Liverpool Echo 29th October 2004

In a League of their own

Peter Grant

THEY were 'Best newcomers' at the inaugural Brits in 1982 - now, more than two decades on, they are everything that is positive about pop.


"When we are old, fat and grey we can look back at what we have achieved and feel proud. But, remember, we all still believe we are incredibly lucky," says member Suzanne Sulley.


Mega successful and still going strong after nearly a quarter of a century the Human League are one of music's legends.


But they still stress their success was largely down to luck.


"Luck played a great part in what happened to us - oh, and hard work," says one of the two distinctive female vocalists Suzanne who, with best pal Joanne Catherall, became an integral, essential part of the new look electro group.


Initially dubbed 'the dancing girls', they became a vital ingredient in a revitalised Human League which has had different line ups since its formation in 1977.


Vocalist Phil Oakey (Suzanne still calls him Philip) spotted the two teenage dancers in the Craisy Daisy disco in Sheffield after an earlier incarnation of Human League had disintegrated.


Phil knew his group would have even more potential with the talented twosome.


Suzanne says they stood out that night NOT because of outlandish, OTT makeup as has so wrongly been reported but because they looked 'quite ordinary' in a room full of strange punk-ish looking people.


"That's another myth to put to bed," says Suzanne, speaking in her strong Yorkshire accent.


The other falsehood she is happy to dispel regards the lyrics to the League's all time classic anthem Don't You Want Me? way back in 1981.


Sighs Suzanne: "People keep writing that me and Joanne were working as waitresses in a cocktail bar - we were NOT, we were schoolgirls studying for our A Levels."


It is true, however, that the girls were big Human League fans before Mr Oakey changed their lives forever. He even persuaded their respective parents that a rock life-style was what they were cut out for.


Says Suzanne: "We had tickets for Human League's UK tour, and actually ended up playing the gig that we had tickets for.


"That performance was followed by a month-long tour of Europe.


"We only went into this group because we thought it would last a short while and we could travel and have a laugh.


"Now, 24 years on, it is hard to take in that it's lasted this long. But what a fantastic time and life we have had - and still do have.

"Recording and touring are great and we are all very close.


"In fact, we all still live in Sheffield literally five minutes away from each other.


"This weekend Joanne is with her kids in Legoland in Windsor and then on Sunday she has roped me in to go round to her house and help out with some Halloween celebrations.


"We've been friends for so long we don't even think about it anymore. I suppose if the Human League hadn't come along we would have gone to university but don't ask what we would be doing NOW in life.


"We are in The Human League - that's the way of the world."


Suzanne says she has developed a great love for Liverpool over the years, and tries to ensure there is a Liverpool date on every tour.


"I have such a very, very big soft spot for the city. Great people, so warm with such a gift for conversation.


"My ex husband was a really strong Liverpool FC supporter and we would go to as many home games as we could.


It may be 24 years since the group as we know it got together, but Suzanne says their schedule is as hectic as ever.


"We go into rehearsals next week and then tour in November and December.


"I am sorry that we can't stay on after our Philharmonic Hall show - we have to go on the road to play the next show in Southampton the next day, but we will be back again.


When the group play the Phil on December 10, Suzanne says they will perform many of their outstanding back catalogue of hits and some obscure numbers.


The band who gave us Mirror Man and Open Your Heart and Louise want to put on 'a bit of a party' -- and if that means a couple of mistakes now and again, then so be it.


"What you see and hear is us. No tapes. If we sing out of tune then it's us and, hey, we sometimes do sing out of tune.


After all this time in the business surely Human League can afford to put their feet up and take it easy?


"We're not rolling in it and we don't appear in OK! magazine. We don't have endless number one hits but we are very much here - we enjoy what we are doing."


As for the success of Don't You Want Me?, the perennial pop song is still played on pub juke boxes and performed by karaoke enthusiasts. It also recently featured in a major car commercial.