SOUNDS

It is now more than 37(!!!) years since the April 1981 release of the 45 which took the new-look The Human League into the charts and onto our television screens via Top of the Pops. Synth-pop had duly arrived with a bang.

The Sound of The Crowd was an extraordinary single that still sounds superb all these years on. It was full of catchy little chants such as ‘Get Around Town’ and ‘Arse Around’ (sorry that should read ‘Pass Around…but I’m sure the way it was put down on record was deliberate) and yet it was impossible to fully sing along to without making an idiot of yourself thanks to phrases like ‘Make a shroud pulling combs through a backwash frame” which I’m sure is one that Ian McCulloch has always wished he’d come up with.

This was the first release in which Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall featured as backing vocalists to Phil Oakey. There can be no argument that their contributions were every bit as vital as the tune itself in creating the pop hooks which made it such a natural tune for daytime radio.

The visual element they brought with them was also a huge factor in raising the profile of the band – if you want evidence for that claim then just look at the fact the first TOTP appearance came when the band was sitting outside the Top 50 ; the show’s producers obviously believed that the contrast between these two young and attractive teenagers and the bloke with the funny haircut would get people talking.

Further evidence that TOTP saw the band as naturals for the show? The second appearance came a few weeks later when the single was at #15….having dropped down from #12 the previous week, thus breaking the rule-of-thumb on the show in those days that you would only be invited to perform if your song was rising up the charts.

I’m sure that many who had been interested in the band from the early days would have been appalled at the apparent sell-out. The Sound of The Crowd was a million miles away from Being Boiled and about half that distance from Empire State Human but there were no grumbles from me as the song became part of the soundtrack of my final few weeks at school and its follow-ups were aired at the student union disco nights as I found my feet at University.

Here’s some cuts straight from the 12″ vinyl:-

mp3 : The Human League – The Sound Of The Crowd (Complete)
mp3 : The Human League – The Sound Of The Crowd (Instrumental)

JC

6 thoughts on “SOUNDS

  1. In spite of having heard them earlier in the year on the “Cash Cows” Virgin compilation, this American finally took the plunge with this single, like many Brits. It was probably just down to seeing it in a store as an import, though I bought the deluxe Canadian 5-track EP of it instead that had both of the UK 12″ tracks as well as “Boys + Girls,” “Tom Baker,” and “Dancevision” form the “Holiday ’80” EP. It didn’t take long before “Dare” was released and it became a core obsession that was quickly met with a full on League collection.

  2. When you said 37 years I thought ‘That man needs some new batteries in his calculator.’ That said, I don’t think the two attractive teenagers have worn too badly.

  3. This song was met with self-conflict when I was in Metro Records near my home. A 17 yr old who figured he knew everything about music there was to know (well, mattered), I was a huge Human League fan. Travelogue and Reproduction were the core albums of my yet to be coined Synth-Pop collection. That most of my friends found them unlistenable and would lobby for the Buzzcocks or Clash or Talking Heads to cleanse their aural tastebuds, made Human League Mk1 even more integral to my musical make up.
    So at first listen to Sound Of The Crowd, I honestly thought, ok, this kinda moves on from the Holiday 80 EP neatly. But something was wrong. As much as the song tried to sound Motorik and…claustrophobic, it was kind of widescreen and “big.”
    I bought Sound Of The Crowd. It was the female backing that was all wrong for me at this point. I remember though, hiding it for a while in my collection, worried that it would be too popular with my friends, adding further cracks to the Human League Mk1 legacy for me.
    Once it came out, I was proven right…EVERYONE owned Dare. Dare has always been an uneasy album for me. I freely admit to buying into the legends that both HL Mk2 and Heaven 17 spent many hours cribbing from each other as Bill Last forced both to share studio time. Many songs on Dare feel more like Ware/Craig Marsh than Oakey/Callis/Burden. I Am Law reeks of HL Mk1. But I am an unapologetic Heaven 17 fan and have rarely, if ever, found fault with their output. Final thought…Dare does have one immense classic on it, in my mind, Seconds. It’s cold, yet emotionally charged and stands above all the rest of Dare.

  4. I should hasten to add that although I find “Dare” charming now, it is by no means the quintessential Human League sound for me. That belongs to the first two albums, which I had within a month of getting “Dare” and I would still rather look back fondly on them than to “dare” looking forward concerning The Human League. Two Different Bands Syndrome in a nutshell.

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