17 January 2011

The Human League

The Human League arrived - first hitting the Top 40 in May 1981 with Sound of the Crowd.

The original Human League had formed in 1977, and there were several changes in line-up before the vast majority of us discovered a rather different version of the group which came together in 1980.

The pivotal moments in the band's '80s history came when vocalist Phil Oakey asked Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall (then school girls aged 17 and 18) to join, having spotted them dancing at The Crazy Daisy Nightclub, Sheffield, in October 1980.

Oakey was faced with the highly difficult task of recruiting new band members within a matter of days for a European tour. The original group was in tatters after two founding members (Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware, who later formed Heaven 17) had suddenly left, but a European tour had been arranged before this and now Oakey was faced with honouring it, or being sued by the promoters. He was looking out for a female vocalist when he spotted Susan Ann and Joanne dancing.

The girls were originally recruited as "guests" to the group, to dance and provide incidental vocals on the European tour. Many fans of the obscure original Human League group were disgruntled to see the dancing girls, expecting the original all-male line-up. Legend has it that thrown beer cans and some heckling were the result.

But, despite this, on returning to England in December 1980, the girls were made full members of The Human League.

The band gave us a distinctly unseasonal Christmas Number One in 1981 - Don't You Want Me.


I love the Human League. If I hear one of their early-to-mid 1980s hits, I'm transported back... I can smell the hair gel, see that jumbled Rubik's Cube sitting smugly on the settee, hear the Space Invaders and Pac-Man machines burbling, feel the tensions of O' Levels and job hunting and the happiness of becoming a wage earner...

It's not just nostalgia. I think that The Human League are brilliant - then, now, forever.


Sarah said...

It was so clever and original to recruit the girls. A wonderful band!

Frank Chickens said...

Their first two albums were excellent and I always liked 'The Black Hit of Space' and 'Being Boiled' which later became a top ten hit due to their original label Fast Product having the sense to release it immediately after DYWM, much to Virgin's annoyance.

Maria said...

Being Bolied was dreadful shite. It was only the success of the '80s version of the League which got it into the charts. The only people that go on about League #1 are geeks, nerds and music snobs.