Ranking Every Human League Song From Worst To Best On Quality
Welcome to my list ranking every Human League song in order of quality from worst to best, and writing a bit about each one.
Firstly, a bit about the list. It includes all tracks that can reasonably be considered to be credited to The Human League (and ONLY The Human League). This is obviously open to a bit of interpretation, but I’ve done my best.
Unfortunately this means some fantastic songs very much associated with The Human League can’t be on the list. It means Kimi Ni Mune Kyun, Together In Electric Dreams, Dancevision and I Don’t Depend On You cannot be listed, for example. Many of these would be really high in the chart if I did include them. However, if I did include these it would open the floodgates to a whole load of other songs that probably shouldn’t be on there like Computer Game / Firecracker / Tong Poo, which I don’t think anyone from The Human League had anything to do with, and possibly all the different ventures of all the other band members, which would just be ridiculous. I’ve made the reasonable assumption that all the tracks on the Dance Like A Star EP are by The Future, not The Human League, barring the ones that appear on The Golden Hour of The Future.
The list is not a ranking of my personal preferences, it’s a ranking of what I think is an objective view of the tracks’ quality. Obviously this is going to be coloured by my personal preferences, and who’s to say that my opinions on what the best tracks are hold any water? I’m aware of all the problems with that, and I’d welcome discussion – I’m certainly not saying I’m the king of evaluating Human League tracks in terms of their quality.
Having said that, I have been a massive Human League fan for many decades and I am very familiar with all the songs on the list. I also don’t have any particular “era” that I favour, even though the eras are so different – I love all the Human League eras to be honest.
The trouble with worst-to-best lists is that it all looks a bit negative at the start. The reviews quickly move from scathing through to positive though, as most Human League tracks are pretty good, with only a minority being duds.
I’m also going to assume that anyone interested enough to read this list knows the back story of all the tracks, so I won’t go over them again, unless they are relevant to my point.
Here we go then:
131 LET'S GET TOGETHER AGAIN
I don't know whose idea this tedious cover was, but it wasn't a good one. It's really plodding, straight down the line, boring and didn't have any place in 1990. There's nothing tongue-in-cheek going on (unless I’m missing it), and not much creativity in all honesty. Compared to the cleverness of some of his earlier work, including the covers, it feels like Philip has been lobotomised for this one. A real chore to listen to. The Human League at their very worst.
130 GET CARTER
No, it's not moody. No, it's not bold. It's just someone playing a boring monophonic tune on a Casio VL-1.
It seems a bit unfair to rate stuff from The Golden Hour Of The Future with the rest of the tracks as some of them are just rough demos and ideas. Yet, I do have to put them in as that's what this list is about, and there are some great ideas in the collection. This, however, is the worst of the lot - dirgy and boring and there's not much to say about it, apart from that the high amounts of filter resonance causing the "tweety" sound get really irritating.
Just a bit of a racket really. Hard work to listen to.
127 THE DIGNITY OF LABOUR PART 2
Some rhythmic metallic sounds. Yes I know it's all part of the narrative of the work as a whole etc. and is supposed to represent gantries for a spacecraft being made from steel, but it's not great, it's quite boring. I think there's a reasonable chance anyone who says they really enjoy listening to this track is lying, either to themselves or others.
126 THE DIGNITY OF LABOUR PART 4
It's all a bit muffled, like it's got a low pass filter across the whole mix. Not really very accessible, not really very good.
125 JOHN CLEESE; IS HE FUNNY?
Any attempt to answer this question would be a lot more entertaining than listening to this track. This is one of two tracks that threaten to spoil the otherwise really good Octopus album (the other one is discussed next). I've no idea how this made it onto the album at the expense of the much better instrumental The Bus To Crookes. Also, if you are going to have an album with only nine tracks, don't make one of them a rubbish instrumental. It's a good job seven of the others are either good or excellent.
124 ONE MAN IN MY HEART
This was quite a big hit so some people must like it, and apparently it was quite well critically received, but I think there are real quality issues here throughout. The line "your clumsy grace, I love your face" is not great and the whole thing is really soppy and one-dimensional. I just think it's really bad and don't really get why others don't to be honest. As with most of the Octopus album, there is some nice sound design though.
This just sounds like it was chucked together in a few minutes in a "that'll do for a B-side" type way. The big build and the bagpipey type sound bit might be trying to be anthemic.
122 TOTAL PANIC
Not as panicky as you might hope, in fact nowhere near as panicky as the much better instrumental Non-Stop. If you are going to call a track Total Panic, it needs to be very panicky, and this isn't. So poor it couldn't even make it onto the pretty thin Fascination EP.
121 YEAR OF THE JET PACKS
The title is by far the best thing about this track. Jet packs are ace, I used to wish I had one when I was a kid. This track isn't very good though. Comedy tuning. More silly filters with the resonance set too high.
120 NEW PINK FLOYD
It's not really, it's more like a lo-fi Doctor Who theme with no tune, but it does have a good atmosphere to it. Someone did a YouTube video of it with loads of depressing Sheffield buildings in it, and it did increase my enjoyment of this track.
119 FLEXI DISC
You may wonder how a track that contains pretty much no music at all has even ended up this high in my list, even above a UK Top 15 hit single, but Flexi Disc is brilliant. It's funny, it's genuine and gives a really interesting insight into how the Human League operated back in the 70s. But I really can't justify it being higher because it isn't really music, and this chart is about music really.
118 GORDON'S GIN
A bit of a boring cover of some TV advert music. Pleasant enough but nothing special.
117 MISTER MOON AND MISTER SUN
Probably the track that most emphasised people's perceptions that The Human League were being left behind in 1990. They were possibly trying to be a bit Madchester here with the funkier beat, and Jesus Jones-ish guitars, but they really don't pull it off at all well, the drum sounds being particularly dated sounding in the context and all the worse for trying to play the type of funky rhythm that was returning to popularity in 1990. Oddly the track is mixed by William Orbit, who became a major name later in the decade. He does a decent mix job but doesn't really save this track from sounding like it's trying too hard. Nevertheless there's lots to enjoy here, particularly the guitar solo which has me doing air guitar every time. This would probably rank much higher on my personal preference chart, but it does have so many issues that can't be ignored.
This instrumental is a bit pedestrian when considered on its own merits. Like many of the instrumentals on Secrets, it works quite well in the context of the album, but not as a stand-alone track.
115 REACH OUT
Another instrumental cover that doesn't really offer much, but the noisy and persistent synthesised percussion really drives the track along nicely.
114 KING OF KINGS
Suitably majestic I suppose. The shouting at the end is very odd. It probably wasn't supposed to be there.
113 OVERKILL DISASTER CRASH
A bit scary, a bit energetic. Sort of scary eurodisco. Nice phasing.
Not too bad really. Quite computery. More comedy tuning.
111 DOMINION ADVERTISMENT
The Human League have often been both weird and funny and that blend is evident here in this 25 seconds or so of very entertaining comedy oddness. There are lots of connections between different Human League songs, and this has a clear link with Circus Of Death. "Non habit forming and safe to use as directed", Philip reassures us. That's okay then.
110 GET TOGETHER
"Setbacks happen all the time, life's still there to seize" is a great lyric - it should be on one of those motivating Facebook memes, and is the main reason this track is places as high as it is, as there are probably 109 better Human League tracks than this.
109 SINGLE MINDED
Sounds just a little pathetic on first listen, but is a little bit of a grower. Nice bridge build, chorus is a bit of an anti-climax, it's quite hard work, like going on the treadmill at the gym.
108 THE TOUCHABLES
People often say the first two albums are a bit weird, but this really is a straight ahead pop track. I don't think it's got much going for it. I also think going to the parallel major of chord vi in the chorus doesn't work well, there's no need really.
107 NEVER LET ME GO
Over-rated. I've no idea why they chose this for a single off Credo and not When The Stars Start To Shine for example. This has a really boring chorus. I think the girls' autotune works well though. It really could do without the odd bit at the end where it gets "dancier" and there are some horrible musical clashes. It would be higher in this chart without the unnecessary end section.
106 INTO THE NIGHT
Not really enough night mood for a track with this title. The girls' bits are nice in this though.
105 LOVE ON THE RUN
If this was a list of my favourites rather than my attempt at an objective assessment of each track, this would be lower. The chorus melody and faux Motown vibe annoy me a bit, but I accept it's a good track and tends to be considered by fans as one of the best tracks on Crash.
Nothing too deep here in terms of subject matter, but those big synth chords in the chorus are irresistible.
103 122.3 BPM
It's okay. Saying the BPM in that weird voice is a bit naff though. Where's the point?
Another pleasant-enough Secrets instrumental, but there's a musical clash in it that really annoys me.
101 THE DIGNITY OF LABOUR PART 1
Not too bad, groovy and other-wordly, but the tuning is all over the shop. Is that deliberate? Includes a “snare” sound that sounds like a cardboard box being trod on underwater.
100 ROCK ME AGAIN
Another slightly pointless cover, but this one works reasonable well. The riff works well on the selected synth sound and there's a good vocal performance by Philip. It's quite funky too.
In the pre-Dare era, the cover versions were often the most commercial sounding Human League tracks and this one earned them their very first Top Of The Pop performance. There's an obvious irony singing a song called Rock'n'Roll with no guitars or other "real" instruments, but it works pretty well.
98 ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST
Dramatic, anthemic, works well. Nice tinkly synth.
97 DISCO DISASTER
This seems to have the Being Boiled bass synth sound in it, so that’s a positive. It’s quite punky vocally, with some nice moving filter cut-off sounds. Not too bad – the production is all over the place, obviously, as it’s on The Golden Hour Of The Future.
96 LAST MAN ON EARTH
It's really long, probably too long. But it is quite good, it’s emotional and evocative. Another track that links into Circus of Death.
Nice and funky, gets you wiggling around.
94 THE BUS TO CROOKES
I love The Bus To Crookes but I accept that's it's objectively not a great track. There are lots of different sections. I've never been to Crookes on the bus, but doing the trip listening to this track on repeat is on my bucket list.
This pleasant interlude between Never Give Your Heart and The Snake is very much based on the former track, and that's no bad thing.
A nice dancy interlude following The Snake, with some nice synth sound design. What really annoys me about this though is that it keeps going “we hear the bells” (from The Snake”), but it never resolves to the “they’re ringing low” line (as it does in “The Snake”), which I’m constantly waiting for. That’s even in the title of the track, what are you trying to do, just really annoy listeners?
91 I LOVE YOU TOO MUCH
Mainly gets this high a position for the Fascination version with the shiny, synthy Martin Rushent production. The Hysteria version just removes all the good bits and is quite a dull affair. Also, the minor third in the melody against the major third in the chord in the chorus is a bit horrible.
90 THE WORD BEFORE LAST
I haven't got the foggiest what this is about. It's quite depressing. Some of the synth sounds work well. I don't really know what the relevance of the TV clips about Thatcher and being left-handed are about, unless they are just random TV clips. TV is mentioned in the song a few times. It's certainly tempting to skip from Blind Youth to Empire State Human, missing this dirge out.
A bit dull but at least they attempt interesting chord progressions, and the title lyric is a good hook.
88 THE SIGN
Good, solid pop track. There's something about Jo Callis's incredibly weedy guitar in the second chorus that really gets me going in a positive way. Lots of demisemiquaver action as well as is typical on the Hysteria album. Some of the production is a bit dull though, again typical of the Hysteria album.
87 SO HURT
Quite a good break-up song really. Nice saw-wave synth fourths, an interesting chord progression, good real bass from Ian Burden and heartfelt lyrics.
86 ALL I EVER WANTED
The previous three albums all had massive pop monsters as their first singles and I think they were trying to go for that with All I Ever Wanted. However, it's nowhere near as good from a pop smash point of view as Heart Like A Wheel or Tell Me When. Nevertheless the production is superb and really contemporary for the time. For some reason there are two slightly different versions of this. The video is outstanding too for something that must have been low budget and works really well with the track's production. So, the song is not as strong as it perhaps could have been, but the rest of the package in terms of production and visuals is pretty good.
85 ELECTRIC SHOCK
As with Total Panic, it doesn't really live up to its title - you want a track called Electric Shock to really zap you. This goes some way towards that but doesn't quite make it. The 303-style quirky riff is the best thing about the track, and it stands up to the repetition it gets. The band pass filtered section at the start helps the impact of the track when it comes in in full.
84 LOVE IS ALL THAT MATTERS
The Crash album version has a beautiful introduction segueing nicely out of the end of The Real Thing. This leads really nicely into the opening pad and electronic percussion of the single version, all really nice. But it's all a bit plodding when it gets going. All the heavy explosion-style percussion makes it drag. It's the musical production equivalent of carrying two bags of heavy potatoes a quarter of a mile home from the shops. I wish the spoken vocal bit was easier to understand too. Nevertheless, it's quite good overall.
83 ONLY AFTER DARK
The sliding vocals are the main point of interest here.
82 I NEED YOUR LOVING
I will probably get criticised by a lot of fans for having this so high (if “a lot of fans” read this that is). It was a massive flop as a single after huge hit Human and tends to come in for quite a lot of stick. Additionally it's not written by the band, but by Jam and Lewis, amongst others. But it's really good! It's big, it's brash, it's bold - fine late 80s USA pop, and Philip and the girls put in some great performances.
Like the above, another track from the Crash album that is hated by fans. But it's just good old messy fun, like the music equivalent of getting splurged and throwing paint on a kids TV show. I used to think it was "Swang her 'til she starts to wee", but apparently it's "weep". Boo. I think “weep” is more sinister though. And "Swang her 'til her face turns blue". With her full consent I hope.
80 STAY WITH ME TONIGHT
The Human League's last UK top 40 single to date is cracking hi-energy pop, with a fresh take on the familiar "let's make the most of our last night together" lyrical theme. There is some avoidance of obvious chords here, which works nicely and stops the track being too clichéd whilst also giving it its own flavour.
79 A DOORWAY?
A good song addressing the sweet spot between having intimacy and keeping individuality in a relationship. There is boldness here as Susan's vocals are allowed to be exposed against just the drum track, which works very well. In the "early version" that exposure goes on too long. It's much better in the version on Romantic.
78 THESE ARE THE DAYS
Positives and negatives with this one. It's got some good sound design and some excellent hooks ("hey hey, live today") etc. However it does seem to be aimed at those wanting to equate the Human League with the 1980s, something the band have never been very comfortable with (Susan once saying she didn't like the 80s much). This song is therefore about pushing forwards rather than looking back, but the trouble is it's not very mid-90s, it sounds quite 80s, therefore defeating the point a bit, unless it's supposed to be ironic. There are also some extremely dodgy bits here which I'm surprised got through. There is a very odd orchestral-type bit. Additionally, in the verses they do a kind of round robin with different vocalists singing different lines. This is something they've done a few times before, like on Money and Fascination. The Fascination ones are a bit poor but they sound like Freddie Mercury compared with one of the lines in this track, the one about "the terror of the bomb". I don't know who it is singing this, whether it's Ian Stanley, Neil Sutton or just some electrician or who happened to be in the studio at the time, but it's one of the worst vocals I've ever heard. Still a good track overall though.
A funky and energetic album opener. This does the classic Human League verse vocal round-robin thing, like Fascination and the above-discussed These Are The Days, although the vocals are less dodgy than the other two mentioned. You can criticise Crash, as lots of people do, but Philip Oakey is at the top of his game vocally on the album, including here. Crash does have a reckless energy about it and it’s captured on this track well. The “lonesome corridor” lyric is used here, and it crops up again on Kiss The Future.
76 THE CIRCUS OF DR LAO
This is genuinely weird and scary. That slow vibrato synth is very creepy. So are the vocals. In fact, the whole thing is creepy, making this one of the strongest tracks on "The Golden Hour Of The Future". There's yet another Doctor Who reference in here too.
75 THE DIGNITY OF LABOUR PART 3
Definitely the best part of Dignity Of Labour, and also easily the most commercially appealing. The arpeggio section is really nice, with some nice key changes and sound design. There are occasional musical clashes.
74 I'M COMING BACK
Great verse, even better bridge before the chorus, chorus is a bit of a let down. The synths sound a bit out of tune in the instrumental break, but that's quite welcome really.
73 DANCE LIKE A STAR
This whole track is clearly supposed to be a bit of a joke but it works well with a really catchy main riff. Really funny spoken word introductions too. "Jason Taverner" is amusing and "we're The Human League, we're much cleverer than you" may be correct. The weird science fictiony synth sounds in the middle eight are worth a listen too. Most amusing though is the ridiculous falsetto voices singing "hear the guitar" supported by Philip talking, also inviting us to "hear the guitar", the irony being that there is no guitar at all of course. This is similar to the irony in Rock'n'Roll, but far more obvious. It's also got a kind of live rock band thrash crazily on their instruments to end the song type bit at the end, but of course it's all synthesised. A funny track.
Sellotaped like an afterthought to the end of Rock'n'Roll, but this is the superior track of the two. It's dark and sleazy, like a dirty old man roaming late 70s discos.
A great little track, full of energy, and the girls shouting "pathological!" bumps this up a good few positions.
70 THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE
Typical spooky open fourths and fifths on the synth. Saved by great lyrics like “the truth is, comfort kills, and you don’t need that car.”
69 MEN ARE DREAMERS
A nice ballad with a great chorus, despite the two chord progression, that stays on the right side of schmaltzy sentimentality, remaining credible and passionate. The best bit is the post-chorus which goes “I never meant to hurt you” etc.
68 NIGHT PEOPLE
There are some great bits in Night People, it's got great energy, it's nice and simple at the start and has a night mood about it. I think they could have kept it simpler thoughtful though, and kept it shorter. As with Never Let Me Go it has a kind of progressive structure and the later sections aren't great. The lyrics about cheeses are a bit grating. Sorry.
67 THE REAL THING
Funky, with plenty of attitude. Great chorus vocals. Great ending leaving just the chorus vocals accapella with the reverb on to blend through to the start of Love Is All That Matters on the Crash album. Lots of clave. Lots of funky brass. I can't believe people think Love On The Run is better than this, but they do.
66 SOUNDTRACK TO A GENERATION
Remembered as the enormous flop single that threatened to destroy the band by losing them their long-standing deal with Virgin Records, this is a great slice of pop, that is more musically adventurous than it could have been. The bass line is really well programmed. The second verse sounds really fresh, when the girls take the lead, like when they take the lead on previous single Heart Like A Wheel. Contains the famously fantastic lyric “the years have gone on in between, but all I knew at seventeen is all I know now”. I remember rushing into town to buy this on the day of release. It was raining. It was probably the only copy sold in that shop that day. I’m not even going to mention the “holy cow” and “oh wow” bits.
I think this has the best late 80s night mood for a Human League song. The pedal / ostinato bass works so well here as the bass just stays mostly around one note as the chords change above it. The verses are stripped out enough to let the vocal reverb breathe. The trouble is that the lyrics about having to get some jam are a bit daft as it just sounds like we are being reminded about a grocery shopping list.
64 MIRROR MAN
This absolutely massive hit single allegedly about Adam Ant is a strong record, very Human League-y in places, with lots of different other flavours like the obvious Motown influence, buckets of hooks and a lovely verse melody and chords. But I just don't think the chorus is really that strong. It doesn't hold up to the quality of the rest of it, and is a bit of a disappointment. There are quite a few Human League songs where the chorus feels a bit forced after superb verses and other sections. This is one of them, and we may come to more later.
63 THE LEBANON
The Human League went a bit guitary on Hysteria and nowhere more than on this track. The guitar is one of the best things happening here though. The lyrics to this tend to get massively slated, but I don't think they are too bad. Let's face it, there's plenty of Human League lyrics you can shoot down if you want to, but I love the fact that there are bold lyrics in these songs.
62 SIN CITY
No, they aren’t singing “sin city arse”, apparently. The siren sound thing gets quite tiring, but this has a lot of variety and a lot of thought seems to have gone into the production and arrangement. I love the stripped down choruses near the end. Secrets should really have been much bigger, it was really contemporary at the time.
Some great harmonies in here, especially near the end, on the last choruses.
60 LIFE KILLS
I don’t like this miserable commentary on the pressures of “modern” life much, but I think it’s a good record. The chorus is catchy, but the fake brass bits are very Marsh and Ware and really grate on me.
A lot of people think Jam and Lewis killed the Human League during work on the Crash album, just stepping all over the band's creativity and bulldozing through with their own sound. I actually think there's plenty of evidence that Jam and Lewis did get take on board the Human League's characteristics quite well. "Human" is obviously a Jam and Lewis track not a Human League one. They dig out a variation on one of their most used chord progressions that they use in Love Is All The Matters on the same album, as well as Janet Jackson's "Come Back To Me" and other tracks, and we get the usual power drums and bell trees etc. However, they get on board with the band's tendency to include the word "human" in a lot of their songs, plus the girls singing "I am just a man" is typical Human League oddness. The "conversation" between Joanne and Philip Oakey is also a bit similar in nature to Don't You Want Me, telling two sides to the same story. A really nice pop ballad.
It is really long, and it annoys me the way the riff stops and starts again near the beginning as if the keyboard player started playing on the wrong beat and had to correct himself. It's atmospheric though, with a passionately delivered vocal. This is a track that is not scared to strip the whole mix and leave things really isolated. The girls’ “long ago, long ago, away, away” vocal works really well rhythmically.
57 HARD TIMES
In true Human League style, this is both chirpy and weird. A simple but brilliant bassline drives the whole thing along. The version on "Love and Dancing" is probably better than the single version, as the horrible siren thing in the single version is worse. Obviously links to Love Action.
Like Mirror Man, another massive smash hit with a slightly tiring and forced chorus. That slightly out of tune sounding main synth riff tires easily too. It's a shame as the verses, bridges etc. are fantastic, they are simple, funky and full of fantastic composition and production features, including the big synth claps. Wonderful breakdown section too. The Groove Collision TMC remix is stunning too, it stays really faithful to the original but adds a fantastic extra groove - it certainly shoves it up a few places in this chart.
55 BREAKING THE CHAINS
This would probably be a bit higher in my personal chart. A pretty good chorus, especially at the point where the melody goes higher, and Philip really strains to sing "breaking the chains". It works really well as he's kind of breaking the chains of his vocal tessitura.
54 NEVER GIVE YOUR HEART
This is obviously supposed to be Secrets's ballad which brings the girls to the fore, attempting to recreate the commercial success of One Man In My Heart. This is a far better track though. It's soft, romantic and atmospheric. There was a bit of a mess when they did it live in Liverpool in 2001 though when at one point one of the girls was singing a full semitone out on one line. That didn't sound great.
Definitely the best of the instrumental interludes on Secrets, this has great contrasts between the mellow low-pass filtered arpeggiated riff of the first section and the aggressive, busy second section. Really lovely stuff.
52 KISS THE FUTURE
Kiss The Future is pretty naff. But it's just so much fun, with so much in it to make you smile. There's sample stuttering, daft lyrics (including the “lonesome corridor” again), and tons of energy. And the middle section when it breaks down to the piano then builds itself up again is so unbelievably groovy I dare you to keep still. I can't just play that section once, I have to rewind it and play it again, every time I listen to it. I’ve probably never listened to it once all the way through without doing that.
Gosh, it's a bit grim. There's plenty of passion in the vocal here though, and the simple synth line is hypnotic.
50 AUSTERITY / GIRL ONE
I've included these two together, unlike other "joined together" tracks like Morale / You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling and Rock'n'Roll / Nightclubbing, because, unlike those, these seem inextricably linked, also Girl One is sandwiched between two different sections of Austerity. This is a weird and wonderful track (or tracks). Austerity is hugely catchy and quite commercial, but contains quite cynical lyrics e.g. "When the best of men take bribes, isn't it the fool who doesn't?" Girl One is quite odd. The major key organ bit sounds like some cheery music from decades before, but that just adds to the weirdness. There are time signature issues too - it's not clear if it's in 12/8 or a straight 4/4 at times, it keeps transitioning. Great lyrics here too e.g. "So you thought you'd be a nurse, just like your mother had, but you make the patients worse, and the doctors know you're bad". It's a great moment when Girl One builds and builds in intensity then it explodes back into Austerity. Ace rhythm track fade out too.
49 DON'T YOU KNOW I WANT YOU
A really great track that is seriously underrated. I acknowledge its flaws which is why I've placed it so low, if this was a chart of my personal preferences it would be higher. Some great lyrics again - I love "I'm not at all bored but I've plenty of time to spare". Fantastic bridge section where it moves to the subdominant and there's that rising and falling synth riff with the girls and Philip's vocals juxtaposing. Then later on we get that really cool egg splattering and cracking sound, then a stripped out bit near the end with that fantastic bass lick, and all back in for a singalong chorus to finish the album.
A track that hugely stands up to repeat listening. The girls are in great voice here, taking the lead on this mesmeric and chilled out track, which, not unusually for the Human League, in lyrical terms, is difficult to understand literally, but still evokes imagery and emotion. It's difficult to work out where the start of the bar is at the start though.
47 WXJL TONIGHT
An appropriately epic album ender, which is also quite prophetic about dropping radio station ratings. The organy thing at the start is great, as it is when it all strips out for the first verse and Philip comes in with the deep tones on “the way it was in the past”.
46 ZERO AS A LIMIT
Hard work to listen to, but it doesn’t stop it being brilliant. A perfect album ender as it speeds up and gets more and more hectic, like a weird electronic Zorba The Greek. I can’t take the ending at all, it’s so incredibly powerful, but it’s a tough listen – not really coffee table or dinner party music. That same melodic device from Marianne (and The Best – see later) gets its first outing here. The cheesy fairground organy bit just sounds scarily sarcastic.
45 TOYOTA CITY
Probably the nearest The Human League get to chill-out music, this is one of those tracks that is very repetitive, but it really doesn't matter - the track could go on for three times as long and not get boring. The 6/4 time signature really works here too.
This may be one of the least heard Human League songs, as it only appears on one of the two CD singles of All I Ever Wanted, so it's another cracking non-album B-side. AIEW wasn't exactly a smash hit single and only one of the CDs has Tranquility on, so I don’t think many people would have bought it. It doesn't appear on Spotify either. So I reckon most people haven't heard it. I wonder how many people actually have heard it? It's a really good track, with a really interesting rhythm track and some nice telephone EQ on the girls' spoken vocals.
43 YOU'LL BE SORRY
Great pop track. I'm not sure it's really an album closer though, in the way that Cruel Young Lover definitely is. My favourite line is "take a chance to get to know me better, it would be crazy just to turn and walk away." I love the dotted delay rhythm on "better", Philip's hoarse passion on "crazy" and the "woow" sound that happens after "away" - this line alone boosts the track up a few places in this chart.
42 ALMOST MEDIEVAL
It’s got everything this. It’s really scary, uses odd scales and harmonies, is funky and danceable, and even includes its own very odd and fairly horrific Superman / Hokey Cokey bit with the “jump down off the escalator, press the button on the lift” section. The very straight rhythmic sections contrast brilliantly with the groove of more hectic bit afterwards. I love the horror sound effect on “falling off this rotting ladder”.
41 THE WORLD TONIGHT
As we've already seen and will definitely see later, another theme of this list is the wonderful Human League non-album B-sides, and this is one of them. It starts off with one of the most addictive bass lines I've heard (Ian Burden is a really underrated bassist) and ends with a great climax on that great synth brass riff. It does feel like the world is coming alive. How on earth this didn't make the cut for Hysteria, when you consider some of the stuff that did make it on, I have no idea.
40 GET IT RIGHT THIS TIME
The brilliant Jo Callis again blends clever music harmony with the purest of accessible pop. There are inversions, pivot-chord modulations and all sorts of other musical delights. Callis really is a great musician and songwriter. I saw him playing this live recently on some local Scottish TV show and he did a superb version of this absolute tune. This should probably have been a single, it's probably more accessible than everything the Human League have done apart from Don't You Want Me, Heart Like A Wheel, Fascination and Tell Me When. Pointless end-of-the-album bass slide thing at the end.
39 ARE YOU EVER COMING BACK?
It's such a shame about the plodding off-beat chords in the verses that make it quite sluggish and laborious at that point, because otherwise this is a great track - it's moody and passionate and has a little bit of that 80s night vibe about it, and it's nice to hear something a bit more moody and subtle on an album that is busy smashing you in the face for much of the time. Another slightly frustrating thing about it is that the instrumental section at the end is really climactic and I think it could have gone on longer.
Typically frustrating lyrics that intrigue us, but don’t quite tell us the whole story. It’s a great story though. I love when Philip is in storytelling mode, like on this, and Louise. I love the blippy, incredibly short square wave sound in the second part of the verses. The bridge sections between the verses and the choruses are the best bits here – there is such great movement in the melody as we build up intensity to the chorus. The best lyrics are in these sections too, particularly “the day of my birth was her last day on earth” – what? Who is Sky? I have to know, but I never will.
37 WHEN THE STARS START TO SHINE
Crikey, it could have been very cheesy this, but the tougher stripped-out production and odd chanty verses make it weird and hard enough to offset the cheese. I love the way the chorus is so teased all the way through, with frequency content restricted versions and other versions with slight alterations to the melody. This makes the final section even more powerful as we finally get that cheesy chorus in all its glory, along with an ending that sounds like it could be in a stage musical or something. A really good way to end the album.
36 FILLING UP WITH HEAVEN
There is so much to love about Filling Up With Heaven. It's got the magic Human League blend of poppy and weird. The structure is quite weird, and the "no baby no" section is quite bold. There's just a fantastic keyboard solo type bit. A particularly strong remix package too, with superb remixes from Neil Mclellan and particularly Hardfloor, who deliver what is probably the greatest ever Human League remix.
For me this track conveys oppressive heat. There is a lot of reference to sun, deserts, "no mercy from the sky" etc. It really conveys that mood well, with that plodding snare with all the reverb and delay on it. A nice guitar solo which is evocative of a western or something features in the middle. I love near the end when the riff from the start comes back in with the open fifth, and that haunting synth string sound and the bass line come to the fore.
34 LOVE ME MADLY?
An excellent slab of biting energy, with superb lyrics about “the woman out of Species”. As often is the case, the bridges are superb here with the girls in superb voice. As with most of Secrets, the production is top-class and cutting-edge for the time. Credit must go to the best ever Human League single sleeve, with the two goldfish kissing. There was a limited edition poster of it too, and I’ve got a great story about that which is too long to detail here, but suffice to say it took TEN YEARS for it to be delivered, but I got it in the end. It’s framed and in my downstairs toilet. My wife suggested moving it recently. Er, no.
33 CROW AND A BABY
Possibly one of the nastiest Human League songs, this aggressive tale of the product of a very twisted relationship's Freudian quest really packs a punch. Despite the repulsive and surreal subject matter these are some of the best Human League lyrics, supported by a frightening effect each time we hear the word "father" and the bizarre end section where it all seems to fall apart. Superb.
32 THE SNAKE
Unlike The Bus To Crookes, I have actually listened to this whilst journeying over the Snake Pass, and it really works. A fitting tribute to one of the UK’s greatest roads, the bridge sections are both the funkiest and most atmospheric. The standard silly lyrics are here, but they work so well, particularly the useful travel advice “62 or 628 will do if you cannot be late, sometimes the only choice to make in winter time.” They have changed the “join us” sections for live versions of this track, and it’s much worse – the original album version is more understated, but much better. When they have delivered the line about the Apollo actually IN the Apollo and made a point about it it’s been wasted on most of the crowd who have just turned up to hear Don’t You Want Me and Mirror Man.
31 YOU’VE LOST THAT LOVING FEELING
It was a tough decision to separate this from Morale, but I think it was the right one. This is such a great cover. The synths are gentle yet threatening, the vocal performance is really passionate. The third chord of the chorus has a horrible musical clash, but it works really well here, it’s so horribly unsettling. Other parts are sweet and gentle. It’s like honey on toast with WD40 sprayed on the underside of the toast.
30 SOUND OF THE CROWD
Unlike some others, this is a track where the chorus really stands its ground. It’s the two-note held chords in the chorus, blended will Philip’s bossy instructions to “get in line now”, “stay in time with the rhythm and rhyme”, “add your voice” etc. that really make this work. The held bass note in the second part of the riff section later in the track is awesomely serious. The verse lyrics are just daft though – good luck working out what they are all about.
29 OPEN YOUR HEART
It’s the same theme over and over again with the League, stunning verses and bridges with a lacklustre chorus. The pedal-bass verses are simply epic, the falling semitone parts very cool. Martin Rushent is at the top of his production game here on a relatively complex track where all the components blend together really well. It’s a shame the main chorus riff and melody is so feeble. It’s also very annoying that it’s played incorrectly in the video. What’s all that about? It’s so obviously hugely incorrect.
28 DO OR DIE
Great bass line and packed full of great riffs. There is quite a long instrumental section which contains a lot of them, especially the fast one which really racks up the energy a gear. The main demisemiquaver noise is really distinctive and the musical stamp of this track. I love the octave layering on the vocals in the chorus and the band are at the top of their lyrical game here with lines such as “Alsatians fall unconscious at the shadow of your call”, “Whole continents of misery don’t bother you at all” and “I’d like to leave so would you kindly look the other way.”
Marianne is just a brilliant track. That part at the start is so catchy and distinctive. My favourite bit is the middle section where there are two different melodies going on with different lyrics. I’m sure the main hook of the track was ripped off for Tina Turner’s “The Best”. What is that stupid incredibly loud whistle at 0:54 about though? Is that just a mistake?
26 BLIND YOUTH
One of the catchiest and most accessible songs on Reproduction, this song has endured really well with its silly lyrics about Richard III, persistent energy and short singalong chorus, to the extent that it has been giving a number of fairly recent live outings. I love the high-pitched synth line that comes in later in the track. A track really evocative of the darker sound of late 1970s clubbing.
The energy in this track is just incredible. It's ridiculously chipper as well. I'm glad it wasn't included on Dare even though it's strong enough as it does not fit the mood of the album. There is some great, complex, drum programming on it and it just builds and builds into a big frenzy. If you ever want any motivation stick this on really loud, I guarantee you'll get whatever it is you are supposed to be doing done in half the time.
24 LIFE ON YOUR OWN
Simplicity and atmosphere are the key here as regards this relatable story of emotional distance and solitude. The Human League are on top form here in terms of musical interest (the addictive but relatively complex relationships between the chords and the bassline), and lyrical impact.
23 TOM BAKER
When Marsh and Ware left and only Oakey and Wright were left in the creative team, the consensus was that all the talent had left. It is true that Oakey and Wright didn't really know what they were doing, but they ended up making three fantastic tracks together before other writers joined, all of which I've placed in the top 25 here - this is the lowest placed of the three, but it's still fantastic. Continuing the Doctor Who theme that runs through some of the League’s material, Tom Baker is dark, stormy and menacing but still riddled with synth hooks you can't get out of your head.
22 THINGS THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF
One amazing fact is that no opening track on a Human League album was ever released as a single on all of their first six albums. When you think about it, that's pretty unusual. I wonder if it was a deliberate decision. Often the opening tracks are pretty strong too, and probably none as strong as this, Dare's opener. It reached the same sort of status as Rock'n'Roll Star by Oasis - a non-single from an album so hugely famous, everyone knows it. It was eventually released as a single 26 years later. The synth sound that comes in for the second part of the verse is just phenomenal. The Richard Stone remix is also absolutely cracking.
21 BOYS AND GIRLS
The story here is well known – Marsh and Ware have left, supposedly having taken all the talent with them, and Virgin are demanding a new Human League single from the two remaining members who supposedly haven’t got a clue what they are doing. I’ve got serious reservations about the view that says the remaining members were talentless, as both Oakey and Wright have a great track record of music creation, Oakey even creating tracks alone prior to this single release (such as “The Circus Of Dr Lao”). Here they prove their mettle on this simple, dark and uncompromising track, with it’s excellent “Boys and Girls I” repeated rising step-wise melody ending. Boys and Girls is one of my favourite Human League tracks. The church bells bit in the middle is quite unsettling. Credit has to go to the artwork here – it just looks great with all four members lying on some kind of drain thing. The girls don’t feature on the record (as they had school or something) but they look fantastic on the sleeve, especially Susan who looks incredibly alien with that eye make-up.
20 CRUEL YOUNG LOVER
Paul Beckett only co-wrote three Human League songs but his strike rate is excellent as far as this chart is concerned as all three have made this top 20. This is moody, synthy but also quite rocky at the end, with its anthemic singalong "Do You Hear Me?" sections, which make a great end to the album. Oakey is in great voice and the sound design and production is great as is typical on Octopus.
19 THE STARS ARE GOING OUT
This is not one of my absolute favourite Human League songs but it is probably one of the ones I play the most. It's just so easy to listen to and so incredible enduring - you don't get bored or sick of it. Great bass line. Excellent instrumental middle eight section. There was a Doctor Who episode "Turn Left", which had the stars going out as a major theme and I like to think it was inspired by this track, although I'm pretty sure it wasn't.
18 I AM THE LAW
As this was on Dare most people associate it with that period, but it was actually written in the period just after Marsh and Ware left and was part of the set for the 1980 tour, so is one of the three excellent tracks created by Oakey and Wright alone in that period. This is the best of the three, simple but utterly addictive, it has grown and grown on me over the years. The 1980 tour version has a really horrible riff in it that wrecks the track, I'm glad that got dropped for the Dare recording.
17 NEVER AGAIN
Now this is how you do a synth pop ballad. I can't believe the tedious One Man In My Heart was selected as a single over this. This is the fourth and final (to date) offering written by Callis and Oakey without other compositional input. The other three (Open Your Heart, Fascination and The Lebanon) were all big hits and this was not even a single, but this is by far the best of the four. Callis and Oakey are just such a great songwriting partnership. This is so synthy - that synth bass just sounds incredible as do the higher pitched sawtooth wave based sounds. Some great key changes too, especially for the "runaway woman" section. This would be much higher in my personal chart.
16 DREAMS OF LEAVING
Possibly as “progressive” as the Human League get, there is so much interest and intrigue here. The atmosphere of paranoia created by the lyrics concerning escaping totalitarian oppression spreads much of the whole track. The simple sequenced-style line at the start seems to symbolise the appearance “normality” sometimes evident in these types of dictatorships and the horrible synth noise that smashes through it could symbolise the nastiness that often goes on just below the surface. Philip Oakey’s voice is so gravelly at the beginning it almost sounds like another vocalist. I love his vocals here, which just reek of struggle. The music follows the narrative of the lyrics well. The bagpipe-style bit is evocative of “home”, then we get the darker sections reflecting the journey. As the protagonist deals with his aims of leaving, the music becomes more hopeful. An ambitious, engaging and fairly epic musical journey. Difficult to grab where the first beat of the bar is at the start though, it foxes me every time.
15 HOUSEFULL OF NOTHING
An outstanding track vaguely bemoaning materialism and detachment in society. The contrast here between the sparser sections and the real star of the show, which is the middle section where Philip lets rip with the "you took my family" bit and synths fly everywhere, really fits with the lyrics and narrative of the track. The passion in his vocal here in the middle section is right up there with his best. This track also contains brilliant lyrics like "it makes you laugh to think that there were ever things at all".
An aggressive and threatening track both lyrically and musically, Privilege, with its story of bitter revenge, is one of my very favourite Human League tracks and would be much higher in my personal list than it is here. I've previously complained about choruses that don't deliver but this one absolutely does. The chorus is the best thing here with the simple, robotic "Privilege" vocal motif backed up by Philip Oakey's angry interjections. I think this really sounds like The Human League, going back to the sound of the first three albums and the other tracks from that time. Credo really is disappointing up until the final three tracks where it really gets going - this is where the album really steps into quality and does not drop until the end. There is a bit in this track that really annoys me though. In the breakdown before the last chorus something knocks me off knowing where the first beat of the bar is and it always comes back in where I don't expect it to.
13 BEING BOILED
Compared with much of the very early Human League material, such as that which appears on The Golden Hour Of The Future, the original version of Being Boiled is a very mature, commercially appealing and restrained affair, which has dated incredibly well thanks to its simplicity and the funky way that incredibly addictive bassline works with the “diddly” synth part, despite its rumoured recording budget of three pounds. Quite how they managed to come up with something as accessible and enduring as this at the time I don’t know – it isn’t a feat they repeated in the same way in the early years. It is considered an absolute breakthrough classic in terms of British synthesiser pop, and rightly so. The odd and quite horrible lyrics about silk farming and various entities being boiled alive just add to the appeal here somehow. The Holiday 80 version is also excellent, although it is far more dated (despite being more recent) and much less atmospheric as a result of its complexity really. Re-released as a single following the success of Don’t You Want Me (and unbelievably becoming their joint 5th biggest hit of all time in terms of UK chart position), the original Being Boiled is possibly the pre-Dare Human League single that matches the Dare material most closely. Probably not my 13th favourite, but definitely the 13th best.
Fear of the dark is something that most of us experience as children and Callis and Wright play on that here, in this excellent track covering a well-worn topic. When it is dark we can easily lose grip on reality and that comes across well in the lyrics here, which cover synaesthesia and paranoia. There is excellent contrast throughout, particularly when the section with just synth and no drums changes into the fast moving sequenced build into the “don’t turn out the light” section. I’ve never been completely sure about the parallel major chord at the start of the chorus, but I think over years I’ve come around to it. A really special track.
11 HEART LIKE A WHEEL
I think this is one of the Human League songs with the most pop appeal, I think an awful lot of people would like it if they heard it. Unlike the other Human League songs in that category, it was not a big hit, but that was because in 1990 people were not looking for this type of record. Had it been the first single from Hysteria, I think it would have been a UK number one single and it could have actually changed the band's career trajectory. There's no doubt that many songs with Jo Callis heavily involved in the writing have a certain uplifting feel, and with Martin Rushent back on production duties this was a huge return to form after the departure that was the Crash album. This track is uplifting musically whilst still dealing with quite stark and violent lyrical themes. The freshest section is where the girls come in with "you can't keep the wheel turning anymore" - that's just a goosebumps moment. The girls' vocals get a lot of stick but they can just freshen things up so much after a big long dose of Oakey, and nowhere does that work better than here. Also, there is a Martin Rushent pop remix of this that's even better than the main version. It's hard to believe there are ten Human League tracks better than Heart Like A Wheel, but there are, and they are listed below.
If this was my personal chart this would be much lower. Maybe I've just become so familiar with it over the years, I don't know. But there is no denying it's a great track and I think it deserves a place in the top 10 of this chart. It's so simple and reserved, but it's a wonderful story. The "as if they were still lovers" hook is one of the League's most memorable, and its ostinato bass line is up there with the very best. There is also a cracking synth solo. Now I love Neil Sutton, his work on Secrets in particular is stunning, and he's a very underrated member of The Human League set up. But he always messes up one of the chords on this track when he plays it live and it bugs me a bit. But I still love you Neil.
9 THE BLACK HIT OF SPACE
Another cracking album opener that wasn’t a single. It’s the lyrics and subject matter that make this one so great, although the music is pretty strong too. For a song created almost 40 years ago at the time of writing it’s remarkably prophetic too, especially “how can it stay at the top, when it’s swallowed all the shops”. The lyrics are just stunning, they are witty, silly, interesting, evocative and tongue-in-cheek. Musically it also works really well. When it all really kicks in at the start it really grabs you, in both a rocky and funky way. The music really works with the kind of parody sci-fi / horror theme. There’s an excellent Philip Oakey talking bit – a feature that has pretty much transcended all of the various Human League eras. I love the idea of the record arm being less than one micron long, but weighing more than Saturn.
Like Credo (and also The Beatles’ Revolver) the last three tracks on Dare are the best three, despite it being brilliant up to that point. All three of them make this top ten. There is plenty of originality on Seconds, from the rather odd snare sound to the unusual structure and theme (the murder of John F Kennedy). The main IV-V chord progression (which it shares with the chorus of its A-side “Don’t You Want Me”) is made more interesting by use of suspensions in addition to standard triads. Throughout the song there is contrast between suspensions and open fourths and fifths and full triads, which gives a very satisfying feeling when the full triads come in. The upward and downward moving-pitch synth sounds create a superb atmosphere. The unusual structure works well here. We have to wait a while for the main vocal hook, which doesn’t first appear until about half way through the track. The lyrics and narrative of the song work well – we hear of the happiness immediately prior to the murder, then there is the gunshot sound effect. An outstanding track which The Human League obviously still love as it seems to creep into their sets, even shared-bill reduced-length ones. I guess this is probably one of the most owned Human League songs, being both on Dare, and the B-side of huge smash hit “Don’t You Want Me”, so a lot of people might know it. I have no idea what’s going on with the weird ending, it’s pretty bonkers, like something you might get at the end of a drugs-era Beatles record, and is a bit of a throwback to the Marsh and Ware era, e.g. the way that things go a bit nuts at the end of Crow and a Baby.
7 EMPIRE STATE HUMAN
Probably the Human League's most commercial track up to and including Reproduction, this is stomping and uncompromising pop genius. I wish the girls had been there to do the "at least" line. I think they have done the line live. Whatever that crazy synth solo is in the middle is brilliant. "Fetch more water, fetch more sand, biggest person in the land" is the best chant line ever and I love it when you get it on its own at the end. This really should have been a massive hit.
6 DON'T YOU WANT ME
Obviously a lot has been said about this record that there's no point repeating here. This would be much lower in my chart of personal preference, perhaps because I've just heard it so many times, e.g. at weddings, cheesy DJ nights etc. As a Human League fan it's one you get fed up of people referring to. Also, Philip Oakey's initial dislike of the track is of relevance here. It always amuses me that he insisted Virgin give away a free poster with the single as he thought fans would feel ripped off by such a poor track that was already the fourth single from the album. But it is a fantastic pop record - we would be blown away if it was 1981 and we were hearing it for the first time. I know synth and vocal only tracks had been released before but this was really the one to blow that sound right into the mainstream. It is probably also the best example of the male vs female vocal pop song "argument". As a track, it's remarkably complex. There's a point in the Love and Dancing version where it builds up from the drums, adding a different synth part on each cycle, and it's wonderful to hear them all interweaving together to create that wonderful synth pop texture. Jo Callis's pop influence is at full power here as on so many of the poppier HL tracks. However sick of it we might be, it remains a truly fantastic synth pop classic. But are there five better Human League songs? I think there are.
5 YOU REMIND ME OF GOLD
So, we've established that The Human League have had some great non-album b-sides - Tranquility, Tom Baker, The World Tonight, Hard Times and Non-Stop are examples. But none are anywhere near as good as the greatest of these, which is You Remind Me Of Gold. For me this is the sound that the album following Dare could have had. It's got a dark and threatening feel, that Martin Rushent production, a great melody and great sound design. I love it when the girls come in with a mild musical clash on the third "You remind me...". The fact that Philip Oakey only wrote five Human League tracks alone suggests he prefers to write with others, but this solo-written track suggests he has more than enough ability to write on his own. I'm finding it hard to say exactly why I think this track is so fantastic, but I really do think it is something very special. I wish they had done an album with this kind of sound in 1982 or 1983, I think it could have been fantastic.
One of the great things about Reflections is that it manages to be funky, laid back, deep and dark all together. The sound design is fantastic. It's not easy to work out exactly what it's about, but it seems to have a mental health theme, and the lyrics are fantastic. The dark bits with Philip talking are quite a contrast with the earlier mild verses. It has a progressive and absorbing structure which just takes its time as it pulls you in. At the end when it becomes instrumentally focussed it just gets ridiculously funky. Just a fantastic track musically, lyrically, rhythmically and in terms of production and sound design. It's almost seven minutes long but it's not at all boring, I never want it to end, I'd be happy if it went on for another seven.
3 CIRCUS OF DEATH
Who cares that we don't really know what this song is about? It's absolutely terrifying and stunningly brilliant at the same time. We know something absolutely horrible is happening and it's destroying everyone. It plays into the classic "clown fear" thing with the clown having all the power thanks to this drug. If you are interested enough in The Human League to be reading this you will probably know there are two classic versions of this track. Both have merits, I think the ideal version probably would have been a blend of the two. Philip's serious introduction to the earlier Fast Records version sets a dramatic tone, particularly as regards the fact that he says it's a "true story", although I've searched for the Guardian article of 19th March 1962 that he refers to, and I can't find it, so maybe he made it up. The Reproduction version has an excellent start with the Hawaii 5-0 TV intro and the airport announcer and aeroplane sound effects merging with the sinister music. The chromatic movement associated with traditional circus music is present here but it just adds to the terrifying nature of the whole thing. There is some superb production here too, particularly the way the delay spins on the end of vocal lines, particularly the word "long" at the end, transition into a kind of bird-like sound. I don't even care about the contradictions (if he's the "last man on earth" why is he on about them sparing his family? Perhaps they are all women though). It's quite a simple track musically, but the lyrics, sound effects, chromaticism and story just draw you in to the terrifying horror.
2 LOVE ACTION
In many ways, this is the definitive Human League track, and it's also pretty much everything you could want from a pop record. It was their first really huge hit, spending two weeks at No.3 in the UK, and features great hooks, fascinating sounds and iconic moments wrapped up in a great pop package with a sprinkling of Human League oddness. From the "cat meowing" sound at the very start to "This is Phil talking" via the "diddle diddle" riff and the guitar into synthesiser trickery this is funky, danceable, innovative and intelligent pop at its best, and it's probably the track that really broke The Human League through to the mainstream, spending two weeks at number 3 and being held off the top spot by Shakin' Stevens's awful "Green Door" and the equally terrible "Hooked On Classics". Great video too, with Philip Oakey looking very cool in it. Joanne marries Ian Burden, Oakey turns up too late to stop it, Susan smashes up a flat which bizarrely has no front door lock and Callis and Wright are undercover police or something. But never mind that, what Human League track could possibly be better than Love Action? Tell me.
1 TELL ME WHEN
Yes, that's right - Tell Me When is the greatest Human League track of all time, bar none. I had absolutely no hesitation as regards what was going at the top of this list, it wasn’t even close, and I make absolutely no apologies for it. And I'm not even factoring in the sensational "comeback" hit single story after the horrible time Philip and the girls went through in the early 1990s (financial hardship and depression) into this ranking. It's the best Human League track in its own right. One-of the many great things about this track is that it is so bold and uncompromising, and slightly odd in places, but still so incredibly poptastic and commercial. The verse lyrics are so complex and potentially impenetrable which contrasts with the wonderful simplicity of that chorus so well. That bass line - on and off the beat in all the right places. There are so many great sections, but surely the greatest is when that aggressive middle eight with the insistent and repetitive synth ostinato gives way a bar earlier than we would typically expect to break into that beautiful uplifting instrument section, the sections joined by two "if only I could see you" lines. And just when we think it's all over (and everyone in the Top Of The Pops audience starts clapping and cheering) there's another hook section with the "if only, if only" vocals. The hooks just keep on coming, it’s goosebumps pretty much all the way through. It’s so long, but who cares when it just carries on being brilliant, adding more and more hooks. It always amuses me that they shaved only 7 seconds off this for the radio edit, going from 4:51 to 4:44. Why? Did that really make a difference to the playlisting teams? “Yes, it’s five minutes long, but just make it seven seconds shorter and we’ll stick it on the A-list.” Credit must go to unsung hero Paul Beckett too as a big part of the songwriting team on this. I think I cried when I first heard this track (on the radio), and it was on repeat on my CD player non-stop for days those between-Christmas-and-New-Year days following its release just a day or two after Christmas Day in 1994. At a time when they really should have been dead and buried and a time when their sound was not in vogue, the Human League came storming back into the charts, doing things their way, not pandering to current trends but simply making what has got to be one of the greatest pop records of all time, and one of the greatest comeback fairytale music success stories of all time too.