The Human League


In January there was a guarded but good review of Dare by the Human League in The Listener.  I bought Dare a few years ago on vinyl because I had heard it was good, and because it was cheap.  Outside of Britain the Human League were probably most appreciated in New Zealand although not hugely so.  I have just finished watching the videos for the four singles off Dare and I would like to present my findings.

Finding One

The Human League achieve a higher position on the chart when the lead singer looks like this:

rather than this:

Finding Two

If you’re in a synthesizer band there is often a guy standing around who doesn’t do anything.

And same guy, different video, in the centre at the back,

Interviewer: What did you do in Human League?

Guy in Human League: Impressions of police constables mainly.

Finding Three

Earrings became important for dudes in the 80s.  In fact I recall a number of boys I knew being obsessed with getting one, and making sure it was in the correct ear (one side meant you were gay apparently).  Frankly I don’t think it matters which ear a guy wears this earring in, I think he is sending a pretty clear message,

While we’re piercing stuff how about a nipple?  (Probably the punks are to blame for this.)

This kind of things has always just looked sore to me, also I don’t like imagining any kind of situation where I might be led around by my nipples.

Finding Four

If you run out of ideas for videos just do the same video again.  Love Action features a lot of people watching projected clips, and spying on each other, and Don’t You Want Me features a lot of people watching clips and spying on each other.  What symbolises modernity has moved on quite a bit in thirty years however.

Actually those two videos fit nicely with a theme in the Human League’s music, a theme that The Listener reviewer picks up on.

A song about John Lennon, his own confessional “Love Action” and the closing track all indicate how reality always ends up surpassing our attempts to control it.

Nicely said, and the video for Don’t You Want Me is really quite clever at playing with reality and our expectations based on TV conventions.  Not to mention it’s a great song.

Dare is full of great songs, but talking about that would be dull, so go and look at the video for Open Your Heart in all it’s angular, flourescent glory.

So much to enjoy although this is possibly my favourite shot:

This either represents the lead singer’s fantasy that the dude who just stands around doing nothing gets eaten, or it might be the guy who stands around doing nothing’s fantasy about being a penis.  Your call.

We could talk about how this video is another version of them mucking around with reality, we could choke back the vomit and talk about the colour palette they used, or we could talk about hair.

Personally something about this shot strikes me as revolting.

But even the chicks join in.  Look at the blonde girl (I think she’s about 18 in the video) here:

Pretty normal huh?  Look what she’s hiding at the back of her head:


Anyway, I would like to conclude with my favourite member of the band in action once again.

Interviewer: No, seriously.  What did you do in Human League?

Dude: (pulls out Korg) I pushed this button (pushes a button)

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I wrote a book:

4 thoughts on “The Human League”

  1. hi – nice article, but I don’t think you quite know what The Human League were all about. Some great video stills. BTW the ‘dude’ (Adrian Wright) was actually the slide operator, palying occasional synthesiser and contributing to the song writing.

  2. I have no idea what they are about but I think their music is great. The slide operator? What is that? If he co-wrote the songs then that’s cool, still, a bit odd to see him do so much standing around. Thanks for the comment. What were they all about?

  3. Adrian controlled the visual slide show that complemented their live acts at the time, played occasional synthesiser and the odd vocal ((Keep feeling) Fascination, 1983 for example). I can see you do not understand at all what they were, or are, about. They wanted to be the “Abba of the 80’s” and to be as big as Pink Floyd. They wrote (and still can write) great electro-pop tunes with often slightly whacky lyrics, but used an eccentric fashion sense to be seen and be instantly recognised at which they succeeded. You have to understand they were breaking new ground with their use of electronics and androgynous looks, and predated both Gary Newman and Boy George respectively. The synthesisers were pre-programmed by Philip and Adrian and the two other male members of the band were actually guitarists who initially contributed in a big way to songwriting, hence their rather stilted and minimal synth operation in these early videos. Guitars did feature more in live acts, and later in the studio. Some research would be good huh?

  4. I think you may have mistaken this for “serious journalism”. I always think that if you’re going to write something on a blog you should show some manners.

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