Don't you want me - Human League - 80sneverend - A cocktail bar story

A cocktail bar story

The Human League – Don’t You Want Me

The five years we have had have been such good times
I still love you
But now I think it's time I live my life on my own
I guess it's just what I must do
#HumanLeague #DontYouWantMe

On November 27, 1981, a techno pop group from Sheffield released a song that would change their history. In fact, this group was quite used to continuous changes. Their genesis was quite strange and conditioned the birth of another group. Yes, because the original founders were Martyn Ware and Ian Marsh, who later founded Heaven 17.

After several changes of musicians, Martyn and Ian realized that they did not need another keyboardist but a singer, and contacted Glenn Gregory, who is now obviously the lead singer of Heaven 17. Glenn couldn’t, and they asked an artist who turned out to be an absolutely brilliant character of the 80s: Phil Oakey.

Oakey soon brought on board a fourth member of the band who was not a musician, but worked on scenes and backgrounds to show for the band’s evenings. But, in 1980, the two initial members left Oakey and founded Heaven 17. Phil Oakey did not lose hope, he started over with his friend designer, who in the meantime learned to use synthesizers, and decided to use two girls as backup singers and various contract musicians. And so he managed to release the first album, “Dare”.

The band’s music was totally electronic: Oakey was proud to be able to make an album without a single real instrument. And so we arrive at the end of 1981, with the release of “Don’t you want me”. The song is beautiful, and fate also put in one of his jokes, because the synthesizer sound that opens and follows the whole song was recorded by mistake, unintentionally altering the speed of the guitar track. Legend has it that Oakey recorded the track of his voice in a bathroom.

The success, however, depended largely on the video, for two reasons. The first is that in England in those times many songs came out with a video, despite MTV having started broadcasting only three months earlier in America. This meant that MTV often had to tap into English songs and videos to fill its programming hours in America, and this song was one of the most scheduled. The director of the video was Steve Barron, an authority on the subject, who would later shoot other masterpieces such as Toto’s “Rosanna“, Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” (Jackson and Quincy Jones chose Barron just after seeing the video for “Don’t you want me”), Dire Straits’ “Money for nothing”, and the most original video of the 80s, “Take on me” by a-ha.

The other reason, however, depends on the two backup singers, if we still want to use this title. Oakey was joined by both girlfriend Joanne Catherall and a colleague of hers, Susan Ann Sulley, who both acted as singers and dancers in TV appearances. In this video and song, however, Oakey gave them a leading role. Susan sang an entire verse on her own, and in the video she appears with absolutely unreachable charisma and charm.

The song is about a story between two boyfriends who met in the bar where she worked as a waitress, and the man demands gratitude for taking the girl to new environments. She, irresistible in the video, replies that everything is true and she is grateful to him, but that in any case she would have made her way with or without him, and now after five years the time of independence has come for her.

“Don’t you want me” is a really timeless song. Very modern in sounds, in text, in video. Phil Oakey’s creative genius, Susan’s charisma and Joanne’s voice and artistic skills had created the definitive version of the Human League, which still bring thousands of fans together in their concerts.

The Human League on Wikipedia

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