Human League – Dare!
By Paul Rigby
You remember. There was the bloke with the dodgy hairstyle (short one side, with the long bit flopping down the other side – the bit the barber missed) who sang with that bass-inflected, rather portentous delivery and then there were the two girls, one blond the other brunette, who warbled either side of him. And…there may have been a couple of other blokes too.
It didn’t start that way. In fact, The Human League began as someone else’s band: Martyn Ware and Ian Marsh. It was they who recruited Phil Oakey (who would spout the infamous hairstyle). As a trio, they created two albums of perfect, hardcore, electro culminating in legendary tracks from the band’s second album, Travelogue such as Being Boiled.
Marsh and Ware left soon after, citing internal ‘musical differences’ and formed a group that would eventually morph into Heaven 17. Meanwhile, Oakey recruited a couple of schoolgirls (Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall) to help out of on the vocal duties before launching into the band’s next album, Dare!
Combining post punk energy, Bowie-sourced camp and Kraftwerkian rhythm, Dare! hit the zeitgeist like a tornado. But that wasn’t what made this album a stonking hit, it was the group’s ability to take all three of these factors and merge it with pure pop, as Don’t You Want Me – the outfit’s massive pop hit – showed with gusto. This was the album for ‘the rest’. The album for pop-pickers who couldn’t handle the New Romantic’s dalliance with hairspray and chiffon or who felt alienated by electro but who fell in love with songs like Love Action (I Believe in Love), another big Dare! hit.
Looking back on the release, Susanne Sulley was surprised by the impact of Don’t You Want Me, “We’d already had three singles from Dare!: Sound of the Crowd, Love Action and Open Your Heart. We genuinely thought people would be bored of us and wouldn’t buy another single. Also, Don’t You Want Me was our Des O’Connor record, not really representative of the rest of the album.”
Although Phil Oakey now sees the single almost as a pension, “It’s good to have a standard. We never thought we’d be in a band so we take anything positive as a winner. We put a record together and managed not to screw it up. Thank God we’ve got something that kept us going.”
Although dominated by that single, the album is a blend of light and shade that reflects its time and still manages to retain its musical impact. Always the sign of a great album.
Stand-out track: Love Action (I Believe in Love)
A testing track for your hi-fi because there is a strong vocal presence so it’s down to your speaker’s upper midrange capabilities to ensure that there is no tonal blurring and that the harmonies sound like voices singing together instead of a melded lump
Dare! – A Recorded History
1981 Vinyl A&M V2192
1981 Cassette TCV 2192
1983 CD Virgin 2192
2001 Virgin SACDV-2192
2002 CS Caroline Distribution 1114
2002 CD EMI Music Distribution 811265
2004 CD Virgin VJCP-68634