Record Review: The Human League – The Dignity Of Labour

Fast Product | UK | EP | 1979 | VF.1.

Fast Product | UK | EP | 1979 | VF.1.

The Human League: The Dignity Of Labour UK EP [1979]

  1. The Dignity of Labour Pt. 1
  2. The Dignity of Labour Pt. 2
  3. The Dignity of Labour Pt. 3
  4. The Dignity of Labour Pt. 4
  5. Flexi Disc

the human league - reproductionUKCDAToday, as a special Labor Day post [even though I am off of work] I will discuss a relevant record, the first Human League EP issued on manager Bob Last’s Fast Product label prior to the Virgin empire snatching them up. In keeping with the unreality of this post, it’s not a record that I actually own in its discrete form. Though I once saw it in the Crunchy Armadillo Records bins, I passed on it back in 1982-3, for some stupid reason that I can’t account for now! If I were to see a copy, I’d buy it on sight now! It went until I bought the 1st UK CD issue of “Reproduction” and a full complement of bonus tracks that should have been there actually were.

This EP was the transitional record that The Future could have released before changing their brand to the more intriguing “Human League.” In other words, it’s full-bore instrumental, BBC Radiophonic Workshop-influenced instrumentals, with a side order of Wendy Carlos. While Parts 1 and 2 bear the stamp of Doctor Who soundtrack material, the more subtle, and musical Part 3 strikes one as bearing an influence from the all-important “A Clockwork Orange” OST. It’s classically oriented sequences and loops being far more musical than the grinding noises of the first two parts.

Part 4 began with the suggestion of V2 rockets falling during the Blitz, with more retrograde Radiophonic mood pieces following in the sounds’ wake. The music attained an elegiac feeling here as all concerned had grown up in the aftermath of WWII, which had a profound impact on the postwar generation where playing in bombed out rubble and even war-era rationing persisted through to 1954, just two years prior to Martyn Ware’s birth.

Finally, the “Flexi-Disc” was the most metacritical release possible. The contents of which were a conversation between manager Bob Last and The Human League on what it was that they wanted to actually put onto the flexi-disc! Eventually, the conversation ran to an explanation of the cover, in a manner of speaking. The Human League as evidenced by this record, was still enmeshed in the styles familiar to their earlier form as The Future. B.E.F. fans would no doubt recognize the early British Electrical Foundation sound here was well; albeit in a more primitive, monosynth forms. By the time of their next record, the revolution will have taken place and The Human League would have fully metamorphosed into a “pop band,” though clearly one of the most left-field pop bands of their era.

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3 Responses to Record Review: The Human League – The Dignity Of Labour

  1. Gavin says:

    When I first discovered The Mighty League in 1981,this was one of the first records I bought.Needless to say I was amazed,but in a good way.At 14 I already had my first synth and recording gear and this was like a better version of what I was producing at the time.
    Being based in Dear Old Blighty,this was quite easy to pick up at that time,complete with infamous flexi,and I still have it in pristine condition.
    Strangely,I find the material closer to the Travelogue demo tapes than to the Reproduction-era stuff.’Living on a Bombsite’,which later became ‘Marianne’ doesn’t sound a million miles away from DOL stuff in my opinion.


  2. Echorich says:

    I am beginning to think that there was a butterfly flapping it’s wings somewhere in China that influenced a number of us to make musical purchasing decisions in the UK and US back in the day. I purchased The Dignity of Labor purely based on its cover…it’s one of my favorites. I say purely because it’s what made me pick it up and walk it over to the store manager at Metro Records in Queens, NY to play for all in the store to hear. By the time the needle hit the record, it was mine! Luckily for the store they had 3 and all were purchased within 5 minutes of it being played.
    I picked up on the A Clockwork Orange sound more than the very astutely mentioned “Whovian” qualities. I had a cousin at the time with a massive sound system in his house and heard the movie soundtrack more than once in what I believe was quadraphonic sound.
    Coming to the new generation of synth bands (or first real generation) via Gary Numan at just around the same time, The Human League seemed more mature and important. They weren’t going for radio friendly in my mind and this peaked my interest. It’s an interest, as far as the career moves of Martyn Ware, that I’ve kept now for about 35 years.


    • Jordan says:

      I purchased the 12″ with Flexi disc as well based solely on the cover art work when it came out. Which I love. I was aware of the League at that point and was not really into MK1 and still am not. I was a Cabs person then and still am. But the record sits on my shelf for future use. Only listened to it a few times.


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