My vinyl heaven: The Human League - Dare
PUBLISHED: 19:36 06 June 2019 | UPDATED: 19:36 06 June 2019
Nick Richards takes a trip back to 1981 to listen again to the Human League's Dare
Even in Phil Oakey's most optimistic thoughts, he couldn't have predicted that 1981 could go any better for The Human League. In October 1980, after two largely unsuccessful albums, a divisive split in the band saw founder members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh depart, leaving just Oakey and Philip Adrian Wright to pick up the pieces and move forward.
Oakey sensed the need for a new direction and for third album, Dare, he recruited two local schoolgirls, Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley in January 1981 to largely perform backing vocals on this next project.
And what a decision it was, for it gave the band their defining, more commercial sound. Importantly Oakey now had the perfect vocal accompaniment to his synthesizer-backed voice with which to achieve major success chart success.
While the album didn't come out until mid-October 1981, music fans got their first taste of the all-new Human League sound with the aptly-named The Sound of The Crowd, which came out in April and reached Number 12 in the charts the following month.
Oakey admitted that the track, second on side one of Dare, is just a series of random phrases that sounded good. Quite what "Shades from a pencil peer pass around/A fold in an eyelid brushed with fear," meant nobody knew. It didn't really matter as the song is for me, the best thing on the album.
While that song was the first time Catherall and Sulley were heard on a Human League record, they make their first appearance on Dare in the first track.
Accompanied by a multiple synthesizers, that opener, The Things That Dreams Are Made, has Oakey barking out a potential list of glamorous 80s status symbols: "Take a boat to China or a train to Spain".
When those two female voices first come in it definitely feels like a welcome change from Oakey's lone brash vocal delivery.
Track three, Open Your Heart, which got to Number 6 in the singles chart in September 1981, is an epic soaring power anthem with a gorgeous synth hook which sounds like someone has discovered the flute button on the synthesizer while in fourth track, Darkness, Oakey sounds like Morrissey.
Love Action, with its meowing intro had already made the Top Three in the summer of 1981 and is a pure slice of majestic pop and then there's the album's biggest track, Don't You Want Me.
While punctuation fans will be alarmed that the song title wasn't followed by a question mark, pop fans provided the answer to a question that had dogged Oakey during recording of the album.
He felt it was the weakest thing on Dare and, as a result, relegated it to the last track on Side B. He couldn't have been more wrong.
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Accompanied by an atmospheric video, the tale of a romance gone wrong became one of the defining songs of the 1980s, ending up in the 30 best selling singles of the decade (it sold more than 1.5 million copies) and scoring a bizarre and very much coveted Christmas Number One.
I think Don't You Want Me is an excellent song and I have a theory that it could quite easily have been recorded by a band like Joy Division and in turn, I could quite see The Human League recording Love Will Tear Us Apart.
Don't You Want Me capped an amazing turnaround for a band who had been in turmoil 12 months on and while an act like The Human League will never have the same kind of enduring legacy that a band like Joy Division had, they wrote songs on a similar theme and were only a couple of guitars away from being a really cool cult band.
Even now, 38 years after its release, Dare still sounds great thanks to Martin Rushent's sparkling production and really has stood the test of time.
And I always thought it was highly approprate that an album recorded in the summer of Charles and Diana's wedding produced a mega-hit about unrequited love called Don't You Want Me.
The Human League - Dare
Release Date: October 16, 1981
Catalogue no: V2192
Reception: Went to triple platinum and hit the Number 1 spot. The album won them a 1982 Brit Award for Best Newcomer. Voted Best Album in the 1981 Smash Hits Readers Poll.
Best Track: The Sound of the Crowd
Worst Track: Seconds
Best lyric: "You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar/When I met you"
Value: £10 in excellent condition