Don't You Want Me

Don't You Want Me
"Don't You Want Me"
Single by The Human League
from the album Dare
Released 27 November 1981
16 October 1995 (remix)
Format 7" single, 12" single
Recorded 1981
Genre New Wave
Length 3:52
Label Virgin
Writer(s) Philip Oakey
Jo Callis
Philip Adrian Wright
Producer Martin Rushent
Certification US: Gold
UK: Platinum
The Human League singles chronology
"Open Your Heart"
"Don't You Want Me"
"Being Boiled"
Music sample
"Don't You Want Me"

"Don't You Want Me" is a single by British synthpop group Human League, released from their album: Dare on 27 November 1981. It is the band's best known and most commercially successful recording to date, and was the Christmas number one in the UK, in 1981, where it sold over 1,400,000 copies, making it the 25th most successful single in UK Singles Chart history.[1] it later topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the US on July 3, 1982 where it stayed for three weeks.

The title is frequently misprinted by the media and by covering artists;[2] the correct song title is "Don't You Want Me"; not "Don't You Want Me Baby", which is the chorus.



The lyrics were originally inspired after lead singer Philip Oakey read a story in a "trashy US tabloid". Originally conceived and recorded in the studio as a male solo, Oakey was inspired by the film A Star Is Born and decided to turn the song into a conflicting duet with one of the band’s two teenage female vocalists. Susan Ann Sulley was then asked to take on the role. Up until then, she and the other female vocalist Joanne Catherall had only been assigned backing vocals; Sulley says she was chosen only through "luck of the draw".[3] Musicians Jo Callis and Philip Adrian Wright created a synthesizer score to accompany the lyrics which was much harsher than the version that was actually released. Initial versions of the song were recorded but Virgin Records-appointed producer Martin Rushent was unhappy with them. He and Callis remixed the track, giving it a softer, and in Oakey's opinion, "poppy" sound. Oakey hated the new version and thought it the weakest track on Dare, resulting in one of his infamous rows with Rushent.[4] Oakey disliked it so much that it was relegated to the last track on the B side of the (then) vinyl album.

Before the release of Dare, two of its tracks—"The Sound of the Crowd" and "Love Action (I Believe in Love)"—had already been released as successful singles. To promote the new album, Virgin released "Open Your Heart" in October 1981, which hit #6 in the UK Singles Chart. With a hit album and three hit singles in a row, Virgin's Chief Exectutive Simon Draper decided to release one more single from the album before the end of 1981. His choice, "Don't You Want Me", instantly caused a row with Oakey who did not want another single to be released because he was convinced that "the public were now sick of hearing The Human League" and the choice of the "poor quality filler track" would almost certainly be a disaster, wrecking the group's new found popularity. Virgin were adamant that a fourth single would be released and Oakey finally agreed on the condition that a large colour poster accompany the 7" single, because he felt fans would "feel ripped off" by the 'substandard' single alone.[5]

"Don't You Want Me" was released in the UK on 27 November 1981. To the amazement of the band (and especially Oakey[6]), it shot to number one on the UK charts. This success was repeated six months later in the U.S., with "Don't You Want Me" hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks. Billboard magazine ranked it as the sixth-biggest hit of 1982. The single was certified Gold by the RIAA the same year for sales of a million copies.

The Human League often added cryptic references to their productions and the record sleeve of “Don’t You Want Me” featured the suffix of “100”. This was a reference to The 100 Club, a restaurant/bar in Sheffield.[7]

Today, the song is widely considered a classic of its era. Oakey still describes it as overrated, but acknowledges his initial dismissal was misguided and claims pride in the track.

An urban myth has grown around the song that it is autobiographical, this is untrue. Susan Ann Sulley is often irritated that she constantly has to refute the mistaken belief that the song is a reference to her and Joanne Catherall joining the band. At only 17 years old when the song was recorded, she was legally too young by UK law to have been a cocktail waitress and was, in fact, still in Secondary School. Oakey is also at pains to point out another misconception, that it is not a love song, but "a nasty song about sexual power politics" .[8]

The song was remixed and re-released in 1995, peaking at #16 on the UK chart.[9]

Music video

Susan Ann Sulley in the 1981 "Don't You Want Me" video.

In 1981 record company Virgin were becoming aware that promotional music video was evolving into an important marketing tool, with MTV being launched that year. Because it was agreed that the video for Open Your Heart had looked "cheap and nasty", Virgin commissioned a much more elaborate and expensive promotional video for "Don't You Want Me".

The video for the song was filmed in Slough during November 1981 and has the theme of the filming and editing of a murder-mystery film, featuring the band members as characters and production staff. Due to it being a "making of" video, both crew and camera apparatus appear throughout. It was conceived and directed by filmmaker Steve Barron, and has at its core the interaction between a successful actress (also a 2nd negative cutter) played by Susan Ann Sulley walking out on 'film director' Philip Oakey on a film set. It is loosely based on the film A Star Is Born. Near the end of the video, Wright, who also plays a film editor, has an expression on his face, while the camera pulls back to reveal that the negative room where Oakey, Wright, and Sulley were working in is another set (the camera can be seen in the mirror's reflection).

Filmed on a cold, wet, winter night, it was shot on 35mm film instead of the cheaper video tape prevalent at the time. Susan Sulley states now that Steve Baron was heavily influenced by the cinematography of the video for the Ultravox single "Vienna". Steve Baron was also influenced by François Truffaut and his film Day for Night; and because of that the clapper board seen in the video bears the inscription "Le League Humaine" as a tribute to Truffaut.

The video is credited for making Oakey, Sulley and Catherall visual icons of the early 1980s; but became controversial later for a scene where Jo Callis shoots Catherall (and later in the video repeated with Oakey shooting Sulley) with a pistol from a car window (a Saab 99 turbo). The scene is edited out of the DVD version and usually on music television. The other car that was used in the video is a gold W-Reg Rover SD1 - an iconic car of the time.

The video was released in December 1981, just as the music video culture was becoming a standard in music, and it was a major contribution to the song's commercial success.

Chart performance

Original release

Chart (1981/2) Peak
Belgian Singles Chart[citation needed] 1
Canadian Singles Chart[10] 1
Dutch Singles Chart[11] 6
French Singles Chart[12] 13
German Singles Chart[13] 5
Irish Singles Chart[14] 1
Italian Singles Chart[15] 15
New Zealand Singles Chart[16] 1
Norwegian Singles Chart[17] 1
South African Singles Chart[18] 2
Swedish Singles Chart[19] 3
Swiss Singles Chart[20] 4
UK Singles Chart[21] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[22] 1
U.S. Billboard Dance/Club Play Songs Chart[23] 3
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart[24] 4

1995 Re-issue

Chart (1995) Peak
Japanese Singles Chart (Tokyo)[citation needed] 100
UK Singles Chart[25] 16

Use in commercials

Up until 2001, The Human League as a matter of principle, did not permit the use of their music in commercials. However Virgin Records own the rights to the material recorded when the band were signed to them 1978–1990, and the lack of consent from the band has not been enough to prevent the use of re-recorded versions of this song in commercials.

  • The first such use was a 2001 parody version by Fiat in a TV Commercial for their female friendly Punto car. Oakey, Sulley and Catherall fought a bitter legal battle to prevent the song's use, but ultimately lost the case to Virgin who own the song's rights. This became another source of acrimony between the band and the label, who sacked them in 1992. Susan Sulley speaking in 2001 stated that the worst aspect of the whole affair was "now even if we wanted to use the song for a more worthy company, we can't because it will always be associated with a particular brand". Philip Oakey is more resigned about the matter, and stated that "You can't be too precious about a song you did 20 years ago". The band receives no royalties if the song is re-recorded by a third party.[26]
  • In 2007 the song was used in a Super Bowl commercial for cookie brand Chips Ahoy! Again the band did not give their consent for the use of the song, but this time for financial reasons did not fight Virgin over its use.
  • In 2009, Procter & Gamble used the song in a few of their U.S. and Canadian commercials for their Swiffer range of cleaning products.
  • The song has also been used to promote the Cascadia Showerhead by Waterpik.[27]

Use in films

Use in television

  • In the 2008 BBC drama Ashes to Ashes (set in 1981), the song is featured as one of the principal soundtrack songs. Later Keeley Hawes's character Alex Drake uses Susan Sulley's line "I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar" in the dialogue; included by the script writers as a tribute to Susan Sulley and The Human League.
  • In the Mighty Boosh episode "Electro" Vince plays the song to Howard, stating that the Human League "invented music" and everything before had just been tuning up.
  • In the US TV series Will & Grace episode "Marry Me a Little, Marry Me a Little More" just before Grace gets married, she and Will (he alludes earlier in the episode to being a Human League fan[29]), sing part of the first verse on a rooftop.
  • In an episode of Glee, "Blame It On the Alcohol," the song is featured as a duet between Rachel (Lea Michele) and Blaine (Darren Criss).
  • In The Glee Project, is the contestants Samuel and Marissa's 5th music video.

Track listing

7" version

  1. "Don't You Want Me" – 3:57
  2. "Seconds" – 4:59

12" version

  1. "Don't You Want Me" – 3:57
  2. "Seconds" – 4:59
  3. "Don't You Want Me (Extended Dance Mix)" – 7:30

Notable covers

Mandy Smith version

"Don't You Want Me Baby"
Single by Mandy Smith
B-side "If It Makes You Feels Good"
Released 1989
Format CD single
7" single
12" single
Recorded 1989
Genre Pop
Length 3:44
Label PWL
Writer(s) Philip Oakey
Jo Callis
Philip Adrian Wright
Producer Pete Hammond
Mandy Smith singles chronology
"Victim of Pleasure"
"Don't You Want Me Baby"
"I Just Can't Wait (92' Remixes)"

In 1989 Mandy Smith covered this song. The song was released after her album Mandy (1988). It was also Smith's final single. This song has a B-side, "If It Makes You Feel Good", which appeared on Smith's debut album.

Formats and track listings

CD Single

  1. "Don't You Want Me Baby"
  2. "If It Makes You Feel Good"
  3. "Don't You Want Me Baby" (Cocktail Mix)
  4. "If It Makes You Feel Good" (Extended Version)

7" Single

  1. "Don't You Want Me Baby"
  2. "If It Makes You Feel Good"

12" Single

  1. "Don't You Want Me Baby" (Cocktail Mix)
  2. "If It Makes You Feel Good" (Extended Version)


Chart (1989) Peak
UK Singles Charts 59
ITA Singles Charts 11
Swedish Tracks Charts 16

Alcazar version

"Don't You Want Me"
Single by Alcazar
from the album Casino
Released May 2002
Recorded 2001
Genre Eurodance
Length 03:27
Label RCA Records, BMG
Alcazar singles chronology
"Sexual Guarantee"
"Don't You Want Me"
"Not a Sinner Nor a Saint"
Casino (International Editions) track listing
"Breaking Free"
"Don't You Want Me"
"Shine On"

Don't You Want Me is a eurodance song performed by Swedish band Alcazar and released internationally in 2002. The song was included to the European version of "Casino" together with a few other, and was recorded in Stockholm at first, but when they wanted it for a new pan-European single, a whole new version was made.

The single was released in Australia as a follow up to the megahit single "Crying at the Discoteque" and the release includes the "Ivan's X Mix" of CATD as a bonus. The white 12 inch was released in Europe and distributed to DJs to get maximum airplay at the disco arenas.

So far Don't You Want Me is the biggest hit for the group in United States, climbing # 30 in the Billboard Hot-100 Singles staying in the charts for respective 15 Weeks. It Also became huge favourite in the Clubs and US Radio Stations.

The Human League themselves have said that they like this version, as it is fairly true to the original; and Alcazar still performs this track at their live shows around the world.

The song is playable on the Karaoke Revolution games.

Music video

The video was filmed at Filmhuset in Stockholm, and once again Jesper Ganslandt directed it all. As always in Alcazar videos the storyline takes place in "Alcazar world" – and this time it all took place in "Circus Alcazar". The video is filled with horses, ducks, an evil parrot, acrobats and the Alcazar ballet.

The whole video shoot took almost 23 hours, and actually includes Annikafiore's boyfriend juggling with fire in the background The Alcazar dog Selma was styled in a pink ballerina dress and waited the whole day for the filming of her scene where she would perform jumps in the circus arena.

Formats and track listings

These are the formats and track listings of promotional single releases of "Don't You Want Me".

CD single
  1. "Almighty Radio Edit" – 3:27
  2. "Almighty Club Mix" – 7:25
  3. "Project Eden Remix" – 7:34
  4. "Earth Club Anthem" – 10:24
  5. "Wild Cowboys Radio Mix" – 3:38

Chart performance

Chart (2002) Peak
Australian ARIA Singles Chart[30] 37
Belgian Singles Chart (Flanders)[31] 21
Dutch Singles Chart[32] 83
Finnish Singles Chart[33] 18
Swedish Singles Chart[34] 30
Swiss Singles Chart[35] 76
Hot Dance Club Play[36] 30
Japan[citation needed] 3

Other versions

  • A cover of the song was the last successful single by Liverpool-based pop group The Farm, reaching #18 in the UK Singles Chart in late 1992. It was originally recorded for the NME charity album Ruby Trax.
  • Stephin Merritt project Future Bible Heroes recorded a cover of "Don't You Want Me" which is featured on Reproductions: Songs Of The Human League.
  • Electronica band Hyper Crush recorded a cover version of the song for their Mixtape Volume 2 CD.
  • A cover of the song was performed as a duet on the hit show Glee by actor/singers Lea Michele and Darren Criss in season 2, episode 14 named "Blame It On The Alcohol".
  • A cover of the song was recorded by Atomic Tom for the soundtrack of the 2011 Michael Dowse film Take Me Home Tonight. The music video featured members of the film's cast.
  • A cover of the song was composed by the Electronic artist Leæther Strip which was featured on Yes, I'm Limited IV. The cover featured Unter Null.


  1. ^ Top 100 singles of all time in the UK[dead link]
  2. ^
  3. ^ Interview – Smash Hits Magazine – December 1981
  4. ^ Martin Rushent speaking on UK Channel 4 Documentary "Top 10 Electro Pioneers" BBC – 27 Nov 2001
  5. ^ "Human League Biography". Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  6. ^ "Rolling Stone 1983". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  7. ^ Smash Hits Magazine December 1981
  8. ^ Human League Interview – Eamon Homes GMTV 2001
  9. ^ British Hit Singles and Albums (Guinness 19th Edition) Guinness World Records Limited; 20Rev Ed edition ISBN-978-1904994107 (2 Jun 2007)
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ "In a league of their own". 
  27. ^ “”. ""Don't You Want Me" Funny Shower Singing-Waterpik". YouTube. Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Will & Grace - 5.08 & 5.09 - Marry Me A Little, Marry Me A Little More". 21 November 2002. Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  30. ^ Steffen Hung. "Alcazar - Don't You Want Me". Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  31. ^ "Alcazar - Don't You Want Me". Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  32. ^ Steffen Hung. "Alcazar - Don't You Want Me". Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  33. ^ Steffen Hung. "Alcazar - Don't You Want Me". Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  34. ^ Steffen Hung. "Alcazar - Don't You Want Me". Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  35. ^ Steffen Hung. "Alcazar - Don't You Want Me". Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  36. ^ [1][dead link]

External links

Preceded by
"Don't Stand So Close to Me" by The Police
Top selling single of the year (UK)
Succeeded by
"Come on Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners
Preceded by
"Begin the Beguine" by Julio Iglesias
UK number-one single
12 December 1981 – 9 January 1982
Succeeded by
"The Land of Make Believe" by Bucks Fizz
Preceded by
"There's No-one Quite Like Grandma" by St Winifred's School Choir
UK Christmas number-one single
Succeeded by
"Save Your Love" by Renée and Renato
Preceded by
"I Love Rock 'n' Roll" by Joan Jett
Canadian RPM number-one single
15 May 1982
Succeeded by
"Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
Preceded by
"Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
US Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
3 July 1982 – 23 July 1982
Succeeded by
"Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor

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