Showing posts with label Human League. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Human League. Show all posts

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Empire State Human - Human League

Although the Human League is known as an "Eighties band" by most people, their career actually started in 1978 with Being boiled. Their next single was 'Empire state human', released in 1979. It was the first and only single from their debut album 'Reproduction'. The single did not chart, but fared slightly better when it was re-released in 1980, reaching number 62 in the UK singles chart.

Lyrically, "Empire State Human" is a song about becoming powerful using the analogy of size, with Oakey declaring that he wants to be "tall" a total of 60 times in 3 minutes. Uncut magazine drew a comparison with Oakey's own personal ambition: ""I wanna be tall, tall, tall, as big as a wall, wall, wall". Oakey's Nietzschian pop fantasy reflected his own burgeoning full-on pop ambitions..."

My collection: 7" single no. 6210
Found: Record fair, Utrecht, November 17, 2019
Cost: 2 euro
Tracks: 'Empire state human' / 'Introducing'

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Tell me when - Human League

Released on December 26, 1994, 'Tell me when' was the first single by Human League in four years. A lot had changed in the record industry: gone were most of the vinyl singles in favour of cd-singles. Until recently I didn't even know a vinyl single of this track existed. It became the Human League's most commercially successful single in nine years and reintroduced the band to many of the British general public. 'Tell me when' received considerable radio promotion in advance of its late 1994 UK release, hitting the airwaves at a time when many people started to get Christmas song fatigue.

The single peaked at number 6 in the UK singles chart and even made it into the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 31. The album from which this single was taken, 'Octopus', peaked at number 6 in the UK albums chart.

My collection: 7" single no. 6149
Found:, received July 29, 2019
Cost: 3 pounds
Tracks: 'Tell me when (7" edit)' / 'Tell me when (Mix 1)'

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Being boiled - Human League

It's hard to believe that this single was released in the summer of 1978, because the Human League's 'Being boiled' sounds a lot like early Eighties synthpop. But actually, it was one of the first pieces of electronic pop music produced in the UK. It was recorded on a domestic tape recorder, in mono, in an abandoned factory at a cost of £2,50.

The song was written by Martyn Ware and Ian Craig-Marsh before Philip Oakey joined the band. They gave him the music to listen to, and he returned two days later with lyrics for the track. Ware and Marsh liked the lyrics, and the song was born. The song was re-recorded in 1980, but this single contains the original version.

My collection: 7" single no. 5600
Found: Velvet Vinyl Outlet, Leiden, January 16, 2015
Cost: 1 euro
Tracks: 'Being boiled' / 'Circus of death'

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The sound of the crowd - Human League

'The sound of the crowd' was the fifth single by the Human League and represents the band's commercial breakthrough, reaching number 12 in the UK singles chart in May 1981.

Written jointly by lead singer Philip Oakey and keyboard player Ian Burden, the song was recorded at Genetic Sound Studios, Reading, in March 1981. It was the first Human League song to feature female vocals from new band members Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall, interacting with Philip Oakey's baritone lead vocals. Originally released as a stand-alone single in April 1981, it was subsequently re-recorded and incorporated into the studio album 'Dare', later in the year.

My collection: 7" single no. 4751
Found: Record fair, Rijswijk, April 5, 2010
Cost: 1 euro
Tracks: 'The sound of the crowd' / 'The sound of the crowd (Add your voice)'

Monday, 12 October 2009

Don't you want me - Human League

The lyric of 'Don't you want me' was, according to lead singer Phil Oakey from the Human League, inspired by a story in "a trashy tabloid". Musicians Jo Callis and Philip Adrian Wright created a synthesizer score to accompany the lyrics which was much harsher than the version that was actually released. Oakey disliked the remixed and remodelled version of the song so much that it was relegated to the last track on the album 'Dare'.

Having already released three hit singles from 'Dare', Virgin's Simon Draper decided to issue one more single, and it was 'Don't you want me'. This resulted in a row with Oakey who hated the decision to choose 'the poor quality filler track'. He finally agreed on the condition that a large colour poster accompany the 7" single, because he felt fans would "feel ripped off" by the 'substandard' single alone. The rest, of course, is history: the single reached number 1 in the US Billboard Hot 100 and the UK singles chart. The sleeve features the number '100'. This was a reference to a restaurant/bar in Sheffield.

My collection: 7" single no. 3066
Found: House of Rhythm, London, May 9, 1999
Cost: 1 pound
Tracks: 'Don't you want me' / 'Seconds'

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Soundtrack to a generation - Human League

With the release of 'Heart like a wheel' the Human League seemed to have gotten things back on track. The album 'Romantic?', released a month later, reached number 24 in the UK albums chart, which wasn't particularly high, but it did warrant a second single release. Perhaps 'Soundtrack to a generation' wasn't the best choice, with its generic music score and the incidental exclamations of 'Holy cow!' by Sulley and Catherall.

After losing money on the single's promotion and its music video, Virgin Records ran out of patience with the Human league. There would be no further releases from 'Romantic?' and within a year the band would be dropped by the label.

My collection: 7" single no. 2509
Found: Record Exchange, London, October 30, 1995
Cost: 10p
Tracks: 'Soundtrack to a generation' / 'Soundtrack to a generation (instrumental)'

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Love is all that matters - Human League

After the failure of 'I need your loving' in the UK, the record company decided to release no further singles from the Human League's 1986 album 'Crash', but to release a compilation album instead, in the hopes of reviving interest for the band (and earn some more money, of course).

The single 'Love is all that matters' was taken from 'Crash', oddly enough, and released to promote the greatest hits compilation that was released in 1988. The single peaked at number 41 in the UK singles chart. It comes in a foldout sleeve showing all three members of the group. The B-side is taken from the Human League's 1985 album 'Hysteria'.

My collection: 7" single no. 866
Found: All that music, Leiden, June 2, 1989
Cost: 7,5 guilders
Tracks: 'Love is all that matters (edit)' / 'I love you too much'

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Heart like a wheel - Human League

Human League released their last album for Virgin, 'Romantic?' in 1990. The song is a return to the overtly political lyrics that the Human League sometimes do, but dressed up to a poppy hook that makes it acceptable for the public.

Whereas 'The Lebanon' of 1984 was the Human League’s view of the Israeli Invasion of Southern Lebanon and subsequent civil war, 'Heart like a wheel' is a commentary on US military imperialism. Callis's lyric 'sell your soul to a holy war' went over the heads of most of the song's listeners at a time when Jihad was all but unheard of in the West. It still reached number 29 in the UK singles chart.

My collection: 7" single no. 1311
Found: HMV, London, October 15, 1990
Cost: 2 pounds
Tracks: 'Heart like a wheel' / 'Rebound'

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

I need your loving - Human League

Back in the Eighties, I used to buy the UK music magazine Smash Hits regularly. One of the features of that magazine was the song lyrics from recent singles. Some of them weren't successful in the Netherlands at all, but mostly I did hear them despite that fact. In the case of the Human League's 1986 single 'I need your loving', I didn't hear the track until I bought the single in 1989.

Why did I buy the single? Mostly because the Human League released more than a few good singles during their career. But also because the song lyric I read in Smash Hits intrigued me. The whole lyric was basically a repeat of 'I need your loving / I need your kissing baby'. I'm pretty sure this is why the single only had a one week chart run in the UK, at number 72.

My collection: 7" single no. 848
Found: Disco Market, Den Haag, May 27, 1989
Cost: 2 guilders
Tracks: 'I need your loving' / 'I need your loving (instrumental)'

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Human - Human League

In 1985 the recording sessions for the Human League's fifth album were not going well. The band did not like the results, which was causing internal conflict. Virgin Records executives, who worried about the lack of progress from their most-profitable signing, suggested the band to work with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. They had recently emerged as in-demand talent due to their success with Janet Jackson and her album 'Control'.

Jam and Lewis wrote three of the ten tracks on the album 'Crash', the lead single 'Human' was one of them. 'Human' became the second number one single for The Human League on the US Billboard Hot 100 after 'Don't you want me'. In the UK, 'Human' peaked at number eight in the UK singles chart and in the Netherlands the single reached number 13.

My collection: 7" single no. 476
Found: V&D, Den Haag, 1986
Cost: 3 guilders
Tracks: 'Human' / 'Human (instrumental)'

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

(Keep feeling) Fascination - Human League

'(Keep Feeling) Fascination' was released in April 1983 as a non-album single. It went to number 2 in the UK singles chart and peaked at number 8 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Philip Oakey and backing singers Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall perform vocal duties on this track as usual, but the track also features a rare vocal by band member Jo Callis.

The song has recently been used in two movies: 'Fever pitch' (2005) and 'You don't mess with the Zohan' (2008). Just to prove that Eighties music is still relevant today.

My collection: 7" single no. 2828
Found: Record Exchange, London, February 1, 1997
Cost: 1 pound
Tracks: '(Keep feeling) Fascination' / 'Total panic'

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Mirror man - Human League

'Mirror man' was released in November 1982 as the first single after the Human League's hugely successful 'Dare!' album and tour. The track was reportedly inspired by the Motown sound. The lyric was subject to a lot of speculation, until in 1988 Phil Oakey revealed that it was about Adam Ant. Oakey had become concerned that Adam was starting to believe his own publicity, and was in danger of losing touch with reality. Oakey had avoided revealing this at the time for fear of offending the song's subject.

The single became a number two hit in the UK, and peaked at number 24 in the Netherlands.

My collection: 7" single no. 2815
Found: Record fair, February 1, 1997
Cost: 2 guilders
Tracks: 'Mirror man' / 'You remind me of gold'

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Open your heart - Human League

'Open your heart' was the third single to be released before the album 'Dare' saw the light of day in 1982. The song was full of drum machines, synths and power vocals, plus uplifting words like 'But if you can't stand the test you know your worst is better than their best'. Words to live by.

The cover artwork and promotional video was deliberately coordinated with its parent album. Video director Brian Grant borrowed heavily from the album’s imagery. The opening scene is a video montage of the portraits of the six band members exactly as they appear on the cover of the album. The band are all dressed and made up in the same style as 'Dare''s photography.

The single was a big success in the UK, peaking at number 6.

My collection: 7" single no. 2830
Found: House of Rhythm, London, February 1, 1997
Cost: 50p
Tracks: 'Open your heart' / 'Non-stop'

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Louise - The Human League

The third and last single from Human League's 1984 album 'Hysteria' was the melancholy 'Louise'. Writer of the song and frontman Phil Oakey points out that the story is actually about the original protagonists from 'Don’t you want me' meeting up four years later. In 'Louise' the man sees his lost love again and still cannot deal with reality. The anger that drove the earlier song has dissipated, and is replaced with a hopeful fantasy that his ex-lover is drawn to him all over again.

The single peaked at number 13 in the UK singles chart. I spotted this single the last time I went to La La Land, but didn't know whether I had it or not. I checked, and went back today to get it...

My collection: 7" single no. 3676
Found: La La Land, Den Haag, April 25, 2009
Cost: 1 euro
Tracks: 'Louise' / 'The sign'

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Life on your own - Human League

'Life on your own' was the second single from the Human League's 1984 album 'Hysteria'. The track was made using a Linn M-1 drum machine, which took two months to be programmed for this track. The overall sound of this track is intentionally slow, downbeat and deliberately melancholy.

With the line 'Winter is approaching, there's snow upon the ground' at the start of this song, it was a bizarre choice for a single to be released in June. It still peaked at number 16 in the UK singles chart.

My collection: 7" single no. 3626
Found: Record fair, Utrecht, April 18, 2009
Cost: 1 euro
Tracks: 'Life on your own' / 'The world tonight'

Thursday, 16 April 2009

The Lebanon - Human League

Taken from their 1984 album 'Hysteria' and released as its first single, 'The Lebanon' was a radical departure from what was accepted as the soft synthpop sound of the Human League. The lyrics were an attempt to make a political statement on the Lebanese civil war which had been exacerbated by Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon of 1982. The song tells the story of a man who joins a militia to help his community and ends up fighting in the civil war.

The single peaked at number 11 in the UK, which was considered to be a relative failure. Because the track is a very 'concert friendly' track it has been played by the band live frequently ever since its release and is nearly always on their set list to this day.

My collection: 7" single no. 3231
Found: Record Exchange, London, 2000
Cost: 50p
Tracks: 'The Lebanon' / 'Thirteen'

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Love action - Human League

'Love action' was the Human League's first top 10 hit in the UK in 1981, which was quite a feat since they'd been at it since 1977. The song is a semi-autobiographical account of lead singer Phil Oakey's relationships. The song contains a cryptic reference to Lou Reed in the lyric, 'I believe what the old man said'. Oakey, speaking in 1982 said, 'no one ever asks me who the old man is... it's Lou (Reed).'

At the time, as a short-lived marketing stunt, the Human League labelled their singles 'Red' or 'Blue'. This was supposed to help buyers differentiate between the band's musical styles. 'Red' was for dance tracks, 'Blue' for pop songs, although the exact difference was never fully explained. 'Love Action' was designated 'Red'.

My collection: 7" single no. 2829
Found: February 1, 1997
Cost: 2 guilders
Tracks: 'Love action' / 'Hard times'

Saturday, 14 March 2009

The sound of the crowd - Human League

After the loss of original members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig-Marsh, Phil Oakey recruited 'dancing girls' Susan Ann Sulley (17) and Joanne Catherall (18) in order to be able to fulfill tour obligations. In January 1981, the band was still in debt to their record company. Oakey recorded and rushed out a new single, 'Boys and girls', without the involvement of Sulley and Catherall, to reasonable success. In March, Oakey was introduced to veteran producer Martin Rushent.

The first result of their sessions was the single 'The sound of the crowd'. The single was an instant success, peaking at number 12 in the UK singles chart. It was the first song to feature female vocals from Sulley and Catherall. The twelve inch mix is an interesting affair, with a lot of extra instrumental bits.

My collection: 12" single no. 491
Found: Record fair, Rijswijk, March 14, 2009
Cost: 1 euro
Tracks: 'The sound of the crowd (Complete)' / 'The sound of the crowd (Instrumental)'

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Don't you want me - Human League

The soundtrack of the eighties wouldn't be complete without the Human League. For years I thought that 'Don't you want me' was their debut single, until I found out that there was a previous incarnation of the group - an incarnation I never quite got into.

'Don't You Want Me' was released in the UK on 5 December 1981 and to everyone in the band's amazement it went almost immediately to number one and remained in the UK charts for 13 weeks. The group became famous for lead singer Phil Oakey's weird hairdo, although he cut his hair pretty quickly and started to look more like a regular Joe.

I only bought this single in 2004, when I reached the point of wanting to 'complete' certain parts of my collection. Back in 1982, when this song was in the charts, I heard it so many times I didn't really want to buy it. There are still other Human League songs I prefer, but to many, this is their one and only classic.

My collection: 7" single no. 3380
Found: Den Haag, 2004
Cost: 1 euro
Tracks: 'Don't you want me' / 'Seconds'
Download: 12" single 'Don't you want me', including both tracks
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