Originally published in 'One Week To Live' Magazine - May 2007
League Unlimited Orchestra -Love and Dancing
The Human League? Don’t you want me Baby? Dancing round handbags in backstreet suburban nightclubs?
Well, actually yes and no; before The Human League descended into a haircut induced parody of themselves they started life as a credible and experimental electronic dance outfit that owed as much to electro-funk and disco as Top of The Pops.
Created from the ashes of punk, the Human League rejected the standard three chord chaos of punk’s year zero and instead utilised emerging synthesiser technology, funded by mundane day jobs as computer programmers. These electronic experiments were a world away from the new wave of punk bands then sweeping Britain, making The League not only unpopular, but also hugely controversial in their native Sheffield.
Flying in the face of their detractors, the group began flogging their experimental demos around record companies to near total indifference. The only spark of interest came from Island records supremo Chris Blackwell who suggested the group try a more pop orientated direction.
Armed with this new inspiration they returned to Yorkshire and enlisted the talents of Phil Oakey, a local ‘face’ whose only real credentials for the role was his asymmetric haircut and his pop star bravado. This new line up comprised a different Human League and resulted in the breakthrough album ‘Dare’ a pop smash that went on to break the group worldwide and seal their reputation at the vanguard of the emerging new romantic scene. However the bands success was not totally down to foppish hairstyles and catchy chart friendly compositions, an instrumental part of their success lay with their producer Martin Rushent.
Rushent, a veteran UK producer who had worked with artists as diverse as T Rex and The Buzzcocks, fed the groups elements of pop hooks and synthesiser experimentation into his desk, and came out with the classic Human League sound of Dare. Featuring the hit singles Don’t You Want Me and Love Action. The rest of course is history.
However Rushent was more than a journeyman producer, his innovative and futuristic production style led him to take the bare bones of Dare and remodel it in his studio to create something quite different and in many ways much more significant.
Released under the name "The League Unlimited Orchestra" as a tribute to Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra, Rushent crafted an instrumental dub version of the album aimed squarely at the dancefloor. This new ‘version’ contained songs from Dare along with a version of the track "Hard Times", which was originally the B-side of Love Action.
Finally released in 1982 “Love and Dancing” is one of the most underrated and influential British albums of the decade. Listening to it now it’s hard to believe it is not a modern creation. The rock hard beats and mammoth synth sounds of tracks like Hard Times or Love action sound more like tracks created in a sweaty Berlin basement in 2007, than the product of a suburban British record producer in 1981. As the tracks effortlessly glide into one another with a funk fuelled groove and pulse, snatches of the pop hits we all know and love slide in and out of the mix to create genuine moments of brilliance. Its safe to say that this is not only the best dancefloor album by a White British band in the 1980’s but the best dancefloor album created in the eighties full stop.
Take a listen to the album, and it’s easy to see the connection between German Krautrock, New York Electro and ultimately the house and Techno sounds that captivated British Youth in the late 80’s. The reason that house and rave culture overtook the country so comprehensively was that the funky electronic sound was already familiar to many. Love and Dancing is one of the reasons behind this recognition, and for that it truly deserves the ‘classic’ status; in addition it sounds bloody great today and genuinely stands up against today’s electro house soundtrack.
If you need any further proof of how ahead of its time this album was Richard X's saw no harm in sampling 'Things That Dreams Are Made Of' in it's entirety for his 'Finest Dreams' single. Also George Michael's 'Shoot the Dog' samples large chunks of 'Love Action' to brilliant effect.
If you like this try:
Soft Cell- Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing
A Certain Ratio- Early
Georgio Moroder – Best of
Blondie- Parallel Lines
New Order Substance
Yello - 1980-1985 The New Mix in One Go