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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Human - Born To Make Mistakes

It takes a strong person to admit that they are human, and a stronger person to admit that they do make mistakes.  And, believe me, I have a lot of respect for people who own up to making mistakes and admitting that they aren't perfect. 

Truth is, nobody in this world is absolutely perfect.  The perfect person does not exist no matter who may tell you otherwise.  Trust me, I am nowhere near perfect!  I'll be the first one to tell you that!

But you know, that's what makes all of us human.  We are all people who have our own flaws, and that help shape what the world is.  We're only human, and we are born to make mistakes.

Wait a minute.  That phrase just now.  That sounds incredibly familiar.  I know it will come to me at some point. 

Anyway, while I try to think of where I have heard that line before, I think that this is a good time to reveal that YOU NEVER NOVEMBER WHAT YOU'RE GONNA GET month continues on with this week's look back at all things music.  Normally, I would make Sunday the day of music discussion, but in this case, I chose to make it a Saturday this week.  No real reason why.  I just thought that Saturday was one of those days in which music just sounded like a good idea.

In all seriousness, some of my favourite music memories involve weekends.  I would listen to Casey Kasem's Top 40 while I did my homework, or if Muchmusic was having one of their special weekends where they played 1980s videos all day long, I would tune in and watch some of those videos.  Yeah, those were good times, watching videos by ABC, Blondie, Glass Tiger, Human League...

Wait one minute.  Now I know why that line "human, born to make mistakes" sounds really familiar!  It's from a song by the British band "The Human League"!

Yeah, now I remember!  It was the #1 song back in '86!  Have a listen if you will.

ARTIST:  The Human League
SONG:  Human
ALBUM:  Crash
DATE RELEASED:  August 11, 1986

Yes, we're going to be talking about the British band whose music you've likely heard in 1980s clubs, 1980s proms, and commercials for Chips Ahoy cookies! 

Now, for those of you who were around in the late 1970s, you might know that this is approximately the time in which The Human League first formed.  And the original line-up of The Human League by the time the group had undergone a couple of name changes and added a couple of new members were Martyn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh, Philip Oakey, and Philip Adrian Wright.

During the band's first few years, the group initially released two albums, and strictly decided to play only electronic music.  The albums did sell well in their native UK, but because the singles from the album were not commercially successful, the band struggled to be heard.

The stress certainly got to the band members of The Human League.  While Martyn Ware and Philip Oakey never really did see eye to eye on a lot of things, the catalyst came after the band released their second album.  Ware and Marsh had wanted to go ahead and release another electronic music album for their third effort.  But Oakey, seeing how their previous efforts hadn't done so well, believed that they should infuse their next effort with more mainstream pop, so that radio stations would be more apt to play it.

Needless to say, the band came to a stalemate, and the result was that Ware and Marsh walked out of The Human League, leaving Oakey and Wright left to carry on the band as a duo.

To make matters even worse, with Ware and Marsh beginning their own band project, "Heaven 17", Oakey decided that he would continue using the original name of "The Human League", which meant that Oakey not only inherited the debt racked up by the band, but he also had to pay royalties to both Ware and Marsh.

Certainly a heavy price to pay for taking a stance against his now former bandmates.  But hey, he's only human.

Only in this case, the decision to keep the name ended up being a good one.

Another good decision that Oakey made was hiring a brand new line-up to join him and Wright to continue The Human League going.  Oakey hired teenage singers Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley after allegedly seeing both of them dancing at a club.  Jo Callis would become the fifth and final member of The Human League, with Ian Burden joining the band as a session keyboardist from time to time.  The line-up was confirmed by January 1981, when the band released their long awaited third album, "Dare".

And over the next five years, The Human League would have a lot of success in their native UK as well as the United States and Canada.  I'm sure almost everyone in the world knows of the band's 1981 smash "Don't You Want Me", which was really the single that put The Human League on the charts.  "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" and "Mirror Man" were also minor hits.

By the time "Human" was released in 1986, two-sixths of the band had left to do other projects - Callis left in 1985, and Wright left in 1986 just as the band's "Crash" album was being released.

This meant that only Oakey, Catherall, and Sulley were left to keep the band alive.

Now, "Human" didn't perform as well in the UK as it did in North America, but the song itself was very well done.  It was produced by the team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who had recently worked their magic on Janet Jackson's "Control" album, and the video itself was quite ethereal with images of Oakey, Catherall, and Sulley fading in and out of a blue background.  Sure, the song sounded a lot different from the band's earlier works, but it certainly did blend very well with other music that was coming out of that time period.

And can we talk lyrical content here?  "Human" depicts the tale of a young man with a huge burden on his shoulders.  The good news is that he has gotten back together with his girlfriend after some time apart.  I would probably hazard a guess that based on the lyrics that it was a trial separation because in the song, the man is very sorry that he had decided to have a liaison with another woman in between that time.

So, in short, he's admitting that he's only human, and that his dalliance with the two-bit floozy down the street was just a mistake he made.  He's deeply committed to her now, but that wasn't always the case.

Ah, but here's where the "dun-dun-dun" moment comes in.  Would you believe that she was "only human too"?  Yep, she cheated on him with a dirty dog from down the lane while he was with his floozy.  So, basically both of them were only human with each other.  But, hey, they found each other again, so it's all good.

Okay, maybe not the most positive end result here...but it is a great song to illustrate that all of us do have our flaws, and sometimes we just have to accept them.

And, well...some people tend to do that better than others.  

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