This is a British group who I wasn’t sure about featuring in this series because their story is rather well-known, and they have been popular for decades, but as they have made so many terrific singles, I do want to pick out my highlights. The Human League formed in the late-70s, and their frontman is Phil Oakey. I suppose that their philosophy is we’ve got a synthesizer and we’re gonna use it. In June 1978, their first single “Being Boiled” was released, but this didn’t make the chart.
By 1980, they did have some minor hits, and two members had left to form Heaven 17. But Phil wasn’t that concerned, because he discovered two women to replace them, and they never looked back really. 1981 would turn out to be a hugely successful year for them. In May 1981 they made the Top 40 for the first time with “The Sound Of The Crowd”, which is always a pleasure to hear on the radio. Next in August was their first Top Ten hit with “Love Action”, which was followed in October by “Open Your Heart”.
But it was in December 1981 when “Don’t You Want Me” was released that they finally became one of the best groups of the early-80s. This was the biggest-selling single of 1981 in the UK, and this was also a Transatlantic chart-topper. In January 1982, their debut “Being Boiled” was released again, and this time became a Top Ten hit nearly four years on, as interest in their earlier material increased after new fans wanted to discover more. They also won a Brit in 1982.
There would be further hit singles in 1982 with “Mirror Man”, in 1983 with “Fascination”, and in 1984 with “The Lebanon”, “Life On Your Own”, and “Louise”. The later songs hadn’t done as well though. In 1986, they decided to take a gamble and work with producers Jam And Lewis, who were much in demand at this point, and they would help to bring their sound into the mid-80s. Some sessions were reported to be tense, and Phil came close to walking out (I must avoid doing a “but this is Phil walking” pun here).
But even he had to concede that this was all worthwhile when in August 1986 “Human” became their first Top Ten hit single in the UK for three years, and also their second Number One in America. This left them in the rather unusual situation of being a British group who had more chart-toppers in the USA than they did in the UK. They didn’t make the Top 40 in the 80s again though, but at least they were still together.
And just when it looked like they were a group who had finally been confined to the past, 1995 turned out to be their most successful year for about a decade. In January 1995 “Tell Me When” made the Top Ten to become their biggest hit since the days of “Human”. Further hits “One Man In My Heart” and “Filling Up With Heaven” did well too. For some reason, they finished off this year with a remix of “Don’t You Want Me”, but this made the Top 20 for a second time.
Since then, The Human League have become more of a nostalgia group. When they occasionally release new singles or albums, the response is now usually “stop working on new songs and just give us the classics”. They have made nine albums, but unfortunately they are in the position of having had more best-ofs released than studio albums. And in March 2014, “Don’t You Want Me” made the Top 20 for a third time! They’re still on tour, and people will always be fond of them and their songs, together in electric dreams.