Story behind the record cover – Dare (1981) – Human League

J. was enjoying the morning sun with a cup of coffee. Suddenly his heart stopped. J., the extroverted fellow student from the eighties. He always pushed the limits, with jokes, with heated discussions, with flirting. But above all, he was charming. Many a man and woman fell for him. He loved both. Now he’s dead. CPR was to no avail. He was 65 years old.

For me, J. has always been linked to the LP “Dare” by The Human League, from 1981 and with the mega-hit ‘Don’t you want me’. At student parties we often stood on the dance floor during this song. J. in the spotlight. Me in the shadows.
I don’t know if that’s the reason, but I don’t like synth-pop from the eighties. There was no more guitar involvement. It was mainly about popular tunes on a synthesizer, with a drum machine in the background. It was a conscious choice by Human League frontman Phil Oakey. He kicked musicians Martyn Ware and Ian Craig-Marsh out of the band. They continued as Heaven 17, who still regularly perform at De Boerderij (once more on 30 March 2022!).

Oakey took home two albums: one from Kraftwerk and one from Donna Summer. The other band members were given a choice. Oakey had already decided for himself. He went for the popular mainstream music of Donna Summer. Whoever chose this album was allowed to stay in the band.

The album cover art of The Human League also changed significantly. While the cover of the previous LP “Reproduction” was still provocative, with parents dancing to a photo of babies, for “Dare” Oakey opted for an imitation of glamour magazine Vogue. The original pressing from England features Phil Oakey himself on the front cover; the other band members are in the same style on the inner sleeve and on the back. On pressings for the European mainland, all four band members appeared on the front cover.

The cover was given a double coating to keep the white as white as can be. Other bands have gone astray with white cover artwork. Take for example Genesis, with “Duke” and “Three Side Live”. The covers got dirtier and dirtier over the years, until they were downright gross. It is an art in itself to buy an unblemished white copy of these particular album covers.

“Don’t you want me, baby?” How many times did J. ask this question, with his flirting strategy in mind? Twenty, thirty times? In the end J. chose husband E. He became the love of his life. They were a truly happy couple. They were glowing with happiness, even after thirty years when ‘Don’t you want me’ was played again at a party. Then they would hit the dance floor and everyone would look at them, admiringly. Me too. My slight jealousy had subsided by now; I too had found my true love.

But The Human League and me never hit it off. The album still resides in my record cabinet, but it still evokes the taste of the eighties, including my floundering on the dance floor. Compared to J.’s swinging hips, of course.
I thought Oakey’s asymmetrical hair—long on one side, short on the other—was great, by the way. Make-up done by a professional make-up artist and flanked by two sexy female singers. A man to turn you bi-sexual. I tried a haircut like that, but failed miserably with my salt-and-pepper hair.

J is no more. Student life is long gone. The album “Dare” will continue to exist. In immaculate white.
J. has taken everything out of life that he possibly could. “Dare” was right up his alley.

Gerrit-Jan Vrielink