Following two groundbreaking albums ('Reproduction' and 'Travelogue'), the original line-up of Sheffield-based The Human League split in half in late 1980. The two primary musicians in the group, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, formed a new production company - the British Electric Foundation (B.E.F.) - and signed a deal with Virgin Records to write and produce up to six albums a year. The artists they were to produce would include Heaven 17, their own new band formed with vocalist Glenn Gregory.
B.E.F. would also release their own material, commencing with the music on this collection, which was issued in various permutations in 1981-82. Its initial release in March 1981 was a limited edition numbered eight song cassette entitled 'Music for Stowaways', with 'Stowaways' being a reference to the original name for the then-new Sony portable cassette player - later renamed the Walkman - of which B.E.F. were great fans. 'Music for Stowaways' was intended to be listened to on such a device. The cassette was followed by a seven song LP, 'Music For Listening To', which had a slightly different tracklisting, while other B.E.F. music was utilised for B-sides of early singles by Heaven 17.
This music was among the first recorded by Martyn and Ian directly after their departure from The Human League. Some tracks had evolved from other recordings they were working on at the time, such as 'Groove Thang' - an instrumental version of the debut single by Heaven 17 - and 'The Old At Rest', which derived from a version of 'Wichita Lineman' by Jimmy Webb, their very first recording with Glenn that would subsequently appear on B.E.F.'s 'Music of Quality and Distinction, Volume One' covers album in 1982.