Charlie's 80s Blog

This Day In 80s Music, November 22nd

On this day in 1986: The Human League went to #1 on the U.S. singles chart with “Human.” It would spend one week in the top spot.

“Human” was released as the first single from their 1986 album ‘Crash’. The track, which deals with the subject of infidelity, was written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The song topped the charts in the United States, becoming the second single by the band to top the Billboard Hot 100 after their 1981 single “Don’t You Want Me”. It also went to #1 in Canada while reaching #5 in Germany and #8 in the band’s native United Kingdom.

In 1985, the recording sessions for the Human League’s fifth album were not going well, and the band did not like the results, which was causing internal conflict. Virgin Records executives, worried by the lack of progress from their at-the-time most profitable signing, suggested the band accept an offer to work with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who already had material to work with; and had expressed an interest in the band from their U.S. releases. Jam and Lewis had recently emerged as in-demand talent due to their success with Janet Jackson and her ‘Control’ album.

Of the ten songs on ‘Crash’, Jam and Lewis wrote three, “Human” being one of them. It is a mid-tempo ballad which lyrically is an exchange between a man and a woman in a relationship who have reunited after a separation. In the first two verses, Phillip Oakey is apologizing to his partner for being unfaithful during her absence, and in the song’s breakdown, Joanne Catherall’s spoken-word confession reveals that she too was unfaithful. The song’s title is derived from the chorus, in which both parties in the relationship explain that they are “only human” and “born to make mistakes.”

“Human” became the second million-selling and final #1 single for The Human League on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (after “Don’t You Want Me”) and their second #1 on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart (after “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”). Jam and Lewis’ R&B-based production was also popular on American urban radio, bringing the Human League into the top ten on the U.S. R&B chart for the first time.

Here’s a look at the complete Top 20 on the U.S. singles chart from this day back in 1986:

1 2 HUMAN –•– The Human League (A&M)-11 (1 Week at #1) (1)
2 1 AMANDA –•– Boston (MCA)-9 (1)
3 3 TRUE BLUE –•– Madonna (Sire)-8 (3)
4 5 YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME –•– Bon Jovi (Mercury)-12 (4)
5 4 TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT –•– Eddie Money (Columbia)-15 (4)
6 7 WORD UP –•– Cameo (Atlanta Artists)-11 (6)
7 8 THE NEXT TIME I FALL –•– Peter Cetera & Amy Grant (Full Moon / Warner Brothers)-10 (7)
8 11 HIP TO BE SQUARE –•– Huey Lewis & The News (Chrysalis)-6 (8)
9 14 THE WAY IT IS –•– Bruce Hornsby & The Range (RCA)-10 (9)
10 13 LOVE WILL CONQUER ALL –•– Lionel Richie (Motown)-8 (10)

11 12 I’LL BE OVER YOU –•– Toto (Columbia)-13 (11)
12 9 THE RAIN –•– Oran “Juice” Jones (Def Jam)-11 (9)
13 17 EVERYBODY HAVE FUN TONIGHT –•– Wang Chung (Geffen)-8 (13)
14 6 I DIDN’T MEAN TO TURN YOU ON –•– Robert Palmer (Island)-15 (2)
15 16 TO BE A LOVER –•– Billy Idol (Chrysalis)-8 (15)
16 21 WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN –•– The Bangles (Columbia)-9 (16)
17 15 EMOTION IN MOTION –•– Ric Ocasek (Geffen)-12 (15)
18 10 TRUE COLORS –•– Cyndi Lauper (Portrait)-13 (1)
19 23 STAND BY ME –•– Ben E. King (Atlantic)-22 (4)
20 24 FREEDOM OVERSPILL –•– Steve Winwood (Island)-9 (20)