Heaven Is A Place On Earth

Album: Heaven On Earth (1987)
Charted: 1 1


  • This effervescent song is about finding heaven on Earth in the form of true love. It was written by the San Francisco songwriter Rick Nowels (who wrote and produced Stevie Nicks' "I Can't Wait") and the New York-based Ellen Shipley. The initial idea came to Shipley at a Brooklyn gas station where she spotted a greeting card that said "Heaven On Earth." When she and Nowels started working on a song for Belinda Carlisle, Shipley wrote that phrase on the blackboard as an idea. Nowels wrote in the words "Is A" to make it "Heaven Is A Place On Earth."
  • The big backing vocals on the chorus were sung by Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas, prolific hit songwriter Diane Warren (worked with Whitney Houston, Cher, Celine Dion), and the song's writers, Ellen Shipley and songwriter Rick Nowels. Warren wrote two tracks on the album: "World Without You" and "I Get Weak."
  • This was the first single from Carlisle's second solo album. After her group The Go-Go's split in 1985, she remained signed to their label, I.R.S., and issued her self titled debut in 1986. The Go-Go's had some squabbles that led to their breakup, but Carlisle remained close to her bandmate Charlotte Caffey, who worked on those first two solo albums as a songwriter and guitarist. The Go-Go's other guitarist, Jane Wiedlin, had modest success early on with her solo career, but Carlisle had an instant hit with her first single, "Mad About You," and became a superstar when "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" became a global smash, topping the charts in several countries, including the UK, US and Ireland. It was Carlisle's only UK or US chart topper with or without The Go-Go's.
  • This was the first song Ellen Shipley wrote for another artist. Signed by Tommy Mottola, she released three solo albums from 1979-1983, but decided not to make a fourth because she was fed up with the industry and wanted to start a family. Nowels coaxed her into working on a song for Carlisle, and "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" was the result.

    "It's a very special song because when I was trying to write the music part of it, Rick said, 'What would you do if this was your next song?'" Shipley said in a Songfacts interview. "Then I could hear the music of what to do. We worked on it and it really came pretty easily."

    Shipley and Knowles went on to write several other songs for Carlisle, including the hits "Circle In The Sand" and "Leave A Light On."
  • This opens with the chorus, which sets up the song. Ellen Shipley explained in her Songfacts interview: "The chorus came first. When we had that title, 'Heaven Is A Place On Earth,' we went into a studio and we started jamming on chords and singing against it and in our process we got that chorus and everything was built around that.

    So, it was like a story of why you think heaven is a place on earth: because love comes first. Because the lyrics:

    Baby do you know what that's worth?
    Heaven is a place on earth
    They say in heaven love comes first
    But we'll make heaven a place on earth

    So, the whole idea is that love should come first.
  • Rick Nowels recalled in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, "We started brainstorming concepts. Ellen mentioned the title Heaven On Earth and I thought it was a good concept for Belinda. I started singing 'Heaven is a place on earth,' which I thought was a fresher title and before long we had finished the song."

    After a month of recording, Rick Nowels was very happy with the hook but was uncomfortable with the verse, so he asked Ellen back to Los Angeles to re-write the song. The new version was played to Belinda who loved it. Belinda said, "'Heaven is a Place on Earth is a kind of hopeful song. I think it's saying you can create your own piece of heaven on your own patch. It's a song about peace of mind and it's also partly a love song."
  • After this song was mixed, Shipley played it for the engineer, Shelly Yakus, who gave her some honest feedback: The verse wasn't strong enough and didn't capture the emotion of the chorus. "So, I went back to Brooklyn and I came up with all of this different music, which was inspired by all the girl groups," Shipley told Songfacts. "I made a verse that was much more like I would hear the girls on the street sing, and brought it back to Rick. I was going back and forth like 15 times a year. I brought it back to Rick and we changed the whole verse. We had to have Belinda come in to re-sing it, and it was so much better. It was so inspiring and it's taught me a lesson: You don't need to ask everybody what they think about your music because that's not what's important, but if somebody you respect makes a comment that sits right with you, you need to look at it.

    And so, the whole thing changed and I did a couple of other songs with Rick for Belinda. Before we knew it, 'Heaven' was the first single and it went #1 all over the world. I was in shock. It started my whole writing career because I hadn't written for anyone but the three albums I wrote for myself."
  • The video was directed by the American actress Diane Keaton, known for her roles in Annie Hall and The Godfather. It created a new, more glamorous image for Carlisle, who rocked more of a thrift-store look with The Go-Go's. She was now more of a Hollywood bombshell, with fancy clothes and make-up - quite a departure from her early days with The Go-Go's when they were a punk band and sometimes wore garbage bags onstage.

    Keaton did more directing work, including Carlisle's video for "I Get Weak" and also episodes of China Beach and Twin Peaks.
  • The video featured an appearance by Morgan Mason, son of the British actor James Mason, whom Carlisle married the previous year. Morgan also made an appearance in Carlisle's video for "Mad About You," which was her solo breakthrough hit in the US. This was her breakthrough hit in the UK.

Comments: 4

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn November 28, 1987, Belinda Carlisle performed "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" on the Dick Clark ABC-TV Saturday-afternoon program, 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #2 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, the following week it peaked at #1 for one week...
    It also reached #1 in Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom...
    Between 1986 and 1991 she had nine records on the Top 100 chart, four made the Top 10...
    Besides "Heaven Is A Place On Earth", her three other Top 10 records were "Mad About You" {#3 in 1986}, "I Get Weak" {#2* in 1988}, and "Circle In The Sand" {#7 in 1988}...
    As a member of the Go-Go's, she charted seven times, with two Top 10 records, "We Got The Beat" {#2 in 1981} and "Vacation" {#8 in 1982}...
    Belinda Jo Carlisle celebrated her 59th birthday three months ago on August 17th {2017}...
    * "I Get Weak" was #2 for one week, the week it was at #2, the #1 record for that week was "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley...
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaNo, there's no familial relation between Bob & Melinda, unless they're hiding it really well.
  • Doug from Kansas City, Moa great song sung by the beautiful Belinda Carlisle..what more could you want?
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrThis is a mistery to me. I've always wondered, is Belinda Carlisle the mother of Bob Carlisle?
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