The Human League

The Human League are an English synthpop band best known for the 1981 global No. 1 hit “Don’t You Want Me.”

They emerged on the Sheffield post-punk scene with the 1978 DIY release “Being Boiled” / “Circus of Death,” a pioneering electro-pop single. The original lineup of singer Philip Oakey, slide-projectionist Adrian Wright, and keyboardists Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh recorded the instrumental EP The Dignity of Labour and the 1979–80 Virgin albums Reproduction and Travelogue, which both mix icy minimal wave (“The Word Before Last,” “Toyota City”) with layered multi-movement epics (“Austerity / Girl One,” “Dreams of Leaving”). Early hits include “Empire State Human” and the Mick Ronson cover “Only After Dark.”

In late 1980, Ware and Marsh formed the breakaway British Electric Foundation, which spawned Heaven 17. Oakey and Wright enlisted teenage club-goers Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley as vocalists for the 1981 Human League single “Boys and Girls.” An expanded six-piece lineup with bassist–keyboardist Ian Burden and (ex-Rezillos) guitarist Jo Callis recorded the breakthrough third album Dare, an international chart-topper with the hits “Open Your Heart,” “Love Action (I Believe in Love),” “The Sound of the Crowd,” and the evergreen “Don’t You Want Me,” a call-and-response melodrama that ushered the Second British Invasion of the US charts.

The Human League remixed seven Dare tracks (and the b-side “Hard Times”) for the EP Love and Dancing, credited to The League Unlimited Orchestra. After the 1982–83 standalone hits “Mirror Man” and “(Keep Feeling) Fascination,” they returned with their fourth album Hysteria, which spawned the UK hits “Louise,” “The Lebanon,” and “Life On Your Own.” Meanwhile, Oakey collaborated with Giorgio Moroder on “Together in Electric Dreams” for the 1984 sci-fi comedy Electric Dreams.

The Human League re-conquered the US with “Human,” a ballad from their 1986 fifth album Crash. They scored further hits with “Heart Like a Wheel” and “Tell Me When” from their 1990–95 albums Romantic? and Octopus. Oakey, Catherall, and Sulley continue as a live act.

Members: Philip Oakey (lead vocals, synthesizer, keyboards), Martyn Ware (synthesizer, 1978-80), Ian Craig Marsh (synthesizer, 1978-80), Adrian Wright (visuals, keyboards, synthesizer, 1978-87), Joanne Catherall (vocals, 1980-present), Susanne Sulley (vocals, 1980-present), Ian Burden (keyboards, synthesizer, bass, guitar, vocals, 1981-87), Jo Callis (synthesizer, guitar, 1981-85), Jim Russell (drums, guitar, percussion, vocals, 1985-89)


Background

The Human League assembled in 1977 when vocalist Phil Oakey joined The Future, a Sheffield-based electronic duo formed by Korg/Roland enthusiasts Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh.


1977–1978


The Future

Seven songs credited to The Future appear on the 2002 archival CD The Golden Hour of the Future.

1. “Dance Like a Star” (The Human League) Martyn Ware/Ian Craig Marsh/Philip Oakey 4:48
2. “Looking for the Black Haired Girls” (The Future) Ware/Marsh/Adi Newton 3:40
3. “4JG” (The Human League) Ware/Marsh/Oakey 4:36
4. “Blank Clocks” (The Future) Ware/Marsh/Newton 3:20
5. “Cairo” (The Future) Ware/Marsh/Newton 3:08
6. “Dominion Advertisement” (The Human League) Ware/Marsh/Oakey 0:25
7. “Dada Dada Duchamp Vortex” (The Future) 5:49
8. “Daz” (The Future) Ware/Marsh/Newton 3:40
9. “Future Religion” (The Future) Ware/Marsh/Newton 3:44
10. “Disco Disaster” (The Human League) Ware/Marsh/Oakey 5:06
11. “Interface” (The Human League) Ware/Marsh/Oakey 2:59
12. “The Circus of Dr Lao” (Philip Oakey) Oakey 3:58
13. “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” (The Human League) Holland–Dozier–Holland 3:55
14. “New Pink Floyd” (The Human League) Ware/Marsh/Oakey 2:14
15. “Once Upon a Time in the West” (The Human League) Ennio Morricone 1:53
16. “Overkill Disaster Crash (V.1)” (The Human League) Ware/Marsh/Oakey 2:02
17. “Year of the Jet Packs” (The Human League) Ware/Marsh/Oakey 5:26
18. “Pulse Lovers” (The Future) Ware/Marsh/Newton 4:02
19. “King of Kings” (The Human League) Miklós Rózsa 1:56
20. “The Last Man on Earth” (The Human League) Ware/Marsh/Oakey 10:01


“Being Boiled”

On June 30, 1978, The Human League debuted with the single “Being Boiled” / “Circus of Death” on Fast Product.

A. “Being Boiled” (3:54)

B. “Circus of Death” ()


1979


Dignity of Labour

On April 16, 1979, The Human League released The Dignity of Labour, an instrumental EP comprised of a title-track in four parts.

Throughout this period, The Human League maintained a purely experimental side, as expressed on the Dignity of Labour EP, which consists of a four-part instrumental suite that explores the sonic potential of the band’s electronic arsenal.

A1. “The Dignity of Labour (Pt. 1)” (4:21) — “The first part has the miners underground in Russia, digging up the coal to make steel.”
A2. “The Dignity of Labour (Pt. 2)” (2:46) — “The second part shows gantries being made from the steel, for Yuri Gagarin’s spaceship.”
B1. “The Dignity of Labour (Pt. 3)” (3:49) — “The third part is an instrumental tribute to Yuri Gagarin.”
B2. “The Dignity of Labour (Pt. 4)” (3:49)

At the same time, the band kept an ear on the dance scene, as revealed on the 1979 single “I Don’t Depend On You” — issued under the moniker “The Men.”


The Men – “I Don’t Depend On You”

In July 1979, The Human League adopted the pseudonym The Men for the disco single “I Don’t Depend on You.”

A. “I Don’t Depend on You” (4:36)

B. “Cruel” ()


Reproduction

The Human League released their debut album, Reproduction, on October 10, 1979, on Virgin.

Aiming to augment their live presentations, the trio brought projectionist Adrian Wright into the band to handle slides. Soon enough, the quartet signed with Virgin Records and released their debut full-length, Reproduction, in late 1979. Forgoing the help of stringed instruments or percussion, the band mix an array of synthetic tones to sculpt the foreboding atmospherics of “Morale,” “The Word Before Last,” and a cleaner cut of “Circus of Death.” Compositionally, the material ranges from the compact, chorus-line danceability of “Empire State Human” to the complex, multi-movement epicism of “Austerity/Girl One (Medley),” the format of which features a song within a song. Capping things off, the band’s use of rhythmic machinery feeds the lurching-to-lightning pace of “Zero as a Limit.”

1. “Almost Medieval” (4:43)
2. “Circus of Death” (3:55)
3. “The Path of Least Resistance” (3:33)
4. “Blind Youth” (3:25)
5. “The World Before Last” (4:04)
6. “Empire State Human” (3:17)

7. “Morale…You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Phil Spector (9:39)
8. “Austerity/Girl One (Medley)” (6:44)
9. “Zero as a Limit” (4:13)

Studio Workshop Studio in Sheffield
Producer The Human League, Colin Thurston
Philip Oakey – vocals, synthesizer
Ian Craig Marsh – vocals, synthesizer
Martyn Ware – vocals, synthesizer
Philip Adrian Wright – film technician

“Empire State Human”


1980


Holiday ’80

On April 18, 1980, The Human League released Holiday ’80,

1. “Marianne” (Marsh/Oakey/Ware) (3:17)
2. “Dancevision” (Marsh/Ware) (2:21) [performed by The Future]
3. “Being Boiled” (Album Version) (Marsh/Oakey/Ware) (4:22)
4. “Rock ‘n’ Roll / Nightclubbing” (Gary Glitter, Mike Leander) (Jim Osterberg, David Bowie) (6:22)


Travelogue

The Human League released their second album, Travelogue, on May 16, 1980, on Virgin.

May 1980 witnessed the release of The Human League’s sophomoric longplayer Travelogue. Reaching back for some of its contents, the album pulls in all directions, from the analogue-darting library instrumental “Gordon’s Gin” to the soulful fold-out chorus of “The Touchables.” The epic “Dreams of Leaving” showcases Oakey’s newfound mastery of range between the muted, nervous verses and swelling, expository chorus. The song’s melodramatic narrative is bisected by a flickering-fuse middle that advances the band’s sonic adventurism — a side that’s further explored with the laser-beam delays of “The Black Hit of Space” and the kalimba-glimmer of “Toyota City.” The singer’s cool, unaffected bravado in light of unsavory circumstances can also be heard amidst the spiraling aural lights of “W.X.J.L. Tonight,” which laments the fall of a once-mighty station.

1. “The Black Hit of Space” Marsh, Oakey, Ware, Wright (4:11)
2. “Only After Dark” Scott Richardson, Mick Ronson (3:50)
3. “Life Kills” Marsh, Oakey, Ware, Wright (3:07)
4. “Dreams of Leaving” Marsh, Oakey, Ware, Wright (5:49)
5. “Toyota City” Marsh, Oakey, Ware, Wright (3:24)

6. “Crow and a Baby” Marsh, Oakey, Ware, Wright (3:43)
7. “The Touchables” Marsh, Oakey, Ware, Wright (3:21)
8. “Gordon’s Gin” Jeff Wayne (2:58)
9. “Being Boiled” Marsh, Oakey, Ware (4:21)
10. “WXJL Tonight” Marsh, Oakey, Ware, Wright (4:40)

Studio Monumental Pictures Studio in Sheffield
Producer Richard Manwaring and The Human League
Philip Oakey – vocals, synthesizer
Ian Craig Marsh – vocals, synthesizer
Martyn Ware – vocals, synthesizer
Philip Adrian Wright – film technician 

“Only After Dark”
Released: May 1980

“Being Boiled”
Released: August 1980

UK Albums Chart[12] 16 


Breakup | Human League Mk II

Soon after the second album, Ware and Marsh broke from the band, leaving the musical balance to the vocalist and slidesman. In under a year, The Human League rebounded with the additions of ex-Rezillo Jo Callis and Sheffield musician Ian Burden on keyboards and bass, respectively. Teenagers Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley, whom Oakey had met at a nightclub, were recruited as dancers and backing vocalists. Ware and Marsh, meanwhile, assembled the British Electric Foundation and formed Heaven 17 with Sheffield vocalist Glenn Gregory.


1981


“Boys and Girls”

On February 20, 1981, The Human League released “Boys and Girls”

A. “Boys and Girls” (3:12)
B. “Tom Baker” (3:58)


“The Sound of the Crowd”

On April 24, 1981, The Human League released “The Sound of the Crowd”

7″ vinyl (Virgin VS416)
A. “The Sound of the Crowd” (3:55)
B. “The Sound of the Crowd (Add Your Voice)” (3:01)

12″ vinyl (Virgin VS416-12)
A. “The Sound of the Crowd (Complete)” (6:32)
B. “The Sound of the Crowd (Instrumental)” (4:11)

No. 12 on the UK Singles Chart in May 1981


“Love Action (I Believe in Love)”

On July 31, 1981, The Human League released “Love Action (I Believe in Love)”

7″ vinyl (Virgin VS435)
A. “Love Action (I Believe in Love)” (3:50)
B. “Hard Times” (4:53)

12″ vinyl (Virgin VS435-12)
A. “Hard Times/Love Action (I Believe in Love)” (10:09)
B. “Hard Times/Love Action (I Believe in Love) (Instrumentals)” (11:10)

United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)[6] 3
Ireland (IRMA)[4] 11
Australia (Kent Music Report)[3] 12
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[5] 21


Dare

The Human League released their third album, Dare, on October 16, 1981, on Virgin.

With its ever-so-pointed he said/she said verses and fold-out chorus, “Don’t You Want Me” became a global smash and an era-defining evergreen. Competing for supremacy on the band’s triumphant third longplayer are the slow-motion euphoria of “Open Your Heart,” the low-end reverberations of “Darkness,” and the looped-back/pitch-bent accents of “Love Action (I Believe in Love).” The last of those, with its flowery synth fills and heartbeat precision, nearly doubled its predecessor chart-wise in certain territories. In keeping with the lucid eeriness of earlier experiments, “Get Carter/I Am the Law” hears Oakey emote chilling lines amidst a frosty, rhythm-less backdrop.

1. “The Things That Dreams Are Made Of” Oakey, Wright (4:14)
2. “Open Your Heart” Callis, Oakey (3:53)
3. “The Sound of the Crowd” Burden, Oakey (3:56)
4. “Darkness” Callis, Wright (3:56)
5. “Do or Die” Burden, Oakey (5:25)

6. “Get Carter” (instrumental) Roy Budd (1:02)
7. “I Am the Law” Oakey, Wright (4:09)
8. “Seconds” Callis, Oakey, Wright (4:58)
9. “Love Action (I Believe in Love)” Burden, Oakey (4:58)
10. “Don’t You Want Me” Callis, Oakey, Wright (3:56)

Recorded March–September 1981
Studio Genetic Sound (Streatley, Berkshire)
Producer Martin Rushentthe Human League

The Human League
Ian Burden – synthesizers
Jo Callis – synthesizers
Joanne Catherall – vocals
Philip Oakey – vocals, synthesizers, cover design
Susan Ann Sulley – vocals
Philip Adrian Wright – slides, occasional synthesizer, cover design

Additional personnel
Martin Rushent – programming
Dave Allen – assistant programming and engineering
Ken Ansell – cover layout and coordination
Brian Aris – photography

“Open Your Heart” / “Non-Stop”
Released: 2 October 1981

7″ vinyl (Virgin VS453)
“Open Your Heart” – 3:53
B. “Non-Stop” (4:15)

12″ vinyl (Virgin VS453-12)
“Open Your Heart/Non-Stop” – 8:15
“Open Your Heart/Non-Stop (Instrumentals)” – 8:41

UK Singles (OCC)[10] 6
Ireland (IRMA)[7] 8
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[6] 12

“Don’t You Want Me”
Released: 27 November 1981

7″ vinyl (Virgin VS466)
“Don’t You Want Me” – 3:57
“Seconds” – 4:59
12″ vinyl (Virgin VS466-12)
“Don’t You Want Me” – 3:57
“Seconds” – 4:59
“Don’t You Want Me (Ext. Dance Mix)” – 7:30

Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[29] 1
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[30] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[32] 1
Israel (IBA)[33] 1
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[36] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[37] 1
UK Singles (OCC)[42] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[43] 1
South Africa (Springbok Radio)[38] 2
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[40] 3
US Hot Dance/Disco (Billboard)[44] 3
Australia (Kent Music Report)[28] 4
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[39] 4
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[41] 4
US Top Tracks (Billboard)[44] 4
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[35] 5
West Germany (Official German Charts)[45] 5
Italy (Musica e dischi)[34] 7
France (SNEP)[31] 13

Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[48] 1
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[54] 1
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[56] 1
UK Albums (OCC)[57] 1
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[50] 2
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[47] 3
US Billboard 200[58] 3
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[55] 6
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[49] 11
Italian Albums (Musica e dischi)[52] 15
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[51] 19


1982–1983

Dare proved to be a tough act to follow, hence the band’s contentment with stop-gap singles over the two subsequent years. With its sunny backing harmonies and Motown-style back-beat, “Mirror Man” exhibits a then-growing influence of co-writer Callis. Backed with the echoey shivers of “You Remind Me of Gold,” both songs were included on the 1983 Fascination! EP along with the synth-wail sleepwalk of “Hard Times,” the soaring throb of “I Love You Too Much” and the title-sake “(Keep Feeling) Fascination.” The latter, with its wall-of-neon keys, became another transatlantic smash.


Love and Dancing

On July 2, 1982, The Human League released Love and Dancing, a remix EP billed to The League Unlimited Orchestra.

1. “Hard Times” (Callis, Oakey, Wright) – 5:40
2. “Love Action (I Believe in Love)” (Burden, Oakey) – 5:12
3. “Don’t You Want Me” (Callis, Oakey, Wright) – 7:18

4. “Things That Dreams Are Made Of” (Oakey, Wright) – 5:10
5. “Do or Die” (Burden, Oakey) – 4:36
6. “Seconds” (Callis, Oakey, Wright) – 2:25
7. “Open Your Heart” (Callis, Oakey) – 2:35
8. “The Sound of the Crowd” (Burden, Oakey) – 2:55

UK Albums (OCC)[27] 3
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[54] 20


“Mirror Man”

On November 12, 1982, The Human League released “Mirror Man”

A. “Mirror Man” (3:48) Philip Oakey, Jo Callis, Ian Burden
B. “You Remind Me of Gold” (3:36)

Irish Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart 2
Australia (Kent Music Report)[9] 4
Canadian RPM 50 Singles 7
Spain (AFYVE)[11] 10
Belgium Singles Chart (Vl) 17
Swedish Singles Chart 19 


“(Keep Feeling) Fascination”

On April 15, 1983, The Human League released “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”

7-inch vinyl (Virgin – VS 569)
A. “(Keep Feeling) Fascination” (3:39) Jo Callis, Philip Oakey
B. “Total Panic” (3:23)

12-inch vinyl (Virgin – VS569-12)
“(Keep Feeling) Fascination” (extended version) – 5:00
“(Keep Feeling) Fascination” (improvisation) – 6:15

Ireland (IRMA)[11] 2
UK Singles (OCC)[15] 2
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[12] 3
US Cash Box Top 100[20] 7
Australia (Kent Music Report)[6] 8
US Billboard Hot 100[16] 8


1984


Hysteria

The Human League released their fourth album, Hysteria, on May 7, 1984, on Virgin.

1. “I’m Coming Back” (Philip Oakey, Philip Adrian Wright) (4:07)
2. “I Love You Too Much” (Ian C. Burden, Jo Callis, Wright) (3:26)
3. “Rock Me Again and Again and Again and Again and Again and Again (Six Times)” (Lee Austin, James Brown) (3:32)
4. “Louise” (Callis, Oakey, Wright) (4:55)
5. “The Lebanon” (Callis, Oakey) (5:03)

6. “Betrayed” (Oakey, Wright) (4:02
7. “The Sign” (Burden, Callis, Oakey) (3:46)
8. “So Hurt” (Burden, Oakey) (3:53)
9. “Life on Your Own” (Callis, Oakey, Wright) (4:06)
10. “Don’t You Know I Want You” (Burden, Callis, Oakey) (3:09)

Studio Air and Townhouse (both London)
Musicians
Ian C. Burden – bass, keyboards, guitar
Jo Callis – guitar, keyboards, vocals
Joanne Catherall – vocals
Philip Oakey – vocals, programming, keyboards
Susanne Sulley – vocals
Philip Adrian Wright – occasional keyboards
The Human League – percussion, programming
Martin Rushent – drum programming (tracks 2, 8, 10)
Jim Russell – drum programming (track 7)

Technical
Hugh Padgham – mixing, production, engineering
Chris Thomas – production
The Human League – production
Bill Price – engineering
Renate Blauel – engineering
Gavin MacKillop – engineering
Steve Jackson – engineering assistance
David Motion – engineering assistance
Jeremy Allom – engineering assistance
Paul “Croydon” Cook – engineering assistance

Artwork
Simon Fowler – photography
Ken Ansell – layout

“The Lebanon” / “Thirteen”
Released: 24 April 1984

7-inch vinyl (Virgin VS 672)
A. “The Lebanon” (3:45)
B. “Thirteen” (4:10)

12-inch vinyl (Virgin VS 672-12)
“The Lebanon” – 5:52
“Thirteen” – 5:00
“The Lebanon (Instrumental)” – 5:07

“Life on Your Own” / “The World Tonight”
Released: 18 June 1984

“Life on Your Own” (4:10)
B. “The World Tonight” (4:09)
12″ “Life on Your Own (Extended)” (5:43)

“Louise” / “The Sign (Extended Re-mix)”
Released: 5 November 1984

UK Albums (OCC)[22] 3
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[21] 6
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[20] 9
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[16] 16
European Albums (Music & Media)[17] 16
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[14] 18

A tumultuous year-long holdup in the studio finally yielded Hysteria in the summer of 1984. Abandoning their icier roots, The Human League pursue uptempo pop and poignant balladry on their fourth full-length. The former approach is embodied in the advancing bridges and courage-summoning straight talk of “Don’t You Know I Want You.” The latter is displayed in the earnest reasoning of “Life On Your Own,” where Oakey seems mournful yet even-minded as he parts ways with a longtime love. Elsewhere, “Betrayal” weds foreboding precision and eerie atmospherics to a detached, soulful vocal delivery, while “The Lebanon” sets astute political observations to a ringing, Edge-like riff.


1985–1986


Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder

On July 29, 1985, Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder released their self-titled collaborative album on Virgin.


Crash

The Human League released their fifth album, Crash, on September 8, 1986, on Virgin.

In the fall of 1986, The Human League scored another transatlantic triumph with the soliloquy-infused piano ballad “Human” from the album Crash. Further works followed, albeit at sporadic intervals, during the 1990s and into the 21st century.

Discography:

  • Reproduction (1979)
  • Travelogue (1980)
  • Dare (1981)
  • Hysteria (1984)
  • Crash (1986)
  • Romantic? (1990)
  • Octopus (1995)

Non-album shortplayers:

  • “Being Boiled” / “Circus of Death” (1978)
  • The Dignity of Labor (1979, EP)
  • “Introducing” (1979 — “Empire State Human” b-side)
  • “I Don’t Depend on You” / “Cruel” (1979 — as The Men)
  • “Boys and Girls” / “Tom Baker” (1981)
  • “Hard Times” (1981 — “Love Action” b-side)
  • “Non-stop” (1981 — “Open Your Heart” b-side)
  • “Mirror Man” / “You Remind Me of Gold” (1982)
  • “Keep Feeling Fascination” / “Total Panic” (1983)
  • “The World Tonight” (1984 — “Life on Your Own” b-side)
  • “Thirteen” (1984 — “The Lebanon” b-side)

Sources:

1 thought on “The Human League

  1. Original draft (2018):
    “The Human League are an English synthpop band that was initially active as a recording unit between the late 1970s and mid-1980s. Originating as an electro-futurist combo, the band were among the first to apply classic songcraft to an entirely electronic framework. In 1981/82, a revamped six-member lineup signaled the Second British Invasion with the transatlantic smash “Don’t You Want Me.” The band scored thirteen consecutive Top 20 singles on the U.K. charts and two number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100.

    The Human League came together in 1977 when vocalist Phil Oakey joined The Future — a Sheffield-based electronic duo consisting of Korg/Roland enthusiasts Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh. Forging a mid-ground between English vocal pop and the Berlin School, the trio debuted with the Fast Product single “Being Boiled” / “Circus of Death” in June 1978.

    Original Quartet: 1979–1980
    Aiming to augment their live presentations, the trio brought projectionist Adrian Wright into the band to handle slides. Soon enough, the quartet signed with Virgin Records and released their debut full-length, Reproduction, in late 1979. Forgoing the help of stringed instruments or percussion, the band mix an array of synthetic tones to sculpt the foreboding atmospherics of “Morale,” “The Word Before Last,” and a cleaner cut of “Circus of Death.” Compositionally, the material ranges from the compact, chorus-line danceability of “Empire State Human” to the complex, multi-movement epicism of “Austerity/Girl One (Medley),” the format of which features a song within a song. Capping things off, the band’s use of rhythmic machinery feeds the lurching-to-lightning pace of “Zero as a Limit.”

    Throughout this period, The Human League maintained a purely experimental side, as expressed on the Dignity of Labour EP, which consists of a four-part instrumental suite that explores the sonic potential of the band’s electronic arsenal. At the same time, the band kept an ear on the dance scene, as revealed on the 1979 single “I Don’t Depend On You” — issued under the moniker “The Men.”

    May 1980 witnessed the release of The Human League’s sophomoric longplayer Travelogue. Reaching back for some of its contents, the album pulls in all directions, from the analogue-darting library instrumental “Gordon’s Gin” to the soulful fold-out chorus of “The Touchables.” The epic “Dreams of Leaving” showcases Oakey’s newfound mastery of range between the muted, nervous verses and swelling, expository chorus. The song’s melodramatic narrative is bisected by a flickering-fuse middle that advances the band’s sonic adventurism — a side that’s further explored with the laser-beam delays of “The Black Hit of Space” and the kalimba-glimmer of “Toyota City.” The singer’s cool, unaffected bravado in light of unsavory circumstances can also be heard amidst the spiraling aural lights of “W.X.J.L. Tonight,” which laments the fall of a once-mighty station.

    Augmented Sextet: 1981–1984
    Soon after the second album, Ware and Marsh broke from the band, leaving the musical balance to the vocalist and slidesman. In under a year, The Human League rebounded with the additions of ex-Rezillo Jo Callis and Sheffield musician Ian Burden on keyboards and bass, respectively. Teenagers Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley, whom Oakey had met at a nightclub, were recruited as dancers and backing vocalists. Ware and Marsh, meanwhile, assembled the British Electric Foundation and formed Heaven 17 with Sheffield vocalist Glenn Gregory.

    The 1981 holiday season saw The Human League soar to the top with the release of Dare and its soap-operatic leadoff single “Don’t You Want Me.” With its ever-so-pointed he said/she said verses and fold-out chorus, the song became a global smash and an era-defining evergreen. Competing for supremacy on the band’s triumphant third longplayer are the slow-motion euphoria of “Open Your Heart,” the low-end reverberations of “Darkness,” and the looped-back/pitch-bent accents of “Love Action (I Believe in Love).” The last of those, with its flowery synth fills and heartbeat precision, nearly doubled its predecessor chart-wise in certain territories. In keeping with the lucid eeriness of earlier experiments, “Get Carter/I Am the Law” hears Oakey emote chilling lines amidst a frosty, rhythm-less backdrop.

    Dare proved to be a tough act to follow, hence the band’s contentment with stop-gap singles over the two subsequent years. With its sunny backing harmonies and Motown-style back-beat, “Mirror Man” exhibits a then-growing influence of co-writer Callis. Backed with the echoey shivers of “You Remind Me of Gold,” both songs were included on the 1983 Fascination! EP along with the synth-wail sleepwalk of “Hard Times,” the soaring throb of “I Love You Too Much” and the title-sake “(Keep Feeling) Fascination.” The latter, with its wall-of-neon keys, became another transatlantic smash.

    A tumultuous year-long holdup in the studio finally yielded Hysteria in the summer of 1984. Abandoning their icier roots, The Human League pursue uptempo pop and poignant balladry on their fourth full-length. The former approach is embodied in the advancing bridges and courage-summoning straight talk of “Don’t You Know I Want You.” The latter is displayed in the earnest reasoning of “Life On Your Own,” where Oakey seems mournful yet even-minded as he parts ways with a longtime love. Elsewhere, “Betrayal” weds foreboding precision and eerie atmospherics to a detached, soulful vocal delivery, while “The Lebanon” sets astute political observations to a ringing, Edge-like riff.

    Return and Onward
    In the fall of 1986, The Human League scored another transatlantic triumph with the soliloquy-infused piano ballad “Human” from the album Crash. Further works followed, albeit at sporadic intervals, during the 1990s and into the 21st century.”

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