are playlists and links to my definitive Heaven tracks – the ones that whenever I hear them take me right back in time to nights filled with Dom Pedro’s, tequila & orange, poppers, beams of light, waxy smoke, pretty girls and bone-shaking bass followed by a Sunday morning sunrise walk back home with ringing ears. It was a very different time.
*UPDATE March 2017*
Here are Mixcloud players for four new tapes I got from Stan that cover selected Friday and Saturday nights between 1985 – 1987. Keep in mind that these tapes are 30 years old and other than a few minor edits and level changes, they are exactly as they were recorded. There are some naturally occurring glitches and audio artifacts.
Here are links to playlists of my favourite Heaven tracks on Deezer and Spotify
These are links to the tapes from the night of Sat 24 Oct 1987 from the original post
Click to play. These are some of the tracks on the tapes.
Love can’t turn around – Farley ‘Jackmaster’ Funk Feat. Darryl Pandy
Bizarre Love Triangle – New Order
Jack your body – Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley
Get the balance right – Depeche Mode
Ready to go – Far East Connection
In 2008, Sassquatch (Ben Rausch), King of Town (Paul Holden), Beroldski (Richard Berold), Young Smuts (Tymon Smith) and I threw our ‘Electric Affair’ party which was based on our combined love for old disco, High Energy and Italo. I got to play a whole bunch of music I’d only ever danced to. I did a mix for it and DJ Fresh played it on the 5FM ULTIMIX@6 to some scathing reviews. Stream it here. I’ve just noticed that the date of the Heaven tapes and the Electric Affair party are exactly 21 years apart.
Thanks to Andrew Wood for letting me use all his old photo and flyer scans. Updated thanks to Stan Herson for all the additional old photos, background information and the unearthed tapes.
Besides the tapes, I only managed to hold onto one miserable Heaven flyer…and an ashtray.
I went on opening night and the following week I bought my membership but never went back. I preferred earlier Scants also owned by Stan. Decades later Stan and I became friends. We still chat via Facebook
I was a little young for Scants. All my older friends used to go and came back with wild tales and a few tapes…
It was wild! I was 16 at the time (first club i went to was a gay club in Durban called Zodiac. I was 15). When I came to jozi in the beginning of 1985 i was introduced to Mandys, Scants, the Res and my favourite, the Dirtbox. I met Granny Lee at Scants, she was very sweet to me.
They also told me about Mandys, Res and Dirtbox…I think I saw her at Junction offer but never met her.
The Junction was the best! In 2 years i only missed one Saturday night there. I ended up working for Shayne years later when he opened a clubbin End street opposite what was the Mandys/Idols/Esp building
It was! I remember you and Julie from those days. Was that club of Shayne’s in the old Caledonian building? do you remember the name of it? I’ve done some historical research on 96 End street and that building. There was a club there once called Babylon and possibly IT. Not sure…
No Club IT was further up in End street . Not sure on Babylon, my memory isn’t all what it used to be. I think Shayne called it The Venue and they did habe a huge rave there one night prior to Shayne opening a club there. I was in the downstairs bar with Carmen (I think it was her ?!?!) Yes Julie was my best friend EVER. When she died i was totally devastated, she was such a stunning person. In fact her, Bubi and Charles Hearne did the interior of club IT. I remember visiting them there while they were still painting inside
Reblogged this on Loves and life on the Garden Route in South Africa.
Can’t wait to listen to these…
Reblogged this on fleurmach.
aaww. HEAVEN . went to bella’s, Q’s, others….just to warm up. Heaven was on a different level alltogether – you sensed it as you walked in . Non-Stop High-Energy/Italo clubbing (without Dj’s talking shit on microphones as they did at the other clubs) at it’s absolute best – nothing came close, best lasers at the time.Proper raucous place. 1986 the best year. Let’s open it again
Thanks Jan! I forget about the no microphone policy. The only time I ever heard it was at New Year.
Hey Marc, spoke to you some time ago, you sent me the Junction live night. thanks for keeping the Johannesburg club memories alive. Best! Jaco (Jakes)
Love it Marc! Soooooo many GOOD memories!
OMW take note of the entry fee – ridiculous!! Members R8 & non R12 – 31 yrs ago. Andrew you’ve barely aged sweetheart. Whatever happened to Stan? Is he still alive?
Hi Janice, Stan is alive and well. I got the new photos and tapes from him a few weeks ago! Are you the Junction Janice?
…we always wondered why our ears rang for 2 days straight after a Saturday night at Heaven…..but looking back now at the pics it all makes sense….look at the MASSIVE SIZE of the horn tweeters around those dual 15″ ( looks like McKenzie? ) cabs – Insane ! Compared to all the other clubs at the time – Heaven definitely represented the darker side of commercial clubbing back in the mid 80’s….. unfortunately also had 2 mates (regulars) that eventually ended up in rehab….crazy days ..but alas – we will just blame it all on that killer smoke & laser setup.
Great update to the original 2014 article Marc – well done .
Thanks Jan! If I recall, they were MARTIN speakers.
Wow this brings back soo many memories, my friends and I would go every Saturday. We made friends with Andrews very handsome bf and another of his friends who was a hairdresser. If I am not mistaken Bruce was a dj at a club around the corner, we used to chat to him as well. Heaven was a blast
Thanks for the memories!
Thanks for reading the piece!
hi marc. do you have any info on the drinks that were served at heaven? cocktails/spirits? I am a bartender from South Africa, living in Dubai currently travelling the world discussing African Bar culture and am doing research into South African drinks/bar history. Would be a great help!
Hi Denzel, the drinks were standard fare I’m afraid…Beer on tap, regular spirits and mixes, shooters. The only oddity was the Dom Pedro which one would ordinarily have at a restaurant after a meal instead of, or after dessert. Irish Coffee was the other after dinner alternative (coffee with whiskey topped with a layer of cream served in a wine glass)
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Great memories and photos from the good old days.
I came to SA and got introduced to the clubs around Joburg soon after. Starting at Club 2001 in Fox Street where I first heard Simple Minds – I travel. Then it was to Hillbrow to Bella’s and Boobs around the corner. Then started to go to San Lorenzo “Sans” where I started to hand out at the DJ box and before I knew it I started to play a few tracks which then turned out to a Wednesday night and before long I was playing Saturday nights. I can remember all drinks were R2 whether it was a coke or a beer !!
Soon after Subway opened and were looking for a DJ some how word got to me and next I was there. Playing anything from ABC to U2 that’s where I got into ska and punk and some of the girls were really scary!!! R10 to get in and all drinks were free out of plastic cups and going to the loo was quite an experience. Inbetween all this I was going to Decadance on a Thursday night as Subway was only open at weekends. Decadance was where I first saw a female DJ Kim what a turn on !! Along with Paul Mathews the music there was unbelievable it was a place a girl could rock up by herself after catching the train from the East Rand and really enjoy herself and the guys didn’t bug you. Decadance soon became Le Club and I was one of the original Djs along with Bernie and Adrain. Le Club had its on vibe and theme songs. Ska mod New Wave alternative anything really as long it wasn’t the music we heard on commercial radio. I just Wish I can remember dates. It’s been a bit of a blur I do know this year Le Club is 30 years old. The 80s early 90s were a awesome time growing up. Also went to other clubs Dirt Box, DV8,Junction,Chelsea Underground, Res, Heaven, Mandy’s, Club Dekko, Scants, The Doors, Thunderdome, Qs Supper Club and Plum Crazy to name a few. I try and tell my kids but they just don’t get it !!
Thanks Richard! We must talk. I’ll be doing a pieces on all the clubs over time and would like to interview you for early Le Club and get some onfo/insight on some of the others.
Omgawwddd so many memories of the tapes from the music during the night
I worked at The Dungeon for a couple of years with Ronnie. Chris went as the Dj
Wow so many memories
Wow so many
I worked at the Dungeon with Ronnie
I have so many pics I would love to post
Thanks for Sharing Your Stories, I was the Resident Deejay of Blues. then onto The Thunderdome and Qs Supper Club , Thanks Again for sharing. i like the Pics Thanks Again
Nice one Deon!
The greatest days of my life.
I have now been in USA 🇺🇸 since 1986
I am trying to also contact Stan Herson I am a friend of his from Scants and Heaven
Does anybody know what happened to Club 2000 or was it club 2001 and Rocky used to manage club
You’re doing a great job!!! This is wonderful stuff – and would have been lost forever.
Mandy’s closed it was on Fox street am not sure what happened to Rocky but that club was once the most amazing place to go to u would knock on the door and Rocky or Hilton would open a small hatch in the door and ask for a password! The question was ? Are u BM meaning a baby 👶 maker and if so u weren’t let in unless u were pretty gorgeous lol 😂! . There was an open roof top and such a fun secret place all the fun people would go there was very secretive! All the hairstylists would do there Sunday nights . The fashion was amazing and best in the city ! Such safe days u could take a walk around the city or head over to Mandy’s or the Dungeon by casual walking the
Hi Marc, woow your webpage is a trip down memory lane, I was also working at Fat Franks in Bramfontein at 1989, while I was living in Hillbrow and going to The Doors, King of the Clubs, Bella Napoli, before I moved to Cape Town in 1990…..I only remember a guy from Mauritius who was also a waiter at Fat Franks, do you remember him. I also remember a coke costing 1,13 Rands and a J&B 1,80 Rands…..in the clubs….keep it up….I only have a cassette player in my company car…so all cassettes are welcome…I want them…..cheerio
Thanks Thomas! I remember him but for the life of me cannot recall his name. It was a French/Creole name.
Great page! Great memories!! Thanks!
And great added information in the comments!
Wow thanks for that memory lane article and original Club Heaven Tracks. I was jolling in most of those Jozies clubs during 1983 School Std 9 and 1985 – 1986 Army days. My fav Heaven and Bella’s and later years Club Fancy That in Mooi and End Street I think it was. Your trackes kept our Rekkies alive and sane during those bush days in Angola. I also only had one original Tape from Bella Napoli Club mix in those days, needles to say my troops stole it off me as it was worth gold. The early morning hours chicken in front of Fontana Chicken on your cars bonnet, after a lekker jol, what a treat. Thanks from us all. Nice trip down memory lane and keep up the good work.
Pleasure! I’m glad it brought back some good memories.
Do you remember a guy at the doors Marshall street, he was a DJ and manager around about 1990 – 1993 Rob…..he had long hair / looked like Jesus. He used to always hang out with a fat Alan / skinhead ?
I don’t, but know someone who will, although fat Alan is very familiar! Please DM me
Also my first real club Experience, I would go Fridays train it back home to Benoni on Sat morning. Sleep all day and be Back on Saturday nights till closing Sunday morning. R14.00 to get in & R10.00 A bottle of Poppers, one sniff your the best dancer in the world haha. Still the best club I ever went to. Music you felt. I had about 4 tapes from Heaven all stolen in Capetown during my national service.
Thanks for the great site and memory jolts. Given we were drunk most of the time at these clubs and it’s now 30plus yrs later I don’t remember many things but overwhelmingly remember that we had absolutely excellent times. The music from those days is gold. Scants was the first place my buddy and I really learned how to party, and we never looked back or missed a Saturday night. We were naive med students, and it was a real education for a pair of 20yr olds from Zim. But we learned fast that this was how to enjoy life at its best, and that there was no better place to meet women. I still recall the intense excitement of anticipation before going to the club. Later we were regulars at Heaven, and the Res. ,which were both just as fantastic. As I recall it was R10 a night for all you could drink alcohol at the Res for members, and the tequila was just plain evil. The very best of times
Thanks, Nick! They certainly were!
I recall Heaven as if it were yesterday… In fact, there were many clubs around back in 87 and the most memorable was Heinz Limpe’s place Xtasy on King George Str. I met my late partner there at the opening, on 25 July 1987. I spent 34 years with him after that night. Xtasy will always have a special place in my heart. I wonder what ever became of Heinz?
Thanks Leonardo! I’m not familiar with Xtasy, but recall the name. Hopefully someone reading this will reposnd with more info.
Xtasy, along with others: Champions, The Dungeon, Connections, Mrs Henderson’s, Heaven, Ramrod, Gotham City…. My goodness, not one still exists, all gone long ago. But the memories will live on forever…