The Human League


Formed in Sheffield, England in 1977, The Human League is an English synth-pop band that rose to fame because of their album “Dare”.  Their hit singles include “Don’t You Want Me”, “Mirror Man”, “Human”, “The Lebanon”, and “Tell Me When”. The band originally consisted of Martyn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh, and Philip Oakey. The Human League released nine studio albums and 30 singles. Five of their albums have reached the UK Top 10 and ten of their singles have entered the UK top 10 singles. Over the course of their career, The Human League have sold more than 20 million albums worldwide.

Albums and Hit Singles

The Human League released a total pf nine studio albums during their successful career and these are

  • Reproduction (1979)
  • Travelogue (1980)
  • Dare (1981)
  • Hysteria (1984)
  • Crash (1986)
  • Romantic? (1990)
  • Octopus (1995)
  • Secrets (2001)
  • Credo (2011)

Hit Singles

And they spawned several hit singles such as

  • Don’t You Want Me
  • Human
  • Fascination
  • Love Action
  • Mirror Man
  • The Lebanon
  • Being Boiled
  • Heart Like A Wheel
  • Empire State Human
  • Tell Me When
  • Open Your Heart
  • Life On Your Own
  • Electric Dreams
  • Love Is All That Matters
  • One Man in My Heart

History and Career

Martyn Ware met Ian Craig Marsh when they were both working as computer operators at a youth arts project named Meatwhistle. When they learned that they both have the same passion for music, they collaborated, made, and combined pop music with avant-garde electronic music. The price of electronic instruments was affordable back in the 70’s that’s why the duo had the chance to purchase a Korg 700S and learned how to play it. They were invited to play at a friend’s 21st birthday party in which they introduced themselves as The Dead Daughters. Their main performance included their own rendition of the theme song of the famous British TV series, Doctor Who. After a few low-key and private performances, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh decided to form a band. They were joined by their good friend Adi Newton who played a Roland System-100 synthesizer. They called themselves The Future and they started to create their own music in the disused cutlery in Sheffield. However, Adi Newton’s stay was short-lived because he eventually left the duo to form his own band named Clock DVA. It was then Martyn Ware decided that they should have a vocalist instead of another keyboard player.


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Ware and Marsh decided to recruit their friend Philip Oakey to be their vocalist. At that time, Oakey was working as a hospital porter and he did not have any background on being a lead singer, But Martyn Ware thought that he was the perfect person for the job because he already looked like a pop star because of his eclectic style of dress.

With this new line-up, Martyn Ware decided that they needed a new name. Ware thought of the name The Human League because he got it from a sci-fi wargame named Starforce: Alpha Centauri. They used the Future’s music as their demo record that they sent out to record companies. They were later signed by the independent record label Fast Product.

The Human League released their single under Fast Product records entitled “Being Boiled” in 1978. It became a minor underground hit. And in 1979, the band released their first EP entitled The Dignity of Labour. It was a full instrumental album. and later on, they released their first full-length album Reproduction. it was followed by their second studio album Travelogue which entered the U.K Top 20.

The ongoing personal tension between Ware and Oakey forced Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh to leave the band and form a new band named Heaven 17. Their departure forced Oakey and Wright to maintain the group even if it means that Wright will have to learn how to play the synthesizer. Oakey then recruited a pair of teenagers named Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall to be the additional vocals and Ian Burden to play the bass. From then on, they introduced themselves as Human League. And in 1981, they released a single entitled “Boys and Girls” which entered the UK Top 50. They followed it up with the song “Love Action” which reached the number three spot.

But it was when the band released their album entitled Dare when they received international success.  It grabbed the top spot in the UK charts and became a major hit in the United States. While they toured the United States, they released their EP entitled Fascination which carried two hit songs entitled “Mirror Man” and “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”.


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In 1984, the band released their much-awaited album Hysteria which featured a more forceful sound compared to their other previous albums. But the album failed to match the success of Dare. The band soon went on a hiatus. But to the public’s surprise, the band came back with the single “Human” which topped the US charts but the Human League did not capitalize on the comeback success and soon disappeared again.

In the 1990’s, The Human League returned to the music scene with their album “Romantic?” which failed to enter the charts making this the band’s last album with Virgin Records. And in 1995, Oakey, Sulley, and Catherall signed a record deal with Eastest Records and released an album entitled Octopus. Unfortunately, the album went unnoticed in the UK and overseas.

During the 2000s, when the synth-pop and post-punk genre became a resurgent, the band took it as an opportunity and released their album Secrets. The Human League then went on a tour for several years where they performed with the bands Heaven 17 and ABC.

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