The Human League
Undoubtedly one of the most influential groups of the Eighties, the Human League took the synthesizer from stark industrial soundscapes into the very heart of pop music. As a breakthrough release, Dare redefined glamour and design in its sounds, videos and picture-sleeves. However the rest of the decade saw a loss of direction and it was not until 1995 that Octopus reaffirmed the League's total mastery of synthesized pop.
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The Human League was founded in 1977 by Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware. Both were computer operators with no formal musical experience but who saw a future for electronic music. The group believed that they could make pop hits using only synthesizers. The group was rounded out by 'singer' Philip Oakey and 'visual director' Adrian Wright, forming a quartet that relied far more on slides and other visuals than their music. Still, the group's creative performances resulted in a cult following and good word-of-mouth.
The band was asked to tour with Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1979. They were dropped from a 1980 Talking Heads show when news leaked out that they would be presenting visuals with pre-recorded music while the band members mingled with the audience.
In October 1980, after two albums, the group split with founders Ware and Marsh leaving to establish the British Electric Foundation, and later, Heaven 17. At this time, Oakey brought friend Ian Burden in to fill on bass and keyboards, then added Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley to sing back-up and dance. Catherall and Sulley were discovered while dancing in Sheffield's Crazy Daisy discotheque.
In 1981, the addition of guitarist Jo Callis completed the band's recovery with resulted in 1981's "synth-pop" classic, Dare. Dare, produced by Martin Rushent, gave The Human League an almost insurmountable reputation to live up to after its production. Fourteen months after what looked like the end, the Human League had a number 1 hit with "Don't You Want Me."
The name "Human League" was taken from an obscure science-fiction game. Influenced as much by synth innovators like Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder as they were by the spiky-haired nihilists of the New Wave, they quickly established themselves as prime movers on the post-punk avant-garde scene. Throughout 1982 and 1983, Dare continued to dominate the charts around the globe while The Human League scored further Top 10 hits with "Mirror Man" and "Fascination."
Following Dare, Hysteria finally arrived in May 1984. At this time, the charts were filled with names like Soft Cell, Culture Club, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Duran Duran, who gratefully acknowledged their musical and stylistic debt to The Human League.
Through 1984 and 1985, the hits continued to pile up with "The Lebanon," "Life On Your Own" and "Louise" making a significant dent in the Top Twenty. Meanwhile, the follow-up to Hysteria proved to be another demanding and drawn-out affair, involving three studios and numerous producers.
Crash was released in September 1986. The League's most varied release to date, mixing synth ballads with feverish fund workouts, it continued the world-wide success of its predecessors and spawned a massive international hit in "Human."
The group then closed their 80's account with the release of their long-awaited Greatest Hits, a classic collection which bore witness to their remarkable pop consistency through the decade. The nineties began for The Human League with the release of the greatly underrated Romantic album which brought further bold experimentation with dance rhythms and pop melodies. Having terminated their long relationship with Virgin Records, The Human League then signed a long-term deal with East West, thus inaugurating an entirely new chapter in their career.
After a lengthy hibernation, they re-emerged at last with a new song, "Tell Me When," and an album entitled Octopus (produced by Ian Stanley, famous for his work with The Pretenders, Sisters of Mercy and Tears for Fears). Octopus brought the classic Human League sound crashing with a triumphant ring into the nineties.
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