Last week I had a yen to pull out The Human League’s “Dare” and give it a good couple of spins. Credit having my head in the Jo Callis bucket lately [more on that later] and that ultimately took me back to Callis’ retirement fund ca$h cow, “Dare.” It was the first Human League album I owned, but not the first that I’d heard. I had already bought singles from it when I received it as an xmas gift in 1981, [like hundreds of thousands of others, really]. Hearing “Don’t You Want Me” as an import on WPRK-FM college radio in December of 1981 completely rocked my world. It’s a safe bet to say that The Human League dominated the first half of 1982 listening for these ears. I wasted no time at buying the even more amazing first two albums, which I still prefer to this day, but you can’t argue too much with the success of “Dare.” It’s the last classic Human League album to these ears. It sold like hotcakes for a good reason.
If people who had bought the “Don’t You Want Me” single ever flipped it over and played the B-side, they would have heard an LP track. By the fourth single from “Dare,” the band had run out of non-LP B-sides. They pulled the brilliant “Seconds” for B-side duty and although it’s an LP track, it gave considerable value to anyone who sat out the album and only bought the single. The song began impressively, with a drum track which was Monolithic Motorik. This cut started …and you paid attention. The Linn programming was deliberately paced and unwavering; exactly what drum machines were made for. Ominous synth bass chords were minimal but powerful. This was actually a simple, direct track that explored Krautrock’s propulsive energy coupled with the provocative lyrics, jointly written by Philip Adrian Wright and Phil Oakey. Wright was known to be fascinated by the JFK life and legacy, and the conceit of writing a pop song upbraiding Lee Harvey Oswald in the most poetic fashion imaginable was the clearest link between the 1980 Human League, who penned the harrowing “Dreams Of Leaving” about black Africans escaping apartheid in South Africa – and the new Human League a year later. The one who aspired to be the electronic ABBA®. Yet this song said otherwise.
The intro was almost a minute of gradual instrumental buildup before Phil Oakey sang two verses without the benefit of a chorus. The song climaxed midway with a horrific explosion of white noise mirroring a gunshot that never fails to send chills when I hear it for the first time in a while. Then, the last half of the song was nothing but the repeated chorus for another 2:30.
“It took seconds of your time to take his life
It took seconds” – “Seconds”
That lyric is so brilliant, simple and direct; it fascinates me with its obviousness. It manages to encapsulate the horror of murdering another person [even a President] by contrasting the value of that fleeting action against the gravity of another person’s entire life. I think it’s one of the great lyrics. It could not be reduced or simplified any further, yet it still conveys the grievous waste of murder and assassination. I listened to this one for over an hour on Saturday morning and it made for compulsive listening. I can’t say that The Human League ever lived up to this promise ever again following it, though they did managed to turn in some good songs here and there.
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