- Dare (album)
Dare Studio album by The Human League Released October 20, 1981 Recorded March–September 1981 at Genetic Sound Studios, Reading, UK Genre Synthpop
Length 40:46 Label Virgin, A&M (US) Producer Martin Rushent, The Human League The Human League chronology Travelogue
Love and Dancing
Professional ratings Review scores Source Rating Allmusic 
The album was recorded between March and September 1981 and first released in the UK on 20 October 1981, then subsequently in the U.S. in mid-1982.
The style of the album is the result of the rapid evolution of The Human League from experimental avant-garde electronic group into a commercial pop group under Philip Oakey's creative direction following the departure of fellow founding members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh. Dare became critically acclaimed and has proved to be a genre-defining album, whose influence can be felt in many areas of pop music today. The album and its four singles were hugely successful commercially, with the album reaching #1 in the UK and being certified Triple Platinum by the BPI.
The track list on the original album:
- "The Things That Dreams Are Made Of" (Oakey, Wright) – 4:14 <Note 3>
- "Open Your Heart" (Callis, Oakey) – 3:53 <Note 1>
- "The Sound of the Crowd" (Burden, Oakey) – 3:56 <Note 1>
- "Darkness" (Callis, Wright) – 3:56
- "Do or Die" (Burden, Oakey) – 5:25
- "Get Carter" (Budd) – 1:02
- "I Am the Law" (Oakey, Wright) – 4:09
- "Seconds” (Callis, Oakey, Wright) – 4:58
- "Love Action (I Believe in Love)” (Burden, Oakey) – 4:58 <Note 1>
- "Don't You Want Me” (Callis, Oakey, Wright) – 3:56<Note 2>
<Note 1> Released as a single pre album release 1981
<Note 2> Released as a single post album release 1981
<Note 3> Released as a single in 2008
Personnel and credits
- Ian Burden: Synthesizer
- Jo Callis: Synthesizer
- Joanne Catherall: Vocals
- Philip Oakey: Vocals & Synthesizer
- Susanne Sulley: Vocals <Note 4>
- Philip Adrian Wright: Synthesizer & Slides
- Martin Rushent: Programming
- Dave Allen: Programming, assistant engineer
- Recorded at: Genetic Sound Studios, Reading, Berkshire, UK
- Cover Design: by Philip Oakey, Philip Adrian Wright, Ken Ansell
- Original Release: 20 October 1981, UK
<Note 4>Susanne Sulley is now known as Susan Ann Sulley and is referred to by her current preferred name throughout the article
Studio equipment used
The following studio equipment was used in the recording of the album:
- Casio M10
- Casio VL-1
- Korg 770
- Korg Delta
- Linn LM-1
- Roland Jupiter-4
- Roland MC-8
- Roland System 700
- Yamaha CS-15
Track description and style
In 1981 the Human League considered themselves a "song based group"; this was a deliberate distinction differentiating the band from other electronic artists who specialized in principally instrumental work. The writing style of the lyrics is deliberately obscure; Oakey says this is because he wanted the band's lyrics to provoke thought and get people talking about their songs. Often the meanings behind the songs have only been disclosed by Oakey in various interviews given since the albums release. An important point is that the album essentially evolved during 1981 and wasn't written from a single conceptual starting point.
The original album comprised ten tracks (others were added on re-releases):
"The Things That Dreams Are Made Of"
Often informally abbreviated TTDAMO, the song is a tribute to the simple pleasures in life which is then juxtaposed against a greater ambition. Oakey namechecks some of his (and Wright's) favourite things, an eclectic list from ice cream to the Ramones to Norman Wisdom. The song contains the album title lyric "…do all the things you ever dared!" (although the album is actually named after a Vogue magazine cover). Philip Adrian Wright called the song a metaphor for the band's ambition in 1981. The song was remixed and released as a single in 2008 on Hooj Choons label; reaching number 2 on the UK Dance Charts.
"Open Your Heart"
"Open Your Heart" is the only one of the pre-releases specifically written for the album. The song is about the pain caused by an infidelity and the subsequent relationship breakdown. Technically it was Rushent's most complex track of the album with multiple synthesizer and drum machine layers, bound by complex Fairlight sequences. The vocals are also correspondingly complex. Oakey sings in a higher key than usual, but still leads with Gayle[who?]and Catherall's backing now mixed as a separate layer. Susan Sulley said (in 1989) "it is one of the most difficult to sing. So we don't do it live very often.". It was to be the only track classified as 'Blue' on the Human League's self-imposed 'Red' or 'Blue' labeling system ('Red' was for dance tracks and 'Blue' for pop songs). It was released as a single October 1981 (intentionally two weeks before Dare).
"The Sound of the Crowd"
Originally it was the first "new Human League-style" track created under Rushent's production. It is an electropop anthem, pre-Jo Callis, heavily featuring Burden's single-voice keyboard with incidental bass keyboards by Philip Adrian Wright. The vocal style is the band's keystone sound of Oakey's baritone lead and for the first time, the girlish female interaction from Sulley and Catherall (in their first vocal role). It was released as a single in April 1981. The album version is a re-recording and not the version that was released as the original single.
In keeping with the title, the song is about the subconscious fears from deep within the soul which manifest themselves when the singer is alone at night. Written mainly by Philip Adrian Wright, it is based on his experience in trying to sleep after reading a horror novel. The low synthesizer tones are designed to be haunting, are slow at the beginning, deliberately dark and melancholy. The instrumental increases tempo to a frenzy of pitch blending as the song reaches its culmination. It is a track that still contains the obvious influences of the original Human League of Oakey, Ware, Marsh and Wright.
"Do or Die"
"Do or Die" is a chorus-heavy song about a troublesome girlfriend. Opening to deep synthesized African drums from the LM1, Oakey's intentionally sneering delivery of the lyrics is overshadowed by the deliberately heavy multi-voice synthesizers of Callis, Burden and Wright and an escalating high drum beat, giving the track a slight reggae/South American touch. The chorus is repeated several times in succession with Oakey now joined by a chanting Sulley and Catherall. Oakey (speaking in 1981) described it as "a song about being in love with a girl who has been taken over by a poltergeist. Like the film Carrie." whether or not this was a serious comment or Oakey being typically "tongue in cheek" is not apparent. Joanne Catherall in the same interview says it "has a latiny (sic) feel." 
Included as a short interlude, the track is a minimalist instrumental cover version of Roy Budd's theme for the film Get Carter. It is played on a single voice on a Casio VL-1, using the preset 'Fantasy'. On its second repeat a stereo 'chorus' is added making the sound 'bigger', on the third repeat heavier 'Ensemble Chorus' is added making the single VL-1 sound like a dozen. Arranged by Oakey, Callis and Rushent.
"I Am the Law"
A song with a brassy synthesized instrumental, the title and lyrics were inspired by the character Judge Dredd from the British comic book 2000 AD. The song's subject matter included sympathy and authority, and inspiration also came from an experience where Oakey was working as a hospital porter and encountered an injured bouncer. Wright states that it was the first song that the band wrote after the 1980 split, and was played live on the October 1980 tour. He goes on to say, "It's specifically written from a policeman's point of view. It's very easy to run the police down until you need them. There’s very often a change of heart when you get your car stolen."
"Seconds" is a serious, sombre mood piece on the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, and its impact on the wider world. Where Oakey berates (the unnamed) Lee Harvey Oswald, characterized by the lyrics "it took seconds of your time to take his life" and "a shot that was heard around the world". When played live the song is often accompanied by background slides of Kennedy. The song makes a feature of the voice assignment modes on the Roland Jupiter-4 synthesizer, alternating between strident two-note chords, with 2 VCOs per note, and thinner three note chords with 1 VCO per voice.
"Love Action (I Believe in Love)"
"Love Action" is a semi-autobiographical song by Oakey about good and bad relationships. It includes references to his own various relationships, their problems and successes; with Oakey often referring to himself. Complete with the famous lyric "This is Phil talking!" (a line inspired by a similar reference by Iggy Pop), it also contains two cryptic references to one of Oakey's influences, Lou Reed. It was released as a single in August 1981.
"Don't You Want Me"
"Don't You Want Me" is a conflicting male/female duet on the subject of jealousy and romantic obsession. The male protagonist of the song (Oakey) is a svengali figure who turns a female waitress (sung by Susan Ann Sulley) into a 'star', who then subsequently leaves him once she has obtained fame. It is underscored by two backing synthesizer samples and Rushent's LM1 sequence with Burden's core keyboard background. Rushent and Callis would be responsible for the final mix which was disliked by the rest of the band as it was not the dark and brooding track they had envisaged. The track is different to the rest of Dare, not only for its pop sound but also because it features a female joint lead vocal. Against Oakey's wishes, it was released as a single in November 1981; the song then became the band's biggest hit and one of the highest selling singles of all time in the UK.
Dare is the third studio album from the Human League but differs greatly from their previous two, Reproduction and Travelogue. This is due to a split in the original line up, the subsequent reformation of the band with new personnel and the difference in musical style under Philip Oakey's direction.
In January 1981 the Human League consisted of just Oakey and Philip Adrian Wright with newly recruited teenage dancers/backing vocalists Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley. After the acrimonious split of the original band in October 1980 and the subsequent recruitment of Sulley and Catherall, the new band had only just survived a European tour by bringing in session keyboardist Ian Burden to temporarily assist. The band were deeply in debt and only barely commercially viable. Under pressure to produce results from Virgin Records, original members Oakey and Wright returned to Monumental Studios in Sheffield to start recording demo tracks. They recorded the track "Boys and Girls" from the 1980 tour, which Virgin then quickly released as single. The style of "Boys and Girls" belonged to the original, now defunct Human League. Sulley and Catherall who were busy with school, were not used other than for publicity. The synthesizer work was basic as Oakey and Wright admitted they lacked the skill of Marsh and Ware. When "Boys and Girls" peaked at number 47 in the UK, Oakey realized that he would need to bring in professional help to take the band in the more pop and commercial sounding direction he wished.
Oakey's first move was to invite guitarist and keyboard player Ian Burden from the tour back to join the band full-time. As a trained musician, not only were Burden's keyboard skills vastly superior to Oakey and Wright's but he instantly proved to be an adept songwriter and composer as well. Virgin had suggested that Oakey needed professional production and paired him with veteran producer Martin Rushent, an expert on emerging music technologies of the time. Because of the "unhealthy" atmosphere at Monumental Studios in Sheffield caused by the Human League sharing it with new band Heaven 17 (containing ex-Human League members Ware and Marsh), Rushent moved the band to his Genetic Sound Studios in Reading. In addition Rushent's studios were better-equipped for the type of music the band was making. A downside would be that the distance would cause problems for Sulley and Catherall who were taking their final school exams and had to be bussed down from Sheffield regularly.
The first result of their recording sessions was released in April 1981 entitled "The Sound of the Crowd"; it would be a defining moment for the band. With the sophisticated synthesizer work of Burden aided by Wright, Oakey's deep baritone lead vocal and for the first time female backing vocals from teenage dancers (now full vocalists) Sulley and Catherall it would prove to be the band's keystone sound. The final addition to the band would be the experienced guitarist and songwriter Jo Callis formerly of punk rock band The Rezillos, who quickly had to learn the synthesizer.
Oakey accepts that Martin Rushent's adept sequencing and programming skills brought a professional edge to the band's sound, and added many new elements and techniques. Oakey, Burden, Wright and Callis set about writing new material, bringing in Sulley and Catherall from Sheffield as often as they were available. The aim was another album for the Human League within a year. Virgin were at this point lukewarm but keen that the band released another single as soon as possible.
The first release from the now complete new team came in August 1981, "Love Action (I Believe in Love)" was the band's first major critical and commercial success and peaked at number three in the UK. It brought the band to the forefront of public attention and would also see Virgin give the green light for an album release with a 6-12 month timescale. The band now had much new material to work with and set about arranging it into a viable album. By September 1981 the prototype album was ready to go and provisionally entitled Dare, after a Vogue magazine cover. Oakey explained the story behind the album name at the time:
“ I like it because The Mekons used to have a song called ‘Dan Dare’. In fact it (album name) was ripped off from a cover of Vogue about two and a half years ago. They had a whole series of covers which featured just one word like ‘Success’ , ‘Red’, and ‘Dare’. I shouldn’t say that should I? ”
To set the scene for the album's release Virgin released one of the album tracks immediately in advance of the album. "Open Your Heart" went to number six in the UK singles chart, confirming the band's popularity. Virgin began heavily advertising the release of the new album, set for the end of October 1981. "Open Your Heart" was accompanied by a futuristic looking promotional video, a rarity at the time. Whilst it was still in the charts, Dare premiered to critical acclaim. It was also condemned by the Musician's Union, who believed the new technology employed by the Human League was making traditional musicians redundant and a threat to their monopoly. Soon they would begin a "Keep It Live" campaign believing that bands like the Human League would be able to perform concerts at the touch of a button.
The album was almost universally critically acclaimed in the UK, and featured strongly in the year end polls for 1981. Noted music critic Paul Morley wrote in the NME, ...in many ways it challenges the very conventions of pop music and the essence of innovation. What is it all for? I think that ‘Dare!’ is one of the great popular music LPs. The album's critical success was also echoed commercially, as it sold in large numbers, taking it quickly to number one in the UK album charts in early November 1981. It was expected to be the finish to an enormously successful year for the band, but because of its extraordinary commercial success Virgin executive Simon Draper decided he wanted yet another single from the album before the end of 1981.
Draper's choice would be the track "Don't You Want Me", the conflicting male/female duet about jealousy and romantic obsession that Oakey had recorded with teenage backing singer Susanne Sulley. Oakey was unhappy with the decision and originally fought it, believing it to be the weakest track on Dare; for that reason it had been relegated to the last track in the B-side of the vinyl album. Oakey was eventually overruled by Virgin. It would go on to become the band's greatest ever hit, selling millions of copies worldwide and becoming the 25th highest ever selling single in the UK (as of 2007). It was also the Christmas number one for 1981.
By Christmas 1981 Dare had gone platinum in the UK, and the Human League had a number-one album and number-one single concurrently in the UK charts. Dare would eventually remain in the UK album charts for an enduring 71 weeks. A remix album based on Dare, called Love and Dancing was released a year later in 1982.
The single "Don't You Want Me" had been released with a very expensive and elaborate promotional video created by film maker Steve Barron. Music video was a very new phenomenon and cable TV station MTV had only just started up to capitalize on this new media but had very little material to work with. Virgin Records syndicated the video to MTV which was played around the clock. Because of the interest the video generated in "Don’t You Want Me", Virgin licensed the release in the U.S. of the single and the album. The licensee for the U.S. was A&M Records who renamed the album Dare! The addition of the exclamation mark was because A&M wanted to differentiate their (U.S) release from the Virgin's original release in the UK. The release of Dare! immediately mirrored the success of the UK; and in mid 1982 it reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and the single "Don’t You Want Me" was at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Although critics were not as universally applauding as in the UK, the commercial success of Dare! would set the scene for the band's return to the U.S. charts a number of times in later years.
Dare earned considerable income for record labels Virgin and A&M; in Virgin's case, it gave the label the first chart-topping album since Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells in 1973. "Don't You Want Me" was the label's first ever chart-topping single. The success of Dare was responsible for saving the label from impending bankruptcy. A very grateful Richard Branson sent Philip Oakey a motorcycle as a thank you present, but Oakey had to return it as he couldn't ride it.
As well as the commercial success in the U.S. under A&M, in 1982 Dare was also highly successful in Australia, Japan, France and Germany. Dare has been re-released a number of times since its original creation. Later releases of the album included the additional tracks "Hard Times" and "Non Stop".
The cover and other album artwork is based a concept that Oakey wanted, that the album should look like an edition of Vogue magazine. The final design is a joint effort between Philip Adrian Wright (also the band's director of visuals) and graphic designer Ken Ansell. Oakey is solo on the front cover with Sulley and Catherall on the internal gatefold, and the whole band on the reverse. The artwork has been reproduced in numerous forms for the various re-releases and sold as posters.
Explaining why the band's portraits are close cropped and the girls had their hair tied back for their photographs, Susan Ann Sulley explains, "we wanted people to still be able to buy the album in five years, we thought that hair styles would be the first thing to date. We had no idea people would still be buying it 25 years later."
Chart (1981) Peak
Canadian Albums Chart 1 Dutch Albums Chart 11 French Albums Chart 5 German Albums Chart 19 Italian Albums Chart 15 New Zealand Albums Chart 1 Norwegian Albums Chart 6 Swedish Albums Chart 1 UK Albums Chart 1 U.S. Billboard 200 3
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of Dare (and the 30th anniversary of the formation of the band), the modern day Human League (Oakey, Sulley and Catherall from the original 1981 band line up) conducted a special Dare 2007 tour of the UK and Europe playing the original album live in full during November and December 2007.
An updated version of the original artwork, now with recent photographs of Sulley, Oakey and Catherall in the style of the original artwork, accompanied the advertising for the band's 2007 'Dare tour'.
In 2006, British Hit Singles & Albums and NME organised a poll of which, 40,000 people worldwide voted for the 100 best albums ever and Dare was placed at #77 on the list. The same year, Q magazine placed the album at #19 in its list of "40 Best Albums of the '80s".
The album Dare! is briefly seen and part of its opening track is played in The Young Ones episode "Interesting". The album and record player are quickly destroyed by policemen, ruining Rik's attempt at entertaining the already bored party guests.
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UK Albums Chart number one album
October 31, 1981 – November 7, 1981
January 9, 1982 – January 29, 1982
Shaky by Shakin' Stevens
Love Songs by Barbra Streisand
The Human League Albums Compilation albums EPs Singles"Being Boiled" · "I Don't Depend on You" · "Empire State Human" · "Only After Dark" · "Boys and Girls" · "The Sound of the Crowd" · "Love Action (I Believe in Love)" · "Open Your Heart" · "Don't You Want Me" · "Mirror Man" · "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" · "The Lebanon" · "Louise" · "Life on Your Own" · "Human" · "I Need Your Loving" · "Love Is All That Matters" · "Heart Like a Wheel" · "Soundtrack to a Generation" · "Tell Me When" · "One Man in My Heart" · "Filling Up with Heaven" · "Stay with Me Tonight" · "All I Ever Wanted" · "Love Me Madly?" · "The Things That Dreams Are Made Of" · "Night People" · "Never Let Me Go" · "Egomaniac" · "Sky" Video and DVDs Related articles Other projects
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