It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 29 years since the date (October 20, 1981) Dare! was released. I know it’s really easy to say that The Human League were nobodies with questionable talent, but I’m not one of those people. I really enjoyed this synth pop record. Everybody knows “Don’t You Want Me” and that is a credit to a massively catchy tune, but the Human League were not a one hit wonder band in my humble opinion. I’m sure you will see this song on One Hit Wonder compilations, and that’s quasi fair I suppose, but I was a fan.
I remember working my shift at T.G.I. Fridays on Newbury Street in the winter of 1981 and a bunch of us heading to someone’s cheap apartment in The Fenway. I was hanging around with a lot of wait staff (I was a cook) and a lot of them were upwardly mobile. Some were DJ’s at WZBC (Boston College) or at WMBR (MIT) and they were always on the cusp of what was floating across the pond from Great Britain. Joy Division (and later New Order), Echo & The Bunnymen, The Clash, Elvis Costello…whatever. They weren’t really aware of it, but those folks were a big influence on my constant need to hear different sounds and not be a music snob. Now I might be a bit of music snob when it comes to Top 40, but I try hard not to be. These formative year late night parties after work were killers. Frequently, if we didn’t make last call at The Half Shell (long gone restaurant on Boylston Street) or Daisy Buchanan’s we’d frequently make a beeline for the first apartment that would have us. It didn’t matter what day it was or where we were. We were indestructible kids hell bent on partying from 2 AM to 7 AM, sleeping ’til 1 PM and getting up to run one errand before heading back to work and repeating the cycle. Sometimes we didn’t make it, but more often than not we did.
The reason I tell the story is because on one of these fine occasions someone threw The Human League league on the turntable (remember those?) and out from the speakers popped “The Things That Dreams Are Made Of.” I have to say, one of the waitresses busted out her best three beer dance moves and I was hooked. It was definitely way off the beaten path for this writer at the time. I was a ZZ Top fan. 1981′s El Loco was a smashing success in my household with the likes of “Pearl Necklace” and “Tube Snake Boogie.” Childish wordplay on sexual activity granted, but I was 21 with hormones that were constantly revving. I wanted The Who’s “Cry if You Want.” I think you get the idea. 1981 was a long, long time ago brothers and sisters. New Wave had broken several intriguing bands like The Cars and The Pretenders, but there was a new New Wave coming down the pike. Bands like A Flock of Seagulls were now demanding air time. Synthesizer Rock was making a big play with the help of big hair and MTV. The Human League was right on the cusp of mainstream Alternative Rock even before “Don’t You Want Me” got 10,000 air plays. What a fantastic single though. The back and forth between the main characters in the song was conversational and believable and it had an awesome premise and back beat. Nobody cared if they could play instruments or sing; the tune was catchy as all get out and it spread like wild fire. But, for me, my introduction was still ”Things That Dreams Are Made Of.”
Have you heard “These Things” by She Wants Revenge? This is the closest thing to “Things That Dreams Are Made Of” that I can bring forward to the present day. They say that Phillip Oakley, Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall influenced scores of modern day acts like Madonna, Moby and The Pet Shop Boys. Who really knows, but they definitely influenced me. From there I saw bands like Orchestral Maneouvres in The Dark, Erasure, Yaz(oo), The Pet Shop boys, Utah Saints and a handful of other not so manly bands as instantly credible and that wasn’t easy in the 80′s. They were not the enemy right off the bat. The fact that The Human League continued on to make a lot of records post 1985 is something of a miracle to me.
Human League had more songs after Dare! that resonated with the public to a degree, but take away the single “Mirror Man, (Keep Feeling) Fascination, The Lebanon” and the entire 1986 LP Crash and you’d be hard pressed to find where they made their mark after 1981. Unlike most folks I don’t hold that against The Human League. “Seconds, Get Carter and Love Action (I Believe in Love) were all great accessories to “Don’t You Want Me” on Dare! Meet a girl on a boat or a boy on a plane and fall in love without the pain. Everybody needs love and adventure, everybody needs cash to spend, everybody needs love and affection, everybody needs two or three friends….love it! Happy Labor Day everyone…
Buy or Download The Very Best of The Human League from Amazon here.