One of my favorite bands from the 1980’s was the Human League. And believe me, if I’m in my car listening to Sirius/XM’s “First Wave” channel, and I hear that opening synth riff to a certain 1980’s #1 hit, I will roll down the windows, crank up the sound, and start singing at the top of my lungs, “DON’T YEW WANT ME BAY BEE – – – DON’T YEW WANT ME OH-HO-O-OH!!!”
Yes. That song.
And the odd thing is, the male lead vocalist on this song – Philip Oakey – sounded perfect with these poppy synth notes. It just worked, a voice for the electronic age.
It worked before anybody ever heard of the Human League – back when the group featured members that would later splinter off to form Heaven 17 – and it worked when the Human League were no longer commanding the top of the charts.
Let us review, shall we?
The Black Hit of Space
You’ve heard the Human League’s biggest hit – now just imagine how they sounded a couple of years BEFORE that hit came out. And this was back in their early art-school avant-garde years.
I Don’t Depend On You
Here’s the weird thing about this track. The early version of the Human League (before they added the girls) recorded this track, but refused to release it under their band name. The record was eventually released under the group name of “The Men,” and became a UK dance hit.
THE HUMAN LEAGUE
This would have been their biggest hit – and then the group split up. This would have been a classic track for a one-hit wonder group. Good thing Phil found those girls, eh?
PHILIP OAKEY and GIORGIO MORODER
Together in Electric Dreams
Phil works well with other producers, this track actually did better than the film Electric Dreams, for which the track was originally written.
What Comes After Goodbye?
UK hit for this three-member band from Sheffield (Philip Oakey’s home town), in which Oakey co-wrote the song and added some vocals to the track.
THE ALL SEEING I
The First Man in Space
Another Sheffield dance-pop band, The All Seeing I had a few hits in the UK; this re-write of the “space astronaut” subjects like Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” gets the Oakey vocal treatment as well.
KINGS HAVE LONG ARMS
Rock and Roll is Dead
Rock and Roll may be dead, but Philip Oakey adding vocals to another Sheffield studio electronica band isn’t.
DJ ALEX GOLD
This should have been a Human League Top 10 worldwide single. As it was, it did get a ton of club airplay. I recognize that lead vocalist, I think…
Now here’s some food for thought. This was a UK hit for dance-electronica singer Little Boots, who was born in 1984 – and is three years younger than the song “Don’t You Want Me.” And yes, Philip Oakey adds his vocals to this track.
PET SHOP BOYS
This Used To Be The Future
Mr. Oakey – say hello to Mr. Tennant and Mr. Lowe. Now let’s all work together and make a great track, shall we?
Okay, one more Phil Oakey track. And since we started today’s K-Chuck Radio blog post with the Human League’s first #1 American hit…
You know I had to find the video for their OTHER #1 American hit, right?