Interviews by Niels Kolling, except Oakey by Simon Price*
*taken from the Dare 2007 Tour programme and used with kind permission from The Human League management. Jo Callis words on Martin Rushent kindly donated by Tim Rushent. Both donated in 2011 for Dare's 30th anniversary. Pictures of timesheet and Casio VI provided by Dave Allen.
Martin Rushent (producer); I was aware of the band prior to Simon (Draper) talking to me. I had heard Being Boiled and seen them live. I was a little unsure of whether there would be a project. I knew the band had just split and had no idea what Simon would play me. He was adamant that the band in its new form had great potential, he said the demos he had been sent were really good. He emphasised one of the great strength of the band was Phil's remarkable distinctive voice. He played me the demo of THE SOUND OF THE CROWD and I was sold. All of the demos (changed). Once we got started, the project seemed to take on a life of it's own. The programming took hours and hours and we were constantly battling the primitive and unreliable technology. But each time we released a tune it was a massive hit so we were bouyed up by our success and just had loads of fun no matter what. Fondest memories have to be the LINN DRUM.
During the Dare period, all the chemistry was right. Everybody's needs and passions melded together to form a potent and cohesive creative force. This force created Dare and Love & Dancing. (It) was great fun to do (Love & Dancing) cause I was left alone to do it, just me and the machines and my mad ideas. There was no certainty it would be released. When Phillip heard it he thought it sounded better than Dare but was concerned the public would view it as a rip off so asked it to be sold cheap, which it was. Needless to say it's full price now! I can confirm all the rumours (of working on Love And Dancing Part 2). However I am doing it in my own time and pace, it will get released and the new mix of Things That Dreams Are Made Of is the first (More Of Mix from 2007). No more will be released until the project is complete.
I have been amazed by the resilliance of Dare/Love & Dancing to changing times, styles and fads. Incredibly many very young people are big fans. Hence with the right record the League could regain a premier position. It is for others to judge its importance in the musical firmament. I am very proud of it and hear the effects and tricks copied a myriad times. So it clearly had/has influence.
Phillip Oakey (band member); The joy of driving down to Genetic, which was out by Goring-on-Thames, swimming in the pool, waiting while Martin did the drum tracks, hanging around and living in Oxford, being free, and British summers. Oh, and getting on with Martin Rushent who was quite a Tory, and it was bizarre that we could get on so well. We're about as different politically as you can be.
I didn't realise Jo Callis was being lined up to be a part of things. Bob Last had it all in mind all along. The Rezillos were a big deal. We felt quite inferior. We were sharing a studio with the Heaven 17 guys at first…It wasn't as strange as people think. We didn't fight. When we crossed paths, we seemed to get on alright. Although I think Bob - who was managing H17 too - had it in mind that Jo was going to work with them as well! The only reason that Bob was managing either of us was that The Rezillos had split.
We didn't know what songs were, or I certainly didn't. Unlike Jo, who had already had three or four hits. Somehow I'd breezed through the first two albums without learning much. On Travelogue, Martyn did a song called “The Touchables”, and it had a structure that was clearly divided into chorus, verse, middle eight, that sort of thing… but we were that rudimentary that we hardly ever did that. The very basics of doing what was supposed to be our job hadn't come through to me. So when it came to the third album and Martin Rushent started talking about hi-hats, I said 'What's a hi-hat?'” (Martin Rushent) was entirely Simon Draper at Virgin's fault. He was the managing director, but also head of A&R in a sort of quiet way. He looked like he was farming it out to other people, but he was the one who stuck with us. He saw us at Hammersmith Odeon on that tour with the tapes, and he told the people from Virgin that we were the ones. Just because of the way we were on stage. He always stuck up for us.
We were still very fixed in the cottage industry thing. We enjoyed it in the early Human League, we refused to even let other people take photos, and we were doing our own graphics on the covers and so on. And me and Adrian more or less thought we could produce an album on our own. We didn't know what producers did. The reason I let Martin Rushent get away with it was that I was quite fond of a punk band called 999: I liked the sound of what they were doing with the vocals, although in fact the lead singer sounded like the silly one from Abbott & Costello. Plus I loved his work with Pete Shelley. So I already had records by him so I thought we'd give him a try.
He'd always been an ambitious guy. He wanted to get a pure synthesizer thing going, give it a pseudo-scientific name, and really push it. For instance, he had something to do with Visage. Most of them were sleeping in his house for that first record. Pete Shelley's solo work was really good and maybe if we hadn't got in the way and taken the attention he would have been more acclaimed for it. We recognised that Martin would have the technical expertise to get the machines to do what we wanted. Because machines wouldn't talk to each other in those days. If you really wanted the drum machines in time with the bassline, that was beyond most people. We had these Japanese synths which were half the price of Moogs, and somehow, Martin Rushent made them sound like Moogs. We wanted novelty, and at just the right time things came into shops which delighted us. If you pressed that button there, it would make a sound you'd never ever heard on a record before. We were so lucky to be young at the right time to enjoy it.
Our first album was recorded one week, mixed the next, and we had the weekend off. With Dare, we spent five days on one track. Now, I thought if a track takes five tracks to record, it must be the wrong track! It's nonsensical. But as soon as you get machines involved, it can go anywhere. On Hysteria we spent over a month on one bass drum. That is apparently how ELO split up. They were still having hits, but they were taking so long to record that they'd already spent the money before the record came out.
(The artwork) was a reaction to what we had gone through on the two albums before. I felt pretty clearly that we just weren't selling the music. I felt Martyn (Ware) and Ian (Craig Marsh) were adding too much, and being too arty. We were doing something difficult that had never been done on a record sleeve before, and I wanted to make it easy for the audience. After they left, these things were my responsibility, so I made the rules. Rule No 1: always make the name of the group as big as possible on the album. Rule No 2: they need to know who made the record, so we don't need drawings or anything, we just need photoes. As it happened, that became the graphic. And that was just a reaction to the fact that the old Human League made it too hard for people.
Ian Burden (Band member); Everyone associates music within the context of their own lives at that moment in time. When I hear the Dare album I see the interior of Genetic Studio, Martin chain-smoking and my occasional walks around the surrounding countryside and frequent dips into the swimming pool. It was a hot summer.
I think the Dare! album is largely the product of Jo and Philip, with me playing second fiddle and Martin Rushent taking command of recording in terms of schedules and engineering. Adrian wrote some lyrics and brought some charming one-finger ideas to 'his' songs. That was the team. Working in the studio with Jo Callis was an eye-opener in terms of chord progressions and song structures. I learned quite a few things from him -- and so did Philip. The girls were either recorded seperately in Sheffield, or at Genetic studios during their time out from school work. I don't really remember them being around very much -- although I do remember treading water in the swimming pool with Joanne.
(The tour to promote the album) was an adventure. It took us to many places that most of us had never visited before (notably Australia and Japan). The songs had too many parts for me and Jo to take from the studio to the stage. We hired a chap called Mike Douglas from Liverpool to be our third player -- bringing us to a total of six hands and thirty fingers. Philip programmed a Linn drum computer in faithful reproduction of the studio parts -- and off we went with only four keyboard synths, a bass-guitar synth, the Linn and a bunch of vocal mikes. We hired a fraction of Pink Floyd's sound system from their Britannia Row company. After a show in Toronto one of the Canadian newspaper reviewers criticised us for 'miming'. I took that as testament to how clean and tight we were as a band.
Jo Callis (Band member); 1981. I had been a punk, been a post punk industrial funkateer, so now at the dawning of a new decade of pop I had no hesitation in accepting an opportunity of involvement with moody Sheffield synth band “ The Human League” and become a New Romantic, joining the new popular culture movement that was sweeping the country in the wake of the underground popularity of pioneering seventies Euro-Techno music and Roxy / Bowie club nights held in every fashion conscious city and town the length and breadth of the nation. Well I thought, any excuse to wear make up and dress up like a lass.
Having become temporarily a little jaded with the ”guitar based rock” kind of thing and feeling in need of a change of direction, not to mention the fact that the guitar, for the first time in its history, was becoming saddled with the tag of “unfashionable” (although this was only to be the case for a mercifully short period) It was a perfect time to pack my bags and head south of the border to embark on my education in The Way Of The Synthesiser. It was an age of Heroes and angry, petty Gods. A world without samplers and Midi, a land before time code, It was a world where ultimately I would find myself alone and helpless in a dimly lit room with Adrian Wright; an elder amongst the beings I had come to know as ..The Human League.
I had worked with Martin a couple of years earlier when he produced The Rezillos single Destination Venus/Mystery Action, Martin had made a reputation producing a lot of cutting edge punk/new wave stuff (The Buzzcocks, Stranglers, 999 etc.). So the prospect of working with him again in the latest popular music genre sounded very interesting. It was always a pleasure to see Martin, whether at work or play, for work was like play and whilst at play, we would often talk of work - well, either that or listen to Martins relentless "pub jokes" all night. I was delighted when I heard the news that he was to be the producer of what would be the Dare" album. Martin would show great faith and belief in those he valued and encourage you to push yourself that little bit further.
Demo’s were recorded on The Human League’s antiquated Eight Track tape machine, with most of the synth parts being played manually straight to tape via the mixing console! The procedure for the recording of “Dare “ was that we would write and record rough demos of two or three songs in Sheffield, and then travel down to Martin Rushent’s “Genetic” studios for a couple of weeks where the final recordings would be made, with of course, Martin producing the tracks. The first thing to do was put the kettle on, then the work would begin. Yes, when it came to Rock ‘n Roll excess few came close to Human League tea indulgence. I myself got started with just a little sip from somebody’s cup of PG Tips, just to see what it was like you understand, but pretty soon I was on about twenty cups a day, and thereafter I’d be brewing it up myself and dealing full cups to the rest of the band. Crazy days and crazy nights man.
Martin had all the state of the art kit of the time at his studio, so once the song arrangements and structures had been worked out, it was then left to Martin and Dave Allen to input all the relevant data into the drum machines and sequencers. I was attracted to the Roland Juno 4 initially, it was polyphonic, so I could learn to play chords, and it had some good push button preset sounds, so you could get some decent noise out of it quite quickly. Everything else was like the accoutrements of some dark scientific art until Martin Ware very kindly spent a day giving me a crash course in the black arts of the waveform, the oscillator, the LFO and the ADSR envelope. Before too long I was twiddling resonance filters, shaping envelopes and triggering sequences, a complete heretic to my former punk brethren. We seemed to spend a lot of time watching videos and playing pool until it was time for the manually played overdubs and the vocals.
Martins attitude in the studio during production was almost like he were an extra member of the band, he did have to be boss of course, but listened to everyone's point of view, I think the girls in The Human League respected that he'd always listen to what they had to say, he knew that they were the kind of teenage ladies of the day who would go to the cutting edge clubs where this music we were making would hopefully be played. He trusted in what he saw as your abilities, even if you didn't quite see some of those abilities in yourself. You were always learning off him all the time without realising it - he even trained me into a semicompetent 'tape operator' (in the days of analogue reel to reel tape recording). He kept no "studio secrets" of his techniques, because he knew that any competent recording engineer could copy those, but what they were perhaps unlikely to have had was Martins feel for the entire studio and all of its connected equipment -as if it were an instrument that he could play and experiment with.
He often walked the line between arbitration for the better ideas and keeping everyone sweet. He was very passionate about what he did and would generally work on projects which inspired him. His commitment would be equal to that of the artistes' themselves, so when he felt strongly about an issue things could get a little explosive. I'm pretty sure the resultant success was quite enthusiastically embraced by all. After years of "plugging away" in our previous respective groups and with The Human League, we thought it was not before time. Now that we were actually being paid for our endeavors, we could all afford decent accomodations and fill them with the growing arsenal of electronic gadgets and machines being produced by Roland, Korg, Yamaha, and especially Casio.
The memories of that period of touring (to promote the album) could easily fill a book, I usually quite enjoy touring, and this was now at a more salubrious level that I had previously been used to in The Rezillos, SHAKE etc. I was also pleased to discover that even a Synthy Pop Band has its moments of unbridled mayhem, and for all his self composed cool, on the occassions when Phil decided to get involved, he was one of the biggest mentalists I've ever met! ....That Bob Last could also be a bit of maniac from time to time. Oh yes, and being a punk rock electric guitar player I was of course rubbish on keyboards.
I think there were a couple of bootleg albums from those tours, one of which was called "Drumset Mystery", "recorded" in Milan in '82. - "On Stage There Was No Drumset At All, But You Can Perfectly Hear It !!! ", proclaimed the back of the album sleeve. In the early 80's the technology was still quite elementary, and we were pretty much pushing it to the limits of the day when most of our contemporaries essentially had a conventional line up but; "with a synthesiser guy". (Besides covering The Rezillos Destination Venus) we also did a song by one of Ian Burden's previous bands in the set. In recent years The Rezillos have repaid the compliment by doing a rock version of Don't You Want Me, which though I say so myself, is a mighty fine interpretation! (Besides covering The Rezillos Destination Venus) we also did a song by one of Ian Burden's previous bands in the set. In recent years The Rezillos have repaid the compliment by doing a rock version of Don't You Want Me, which though I say so myself, is a mighty fine interpretation!
The League did a lot to help propel the proliferation of more sophisticated commercially available electronic instruments and recording equipment that were soon to appear. As Vince Noir explains to Howard Moon in an early episode of "The Mighty Boosh": "The Human League were pioneers man, they invented music!"
Mr Rushent, you were, a great friend, mentor, kindred spirit and inspiration, along with a few other things I could probably mention. You have had a major impact on my life, as indeed you have had with many others. I am proud to have known you as both valued friend and colleague and in some respects even more so now as ever more of your stories and achievements come to light in the wake of your untimely and heartbreaking passing. So Brother, I'll have to catch you in the next life, cos I'm pretty sure I'll end up in the same place as you. And yet it seems as though you're still here, through that embedded connection you left with family and friends, and all the other lives you touched either directly or indirectly. And who could ever bloody forget you. God bless you good mate. I know you will be getting deservedly praised and hailed yet again upon the 40th anniversary of "Dare", And I will certainly be raising many a glass to you.
Dave Allen (engineer); I was in a band called Pionpoint. We made almost a double album with Martin in 1979. He had bought the Microcomposer and a System 700 and we used that on some "experimental tracks". The band broke up and Martin offered me some demo time while he was in America which I accepted but the day I arrived the engineer left. It was a massive learning curve but I did end up with 5 songs completed and at least I knew how to put the tape on before I started. At the point of recording (gear that was also used to record Dare); MC8 Microcomposer, Roland System 700, Korg Delta, Shure Sm8 (That's what Phil's vocals were recored with too). The Linn Drum hadn't been issued (then). I spent a few years getting out of my deal, Pete Shelley did Homosapains and The League happened...seemed foolish to try and animate something then as I was already working on the first Cure albums. Time was faster then.
I turned up for work at Genetic one day during The Human League sessions with a Casio Vl Tone 1. Martin Rushent jeered at it and said "huh , you've become nouveau riche, Dave. I'm paying you too much." Which was a bit of a joke seeing as it took months to get paid from Genetic. An hour later Phillip arrived with a ....Casio Vl Tone 1 which we then used to do the flutes on Open Your Heart and the" Get Carter " intro to "I Am The Law". Funny, to have all that system 700 and synths and then use the Casio but there lies a bit of Phil Oakey's genius. His other master stroke was to ban any real instruments from the sessions. This meant that Martin and Jo had to stick to synthesizer solutions. Sometimes it's not what you do it's what you don't do.
The Sound Of The Crowd was the first track that Martin did with the band, I was involved in all the other songs though. Well, making tea, cooking the band meals, programming. In my dumbass way I worked out how to sync the Linn drum to the Microcomposer using an oscillator and trying to make one code look like the other, ridiculous. So maybe it’s all down to me. The most difficult song was Heavy Metal On 45 by the Terrible Lizard, which me and Jo (Callis) did at nights as guitars were banned. That was fun, because we were just pissing ourselves laughing, doing Smoke On The Water over a Linn drum. I really wanna see Jo again. Bob Last liked him, learnt a lot from his tea making. Not joking either, he always made a rake of tea before he left the studio. Bloody Jimmy Rushent turning the electricity off and losing two days work, he was 4 or something. Bless ...when I see him next!
Always hard to asses with hindsight. Who could tell? As for the outside world, all the smart money was on Heaven 17. I loved what we were doing, not really though I was green, though I sang in my chains like the sea. Inspiring, uplifting, depressing, difficult, challenging, worthwhile. Still sounds phat whenever I hear it out and about.
Went to Paris (on the Dare Tour 81/82), all the gear went wrong and it was awful, timecode slipped etc. Was also funny, especially the gay club that the record company chose for the aftershow, probably on the grounds that they all wore makeup. Martin charged me for the hotel room, so I had to invoice him for using my synth. Funny it came to exactly the same amount. I think me and Martin did the Love and Dancing album in a couple of days on our own. Martin and Pete Shelly saw Grandmaster Flash in New York, and Martin said I can do that with tape scrubbing. Went from there. Martin was a genius though, I was merely Sancho Panza, hmmm. Oh and there’s a lot of 120 bpm. Being in the presence of greatness rubs off and gives you a bench mark for future work. I owe Martin a debt of gratitude for the training, and the break. As I said Martin was a genius. Thanks Mart.
Denis Blackham (master engineer); He (Martin Rushent) took them to giddy heights with Dare and set them off down the right path. I am a fan of their music, they had a vision that worked and I love the early stuff and the more produced Don't You Want Me which still sounds fresh today. They were talented people making great music with minimal equipment, which is often a bonus, because it makes you work harder to get what you want. I only worked with them over a relatively short period, plus some Heaven 17 stuff. They used to come down from Sheffield on the train several times, and we always had an afternoon session and we cut various tracks. I remember getting on well with them and always pulled out the stops to get their tracks sounding as good as I could. Just fond memories of working with the band. I also mastered some releases for the Rezillos. Jo Callis played with them and Human League and came in for mastering sessions for both, I remember he was interested in what went on.
Bob Last (manager); I encouraged and to a large extent planned the detail of this split up because the tensions in the band were becoming destructive and I was confident enough to see a better way forward for both the fractions if they split. I brokered a settlement between the two halves which included the right for Phil and Adrian to use the name (even though they did not at first want this) because I believed then that they needed it as a platform for the pop break- through I was sure was just around the corner for Phil. At the same time I was confident that Martin and Ian could have more fun with a new identity- which they duly did. Because I was intimately involved in the split I was able to set things up with Virgin for both bands on a kind of double your money basis even though they were at first very worried.
I had worked with Jo as part of the Rezillos and come to revere his sure sense of killer chords and hooks (not to mention some bad ass guitar noise he could rustle up when called upon). I was pretty sure he could reinforce the pop writing ambitions of the new Human League and that it could be interesting for him to have to rewire his process by laying his guitar down. I also recall the electronic purism that Phil always insisted remain at the core of The Human League. I think he understood that rigid adherence to this helped preserve their unique position whereas Martin Rushent felt that the songwriting could just as well form a base for a more varied palette including "real" sounds.
It was extraordinary to go all the way from the cassette tape in the post to a global number 1. Thing I remember most is a chaotic and very cool 72 hours in Reykjavik at the end of the tour at that time. It has been interesting to see their work resonate so strongly and taking a place in pop history. I am often forced to listen to them in Tesco's.
Simon Draper (Virgin A & R); The first two Human League albums were both excellent records in their own right but both sold relatively poorly, well below expectations. The band and Bob Last were equally disappointed by the sales. This very slow start certainly contributed to the split up of the band. The only positive sign was that both albums never stopped selling, albeit in small numbers, so I could see that interest remained strong. When the band split up, I was anxious that The Human League name should continue since it was clear from the reaction to the first two albums that something was building. But I must confess that I thought that Martin Ware and Ian Craig-Marsh, who were after all the only musicians in the band, had perhaps a stronger chance of being successful. I tried to sign bands where the principals were strong characters with a developed idea of their own identity and destiny. Strong will is essential for success. I under-estimated Phil Oakey’s vision.
The first I saw of the new Human League was their performance at the Hammersmith Odeon with the girls which was a fairly ramshacked affair. There was a reasonable crowd of fans and I vividly remember Charlie Gillet, the well-known author and broadcaster, saying to me backstage after the show, he felt strongly that the Human League was going to be huge based on the strength of this performance. Once we had the hit with The Sound Of The Crowd and as the recording of Dare progressed, we all knew that we had a phenomenon on our hands and of course the prospects were extremely exciting. Martin Rushent had made the Human League sound incredible (and the album) has certainly stood the test of time.
The world tour for Dare was successful because the record was so outstandingly successful but personally I found their live show not that convincing.The original Human League of Martin Ware and Ian Craig-Marsh was sometimes wonderful live where the slide show and music combined to great effect, much more compelling than their recordings. It was going to take the new Human League a long time to create a live pop show that could measure up to the albums.
Simon Fowler (cover photographer); They were all down to earth northern lads and lassies. Great fun most of the time until they argued. From a photographers point of view photographing 6 people and making the shot work is always going to be a challenge but when they argued amongst themselves boy that was tough. Bottom line though is that I have a lot of found memories of the League from those days.
Steve Barron (video director); t felt like a 'fork in the road ' moment. It felt like this album was going to wrestle with the mainstream and stir things up. I'm pleased with the work in general (directing Don't You Want Me and Love Action). In the eighties we all had the feeling we were doing stuff that no-one had done before
John Leckie (producer of Holiday '80 EP); I was in Berlin later that year (1980), working with East Berlin band called City and mixing at Hansa. The band couldn’t come to the mix being in east so every night I’d go through Checkpoint Charlie with smuggled cassette of days work for the band to hear. Simon Draper from Virgin called me from England to say Human League had split up but Phil had recruited two girls to sing and had one great song and could I come back immediately and work on it. Unfortunately I was booked in Berlin for another 3 weeks so couldn’t do it. “Never mind “ said Simon “Hope you can work on album when you get back”. When I got back I called Simon who told me they were in with Martin Rushent who had this amazing drum machine (Linn) and it was going well so I wouldn’t be needed! C’est la vie!.
Simon Best (former manager); The key for both halves of the band in going forward (after the split) was to bring in a new member with complementary skills – Heaven 17 needed a great singer and front-man whom they found in Glenn Gregory – the League needed a great pop-song writer who Bob found for them in Jo Callis from the Rezillos and Shake. Once both were in there was no stopping either of them ! The Band had signed up for the European tour that I managed for them – I thought it was a smart but risky move (to recruit Susan and Joanne) under the circumstances – however, the girls rose to the challenge and the risk paid off. The excitement from the band (in recording Dare) and Bob was palpable. Jo Callis was still Edinburgh based so he gave us regular reports and was clearly loving the new challenge. Very exciting and rewarding (with the success of Dare). I was at the Edinburgh gig of (the Dare) tour and remember it as musically very professional and tight. Only negative was I didn’t think that they had quite yet optimised the new incarnation of Adrian’s visuals.
Phil had achieved everything that he’d been aiming for with the League since mailing us the carefully prepared demo of Being Boiled - I was delighted for him. (I) have seen the League several times when they’ve come through town and joined Phil and the girls for drinks afterwards. I also still see Jo Callis occasionally at other gigs here and it’s always a pleasure to catch up. I’m pleased for them that they continue to be recognised as something special.
Roger Linn (creator of Linn LM-1 drum machine); The original idea was born out of necessity. In making my songwriting demo recordings, I could play guitar well, play bass and keyboards fairly well, and drums poorly. I simply wanted a machine that could create the drum tracks that I heard in my head, and sound good. It is very satisfying to have had some influence on musical creativity. It's fame is based on the fact that they were owned by 500 of the top people in music. The LM-1 was simply too expensive for most people to afford.
THE THINGS THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF
Martin Rushent; I picked this one (2007 More Of Mix) cause I have always felt it should have been a single. And because the Love & Dancing remix has become firmly established as a global current club floor filler and it lent itself to a Moroder style mix which I had wanted to do for several years.
Phillip Oakey; It's a great statement, and it's one you can only make once in your career. It was great to say 'How about if we went round the world, and did all these great things?' And once you've been round the world, you can't do that any more. It would be (sings) 'Guess what we saw…'
It's entirely Adrian's song. Every word of that. But it was a lovely opening statement. So much music at that time was doom-laden and despondent, and here you were, putting your neck on the line, saying “No, here's the good stuff“. It's pretty odd, because Adrian is pretty doom-laden and despondent. He was always the least likely to embrace happiness. I always remember, we'd be driving along in the van sometimes, and he'd say 'I hope this van crashes, I hope we all go over a cliff, and I'll be happy as long as I die after you lot.’
Ian Burden; It was one of Adrian's one-finger ideas with Philip adding more one-finger ideas, and the lyrics are pure Adrian.
OPEN YOUR HEART
Phillip Oakey; I remember Jo brought in the backing tape of 'Open Your Heart'. He'd been a terrific guitarist. He'd never really played keyboards but we made him. And he walked in with this, and it blew us away. But I've never thought what I wrote took it where it needed to go. Which is why it got to No.6 and not No.1, cos I blew the chorus. The verses are fine, it all linked together OK, but I never came up with that great chorus: 'Open Your Heart' is not a great chorus. I grabbed it out of nowhere. It's meaningless. I don't really want people to open their hearts!
I played it to Glenn (Gregory, Heaven 17 singer), almost in a cruel way, because it was one of the best things I'd heard in my life. I don't know if it was about us. I've always read a lot, and taken things from here and there. I thought I was this sort of… injured soul. Which I'm not at all.
Ian Burden; A Jo Callis instrumental with lyrics and vocal melody added by Philip. Our first outing with one of his (Jo Callis) songs was less successful in chart terms, after Love Action (I Believe In Love). But working in the studio with him was an eye-opener in terms of chord progressions and song structures. I learned quite a few things from him -- and so did Philip.
Jo Callis; Ironically, I had started to work out tunes on guitar, playing along to an early drum machine which had about six preset drum patterns, Open Your Heart did translate better on the keyboard and I think we used the same drum machine with the same preset on the original demo which was done in the Leagues old 8 track studio in Sheffield. I subsequently destroyed the aforementioned drum machine by plugging it into an incorrect power adapter, which was a bit unfortunate as I'd only borrowed it from an Edinburgh music store, oops! It was a morale boost for myself and too much of a power boost for the wee drum machine to handle. "Ah think thon inverted voltage surge that was injected through the dilithium crystals must have burnt out it's warp core Cap'n! ".
Dave Allen; I think we programmed the notes into the one touch button on the Casio for Open your Heart. And then just tapped them in the rhythm of the tune.
THE SOUND OF THE CROWD
Martin Rushent; Simon (Draper) was concerned that the drum and bass sounds were not as good as they should be. He had heard HOMOSAPIAN by Pete Shelley and wanted the League to have a similar drum sound. I had been doing electronic based tracks with Pete and had developed a technique which was increasingly coming up with the goods. The basis was a Roland System 700 synth - a big beast coupled with a microcomposer. I was able to program very sophisticated (for the time) musical parts and drum beats and sounds. The band thought I was going to continue working on their version of the song, but I had already decied we were gonna dump it and start again. Seems to have been the right call.
Phillip Oakey; It's one of the weirdest songs ever to be a hit. If you listen to it now, it's so jagged and noisy. But I think Spandau had done 'To Cut A Long Story Short' before it came out, which had a very similar riff, and we thought well, maybe we could have a hit after all. It's some analogy of Ian Burden's which has to do with hairdressing. Literally, the words are about hairdressing and putting make-up on. Which he didn't do a lot of, himself. He wasn't particularly glam. But he seemed to have a fixation with how the mechanics of getting your hair washed related to your life. We nicked that (aah-aah-aah” scream) off Iggy Pop! He was hugely influential on us. At first, I basically wanted to be Iggy Pop. If I was ever having trouble with a song, I'd think 'What would Iggy Pop do?'
Ian Burden; Philip synthesised a drum rhythmn and I added the instrumental parts. I wrote some random lyrics so that I could sing the vocal ideas to Philip (because I don't like singing la la la etc). He wrote the chorus vocals, but kept my surreal verse parts. (Surprisingly!) It was gratifying to hear that song on the radio. At the time there was no way of knowing whether-or-not the other pieces we were writing would amount to either less or more of that sort of success. I remember being in a record shop in Sheffield when a 15/16 year old lad in front of me at the counter asked to buy a copy of The Sound of the Crowd. My first encounter with a member of our record-buying public. Yeah . . . that was a strangely warm buzz.
Bob Last; It is a well known fact that I had real doubts about releasing this as the first post split single and Phil and I had quite a stooshie (Scots for a strenuously argued discussion) about it. It did though signpost the way.
Simon Draper; It was Phil Oakey’s idea that I contact Martin Rushent to help sort out The Sound Of The Crowd. Martin came to see me at Vernon Yard (an independent label owned by Virgin Records) bringing with him a tape of a newly completed track from an album that he had produced for Pete Shelley. Throughout, he had used the new Linn drum synthesizer to great effect. This was very exciting because I knew that Phil would not abandon his firm commitment to record only using electronic instruments. And thus far the weakest thing about the recordings, was the rhythm (or lack of it). Here was an electronic drum that really sounded great.
Denis Blackham; Martin Rushent cut a few things with me and this must've been the start of his relationship with Human League. I think I may have an original test acetate in my collection. Perhaps some readers will have the original pressings with my trademark 'Bilbo' scrathed in the run-out area.
Phillip Oakey; That's an Adrian lyric. It's as simple as being afraid of the dark. There's no extra level to it. It's 'scary things scare me'.
Jo Callis wrote the tune, and everything he does is musical. Some people have got that. Liam from The Prodigy has got it, Jimmy Jam has got it.
We started doing it again a couple of tours ago, and it's a real joy.
Ian Burden; Don't remember (much) . . . except for hearing it very loudly whilst reading a biography of Talleyrand.
DO OR DIE
Phillip Oakey; There's a little thing about the lyrics that hint at being sexy. I've always tried to make the songs a bit… sexy. Not in a very effective way: I don't think I ever persuaded people that I was. But the first line has got 'cock' in it, which I'm quite proud of. We wanted to do a bit of an uptempo song, but it just kind of happened. We were never the kind of band who thought 'Oh God, we've left out the ballad.'
A lot of 'Do Or Die' was dictated by using a Linn drum. The coincidences that happened to make the career go at that point were so many, and one of them was that Mr Roger Linn invented a machine called the Linn drum, and all that trouble that we'd been having for two albums - you'd have a bass drum that would work well twice, then go wrong - ended, cos they were a doddle to use. Everyone else was stuck in a rut of 'Oh, you shouldn't be using that on a record, it's terrible', but the day the Linn drum came into being transformed everything for us. Pick a tempo, press a few buttons and off you go.
Ian Burden; An instrumental piece of mine (much improved by Martin Rushent's production) and vocals and lyrics written by Philip.
Dave Allen; I dont remember being involved in “Do Or Die “ as I was probably working with Dexys Midnight Runners then with Alan Winstanley.
Phillip Oakey; As soon as we heard the Casio VL-Tone… I think I was going out with Joanne by then, and she drove me over to Rotherham or Doncaster where they had them in the shops, because they didn't have them in Sheffield. We were totally knocked out by it.
In the early days we only got through our concerts because we did “Rock And Roll” (Gary Glitter) and “You've Lost That Loving Feeling” (Righteous Brothers). Both of which were held in contempt at that stage, but Martyn said 'No-one will expect us to do that, let's do it.' And we swung an audience, and they stopped throwing cans at us! So on Dare we thought 'Let's get something they won't expect us to do: a jazz soundtrack from an obscure film…'
We never get credited for the fact that it was a film no-one cared about until we recorded that tune. I love that film. We had a strong sense of coming from the North, and Get Carter is brilliantly evocative of that. The film was about Newcastle, people with Northern accents behaving in a way that's worth filming. You hear Roy Budd's tune when Michael Caine is killing his last victim on the beach. It's so bleak. 'Get Carter', 'I Am The Law', 'Seconds', that chunk of the album is miserable! Three songs of misery, death and society breaking down.”
Ian Burden; Basic theme melody from the movie with Michael Caine. A solo performance from Philip, playing the tune on a Casio VL Tone. (My) favourite song, don’t know why…
Dave Allen; Me and Phil had Casio VL Tones and to be honest loads, but I can’t touch type or remember, lol.
I AM THE LAW
Phillip Oakey; There really wasn't a Judge Dredd element. It was Judge Dredd, There was nothing else. It's some bits of Judge Dredd being sung at you.
One of the things that really changed my life was when I was working as a hospital surgery porter and I met a guy called Vernon who used to be a bouncer. He had a goatee beard and long flowing hair, and he wouldn't swear if there was a woman in the room. He talked about being a bouncer, and he said he thought his job was to protect people who might be hurt by people having fights. Girls who had gone for a night out and didn't want their eye taken out by flying glass. And he changed my mind towards all that sort of stuff, a lot.
Ian Burden; Totally Philip, but with a lot of help from Martin Rushent.
Dave Allen; I Am The Law (is my favourite song), (I) liked Judge Dredd.
Phillip Oakey; It's Adrian's lyric. It's concentrated and focussed on… how would you get through that afternoon, waiting for him to turn up? The story for everyone is Kennedy getting killed, but the story for us is how do you become a person who can do that? How do you spend hours, in a sweltering room, knowing you're going to try and shoot someone, and it isn't just going to change his life or your life, it's going to change the whole world. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't do it. And it's about the atmosphere in that room.
Adrian collected these bits of odd culture. He was fascinated by the interfaces between the media, celebrities, and the real world. He was fascinated by Hitler, in terms of the way he could manipulate people. He probably saw the headline 'The Shot That Was Heard Around The World', and just took it. He was way ahead of his time. He predicted the culture of Hello! magazine before it came reality.
We put it on the B-side of 'Don't You Want Me'. It's the song that still knocks me out: Wow, how did we make a record like that? We started doing festivals a few years ago, and if we were down for an hour set, I'd say 'Right, let's start with “Seconds”'. We'd be in the dance tent, and everyone would be expecting us to start with 'Don't You Want Me', but we'd come out and do what was basically trance 30 years early. And we won them over from that moment.
Ian Burden; Adrian's lyrics, and Jo Callis getting the synths to grind!
Jo Callis; One of my all time favourites, even though I was "heavily involved". The song came out of a jam we had in the old 8 track Sheffield studio, which was quite an unusual thing in itself. I was trying to imagine what The Sex Pistols might sound like if they were a synth band. I still love that rather dark, monolithic side to The League. And Seconds always sounded great blasting out in a club. Oh yes.
Dave Allen; Did most of Seconds on my own, (remember) pulling the sync lead out of the Linn drum at the end so that it went all wobbly.
LOVE ACTION (I BELIEVE IN LOVE)
Martin Rushent; Some of the tunes were just a riff and a bass line when we started and got mainly written and arranged in the studio - Love Action (I Believe In Love) for example.
Phillip Oakey; It's another one where I had verses of things I wanted to say. It's certainly one and a half, maybe two and a half (songs stitched together).
I'd got myself really mixed up in romances by then. I'd been married, and not been as good to my wife as I should have been. I believe she doesn't care, but I do regret it. I sort of think I'd betrayed the institution of marriage, which at the time I wasn't bothered about. I still think that marriage isn't meant for people like me, and yet I don't want to slap the faces of people like my parents, who were married for 60 years, who as far as I know never looked at another human being, and got through the aftermath of World War II with four kids, and lived in houses where there were slugs coming through cracks in the door… and people like me come along and say 'Oh I'm gonna get married, oh forget it, I'm gonna get divorced', and I felt like I'd let everything down. So that was all going on in my head… and we needed a chorus. So we put a bit of Emmanuelle in it!
("This is Phil talking") is nicked off Iggy, on 'Turn Blue'. When I heard Iggy do it, I nearly fell off the chair. 'Hey Jesus, this is Iggy…'”
Ian Burden; My instrumental, and Philips lyrics. He'd have some odd bits -- like cat sounds and eccentric bits of percussion. I'd write an instrumental piece around them, arranged with space for his baritone voice and structured as a song. I'd hum him a few possible tunes and he'd go away and write the vocal parts -- usually with his own melodies. I have a cassette tape of the demo we recorded in Sheffield, remarkably similar to the final version recorded with Martin.
Jo Callis; A nice thing about The Human League was that on some songs one could have very little involvement other than perhaps laying on a synth line or helping programme a few drum patterns, so the finished results can be listened to quite impartially. I very much like Love Action, which was pretty much Phil and Ian. I find I can listen to this tune in the same way I listen to my favourite songs by other artists.
Dave Allen; Love Action (I Believe In Love) is still my favourite, I really enjoyed the whole thing, especially the rap bit. Remember Phil being very doubtful about about saying “this is Phil talking” which we (me and Martin) thought was ace.
Steve Barron; Love Action (I Believe In Love) didn't come off exactly how I wanted. Definite pressure on the next video, not least because Michael Jackosn had seen and liked 'Don't You Want Me' and got me to make 'Billie Jean' in between. Found it much harder to do the concept for the next one. Coming up with concepts that could give the band some kind of shared screen time was never straight forward. It often bacame a political shuffle and a compromise.
DON'T YOU WANT ME
Martin Rushent; Don't You Want Me - was radically different from the way Phil had planned it.
Phillip Oakey; I thought it was too clever. For some reason, very unusually, I came back from the recording and left Martin and Jo there, and when I heard it, I thought they'd made it too slick. The choppy synth sound is triggered by a guitar, and I thought that was very close to breaking our rules about no guitars. I thought it was a bit too poppy for us. And again, we didn't have a chorus. Martin sent us into a room and said 'Right, you've got an hour'. I came out and I was a bit embarrassed at how simple it was, but I sang 'Don't you want me, baby?' and Martin said 'That's GREAT!' Which was very impressive. He knew about pop. It's that song, peoples view of our entire career is focused on that song. I've been doing radio interviews and they say 'Oh, Phil, are you there? We're gonna come to you in a minute…', and I know what they're gonna play me in with.
Ian Burden; Adrian had a simple tune which Jo syncopated and then constructed the whole instrumental elements around it. Philip wrote the lyrics and vocal melodies.
Jo Callis; Adrian (Wright) seemed anything but human as he mercilessly began to bombard me with the brain numbing ten note riff which was emanating relentlessly from the workings of his Yamaha CS15 synthesiser, the room began to spin and my head was swimming as I tried to fight down the nausea which was rising from the pit of my stomach. Make it stop ... I must .. make it stop, if I could just think of a way to utilise the hellish riff, adapt it somehow into the beginnings of a song, then, at least I might be able to limit its duration to brief periods of say four or eight bars, perhaps put some spacings between the notes? who knows, given time Adrian could maybe even be persuaded to change the frequency and timbre of the sound? Oh God! the noise ...the horrible noise Yes, that was it, I knew what had to be done, it was my only chance.
So it came to be, that from this demented sequence of notes, this acorn of an idea from Adrian’s prolific mind, we began to work up a tune which in days to come would have drunken strangers swaying with glazed eyes before us, convinced by their inebriated condition that we would really love to hear their rendition of the chorus lyric; “Doant Yooou Want Mi BAY BAyee!.... Dunt Yooou Wan Mi Whooooahhhar.” ...Mind ay that eh? That wis you’s eh.” Recurrences of this condition occasionally happen to this very day, as often as not by persons who must have been mere toddlers when the song first hit the airwaves. Needless to say I find it quite flattering every time, God bless the general public.
Using a very diplomatic approach, on account of the fact that I was “crashing” on Adrian’s couch (man) during my songwriting expeditions to Sheffield, I suggested that the offending riff be arranged into a four bar phrase with a resolving note at the end ( B major I think it was) this being syncopated against a simple chord pattern forming the basis for the verse of a song.
I’d been hearing quite a lot of Latino type stuff by the likes of King Creole and Coati Mundi in the clubs that I’d been frequenting whilst on R&R at the time, so this was where my initial idea was coming from, the riff can be plainly heard on the finished recording of “Don't You Want Me” as a brass part in the verses of the song, playing along with the chord pattern I’d put behind it. Now we were off and running, we had the very humble beginnings of the song; Four chords and counterpoint top line sequence, now we needed some rhythm, which was quite a tall order in these historic days of electro-pop.
In order to create a drum track one was usually faced with three options, the first being the analogue twelve step sequencer, which was not recommended for the faint of heart or the novice, the second was the preset drum machine of the type used for electric organ accompaniment, which was quick and easy but with the dilemma of “Which setting should I use? Bossa-Nova, March, Rock 1, Rock 2, Disco (always a favourite) ,Samba? Oh! decisions decisions”, or thirdly just sit back and wait a couple of years until Roland invent the TR808 Programmable Rhythm Composer.
So we waited, but not for long however, because as if in answer to a prayer, Roland brought out the Doctor Rhythm, probably the worlds first affordable programmable drum box. As crude a piece of kit as this was, never achieving the desirable ‘retro’ appeal of the Roland products which were soon to come, it was a revelation of the time. With the unique abilities of “Dr. Rhythm” we were able to program basic Kick Drum, Snare and Hi-Hat beats all from the one machine, it was almost a resounding “Ya Beauty! ”, well at least until something better came along. Very soon a truly basic four to the floor beat was programmed up amid some cursing at Mr Roland’s new technological little marvel, then a bassline which owed more than a little to War’s “ Me and Baby Brother” tailored to the chords, and we had us the verse.
On a little bit of a roll by now, I tagged on a new four bar sequence of chords and bassline which seemed to flow quite nicely out of the existing verse, this became the bridge of the song ( “Don’t, don’t you want me, you know I can’t believe it when I hear that you won’t see me.” would eventually go the lyric to this part.) which would precede the build up to the chorus, the bass part I had originally written here ultimately became the leadline featured during the “intro” of the finished recording, it being replaced by a bass part similar to that of the verse, that was producer Martin Rushent’s idea, giving another “hook” to the tune.
At this point in the proceedings, vocalist and longest standing member of the group Philip Oakey entered the fray. Upon hearing the composition as it stood thus far, Philip remarked that it fitted in with an idea for a song that he had had simmering in his imagination for some time, which was loosely based around the “A Star Is Born / Pygmalion” theme, lyrically speaking. He immediately consulted his large notebook, which accompanied him to all writing and recording sessions, and we soon found ourselves with some lines of lyrics and another musical section to the song which married up nicely with the work already realised by myself and Adrian. Well, now the song was almost writing itself.
The final section of the composition which I came up with to kind of resolve the parts we now had, and which were flowing together very satisfactorily, was probably the most crucial, for although we did not realise it at the time this would become the chorus in all its drunken sing-a-long splendour. This didn't become apparent to us until well into the final recording stage at Genetic Studios in leafy Berkshire when Martin Rushent, producer of the Leagues “Dare” album and subsequent singles etc., said something to the effect of ; “ ‘Ere Phil, that’s yer chorus there that is, now bugger off an’ write some bleedin’ words for it.” Mind you prior to that, during playbacks of the track in progress, Martin, myself and studio engineer ( now producer) Dave Allen would sing along our own “ chorus ” to this part of the song, which I’m appalled to admit was of such a base and sordid nature that I could not possibly relate it in such a learned and quality publication as this book.
So with most of the component sections of the composition worked out, we set about making a demonstration recording. For the benefit of the readership who now take for granted such things as Midi, sophisticated computer sequencing packages, versatile home recording equipment and so on, it must be stated again that in these ancient times such technology didn't yet exist beyond the confines of research and development departments of the Hi-Tech manufacturing companies. By the time of writing “Don’t You Want Me” we had already done a few stints of recording at Genetic, and we had been picking up a few tips on how Martin did his Synth Brass parts, which were used to great effect embellishing the final arrangement of the song. So being young(er) and tres optimistic we thought that we’d have a bash at incorporating some of these type ideas into our little demo. Well, unfortunately our relatively meagre facilities in Sheffield could not compete with the state of the Techno art kit such as Roland MC 8 voltage controlled sequencer, Linn Drum Machine (one of the first in the country) and Roland System 700 Modular Synth which Genetic boasted, and so our results were quite hilarious to say the least, but even at that they did serve to pinpoint suitable areas for brass enhancement.
Inevitably we arrived at Genetic again, armed with cassettes of demo’s, notebooks of lyrical ideas, make up bags and our trusty Casio VL Tones, for this was the dawning of the age of glamour and gadgetry and we never left home without either. So the backing track to “Don’t You Want Me” was arranged and built up during the week, with everybody concerned under the influence of tea. First would go down a guide drum track on the Linn Drum, which would later be replaced by the final drum track complete with fills and so on, then the other parts, bassline, chord patterns etc. would either be played laboriously by hand, as we were all crap keyboard players, or programmed laboriously on the Roland MC8 sequencer with every note,step and gate time entered separately into the machine. All in all quite a laborious process then.
The one little personal victory for me however, was persuading everyone concerned that one of the sequences on the songs verse, for which a sound had been patched up on the system 700 synth, should be triggered by my guitar, I always took it with me - just in case. They all hummed and hawed and tried to cover their inherent fear of the axe with lame excuses, but after I’d performed a convincing though puerile tantrum they relented, I got my way and of course the end result was bloody great, both in giving the song a funky George McRae “Rock The Boat” groove, and getting a guitar used on a nancy synthesiser record. Result!
At last the tunes backing track was recorded with all the aforementioned adjustments to structure and arrangement, all that remained was the singing. As previously touched on, Phil did disappear off to write a chorus to complete the lyrics that he already had, and in true “Phil “ style, made life as uncomplicated for himself as was possible by reusing some of his existing lyric. He seemed to quite value my opinion on his work, so, as was often the case he would run the finished idea past me first, especially if it concerned a song we’d collaborated on. “Jo” he’d start, with a slight trepidation as to my reaction, “ What do you reckon to this?..... ‘ Don’t you want me baby, Don’t you want me whooooaoh, Don’t you want me baby, Don’t you want me whoooaoh!’ ”.
Well, at first I thought he was taking the piss, but within a couple of seconds I realised the true genius of it. Phil’s simple solution to the problem was absolute pop brilliance, adding an element that would take the song to a not yet envisaged level. Sorted! Now with all and sundry delighted by fully furnished backing track and lyric sheet the lead vocal was recorded, with Phil deciding to do his singing from a toilet cubicle in the corridor adjacent to the studio control room. Perhaps he thought that the stark reflective tiles would provide an ambience befitting his performance, maybe the solitary isolation would help precipitate the laconic disposition that the delivery of the lyric required, perhaps he just liked the smell of toilets. It could have been for these or any other reasons, but as far as I was concerned he was out of every ones sight and way too close to the tea stash.
Once Philip was done, it was time for Joanne and Susanne, the ladies in the house, to do their stuff with Susanne making her lead vocal debut on the second verse. And that was that, until the track was mixed, stamped, filed, indexed, briefed, debriefed and numbered, becoming the third single released from the Long Player that would be “Dare”. From thereon my life was not my own, I was Number Six, it became Number One.
Dave Allen; Don’t You Want Me was Jo (Callis), Martin and me for a weekend while the rest went back to Sheffield. It’s a pity I don't have my polaroid of Phil singing in the ladies toilet, because that was funny. Phil has the photo, I gave it to him as it was a fuckin’ cheeky thing to do.
Simon Fowler; We shot it (the cover photo) in Phil’s squat at the time and then onto a local bar.
Steve Barron; I hadn't heard of their music before I got the song so I wasn't a fan. I think I found the lyrics slightly embarrassing and *American* at the time. I became a big fan. I was very excited about having a big enough budget to use 35mm film (£15,000). Until then nobody could afford 35mm for the videos. I thought this one should feel like the movies - it sounded like a movie, night exteriors and narrative intrigue. I really fancied a girl who was an assistant editor and I had seen a Truffaut film called Day for Night and wanted to go one step further and try and make a film within a film within a film, I wrote a treatment which the band approved. We paid homage to the Truffaut film on the clapper board in one scene.
Bob Last; I was sure of was from the very beginning of the Dare sessions was that Don't You Want Me's opening bars were the beginning of a pop classic.
Simon Draper; At the time it was beginning to be understood that only by achieving multiple hit singles from an album could you achieve really massive album sales. Don’t You Want Me was always going to be the biggest hit (it was this song that convinced Jerry Moss to license the Human League from us for America).
Roger Linn; It felt wonderfull to hear "Don't You Want Me" on the radio. My favorite because it was - to my knowledge - the first hit with one of my machines.
HARD TIMES (B-SIDE TO LOVE ACTION)
Martin Rushent; I spent 28 hours straight writing and programming the brass parts for Hard Times and another 24 hours recording them. Didn't mind a bit, had a wonderful time.
Jo Callis; Memories of recording Hard Times are already beginning to flood back, it's one of my favourite 'League' tunes, and I had a great time working up the backing track with Martin, probably over a weekend when the rest of the band had gone back to Sheffield, as was Non-Stop. The story of 'Hard Times' in particular is quite memorable for me.
So far there's no news of celebrating the anniversary by releasing a special edition of the album. But then again it has been done a few times over the years, so why not spoil yourself with buying the 2015 vinyl re-release which can by bought here. Or the 2012 deluxe 2CD re-issue that contained 12" mixesd and the Fascination EP as bonus tracks. Can be bought here.
And why not celebrate by givning the excellent Dare Fan mixes from the 30th Anniversary of the album issued on this website a spin, they can be heard here.