The Human League In-depth Biography
Synth pop}'s first international superstars, the Human League} were among the earliest and most innovative bands to break into the pop} mainstream on a wave of synthesizers and electronic rhythms, their marriage of infectious melodies and state-of-the-art technology proving enormously influential on countless acts following in their wake. The group was formed in Sheffield, England, in 1977 by synth players Martyn Ware} and Ian Marsh}, who'd previously teamed as the duo Dead Daughters}; following a brief tenure as the Future, they rechristened themselves the Human League} after enlisting vocalist Philip Oakey}. The trio soon recorded a demo, and played their first live dates; they soon tapped Adrian Wright} as their "Director of Visuals," and his slide shows quickly became a key component of their performances.
Signing with the indie label Fast}, in 1978 the Human League} issued their first single, "Being Boiled"}; a minor underground hit, it was followed by a tour in support of Siouxsie & the Banshees}. After a 1979 EP, The Dignity of Labour}, the group released its first full-length effort, Reproduction}, a dark, dense work influenced largely by Kraftwerk}. Travelogue} followed the next year and reached the U.K. Top 20; still, internal tensions forced Ware} and Marsh} to quit the group in late 1980, at which time they formed the British Electronic Foundation}. Their departure forced Wright} to begin learning to play the synthesizer; at the same time, Oakey} recruited bassist Ian Burden} as well as a pair of schoolgirls, Susanne Sulley} and Joanne Catherall}, to handle additional vocal duties.
The first single from the revamped Human League}, 1981's "Boys and Girls,"} reached the British Top 50; recorded with producer Martin Rushent}, the follow-up "Sound of the Crowd"} fell just shy of the Top Ten. Their next single, "Love Action,"} reached number three, and after adding ex-Rezillo} Jo Callis} the League} issued "Open Your Heart,"} another hit. Still, their true breakthrough was the classic single "Don't You Want Me,"} from the album Dare!}; both topped their respective charts in England, and went on to become major hits in the U.S. as well. A tour of the States followed, but new music was extremely slow in forthcoming; after a remix disc, Love and Dancing}, the Human League} finally issued 1983's Fascination!} EP, scoring a pair of hits with "Mirror Man"} and "(Keep Feeling) Fascination."}
The much-anticipated full-length Hysteria} finally surfaced in mid-1984, heralding a more forceful sound than earlier Human League} releases; the record failed to match the massive success of Dare!}, however, with the single "The Lebanon"} earning insignificant airplay. The group soon went on indefinite hiatus, and Oakey} recorded a 1985 solo LP with famed producer Giorgio Moroder} titled simply Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder}. To the surprise of many, the Human League} resurfaced in 1986 with Crash}, produced by the duo of Jimmy Jam} and Terry Lewis}; the plaintive lead single "Human"} soon topped the U.S. charts, but the group failed to capitalize on its comeback success, disappearing from the charts for the remainder of the decade.
When the Human League} finally returned in 1990 with Romantic?}, their chart momentum had again dissipated, and the single "Heart Like a Wheel"} barely managed to rise into the Top 40. The record was the band's last with longtime label Virgin}; now a trio consisting of Oakey}, Sulley}, and Catherall}, they ultimately signed with the EastWest} label, teaming with producer Ian Stanley} for 1995's Octopus}. The album went largely unnoticed both at home and overseas, with the single "Stay With Me Tonight"} issued solely in the U.K. A resurgent interest in synth pop} and post-punk} during the early 2000s enabled the group's 2001 album Secrets} considerable press coverage, which saw the group update its early sound. Four years later, they released Live at the Dome}. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide