Charlie's 80s Blog

This Day In 80s Music, July 3rd

On this day in 1982: British synthpop group The Human League went to #1 on the U.S. singles chart with “Don’t You Want Me.” It would spend three weeks in the top spot.

It was released on November 27, 1981 as the fourth single from their third studio album ‘Dare.’ The band’s best known and most commercially successful song, it was the biggest selling UK single of 1981, that year’s Christmas #1, and has since sold over 1,560,000 copies in the UK, making it the 23rd-most successful single in UK Singles Chart history. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. on July 3, 1982 and would stay there for three consecutive weeks.

The lyrics were inspired after lead singer Philip Oakey read a photo-story in a teen-girl’s magazine. Though the song had been conceived and recorded in the studio as a male solo, Oakey was inspired by the film ‘A Star Is Born’ and decided to turn the song into a conflicting duet with one of the band’s two teenage female vocalists. Susan Ann Sulley was then asked to take on the role. Until then, she and the other female vocalist, Joanne Catherall, had only been assigned backing vocals; Sulley says she was chosen only through “luck of the draw”. Musicians Jo Callis and Philip Adrian Wright created a synthesizer score to accompany the lyrics that was much harsher than the version that was actually released. Initial versions of the song were recorded but Virgin Records-appointed producer Martin Rushent was unhappy with them. He and Callis remixed the track, giving it a softer, and in Oakey’s opinion, “poppy” sound. Oakey hated the new version and thought it would be the weakest track on Dare, resulting in one of his infamous rows with Rushent. Oakey disliked it so much that it was relegated to the last track on side two of the album.

Before the release of Dare, three of its tracks— “The Sound of the Crowd”, “Love Action (I Believe In Love)” and “Open Your Heart”—had already been released as successful singles. With a hit album and three hit singles in a row, Virgin’s chief executive Simon Draper decided to release one more single from the album before the end of 1981. His choice, “Don’t You Want Me”, instantly caused a brush up with Oakey, who did not want another single to be released because he was convinced that “the public were now sick of hearing” the band and the choice of the “poor quality filler track” would almost certainly be a disaster, wrecking the group’s new-found popularity. Virgin Records was adamant that a fourth single be released and Oakey finally agreed on the condition that a large color poster accompany the 7″ single, because he felt fans would “feel ripped off” by the ‘substandard’ single alone.

Here’s a look at the Top 20 on the U.S. singles chart from this day back in 1982:

1 2 DON’T YOU WANT ME –•– The Human League (A&M)-18 (1 week at #1) (1)
2 3 ROSANNA –•– Toto (Columbia)-12 (2)
3 1 EBONY AND IVORY –•– Paul McCartney with Stevie Wonder (Columbia)-13 (1)
4 4 HEAT OF THE MOMENT –•– Asia (Geffen)-12 (4)
5 6 HURTS SO GOOD –•– John Cougar (Riva)-11 (5)
6 5 ALWAYS ON MY MIND –•– Willie Nelson (Columbia)-18 (5)
7 8 LET IT WHIP –•– The Dazz Band (Motown)-11 (7)
8 9 LOVE’S BEEN A LITTLE BIT HARD ON ME –•– Juice Newton (Capitol)-9 (8)
9 19 EYE OF THE TIGER –•– Survivor (Scotti Brothers)-5 (9)
10 12 CAUGHT UP IN YOU –•– 38 Special (A&M)-10 (10)

11 14 TAINTED LOVE –•– Soft Cell (Sire)-25 (11)
12 7 CRIMSON AND CLOVER –•– Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (Boardwalk)-10 (7)
13 16 ONLY THE LONELY –•– The Motels (Capitol)-11 (13)
14 10 THE OTHER WOMAN –•– Ray Parker, Jr. (Arista)-16 (4)
15 18 ANY DAY NOW –•– Ronnie Milsap (RCA)-10 (15)
16 23 DO I DO –•– Stevie Wonder (Tamla)-6 (16)
17 21 PLAY THE GAME TONIGHT –•– Kansas (Kirshner)-9 (17)
18 20 TAKE ME DOWN –•– Alabama (RCA)-7 (18)
19 22 ABRACADABRA –•– The Steve Miller Band (Capitol)-6 (19)
20 28 KEEP THE FIRE BURNIN’ –•– REO Speedwagon (Epic)-4 (20)


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