In 1980, New Wave pioneer Gary Numan reached No. 9 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 singles chart here in the U.S., and finished the year at No. 12, besting eight songs that went all the way to No. 1 in the process. And, though New Wave didn’t really make many waves here in the U.S. that year (apart from “Cars”), the New Wave onslaught was in definitely in place 2 years later, with the huge No. 1 hit by The Human League, “Don’t You Want Me.”
For the next four years, New Wave was everywhere on the charts, blasting on the radio, selling in record stores, and airing on MTV – you couldn’t escape it, which was just fine with me.
I’ve always contended that the New Wave craze in America started and ended with The Human League. “Don’t You Want Me” started a 3-week run at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in July 1982, and their second and final U.S. No. 1 song, “Human,” spent a week on top in late November 1986. I’m half-joking, but I’ve also long-contended the band that destroyed New Wave in the 80s is the band that succeeded “Human” at No. 1 on the Hot 100 – Bon Jovi and their hit, “You Give Love A Bad Name.”
NERDY TRIVIA NOTE: both The Human League and Def Leppard hail from Sheffield, England, both released albums titled HYSTERIA, which was the fourth album released for both bands, and each band had at least 5 members at the time the albums were released.
For their 1986 album, CRASH, The Human League met with famed Minneapolis producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (who had just finished producing Janet Jackson’s CONTROL album). The band flew out to Minneapolis to meet with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (who were fans of the band) and everything seemed to go well at first, but apparently, in regards to the album, Jam and Lewis wanted to be the ones in control.
Before the album was finished, the band flew back to Sheffield, and a couple of band members actually quit the band following the humiliating experience. Human League frontman Philip Oakey had this to say about Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and issues with control:
“We like to be in control in the studio. We don’t like giving that up to a producer. That’s why we had a big, final argument, and we just decided to go home and leave them to finish it off. It just got to the point of who had the power, and in that instance… They were the men behind the mixing console, so they had ultimate control.”
And, at first, that lack of control for the band paid off. One of three songs Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis wrote for CRASH was “Human.” It was released as the album’s first single, and within three weeks of release, it was already in the U.S. Top 40. In less than 2 months, it was in the Top 10, and in late November 1986, it spent a week at No. 1 on the Hot 100.
On some of BILLBOARD’s other charts, “Human” Dance spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Dance chart, and reached No. 3 on the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts. It was a global success as well, spending 3 weeks at No. 3 in Canada, and was a Top 10 in the U.K., Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa.
The follow-up single to “Human,” “I Need Your Loving” was chosen as CRASH’s second single (a decision that was made WITHOUT the band), and which sounds way more like The Time meets Janet Jackson rather than a single by The Human League. It did not work. The song failed to reach the Top 40 in both the U.S. and the U.K., and has since been pretty much disowned by the band.
The Human League have reached the Top 40 in their native homeland 16 times, led by “Don’t You Want Me” (the 23rd-biggest song in U.K. chart history). Over here in the U.S., they’ve reached the Top 40 six times, most recently with a return to their Sythpop roots on 1990’s “Heart Like A Wheel” (No. 32) and 1995’s “Tell Me When” (No. 31).
I’m not a big fan of infidelity, but I am a fan of at least two songs about the subject – Billy Paul’s No. 1 hit from 1972, “Me And Mrs. Jones” and “Human” (“The tears I cry / Aren’t tears of pain / They’re only to hide my guilt and shame / I forgive you, and I ask the same of you / While we were apart, I was human too…”)
I know The Human League had their issues with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and the making of the album, CRASH, but at the very least, I’m so glad “Human” gave the band one more deserved No. 1 hit, and a song I’ll love forever. And as for the crack at Bon Jovi earlier – well, what can I say? I’m only human…