The Human League – Greatest Hits (Virgin LP, Cassette, CD, Video, etc)
With the release of the inevitable ‘Greatest Hits‘ compilation, now seems a good time to look back at the career of the Human League, possibly the best producers of pure pop ever, and certainly a lot better than the SAW produced synthidrivel which seems to have the charts in a vice-like grip. Some might doubt that the Human League are trash, but the evidence for the prosecution is damning :
- They got their name from a board-game.
- The two girl singers were found in a disco (just like a certain German actress)
- Phil Oakey doesn’t have his ears pierced — he has his NIPPLES pierced (and there was always that unspoken question of whether Suzanne and Joanne did too…).
- Their songs include a gin advert, a Gary Glitter cover and one inspired by Judge Dredd.
It’s difficult to think of any better credentials for admission to the Trash Pop Hall of Fame.
The compilation album barely recognises that they had already released 2 L.P’s before “Dare” — only “Being Boiled”, which made it into the charts on the back of the other successes (for a while there were SEVEN songs of theirs in the top 200). Admittedly, it is their “Greatest Hits”, but it seems a shame to ignore songs like “Empire State Human” and “WXJL Tonight”, which are easily up to the standard of later songs. Perhaps they wanted to avoid paying royalties to Ian Craig Marsh & Martyn Ware, who left before “Dare” to form Heaven 17. They eventually found success later, though there was a while when they were getting more income from the 2% or so of Human League royalties they got for letting Phil Oakey use the name, than from their own projects.
However, Heaven 17 are not our concern here. The video has “Circus of Death”, directed by Russell “Highlander” Mulcahy – a strange piece of work with ground—level shots following a cat about and none of the usual Human League trickery. More Joy Division, really. Then, joy of joys, we see the “real” League on Top of the Pops performing “Sound of the Crowd” (below) – this was where I first saw them, and I remember being totaly freaked by it! I was just turned 15, and here was this bloke with a weird hair-style and nipple—rings, accompanied by two over made-up girls and a bank of synths. I wouldn’t say it transformed my life, but I think we can say it was a formative influence… Looking at it now, it still seems their finest hour even if Adrian Wright seems to do sod all!
“Love Action”, I hadn’t seen before, but is interesting if a little dated now. “Open Your Heart” is excellent, with just the band and a white back- ground (plus a few bits of electronic jiggery-pokery) being a simple but effective accompaniment to a simple but effective song. Then we come to “Don’t you Want Me”, probably THE classic song of the decade, number one for what seemed like years, but was only five weeks. A video that would have won an Oscar had it been 30 times as long; meaningful looks, a plot that was never totally clear and photography that was art without ever being pretentious combine to produce a land—mark in video. When you look at the promos made nowadays, a good few groups could do with taking some lessons from it.
However, it couldn’t last. The cracks begin to show in the next two songs, as they start to take themselves seriously, and begin using real (shudder) instruments. In “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”,they are still clearly having a good time, but even this is destroyed by the time “The Lebanon” arrives, and we see them standing seriously in front of an audience, just like all those OTHER performance videos, singing a serious song about the oh so serious Middle East. Sob. The end of an era.
Since then, they have been a pale shadow of themselves, sliding slowly and effortlessly down the slope by producing anonymous soul music worthy on no attention whatsoever. 0nly “Life on Your Own‘, which has a nice video, Phil wandering through a deserted London, and “Electric Dreams”, the joint venture with Giorgio Moroder, capture the spark that Was The League, from the days when I used to draw the logo over everything.
R.I.P. The Human League. Thanks for all the ‘Hard Times’!!
If there is one unrelenting source of garbage, it’s songs made by people who have become famous for their work in other areas. Soap-stars, football players, everyone seems to think they can make a record. 99% of these are totally without redeeming merit, but the odd one is decadent enough to make it into the realms of trash.
Anybody heard Emma Ridley’s version of “School’s Out”? It is probably the worst record, in terms of singing ability, I have ever heard — however, in the video, Miss Ridley gets back to doing what she does best, taking her clothes off. The result is a stunningly wonderful piece of Trash. I think she is now 16, which I suppose makes it legal, if not especially decent…
If you haven’t seen the video, you have my sympathy. I don’t think it will be shown again, even if it gets to No.1 — let’s face it, TotP aren’t going to show a sixteen year old putting it about in her underwear if they won’t even let you mention the word “Ac*d”
[Thanks to the joys of YouTube, I am now able to embed the video below. It is every bit as dreadful as I remember it…]
Here are a few films I’ve seen recently and enjoyed – not all are new releases, or are even fresh on video, but I’ve not seen them before.
‘Legend’ (Ridley Scott) – If you’ve seen ‘Blade Runner’, you’ll know Ridley Scott is a genius at using light and shade. This film is another excellent example of the same, even if it does sometimes look like an add. Tom Cruise is VERY un-“Top Gun”, no bad thing.
‘Day of the Dead‘ (George Romero) – A slow-starter; I went out for a few games of Zaxxon after the first 20 minutes as the cast spent more time bitching at each than fighting the zombies. But when Tom Savini gets+ his FX going, the film heats up rapidly. The image of a character screaming “Choke on ’em!” at the zombie chewing on his intestines, as he is torn apart, is the stuff of nightmares.
‘The Hidden‘ (Jack Sholder) – I first saw this in July at ‘Shock Around the Clock’, and enjoyed it just as much I recently saw it again on national release. A fast-paced gem of a movie, always entertaining, full of loud music, car chases and a cool performance from Kyle MacLachlan.
‘Reform School Girls‘ (Tom de Simone) – Well over-the-top story of life in a borstal whose inhabitants include a geriatric Wendy O. Williams and where the prison uniform is a wide range of exotic lingerie. Trashiest film I’ve seen in years, bit brutal here & there but brilliant overall.