- The Human League
Infobox Musical artist
Name = The Human League
Img_size = 250
Landscape = Yes
Img_capt = The Human League in 2008
From left: Susan Ann Sulley, Philip Oakey, Joanne Catherall
Background = group_or_band
Alias = The Future, The Men, League Unlimited Orchestra
Sheffield, England, United Kingdom
Synthpop, Dance-pop, Electronic music, New Wave
Years_active = 1977 – present
Fast Product, EMI, Virgin, A&M, EastWest, Papillon
Clock DVA, Heaven 17, The Rezillos, Giorgio Moroder
Philip Oakey Joanne Catherall Susan Ann Sulley
Ian Craig Marsh Martyn Ware Philip Adrian Wright Ian Burden Jo CallisThe Human League are an English synthpopband. Formed in Sheffieldin 1977, they achieved popularity after a key change in line-up in the early 1980s. They have continued recording and performing with moderate commercial success throughout the 1980s up to present day.
Originally an avant-garde all male
synthesizer-based group from Sheffield, the only constant band member since 1977 is vocalist and songwriter Philip Oakey. Since 1987, the band have essentially been a trio of Oakey and long-serving female vocalists Joanne Catheralland Susan Ann Sulley(who joined the band in 1980), with various studio musicians. The Human League have influenced many electro-pop, other synthpop, and mainstream acts including Madonna and Mobycite web |url=http://arts.guardian.co.uk/fridayreview/story/0,,734610,00.html|author= Paul Lester |title= The Guardian Newspaper |accessdate=2008-06-22 |work= |date=2001-07-13 ] . They have been sampled and covered by various artists including YMO, Ministry of Sound, George Michaeland Robbie Williams.
Since 1979, they have released nine studio albums, eighteen singles (including 8 UK top 10 singles and 2 number one singles in the US) and played over 350 live concerts. The Human League have sold an estimated 20 million records worldwide.Kolling, Niels: [http://www.the-black-hit-of-space.dk/menu.htm The Black Hit of Space] ]
1977: "The Dead Daughters" and "The Future"
Before adopting the name The Human League, the band briefly had two previous incarnations.Turner, Sean: [http://www.blindyouth.co.uk/ Blind Youth, a complete guide to The Human League 1977-1980] .] In early 1977,
Martyn Wareand Ian Craig Marshwere both working as computer operators, and combined a love of pop music (such as glam rockand Tamla Motown) with avant-garde electronic musicacts such as German group Kraftwerk. With the price of electronic components dropping in the mid 1970s, previously unaffordable equipment was now in the range of the average consumer. Ware and Marsh saved up and bought a Korg770S synthesizer between them and set about learning how to play it. Their musical reputation spread and they were invited to play at a friend's 21st birthday party. For the party, Ware and Marsh formed themselves into an informal band called The Dead Daughters. Their live highlight was a rendition of the theme of the British TV series " Doctor Who".
After a few further low-key, private performances, Ware and Marsh decided to form a proper band. Joined by their friend Adi Newton and another Synthesizer (a Roland System 100), they formed The Future and began to create music in their own ad-hoc rehearsal facility. Although The Future were never signed and released no material commercially at the time, a collection of demos from this period was released retrospectively on CD in 2002 titled "
The Golden Hour of the Future", mixed by Richard X. The association with Adi Newton was short; Newton left the Future and went on to form Clock DVA. Ware at this point decided that he needed a singer rather than another keyboard player. The reason for this was twofold: record companies had been reluctant to sign the Future, as they couldn’t offer any "marketable" songs, and therefore a decent singer was required for any chance of commercial success; also the group only owned two synthesizers and could not afford a third.
Ware and Marsh searched for a vocalist, but their first choice,
Glenn Gregory, was unavailable (Gregory eventually became the lead singer of their later band Heaven 17). Ware then decided to invite an old school friend, Philip Oakey, to join the band. Oakey was working as a hospital porter at the time and was known on the Sheffield social scene for his eclectic dress sense. Although he had no musical experience, Ware thought he would be ideal as lead singer for The Future as "he already looked like a pop star". When Ware called on Oakey he found he was out, so asked him to join The Future by leaving a note struck to his front door. He accepted the invitation, but early sessions were awkward. Oakey had never sung in front of an audience before, could not play keyboards and only owned a saxophone (which he could not play). Listening to one of Ware and Marsh's demos, Oakey was inspired to write some lyrics which later became the single " Being Boiled".
With a new line-up, sound and vocalist, Ware decided that the band needed a new name. It would also allow them to approach record companies again from a different angle. Ware suggested a quote derived from the game , a science fiction wargame which both Marsh and Ware enjoyed playing. In the game, 'The Human League' arose in 2415 A.D, and were a frontier-oriented society that desired more independence from Earth. Ware suggested that The Future rename themselves after the game and in early 1978 "The Future" became "The Human League".
1978 – 1980: The original Human League lineup
Using "Future" material, The Human League put out a demo tape to record companies under their new name. The tape contained versions of "Being Boiled", "Toyota City" and "Circus of Death". One label, Bob Last’s Edinburgh based independent
Fast Recordsresponded and the band were signed.
The band released their first single "Being Boiled" in June 1978, under Fast Records. Although a limited release, because it was so unique and at odds with everything else on the market it was picked up on by "
NME" who championed the band, although one guest reviewer, Johnny Rottenof punk band Sex Pistolscondemned the band as "trendy hippies".
Boosted by critical praise, on
June 12, 1978the band played their first live gig together at Bar 2 in Sheffield's Psalter Lane Art College (now Sheffield Hallam University; a plaque now commemorates the spot in what is now a computer suite).With their reliance on technology and tape machines, the band had been nervous about playing live. After the Psalter Lane performance, they worried that they had appeared static and uninspiring. A friend of Oakey’s had been in the audience, Philip Adrian Wright, who had an art and photography background was invited to become the band’s ‘Director of Visuals’ with a remit to "liven up" the stage performance with slides, film clips and lighting. He was credited as a full band member on record sleeves, despite his contribution mainly being non musical.
The band's live performances began to gain momentum and acclaim and they were asked to support first
The Rezillos(featuring future band member Jo Callis), then Siouxsie & the Bansheesin December 1978 . At this gig, David Bowieappeared in the audience and later declared to "NME" that he "had seen the future of pop music" . Later, the hit song by The Undertones, “My Perfect Cousin”, contained a dig at the perceived "arty" Human League in the lyric:
In April 1979, The Human League released their first EP under Fast Record entitled "
The Dignity of Labour" which contained four experimental instrumentals. Although the EP only barely charted, major record labels began approaching the band in an attempt to lure them away from Fast. Eventually, in May 1979, the band accepted an offer by Richard Branson's Virgin Records. Because of his label's early support, the band offered Bob Last the position as band manager.
In June 1979, The Human League supported
Iggy Popon his European tour before settling into recording their first single for Virgin. Despite being promised creative freedom, Virgin instead insisted on some sweeping changes to the band's style for their first single in order to make it more commercial. They insisted on conventional instruments and vocals as well as synthesizers. Because the band had accepted a large financial signing advance, Ware was in no position to refuse but insisted that any releases in this style be credited to a pseudonym.
The band's first single under Virgin Records was the
discoinfluenced " I Don't Depend on You", released in July 1979 under the pseudonym "The Men". The single did not chart and had very little in common with the previous work of the Human League. It did, however, feature prophetic female vocals by guest vocalists Lisa Strike and Katie Kissoon sounding like the yet-to-be-formed future Human League of 1981. [Maconie, Stewart: NME 1990]
Because the imposed style had not worked, Virgin permitted the band to return to their original style and the band recorded and released their first full studio album "Reproduction" in August 1979. The album and the single "
Empire State Human" failed to make any impact on the charts. After these flops, Virgin cancelled the band's December 1979 tour. By this time, The Human League's role as UK electronic pioneers was usurped by Gary Numanwhen his single " Are 'Friends' Electric?" became a huge hit in the UK in mid-1979 .
In April 1980, the band were able to release an EP entitled "
Holiday '80", containing the principal track "Marianne" and a cover of "Nightclubbing" (written by Bowie and Iggy Pop). The 7-inch version of "Holiday '80" did well enough to get the band their first TV appearance on BBC TV " Top of the Pops" on 8th May 1980, opening a Peter Powellpresented show with Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part 2"!!.This was to be the only high profile TV appearance by the Oakey/Marsh/Ware trio on UK Television, with the sole exception of BBC2's 'Mainstream' programme in late 1979, where an performance in the studio, complete with slideshow etcetera, was broadcast of the tracks 'The Path Of Least Resistance' and the current minor hit " Empire State Human".
In May the band toured the UK. Adrian Wright was now playing incidental keyboards in addition to his visuals role. It was the last time all four members performed together live. Also in May, the band released their second studio album "Travelogue". More commercial sounding that "Reproduction", it peaked at no.16 in the UK giving the band their first real success. As a result, "Empire State Human" was re-released and the band made their second appearance on "Top of the Pops" even though it only reached no.62 in the singles chart.
Because of their lack of commercial success, Virgin refused to release further singles from "Travelogue". The Human League were booked to conduct a tour of the UK and Europe in October - November 1980, but the lack of success after two years of hard work and perceived lack of faith by Virgin set about severe internal conflict within the band.
October 1980: The formation of The Human League 'Mk2'
The relationship between Oakey and Ware had always been turbulent, and the pair often quarrelled over creative and personal matters. Oakey had once allegedly been observed chasing Ware up a Sheffield Street throwing bottles of milk at him. Windle, Rob: [http://www.league-online.com/biography Officially recognised Human League biography] ]
The lack of success compared with the success of Gary Numan's work at that time had brought matters to a head. Ware insisted the band maintain their pure electronic sound while Oakey wanted to emulate more successful pop groups. The pair clashed continually, with Ware eventually walking out. Taking Ware's side, Ian Craig Marsh joined him. Manager Bob Last tried to reconcile both parties, and when that proved impossible various options were suggested including two new bands under a Human League sub-label. Eventually it was agreed that Oakey would continue with the Human League name while Ware and Marsh would form a completely new band (which became
Heaven 17). Two weeks before a tour of the UK/Europe the band split.
Retaining the Human League name came at a heavy price for Oakey; he was responsible for all Human League debts and commitments. Also, The Human League would have to pay Ware and Marsh 1% of all future royalties under the Virgin contract.
With the tour only 10 days away and the music media reporting that The Human League was finished now "the talented people had left"; promoters started threatening to sue Oakey if the tour was not completed as contracted. To complete the tour, Oakey had to recruit new people in a matter of days.
In an event that is now firmly embedded in popular folklore and regularly repeated by the media, Oakey and his then girlfriend went into Sheffield city centre on a Wednesday night with the intention of recruiting a single female backing vocalist. After looking in various venues, they visited the
Crazy Daisy Nightclubon High Street where Oakey spotted two teenage girls dancing together on the dance floor. Susan Ann Sulley (17) and Joanne Catherall (18) were just two schoolgirls on a night out together. Neither had any experience of singing or dancing professionally. With no preamble, Oakey asked both girls to join the tour as dancers and incidental vocalists. He states that when he found out their age and that they were best friends, he revised his plan for a single female and decided that the two girls could look after each other on the tour. Originally just wanting a single female singer to replace the high backing vocals originally provided by Martyn Ware, he says that he thought having two female vocalists/dancers would also add potential glamour to the band. Because of the girls' ages, Oakey and Wright later had to visit Sulley and Catherall’s respective parents to obtain permission for the girls to go on the tour.
In addition to Sulley and Catherall, Oakey employed professional musician
Ian Burdenas a session keyboard player for the tour to cover for the keyboards of the now departed Ware and Marsh
The tour was completed as advertised but was less than successful. The music press was scornful of "Oakey and his dancing girls" and treated the new band line-up with derision. Many of the audiences who had paid to see the original all male line up, were not happy with the new band; Sulley and Catherall were often heckled and, on occasion, bottled.
On completion of the tour, Burden went on to his next commitment playing keyboards in
West Berlin. Because of the professionalism they had shown and because he planned to use them further vocally, Oakey and manager Bob Last made Sulley and Catherall full members of the band, to be paid on a salary basis.
1981: The build up to "Dare"
1981 became the band's most successful period and culminated in the release of the influential, triple platinum album "Dare" and the multi-million selling single "
Don't You Want Me"British Hit Singles and Albums (Guinness 19th Edition) Guinness World Records Limited;(2 June 2007) ISBN-978-1904994107]
In January 1981, although they had survived the tour, the band was still in trouble. Heavily in debt to Virgin Records, Oakey and Wright were under pressure to produce results quickly. By February 1981, the band recorded and rushed out "Boys and Girls". Sulley and Catherall (who had returned to school full-time) were not involved. The single reached no.47 in the UK charts, the most commercially successful Human League single to that point. Oakey acknowledged that he needed to bring in professional musicians and so Ian Burden was tracked down and invited to join the band as a trial member.
Virgin's faith had been restored by "Boys and Girls" but they believed the band lacked professional production. In March, Oakey was introduced to veteran producer
Martin Rushent. Rushent's first move was to decamp the entire band to Genetic Studios in Readingaway from the "unhealthy atmosphere" of Monumental Studios, Sheffield which they shared with Ware and Marsh's Heaven 17. The first result of the Genetic sessions was the single " The Sound of the Crowd". The single was an instant success reaching no.12 in the UK.
Bob Last believed that the band could be improved further by the addition of one more professional musician, so in April 1981 his associate
Jo Callis(formerly of The Rezillos, a band Last had previously managed) was invited to become the final permanent member of the band. The next single, " Love Action (I Believe in Love)", went to no.3 in the UK in August 1981.
The band's commercial success and higher public profile prompted Virgin to authorise the release of a full album. The band set about arranging their existing material and demos into a viable album. Sulley and Catherall who had just left school immediately postponed their plans to attend university to work on the album. By October 1981, the album was ready and entitled "Dare". Just prior to its release, Virgin released a single from the album, "Open Your Heart", which equalled the success of the previous two singles. "Dare" was released in October 1981 and went to no.1 in the UK. It spent a total of 4 weeks at the top spot over the 1981/82 period, remaining in the chart for 77 weeks and eventually going triple platinum.
Because of "Dare's" enormous success, Virgin executive Simon Draper instructed that a fourth single be released from the album before the end of 1981. His choice was to be "Don't You Want Me", a track Oakey considered to be a filler and the weakest track on the album. Oakey fought the decision believing it would damage the band, but was overruled by Draper and "Don't You Want Me" was released in December 1981. Aided by an expensive music video (a rarity at the time) directed by film maker
Steve Barron, the single went immediately to number one and stayed there over Christmas 1981. The single became the band's biggest hit, selling over two million copies worldwide . "Dare" has since been labelled as one of pop music's most influential albums [ [http://observer.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,1821230,00.html The 50 albums that changed music] guardian.co.uk Arts ] . Philip Oakey often plays down such claims, but at other times acknowledges its influence on modern music. In 2001, paraphrasing an "NME" headline from 1980, Oakey once famously quipped:
The remaining 1980s
Capitalising on the success of the album and their recent no.1 hit single, "Being Boiled" was re-released and became a top 10 hit in early 1982. The band toured for the first time (together) internationally. Concurrently, "Dare" (later renamed "Dare!") was released in the U.S. by
A&M Recordsand "Don't You Want Me" also reached number one there in mid-1982. A remixalbum of "Dare" entitled " Love and Dancing" was released under the group name "League Unlimited Orchestra" (a tribute to Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra), reaching number three on the UK album chart.
In 1982, the band received the Best British Newcomer award at the annual Brit Music awards, and Rushent also took Best Producer for his work on "Dare". By the end of the awards party, a tipsy Sulley and Catherall had lost the band’s valuable trophy and it was never seen again.
The Human League's work was now recognised on both sides of the Atlantic. In February 1983, the band was nominated for the "Best New Artist" award at the 25th annual
Grammy Awards (though the award eventually went to Men at Work. [ [http://theenvelope.latimes.com/factsheets/awardsdb/env-awards-db-landing,0,3713019.htmlstory LA Times Awards Archive] ] ).
The follow-up single, "
(Keep Feeling) Fascination", was released in April 1983 and peaked at no.2 in the UK. The following months proved to be difficult ones for the band as they struggled to record a follow-up album to "Dare" under immense pressure from Virgin. A six song EP called " Fascination!" comprising of the singles "Mirror Man" and "Fascination" together with the new track "I Love You Too Much" was released from the original recording sessions for their new album, later to be named "Hysteria". The EP was released in America as a stop-gap and also became a strong seller as an import in the UK.
In August 1983 the band released "the UK's first
Video Single" to capitalise on the growing market created by the increasing popularity of domestic home video tape recorders, [Virgin Records press release 1983] called " The Human League Video Single". This was a short (12 mins) video tape cassette in either VHS or Betamax format, containing the music videos for "Mirror Man", "Love Action (I Believe in Love)" and "Don’t You Want Me". Although innovative, it was not a commercial success; as it retailed for £10.99 it was extremely expensive compared to vinyl singles averaging £1.99 in 1983. It did set the scene for further video and DVD releases by the band in the future.
The band spent many months agonising as they tried to make a successor to "Dare", and as things became ever more stressful, producer Martin Rushent left the project. At this point, the band ditched much of the material recorded so far and started over again with new producers Hugh Padgham and Chris Thomas (though some of Rushent's contributions to certain tracks from the earlier sessions were included on the released album). Nick Heyward of
Haircut 100mocked the band saying that "he recorded his entire album in the time it took the Human League to program one drum machine!"
Finally, in May 1984, the band released the politically charged single "The Lebanon". The single peaked at no.11 in the UK. This was followed shortly after by the album "Hysteria", so called because of the difficult and tense recording process. It entered the UK album chart at no.3, however it climbed no further and critics and fans were divided by the new direction the band had taken. The second single was "
Life on Your Own" in mid-1984. The single missed the UK top ten, peaking at no.16. With the parent album "Hysteria" failing to live up to expected sales, thoughts of a third single were put on hold.
Later that year, success outside of The Human League came for Oakey in the shape of the huge hit single "
Together In Electric Dreams", a collaboration with one of his idols, synth pioneer Giorgio Moroder. The track was taken from the film soundtrack to " Electric Dreams" and became a massive hit. Often now erroneously credited as a Human League single, due to its success and enduring popularity, the band have since adopted it for their live performances and it appears on their greatest hits compilations. Oakey and Moroder then recorded an album together for Virgin, " Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder", but this met with rather less success and the following two singles failed to make the UK Top 40. However, the success of the original Oakey and Moroder track encouraged Virgin to release one final single from "Hysteria" in November 1984, the ballad "Louise" was released and reached no.13 in the UK.
After "Hysteria", the group found themselves in creative stagnation, struggling to record material to follow up on their previous successes. Key songwriter Jo Callis departed, replaced by drummer Jim Russell. Bob Last quit as manager and was not replaced.
Worried by the lack of progress with their most profitable act, Virgin paired the Human League up with American
R&Bproducers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewiswho had a proven track record with Janet Jacksonand Prince. Jam and Lewis had expressed an interest in working with the band after hearing their U.S. releases. Virgin flew the entire band to Minneapolis. The four-month-long recording sessions were beset with creative disputes, with Jam and Lewis having preconceived ideas on how they wanted the album to sound, rejecting most of the band's material (which would cost the band considerable loss of royalty income). The band eventually quit the sessions early amidst creative acrimony, although the personal relationships had actually been good.
The final result of the sessions was the "Crash" album. The album featured much material written by the Jam and Lewis' team, and showcased their
DX7-led sound. It provided a US no.1 single, "Human" (no.8 in the UK), but other singles made smaller chart impact. The album, while making the top 10 in the UK, was not as popular as previous releases. Disheartened by being sidelined in Minneapolis and with the direction the band had taken, Adrian Wright left the band to work in film. "Crash" was generally more popular in the U.S. and internationally than in the UK. The band toured in the UK and internationally in 1986 and 1987 to capitalise on their high profile at this time.
In 1987 Ian Burden also left the band.
In November 1988, a greatest hits compilation album was released which reached no.3 in UK. This was preceded by the release of the single "
Love Is All That Matters" from "Crash".
In 1989, the band built their own studio in Sheffield, jointly funded by Oakey and a business development loan from
Sheffield City Council. Oakey believed if the band owned their own facilities it would cut down on the production costs of previous albums and the band could become more productive.
In 1990, the band released their last album for Virgin Records, "
Romantic?". By now, longstanding members Adrian Wright and Ian Burden, together with newer recruit Jim Russell, had all left the band, although Jo Callis did return to play on some of the sessions and co-wrote two songs, including the minor hit single "Heart Like a Wheel". New to the line-up were keyboardist Neil Suttonwho had worked with the band on the Crash tour of 1986, and guitarist/keyboardist Russell Dennett. At odds with the prevailing trend of U.S. grungeand the Manchester scene the "Romantic?" album did not re-capture the group's huge commercial success of the 1980s with its second single "Soundtrack to a Generation" barely charting. In 1992, Virgin abruptly cancelled their recording contract. Damaged by the failure of the album, their rejection by Virgin, harsh criticism in the media and facing financial ruin, the emotional well-being of Oakey and Sulley deteriorated badly. Catherall remained positive and she is cited as the principal reason why the band did not fold at this, their lowest point.
After a couple of years the band had recovered enough confidence to put out demos to other record labels. Concurrently in 1993 they were invited to work with veteran Japanese electropop band Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) which resulted in the EP "
YMO Versus The Human League". Released principally in Japan and Asia in April 1993, the EP included the Songs "Behind The Mask" and "Kimi Ni Mune Kyun" (Trans: "I Love You") written by Oakey and Yukihiro Takahashi, feauring the vocals of Sulley and Catherall. [http://www.discogs.com/release/504204 Discogs] ]
EastWest Records(a subsidiary of Time Warner) showed interest in the band's demos and the material rejected by Virgin. They signed up the band and paired them with producer Ian Stanley(formerly of Tears for Fears). EastWest financed expensive music videos and heavily promoted their releases. The first release was on Boxing Day 1994 and was the single " Tell Me When" which gave the band their first top 10 hit since 1986's "Human". It also topped the UK airplay charts for several weeks. The accompanying album, "Octopus", returned the band to the UK top 10 and later achieved a gold disc.
On the album cover artwork and in videos, the group was now presented simply as a trio of Oakey/Catherall/Sulley. In reality however, other musicians had input to the record, including producer Ian Stanley, continued playing and songwriting contributions from Neil Sutton and Russell Dennett; and Oakey co-writing one track with Jo Callis.
The next single from the album was the ballad "
One Man in My Heart" which featured Sulley on lead vocals. It reached no.13 in the UK and is unique in that it is the only of the band's singles to feature a female lead vocal.
Their renewed success prompted the band to tour again for the first time since 1987 and they conducted a tour of the U.S. and UK in 1995. Subsequent singles "
Filling up with Heaven" and the non-album single " Stay with Me Tonight" also reached the UK top 40, and a new remix of "Don't You Want Me" was released to capitalise on the band's profile. This was in the run up to a new "greatest hits" compilation in 1996, but which proved less successful than their first "Greatest Hits" album from 1988. A change in management at EastWest in 1998 saw the cancellation of the band's contract. The band appeared on the 1980s nostalgia tour "Big Rewind" and made other concert and PA appearances throughout 1997-2000.
In 2000 the band signed to
Papillon Recordsa subsidiary of the Chrysalis Group.
The band released their next album, "Secrets", in 2001. The band was still presented as the "Phil & the Girls" trio, although Neil Sutton was credited with keyboards, and co-wrote most of the material with Oakey. Despite being well-received by critics as their best album since "Dare" (the music climate at the time seeing a new interest in electronic pop music with the
electroclashmovement), the band's new record label, Papillon developed financial problems, and was closed by the parent company shortly after the album's release, leading to poor promotion and sales. BBC Radio 1also refused to playlist the single "All I Ever Wanted" because, now in their 40s, the band did not match the radio station's demographic target audience.
"Secrets" entered the UK album chart at number 44, but fell out of the chart the following week.
Susan Sulley is on record as saying that the rejection of "Secrets" was "the lowest the band had been since 1992 and after putting in so much time and effort in to an album that then failed, nearly causing them to call it a day." [Human League interview, Best of DVD 2004]
To accompany the (then stalled) album, the band conducted the 2001 'Secrets Tour'.
Along with Sulley and Catherall, the band had Neil Sutton on keyboards. Studio engineer since 1990
David Beevershad become part of the on-stage line-up controlling the sequencers from behind his deck of twin Apple Macintoshes. Oakey further recruited multi-instrumentalist Nic Burke, then aged 21, who he had seen playing in Sheffield, to play electric guitar and keytar. To round off the line up in 2002 percussionist Errol Rollins was added to play the electronic drum kit. Rollins was replaced by Rob Bartonin 2004.
As a point of honour the band refuses to use playback, they always play live and rehearse before every appearance, ensuring that no two performances are the same.This was clearly demonstrated in 2002 when the band were booked to appear on UK national TV channel
GMTV, where they were to play "Don't You Want Me" before being interviewed. The producer was astounded when the band turned up at 5 A.M. (three hours early) expecting to set up and rehearse; it had been assumed they would just mime to playback. Joanne Catherall explained why on air during the interview "We simply don’t sound like we did 20 years ago... it would be wrong if we used tapes...so we do everything live" [ Tv Interview Eamon Holmeswith Sulley, Catherall & Oakey for GMTVbroadcast 05/11/2002]
In October 2001 an independent album produced by
Stephin Merrittof 16 cover versions of Human League Songs by bands such as Ladytronand Lali Punawas released; entitled "" it was released as a tribute to The Human League on the 20th anniversary of Dare.
In 2003 a second single from "Secrets" entitled "
Love Me Madly?" was released independently as a private venture by [http://www.nukove-records.com/home.htm Nukove Records] . Nukove was a small independent label especially set up to release Human League material, but it did not have funds for promotion and the single did not chart [Micheal Van Bockhorst, Nukove Records 2003] .
Throughout the following years, the band have continued to tour frequently, enjoying enduring success and popularity as a live act. In 2004, they released The Human League Live At The Dome, a DVD of a live show in filmed at the
Brighton Domecomplete with a compilation CD called Live at the Dome. Prior to this, in 2003, Virgin records had released "The Very Best of the Human League", a DVD of most of their previously recorded music videos. The DVD sold well in the UK and USA, and was accompanied by a compilation album of the same name.
At the end of 2005 the band together with
EMIreleased a compilation album of remixes called " The Human League Original Remixes and Rarities" aimed at the DJ/Dance market in the US and UK.
As well as dedicated Human League tours, the band have since appeared at many independent concerts and festivals worldwide. The have played at such prestigious events as the
V Festivalin 2004, Homelandsin 2005, Nokia Trends- Brazil 2005, and Festival Internacional de Benicàssimin 2007 [ [http://www.the-black-hit-of-space.dk/concerts.htm The Human League ] ]
September 22, 2006, the band performed on the U.S. network television show, " Jimmy Kimmel Live". This was immediately before the highlight of 2006, which was the band playing to an audience of 18,000 at the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeleson October 24, 2006, one of their largest concerts to date. This was followed up by an 11 venue tour of Europe in November and December 2006.
The band have been the subject of, and appeared in, various TV documentaries and features such as
Channel 4's "Made in Sheffield" and the BBC's "Young Guns: The Bands of the Early 1980s". In June 2007, Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall presented a documentary on Sheffield’s pop music history entitled "The Nations Music Cities" for VH1.
In November and December 2007, to mark their 30th anniversary (1977-2007) the band conducted their highest profile tour since the 'Secrets tour' of 2001. The 'Dare! 2007' tour encompassed 20 European venues from London to Stockholm, most of which were sold out. Their set list included (for the first time ever) a performance of the 1981 album Dare played chronologically and in its entirety. This included Philip Oakey playing the Human League's instrumental arrangement of the theme from "
Get Carter" on an original Casio VL-Tone from 1981. The remainder of the concert was dedicated to songs from the band's other albums and also included the Oakey/Moroder song "Together In Electric Dreams". The band invested heavily in the stage set and lighting for the tour, including elaborate high definition video backgrounds provided by set designer Rob Sinclair. [cite web |author=Olsen, Stig |title=www.humanleague.dk |date= 2007-12-30|url=http://www.humanleague.dk/ |accessdate=2007-12-30]
A 12" single remix of "
Things That Dreams Are Made Of" (originally from the "Dare!" album) was released in the UK in January 2008 by Hooj Choons. It peaked at #2 on the UK Dance charts.
The Human League are currently unsigned to a record label and are run as a self-contained business with their own studio in Sheffield. [http://www.the-black-hit-of-space.dk/studio.htm HL Studios company feature] ] Since late 1994 they have been managed by [http://www.sidewindermgmt.com/ Simon Watson of Sidewinder Management] .
The band concentrate on playing live, with continuing appearances at music festivals worldwide at many of which they are among the headliners. In the winter of 2008, they plan the 'Steel City' Tour, with fellow Sheffield bands ABC, and perhaps ironically,
Although the subject of retirement is often brought up in interviews, Oakey, Sulley and Catherall have all stated that they still enjoy performing and intend to carry on for "as long as they are filling concerts and people want to see them". Sulley often jokes that she "has to carry on because she doesn’t know how to do anything else." [ [http://www.susanne-sulley.net/bio Susan Ann Sulley] ]
Oakey, Catherall, and Sulley have all stated separately that it is the intention for the band to release a tenth studio album "in the near future". However, no details or timescale have been given. On possible collaborations, Oakey stated on BBC TV News and to "NME" that "we have a lot of people that want to make records with us." [ [http://www.falkirkherald.co.uk/big-in-falkirk/The-Human-League-are-going.2843758.jp Falkirk Today ] ] [ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhxl_xYOcok BBC News South East] 27/11/07] [ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cq_13Z1sWSo NME Interview Benacssim] ]
Susan Ann Sulley has changed her name twice since the band was formed and is listed by her current preferred name Engineer David Beevers appears on stage as part of the band
BRIT Award- Best British breakthrough act
* 2004 Q Award - Innovation in sound
Grammy Awards - Nominated for Best international act
* "Story of a Band Called "The Human League" by Alaska Ross (Proteus July 1982) ISBN 978-0862761035
* "Human League(Perfect pop)" by Peter Nash (Star
21 October 1982) ISBN 978-0352311511
* "Beats Working for a Living: Sheffield Popular Music 1973-1984" by Martin Lilleker (Juma March 2005) ISBN 978-1872204260
The Human League does not have an official website as a matter of band policy, (Philip Oakey does not believe that the band is 'important' enough to require one). There are a small number of unofficial websites with detailed knowledge of the band:
* [http://www.blindyouth.co.uk/ "Blind Youth"] - A website dedicated to the history of the original Human League (pre 1981).
* [http://www.the-black-hit-of-space.dk/menu.htm "The Black Hit of Space"] - A very detailed Human League history and statistics website.
* [http://www.susanne-sulley.net/ " Susanne-Sulley.net"] - Unofficial personal website, (includes Biography).
* [http://www.humanleague.dk "www.humanleague.dk"] - A site run by the band’s graphic designer, features previous band artwork.
* [http://www.thehumanleague.net/ "www.thehumanleague.net"] - A Fan page with an extensive pictorial history of the band.
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