The Human League is an English electronic New Wave band formed in Sheffield, England in 1977. They achieved popularity after a key change in line-up in the early 1980s and have continued recording and performing with moderate commercial success throughout the 1980s up to the present day.
The only constant band member since 1977 is vocalist and songwriter Philip Oakey. Originally an avant-garde all-male synthesizer-based group, The Human League evolved into a commercially successful synthpop band under Oakey’s leadership, yielding the group’s biggest-selling album, Dare (1981). Since 1987, the band has essentially been a trio of Oakey and long-serving female vocalists Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley (who joined the ensemble in 1980), with various sidemen. The Human League has influenced many electro-pop, other synthpop, and mainstream performers including Madonna, La Roux, Moby, Pet Shop Boys and Little Boots. They have been sampled and covered by various artists including Tony Christie, Utah Saints, Ministry of Sound, Craig David, George Michael, KMFDM, and Robbie Williams.
Since 1978, The Human League has released nine studio albums, four EPs and twenty-nine singles. They have had four albums and eight singles in the UK Top Ten, one of which was Number One (two in the US) and they have played over 350 live concerts. The band has sold more than 20 million records worldwide.
Before adopting the name The Human League, the band briefly had two previous incarnations. In early 1977, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, who had met at youth arts project Meatwhistle, were both working as computer operators. Their musical collaboration combined pop music (such as glam rock and Tamla Motown) with avant-garde electronic music. With the price of electronic components dropping in the mid 1970s, equipment became more affordable for the average consumer, Ware and Marsh purchased a Korg 700S synthesizer together and learned how to play it. Their musical reputation spread and they were invited to play at a friend’s 21st birthday party. For the party, Ware and Marsh formed themselves into an informal band called Dead Daughters. Their live highlight was a rendition of the theme of the British TV series Doctor Who.
After a few more low-key, private performances, Ware and Marsh decided to officially form a band. Joined by their friend Adi Newton and another synthesizer (a Roland System-100), they formed The Future and began to create music in their own rehearsal facility in a disused cutlery workshop in the centre of Sheffield. Although The Future was never signed and did not release material commercially at the time, a collection of demos from this period was released retrospectively on CD in 2002 titled The Golden Hour of the Future, mixed by Richard X. The association with Adi Newton was short; Newton left The Future and went on to form Clock DVA. Ware at this point decided that he needed a singer rather than another keyboard player. The reason for this was twofold: record companies had been reluctant to sign The Future, as they couldn’t offer any “marketable” songs, and therefore a talented singer was required for any chance of commercial success; also the group only owned two synthesizers and could not afford a third.
Ware and Marsh searched for a vocalist, but their first choice, Glenn Gregory, was unavailable (Gregory eventually became the lead singer of their later band Heaven 17). Ware then decided to invite an old school friend, Philip Oakey, to join the band. Oakey was working as a hospital porter at the time and was known on the Sheffield social scene for his eclectic style of dress. Although he had no musical experience, Ware thought he would be ideal as lead singer for The Future as “he already looked like a pop star.” When Ware called on Oakey he found he was out, so asked him to join The Future by leaving a note stuck to his front door. He accepted the invitation, but early sessions were awkward. Oakey had never sung in front of an audience before, could not play keyboards and only owned a saxophone (which he could not play). Listening to one of Ware and Marsh’s demos, Oakey was inspired to write some lyrics which later became the single “Being Boiled”.
With a new line-up, sound and vocalist, Ware decided that the band needed a new name. It would also allow them to approach record companies again from a different angle. Ware suggested a quote derived from the game Starforce: Alpha Centauri, a science fiction war game. In the game, ‘The Human League’ arose in 2415 A.D, and was a frontier-oriented society that desired more independence from Earth. Ware suggested that The Future rename themselves after the game and in early 1978 The Future became The Human League.
Using Future material, The Human League released a demo tape to record companies under their new name. The tape contained versions of “Being Boiled”, “Toyota City”, and “Circus of Death”. Ware’s friend Paul Bower of Sheffield new wave band 2.3 who had just recorded a single for Bob Last’s Edinburgh based independent label Fast Product took their demo to Last and he signed the band.
The band released their first single, “Being Boiled”, in June, 1978 which became Fast Product’s third release. Although a limited release - because it was so unique and at odds with everything else on the market - it was picked up on by NME who championed the band, although one guest reviewer, Johnny Rotten of punk band Sex Pistols condemned the band as “trendy hippies.”
Boosted by critical praise, in June 1978 the band played their first live gig together at Bar 2 in Sheffield’s Psalter Lane Art College (now Sheffield Hallam University; a plaque now commemorates the spot in what is now a computer suite.)
With their reliance on technology and tape machines, the band had been nervous about playing live. After the Psalter Lane performance, they worried that they had appeared static and uninspiring. A friend of Oakey’s who had been in the audience, Philip Adrian Wright, who also had an art and photography background was invited to become the band’s Director of Visuals with a remit to “liven up” the stage performance with slides, film clips and lighting.
The band’s live performances began to gain momentum and acclaim and they were asked to support first The Rezillos (featuring future band member Jo Callis), then Siouxsie and the Banshees as early as September 1978. In December, 1978 David Bowie appeared in the audience and later declared to NME that he “had seen the future of pop music.
In April, 1979 The Human League released their first EP under Fast Record entitled The Dignity of Labour, which contained four experimental instrumentals. Although the EP barely charted, major record labels began approaching the band in an attempt to lure them away from Fast. Eventually in May, 1979, the band accepted an offer by Richard Branson’s Virgin Records. Because of his label’s early support, the band offered Bob Last the position as band manager.
In June, 1979 The Human League supported Iggy Pop on his European tour before settling into recording their first single for Virgin. Despite being promised creative freedom, Virgin instead insisted on some sweeping changes to the band’s style for their first single in order to make it more commercial. They insisted on conventional instruments and vocals as well as synthesizers. Because the band had accepted a large financial signing advance, Ware was in no position to refuse, but insisted that any releases in this style be credited to a pseudonym.
The band’s first single under Virgin Records was the disco influenced “I Don’t Depend on You”, released in July, 1979 under the pseudonym “The Men”. The single did not chart and had very little in common with the previous work of The Human League. It did, however, feature prophetic female vocals by guest vocalists Lisa Strike and Katie Kissoon sounding like the yet-to-be-formed future Human League of 1981.
Because the imposed style had not worked, Virgin permitted the band to return to their original style and the band recorded and released their first full studio album Reproduction in August, 1979. The album and the single “Empire State Human” failed to make any impact on the charts. After these flops, Virgin cancelled the band’s December, 1979 tour. By this time, The Human League’s role as UK electronic pioneers was usurped by Gary Numan when his single “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” became a huge hit in the UK in mid-1979.
In April, 1980 the band was able to release an EP entitled Holiday ‘80, containing the principal track “Marianne” and a cover of “Nightclubbing” (written by Bowie and Iggy Pop). The seven inch version of “Holiday ‘80” did well enough to get the band their first TV appearance on BBC TV Top of the Pops on 8 May 1980 opening a Peter Powell presented show with Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2”. This was to be the only high profile TV appearance by the Oakey/Marsh/Ware trio on British television, with the sole exception of BBC2’s Mainstream program in late 1979, where a performance in the studio, complete with slideshow etcetera, was broadcast of the tracks “The Path Of Least Resistance” and the current minor hit “Empire State Human”.
In May, the band toured the UK. Philip Adrian Wright was now playing incidental keyboards in addition to his visuals role. It was the last time all four members performed together live. Also in May, the band released their second studio album Travelogue. More commercial sounding than Reproduction, it peaked at Number 16 in the UK, giving the band their first real success. As a result, “Empire State Human” was re-released and the band made their second appearance on Top of the Pops even though it only reached Number 62 in the singles chart.
Because of their lack of commercial success, Virgin refused to release further singles from Travelogue. The Human League was booked to conduct a tour of the UK and Europe in October – November, 1980 but the lack of success after two years of hard work and perceived lack of faith by Virgin set about severe internal conflict within the band.
The relationship between Oakey and Ware had always been turbulent, and the pair often quarreled over creative and personal matters. Oakey was once observed chasing Ware up a Sheffield street, throwing bottles of milk from people’s doorsteps at him.
The lack of success compared with the success of Gary Numan’s work at that time had brought matters to a head. Ware insisted the band maintain their pure electronic sound while Oakey wanted to emulate more successful pop groups. The pair clashed continually, with Ware eventually walking out. Taking Ware’s side, Ian Craig Marsh joined him. Manager Bob Last tried to reconcile both parties, and when that proved impossible various options were suggested including two new bands under a Human League sub-label. Eventually it was agreed that Oakey would continue with The Human League name while Ware and Marsh would form a completely new band, which became Heaven 17. Two weeks before the UK/Europe tour the band split.
Retaining the Human League name came at a heavy price for Oakey; he was responsible for all Human League debts and commitments. Also, The Human League would have to pay Ware and Marsh one percent of royalties of the next Human League album under the Virgin contract.
With the tour only ten days away and the music media reporting that The Human League was finished now that “the talented people had left,” promoters started threatening to sue Oakey if the tour was not completed as contracted. To complete the tour, Oakey had to recruit new people in a matter of days.
In an event that is now firmly embedded in popular folklore and regularly repeated by the media, Oakey and his then girlfriend went into Sheffield city centre on a Wednesday night with the intention of recruiting a single female backing vocalist. After looking in various venues, they visited the Crazy Daisy Nightclub on High Street where Oakey spotted two teenage girls dancing together on the dance floor. Susanne Sulley (17) and Joanne Catherall (18) were just schoolgirls on a night out together. Neither had any experience of singing or dancing professionally. With no preamble, Oakey asked both girls to join the tour as dancers and incidental vocalists. He states that when he found out their age and that they were best friends, he revised his plan for a single female and decided that the two girls could look after each other on the tour. Originally just wanting a single female singer to replace the high backing vocals originally provided by Martyn Ware, he says that he thought having two female vocalists/dancers would also add potential glamour to the band. Because of the girls’ ages, Oakey and Wright later had to visit Sulley and Catherall’s respective parents to obtain permission for the girls to go on the tour.
In addition to Sulley and Catherall, Oakey employed professional musician Ian Burden from Sheffield synth band Graph as a session keyboard player for the tour to cover for the keyboards of the now departed Ware and Marsh.
The tour was completed as advertised with the first date at Doncaster Top Rank but was less than successful. The music press was scornful of “Oakey and his dancing girls” and treated the new band line-up with derision. Many of the audiences who had paid to see the original all male line up, were not happy with the new band; Sulley and Catherall were often heckled and, on occasion, bottled.
On completion of the tour, Burden went on to his next commitment playing bass guitar in West Berlin. Because of the professionalism they had shown and because he planned to use them further vocally, Oakey and manager Bob Last made Sulley and Catherall full members of the band, to be paid on a salary basis.
The band’s most successful period was in 1981 and culminated in the release of the influential, triple platinum album Dare and the multi-million selling single “Don’t You Want Me”.
In January, 1981 although they had survived the tour, the band was still in trouble. Heavily in debt to Virgin Records, Oakey and Wright were under pressure to produce results quickly. By February 1981 the band recorded and rushed out “Boys and Girls”. Sulley and Catherall (who had returned to school full-time) were not involved. The single reached Number 47 in the UK charts, the most commercially successful Human League single to that point. Oakey acknowledged that he needed to bring in professional musicians and so Ian Burden was tracked down and invited to join the band as a trial member.
Virgin’s faith had been restored by “Boys and Girls”, but they believed the band lacked professional production. In March, Oakey was introduced to veteran producer Martin Rushent, whose first move was to dispatch the entire band to Genetic Studios in Reading, Berkshire, away from the “unhealthy atmosphere” of Monumental Studios, Sheffield that they shared with Ware and Marsh’s Heaven 17. The first result of the Genetic sessions was the single “The Sound of the Crowd”. The single was an instant success reaching Number Twelve in the UK.
Bob Last believed that the band could be improved further by the addition of one more professional musician, so in April 1981 his associate Jo Callis (formerly of The Rezillos, a band Last had previously managed) was invited to become the final permanent member of the band. The next single, “Love Action (I Believe in Love)”, reached Number Three in the UK in August 1981.
The band’s commercial success and higher public profile prompted Virgin to authorize the release of a full album. The band set about arranging their existing material and demos into a viable album. Sulley and Catherall, who had just left school, immediately postponed their plans to attend university to work on the album. By October 1981 the album was ready and entitled Dare. Just prior to its release, Virgin released a single from the album, “Open Your Heart”, which equaled the success of the previous two singles. Dare was released in October 1981 and reached Number One in the UK. It spent a total of four weeks at the top spot over the 1981/82 period, remaining in the chart for 77 weeks and eventually going triple platinum.
Because of Dare’s enormous success, Virgin executive Simon Draper instructed that a fourth single be released from the album before the end of 1981. His choice was to be “Don’t You Want Me”, a track Oakey considered to be a filler and the weakest track on the album. Oakey fought the decision believing it would damage the band, but was overruled by Draper and “Don’t You Want Me” was released in December 1981. Aided by an expensive music video (a rarity at the time) directed by film maker Steve Barron, the single went immediately to Number One and stayed there over Christmas 1981. The single became the band’s biggest hit, selling over two million copies worldwide. Dare has since been labeled as one of pop music’s most influential albums. Philip Oakey often plays down such claims, but at other times acknowledges its influence on modern music. In 2001, paraphrasing an NME headline from 1980, Oakey once famously quipped: “The Human League: one day all music will be made like this! And it is!”
Capitalizing on the success of the album and their recent Number One hit single, “Being Boiled” was re-released and became a Top Ten hit in early 1982. The band toured for the first time together internationally. Concurrently, Dare (later renamed Dare!) was released in the U.S. by A&M Records and “Don’t You Want Me” also reached Number One there in mid-1982. A remix album of Dare entitled Love and Dancing was released under the group name The League Unlimited Orchestra (a tribute to Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra), reaching Number Three on the UK album chart.
In 1982, the band received the Best British Newcomer award at the annual Brit Music awards, and Rushent also took Best Producer for his work on Dare. By the end of the awards party, a drunken Sulley and Catherall had lost the band’s valuable trophy and it was never seen again.
In November, 1982 the Motown influenced electro pop single “Mirror Man” reached Number Two in the UK chart, just missing another Christmas Number One, which was taken by a novelty record by Ren裠and Renato.
The Human League’s work was now recognized on both sides of the Atlantic. In February, 1983 the band was nominated for the Best New Artist award at the 25th annual Grammy Awards (though the award eventually went to Men at Work).
The follow-up single, “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”, was released in April, 1983 and peaked at Number Two in the UK. The following months proved to be difficult ones for the band as they struggled to record a follow-up album to Dare under immense pressure from Virgin. A six-song EP called Fascination! comprising of the singles “Mirror Man” and “Fascination” together with the new track “I Love You Too Much” was released from the original recording sessions for their new album, later to be named Hysteria. The EP was released in America as a stop-gap and also became a strong seller as an import in the UK.
In August, 1983 the band released “the UK’s first video single” to capitalize on the growing market created by the increasing popularity of domestic home video tape recorders, called The Human League Video Single. This was a short (12 minutes) video tape cassette in either VHS or Betamax format, containing the music videos for “Mirror Man”, “Love Action (I Believe in Love)”, and “Don’t You Want Me”. Although innovative, it was not a commercial success; as it retailed for 10.99 pounds, it was extremely expensive compared to vinyl singles averaging 1.99 pounds in 1983. It did set the scene for further video and DVD releases by the band in the future.
The band spent many months agonizing as they tried to make a successor to Dare, and as things became ever more stressful, producer Martin Rushent left the project. At this point, the band ditched much of the material recorded so far and started over again with new producers Hugh Padgham and Chris Thomas (though some of Rushent’s contributions to certain tracks from the earlier sessions were included on the released album.
Finally in May, 1984 the band released the politically charged single “The Lebanon”. The single peaked at Number Eleven in the UK. This was followed shortly thereafter by the album Hysteria, so called because of the difficult and tense recording process. It entered the UK album chart at Number Three, however, it climbed no further and critics and fans were divided by the new direction the band had taken. The second single was “Life on Your Own” in mid-1984. The single missed the UK Top Ten, peaking at Number 16. With the parent album Hysteria failing to live up to expected sales, thoughts of a third single were put on hold.
Later that year, success outside of The Human League came for Oakey in the shape of the huge hit single “Together In Electric Dreams”, a collaboration with one of his idols, synth pioneer Giorgio Moroder. The track was taken from the film soundtrack to Electric Dreams and became a massive hit. Often now erroneously credited as a Human League single, due to its success and enduring popularity, the band have since adopted it for their live performances and it appears on their greatest hits compilations. Oakey and Moroder then recorded an album together for Virgin, Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder, but this met with rather less success and the following two singles failed to make the UK Top 40. However, the success of the original Oakey and Moroder track encouraged Virgin to release one final single from Hysteria in November, 1984, the ballad “Louise” was released and reached Number Thirteen in the UK.
After Hysteria, the group found themselves in creative stagnation, struggling to record material to follow up on their previous successes. Key songwriter Jo Callis departed, replaced by drummer Jim Russell. Bob Last quit as manager and was not replaced.
Worried by the lack of progress with their most profitable act, Virgin paired The Human League up with American R&B producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis who had a proven track record with Janet Jackson and Prince. Jam and Lewis had expressed an interest in working with the band after hearing their US releases. Virgin flew the entire band to Minneapolis. The four-month long recording sessions were beset with creative disputes, with Jam and Lewis having preconceived ideas on how they wanted the album to sound, rejecting most of the band’s material (which would cost the band considerable loss of royalty income). The band eventually quit the sessions early amidst creative acrimony, although the personal relationships had actually been good.
The final result of the sessions was the Crash album. The album featured much material written by the Jam and Lewis’ team, and showcased their DX7-led sound. It provided a U.S. Number One single, “Human” (Number Eight in the UK), but other singles made smaller chart impact. The album, while making the Top Ten in the UK, was not as popular as previous releases. Disheartened by being sidelined in Minneapolis and with the direction the band had taken, Adrian Wright left the band to work in film. Crash was generally more popular in the U.S. and internationally than in the UK. The band toured in the UK and internationally in 1986 and 1987 to capitalize on their high profile at this time.
Although the group has been retrospectively identified with the New Romantic movement of this period,according to Dave Rimmer, author of New Romantics: The Look, “at the time [they] were no such thing.” he band themselves have also consistently and strenuously rejected the label. The Sheffield scene in which The Human League formed pre-dated New Romanticism and took more influence from Kraftwerk. Bands in the Sheffield scene were also referred to as Futurists, athough Oakey himself has said: “We thought we were the punkiest band in Sheffield.”
In 1987, Ian Burden also left the band.
In November, 1988 a greatest hits compilation album was released that reached Number Three in the UK. This was preceded by the release of the single “Love Is All That Matters” from Crash.
In 1989, the band built their own studio in Sheffield, jointly funded by Oakey and a business development loan from Sheffield City Council. Oakey believed if the band owned their own facilities it would cut down on the production costs of previous albums and the band could become more productive.
In 1990, the band released their last album for Virgin Records, Romantic?. By now, longstanding members Adrian Wright and Ian Burden, together with newer recruit Jim Russell, had all left the band, although Jo Callis did return to play on some of the sessions and co-wrote two songs, including the minor hit single “Heart Like a Wheel”. New to the line-up were keyboardist Neil Sutton who had worked with the band on the Crash tour of 1986, and guitarist/keyboardist Russell Dennett. At odds with the prevailing trend of U.S. grunge and the Manchester scene the Romantic? album did not re-capture the group’s huge commercial success of the 1980s with its second single “Soundtrack to a Generation” barely charting. In 1992, Virgin abruptly cancelled their recording contract. Damaged by the failure of the album, their rejection by Virgin, harsh criticism in the media and facing financial ruin, the emotional well-being of Oakey and Sulley deteriorated badly. Catherall remained positive and she is cited as the principal reason why the band did not fold at this, their lowest point.
After a couple of years the band had recovered enough confidence to put out demos to other record labels. Concurrently, in 1993 they were invited to work with veteran Japanese electropop band Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) which resulted in the EP YMO Versus The Human League. Released principally in Japan and Asia in April, 1993 the EP includes the songs “Behind The Mask” and “Kimi Ni Mune Kyun” (“I Love You”) written by Oakey and Yukihiro Takahashi, feauring the vocals of Sulley and Catherall.
In 1994, EastWest Records (a subsidiary of Time Warner) showed interest in the band’s demos and the material rejected by Virgin. They signed the band and paired them with producer Ian Stanley (formerly of Tears for Fears). EastWest financed expensive music videos and heavily promoted their releases. The first release was on Boxing Day, 1994 and was the single “Tell Me When”, which gave the band their first Top Ten hit since 1986’s “Human”. It also topped the UK airplay charts for several weeks. The accompanying album, Octopus, returned the band to the UK Top Ten and later achieved a gold disc.
On the album cover artwork and in videos, the group was now presented simply as a trio of Oakey/Catherall/Sulley. In reality however, other musicians had input to the record, including producer Ian Stanley, with continued playing and songwriting contributions from Neil Sutton and Russell Dennett; and Oakey co-writing one track with Jo Callis.
The next single from the album was the ballad “One Man in My Heart”, which features Sulley on lead vocals. It reached Number Thirteen in the UK and was unique in that it was the only single by The Human League to feature a female only lead vocal until “Never Let Me Go” in 2011.
Their renewed success prompted the band to tour again for the first time since 1987, and they conducted a tour of the US and UK in 1995. Subsequent singles “Filling up with Heaven” and the non-album single “Stay with Me Tonight” also reached the UK Top 40, and a new remix of “Don’t You Want Me” was released to capitalize on the band’s revitalized profile. This was in the run up to a new “greatest hits” compilation in 1996, but which proved less successful than their first Greatest Hits album from 1988.
However, as often happens, a change in management at EastWest in 1998 saw the cancellation of the band’s contract once again. Afterward, the band appeared on the 1980s nostalgia tour “Big Rewind” and made other concert and PA appearances throughout 1997–2000.
In 2000 the band signed to Papillon Records a subsidiary of the Chrysalis Group.
The band released their next album, Secrets, in 2001. The band was still presented as the Oakey, Sulley and Catherall trio, although Neil Sutton was credited with keyboards, and co-wrote most of the material with Oakey. Despite being well-received by critics as their best album since Dare (the music climate at the time seeing a new interest in electronic pop music with the electroclash movement), the band’s new record label, Papillon developed financial problems, and was closed by the parent company shortly after the album’s release, leading to poor promotion and sales. BBC Radio 1 also refused to playlist the single “All I Ever Wanted” because, now in their 40s, the band did not match the radio station’s demographic target audience.
Secrets entered the UK album chart at Number 44, but fell off the chart the following week.
Susanne Sulley is on record as saying that the rejection of Secrets was “the lowest the band had been since 1992 and after putting in so much time and effort in to an album that then failed, nearly causing them to call it a day.”
To accompany the then-stalled album, the band conducted the 2001 ‘Secrets Tour’. Along with Sulley and Catherall, the band had Neil Sutton on keyboards. Studio engineer since 1990 David Beevers had become part of the on-stage line-up controlling the sequencers from behind his deck of twin Apple Macintoshes. Oakey further recruited multi-instrumentalist Nic Burke, then aged 21, who he had seen playing in Sheffield, to play electric guitar and keytar. To round off the line up in 2002, percussionist Errol Rollins was added to play the electronic drum kit. Rollins was replaced by Rob Barton in 2004.
As a point of honor the band refuses to use playback; they always play live and rehearse before every appearance, ensuring that no two performances are the same. This was clearly demonstrated in 2002, when the band was booked to appear on UK national TV channel GMTV, where they were to play “Don’t You Want Me” before being interviewed. The producer was astounded when the band arrived at 5 am (three hours early) expecting to set up and rehearse; it had been assumed they would just mime to playback. Joanne Catherall explained why on air during the interview: “We simply don’t sound like we did 20 years ago; it would be wrong if we used tapes, so we do everything live.”
In 2003, a second single from Secrets, entitled “Love Me Madly?”, was released independently as a private venture by Nukove, a small independent label especially set up to release Human League material, but it did not have funds for promotion and the single did not chart.
Throughout the following years, the band has continued to tour frequently, enjoying enduring success and popularity as a live act. In 2004, they released The Human League Live At The Dome, a DVD of a live show in filmed at the Brighton Dome complete with a compilation CD called Live at the Dome. Prior to this, in 2003, Virgin records had released The Very Best of the Human League, a DVD of most of their previously recorded music videos. The DVD sold well in the UK and U.S., and was accompanied by a compilation album of the same name.
At the end of 2005, the band together with EMI released a compilation album of remixes called The Human League Original Remixes and Rarities aimed at the DJ/Dance market in the US and UK.
As well as dedicated Human League tours, the band has since appeared at many independent concerts and festivals worldwide. They have played at such prestigious events as the V Festival in 2004 and 2009, Homelands in 2005, Nokia Trends in Brazil 2005, and Festival Internacional de Benic-845;im in 2007.
On September 22, 2006, the band performed on the U.S. network television show, Jimmy Kimmel Live. This was immediately before the highlight of 2006, which was the band playing to an audience of 18,000 at the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles in October 2006, one of their largest concerts to date. This was followed up by an eleven-venue tour of Europe in November and December 2006.
The band has been the subject of, and appeared in, various TV documentaries and features such as Channel 4’s Made in Sheffield and the BBC’s Young Guns: The Bands of the Early 1980s. In June 2007, Sulley and Catherall presented a documentary on Sheffield’s pop music history entitled The Nations Music Cities for VH1.
In November and December 2007, to mark their 30th anniversary (1977–2007) the band conducted their highest profile tour since the Secrets tour of 2001. The ‘Dare! 2007’ tour encompassed 20 European venues from London to Stockholm, most of which were sold out. Their set list included (for the first time ever) a performance of Dare played sequentially and in its entirety. This included Philip Oakey playing the Human League’s instrumental arrangement of the theme from “Get Carter” on an original Casio VL-Tone from 1981. The remainder of the concert was dedicated to songs from the band’s other albums and also included the Oakey/Moroder song “Together In Electric Dreams”. The band invested heavily in the stage set and lighting for the tour, including elaborate high definition video backgrounds provided by set designer Rob Sinclair.
A 12” single remix of “Things That Dreams Are Made Of” (originally from the Dare! album) was released in the UK in January 2008, by Hooj Choons. It peaked at Number Two on the UK Dance chart.
In August and September 2008, the band headlined the U.S. Regeneration Tour supported by ABC, A Flock of Seagulls, Naked Eyes, and at some venues, Belinda Carlisle.
In November and December 2008, The Human League got together with Martin Fry’s ABC and Heaven 17 for ‘The Steel City Tour’ of the UK. This was Philip Oakey’s concept of a joint tour of all three bands celebrating the original electronic music of early 1980s Sheffield (the titular Steel City). Much was made in the UK media of the history between Heaven 17 and The Human League, the original events of 1980 and the fact they were now working together. Both Oakey and Martyn Ware were at pains to explain that any acrimony from that period had long since been forgotten.
On December 11, 2009, The Human League signed a new recording contract with UK based Wall of Sound. They also have their own studio in Sheffield, and are managed by Sidewinder Management Ltd. The band continues to record and play live, with regular appearances at music festivals worldwide at many of which they are among the headliners.
Although the subject of retirement is often brought up in interviews, Oakey, Sulley and Catherall have all stated that they still enjoy performing and intend to carry on for “as long as they are filling concerts and people want to see them.” Sulley often jokes that she “has to carry on because she doesn’t know how to do anything else.”
The first single taken from the album, Night People was released in November 2010 but failed to enter the mainstream UK chart. It did however reach Number 25 in the UK Indie chart. The follow up single, “Never Let Me Go” was released in the UK in March 2011.
In Germany, Switzerland and Austria however, “Egomaniac” was chosen as the second single.
The album Credo was released in these territories in March 2011, and in the rest of Europe on March 21, 2011. There are no plans for a worldwide release. Credo
entered the UK album chart at Number 44 on its first week of release.