When the Human League Mk.1 disintegrated, so started a race with massive, massive factors at stake. Who would create one of the best album? Heaven 17’s singer shares his slant on the notorious cut up…. By Andy Jones
Band break-ups will be not solely extraordinarily messy but in addition creatively and commercially disastrous, so the truth that each The Human League Mk.2 (with Phil Oakey and Adrian Wright from the unique Human League, plus assorted new members) and Heaven 17 (with Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh from Human League Mk.1, joined by Glenn Gregory on vocals) really produced something in any respect within the interval following the demise of the unique League is, in a method, fairly astonishing. The truth that they every promptly produced one of the best albums of their careers, the yr and arguably the last decade – and on the identical time, and in the identical studio – is as close to as dammit probably the most miraculous pop reality in music historical past.
One man who witnessed all of it, and likewise had a singular connection to each events, was Glenn Gregory. The ‘new boy’ in Heaven 17 was not solely one of many unique movers and shakers within the unique Sheffield scene of the late 70s however had additionally been, at one level, a contender to change into the League’s lead singer.
1981 was when the Sheffield metal blades have been solid and the battle traces drawn between the brand new League and H17, and the peak of the preventing ultimately resulted within the mighty Dare and Penthouse And Pavement albums. By no means, maybe, has animosity between two rival bands proved so fruitful. However, as Glenn reveals to Basic Pop, this most affluent of phases was the end result of years of Sheffield creativity and an easy South Yorkshire-style answer to that very awkward studio scenario…
Take us again to these early days in Sheffield once you first acquired to know the assorted members of The Human League.
I met Martyn after I was 15 and he was round 17, at an arts workshop known as Meatwhistle, a mission to carry youngsters from throughout Sheffield collectively. Ian Craig Marsh was there, Paul Bower, numerous individuals – it was nice enjoyable, numerous freedom, like-minded youngsters, theatre tasks and a great deal of totally different bands.
I used to be in a single band with Ian known as Musical Vomit. Paul Bower launched Martyn to us and we acquired on very well; he was fairly a personality and we preferred the identical music – glam rock, Alice Cooper, New York Dolls, Bowie, Bolan. He rapidly turned concerned. We have been positively punk, vomiting on stage, and the songs have been about necrophilia or no matter – it was fairly on the market! In Poly Styrene’s [of X-Ray Spex] e-book she stated she noticed Musical Vomit and that they have been ‘punk earlier than punk’. We dressed sort of like… properly, think about a sort of low-cost South Yorkshire New York Dolls [laughs].
What occurred after the Musical Vomit experiment?
We acquired a band collectively known as VDK & The Studs, the place I used to be the singer, and we performed one gig on the Psalter Lane Artwork Faculty supporting The Drones. We have been two members of Cabaret Voltaire, Martyn Ware, Ian Marsh, me, and Paul Bower. There have been synthesizers, guitars and chaos. For years there was this hearsay that somebody had recorded it. A few years again this man got here as much as me and stated “Will you signal these?” He’d acquired some pictures of me from a fanzine we did known as Gunrubber, however he additionally had a reel-to-reel with ‘The Studs’ written on it. I stated “You’re not telling me it’s that gig?’ So I now have an Mp3 of it; actually badly recorded and absolute noise. It’s barely listenable nevertheless it’s priceless, I can’t consider it exists! When Martyn heard it he was like “The place the f*** did you get that from? It’s identical to witchcraft!’”
However The Studs solely did one gig…
Sure, round that time I used to be working on the Crucible Theatre as a stagehand and becoming bored of Sheffield – a bizarre place, nice enjoyable and it was useful for us because it made us do issues, however I’d determined I needed to be a photographer and transfer to London. So after that [Studs] gig, the next Monday, I used to be getting my stuff out of what we known as The Workshop, our little studio, to maneuver to London. Martyn and Ian had been engaged on some tracks with Adi Newton for The Future which was simply pre-Human League. I used to be going to be the singer so [on that Monday] Ian was saying to Martyn, “Who’re we going to get to sing now?” Martyn stated, “Nicely, I don’t know if he can sing, however there’s a child at my faculty known as Phil and he has a improbable haircut – he appears good!” They then gave Phil [Oakey] the demo for Being Boiled and stated “We’re forming a band, right here’s one of many tracks, are you able to go away and write a melody and a few lyrics?” And naturally he got here again and so they liked it, in order that’s how I didn’t change into a member of The Human League!
So that you went to London whereas they recorded the albums Copy and Travelogue…
Sure, I used to be away for 2 and a half years, however I noticed them on a regular basis. They at all times stayed at my flat in Ladbroke Grove, so we have been all nonetheless associates. I used to be working as a photographer for NME, Sounds and Melody Maker; actually I even did a canopy shoot for Sounds of The League earlier than they cut up. At that time I went again as much as Sheffield to take pictures of Joe Jackson on the Metropolis Corridor and phoned Martyn and requested if he needed to satisfy for a drink, and by sheer coincidence it was the day that they’d thrown him out of his personal band! They’d had a gathering and later it was discovered that it was all manipulated by the file firm and [League manager] Bob Final. He needed to get two bands out of 1 – that’s sort of ‘the historical past’ now. However Martyn was livid and stated “Ian and I are going to type one other band, would you be the singer?” So I moved again the next Monday, knocked on my mum and pop’s door and stated ‘Hey, I’m again!’”
It will need to have been a bizarre scenario to be concerned in…
Yeah, so The Human League cut up, it was acrimonious and there was numerous dangerous feeling between Martyn and Phil – they have been actually shut associates from faculty, so it went deep. It was wonderful, although, as The Human League had a tour booked and so they cut up simply earlier than, however every week later Phil acquired Susanne and Joanne in and so they did the tour! The truth is we went to their gig in Nottingham – me, Ian, Martyn and Paul – and I assumed it was wonderful! I imply, I liked The Human League anyway, nevertheless it was improbable.
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The story of how each bands recorded their debut albums in the identical studio on the identical time has gone down in music historical past.
The one asset they [Human League Mk.1] had was that they rented a flooring in an enormous six-storey constructing. It was disgusting: a derelict constructing in a row of derelict buildings. It was a vets, so there have been working tables and peculiar shit all over the place. However neither of the bands have been prepared to provide it up, so when it got here to writing the 2 new albums, being pragmatic Northerners, we simply cut up it up and did it in shifts. We did the evening shift from 10pm to 10am after which we’d lock our tapes away and Phil, the ladies and Adrian or whoever would are available to do the album Dare. They wrote that in that constructing and we did Penthouse And Pavement. When you’d seen the constructing, you’d not consider it might be performed.
How did it really feel caught in the midst of all that animosity? Did you act because the peacemaker?
No, there was no ‘peace’ available. Actually, I’m not joking… that cut up was not pleasant. It was correctly upsetting, and Martyn felt he’d been dealt a nasty hand, so he was making an attempt to show that everybody had made a mistake. It’s all water below the bridge now, however on the time there was no pally “Let’s go for a pint and discuss it”. These two associates had cut up like oil and water, and separated off to totally different sides of the bowl.
Throughout the recording classes, did both band ever get to listen to what the others have been engaged on?
The one time was after we may hear some snippets of singing, since we each used the identical reel-to-reel as a tape echo – I heard bits of Boys And Women. Often we might make jokes – like on the data strips which are caught on the blending desk, we might write ‘Barry White Orchestra’ or one thing like that, however there wasn’t actually any communication. And the weirdest bit about it was that Phil was really dwelling on the ground above the studio, so his bed room was proper above us. So whereas we have been working at evening, doing (We Don’t Want This) Fascist Groove Thang or no matter, Phil can be up there! It was fairly an incredible scenario, sort of like dwelling in a surreal 70s sitcom: My Ex-Band Subsequent Door!
How quickly did you realise that you just have been doing one thing particular with Penthouse And Pavement?
Fairly early on. The power was immense as a result of each events have been determined to achieve success and, fairly frankly, to show that they have been higher than the opposite. The primary monitor we did was Jimmy Webb’s Wichita Lineman which ended up on a B.E.F album [Music Of Quality And Distinction (Volume One)]. It sounded nice. The Human League didn’t use any acoustic devices, it was all handled sounds and synthesizers, however we have been free to do what we needed, so on Wichita Lineman we had acoustic guitar – I performed sax on there and likewise on Fascist Groove Thang, which we did subsequent.
When the album was full, have been you continue to satisfied?
Sure, we actually liked it and it wasn’t actually like anything, which will be each good and dangerous. When Fascist Groove Thang got here out as a single, we’d stayed up all evening and gone to Penny’s nightclub till 3am after which again to Ian Marsh’s home and we have been all watching Kenny Everett on video. At 5am we acquired the 93 bus and waited for the newsagents to open and acquired all of the papers, hoping that somebody may evaluate Fascist Groove Thang. It turned out to be Report of the Week in Sounds, NME and Report Mirror and we have been like “They’ve acquired it!” So we knew we had one thing fairly particular as a result of individuals had acquired what we needed them to get: the political and the musical nature.
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Was the overt politics intentional?
It was a part of all of our upbringing. My dad was a store steward on the steelworks and really political, equally with Martyn and Ian. It’s sort of a Yorkshire factor to be left-wing, just like the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire! Politics was one thing all of us preferred to speak about and a terrific factor to carry into our music. In a method it allowed us to be barely smart-arse, the truth that we have been getting these messages into our work with out shouting [too much]. Songs like Play To Win, Crushed By The Wheels Of Trade and Let’s All Make A Bomb – lots of people thought they have been simply pop songs however there’s a political and social intercourse by means of all of our lyric writing.
Nearly as good as Penthouse And Pavement is, was there a lot jealousy about how Dare took off?
I don’t assume so. For me it was totally different as I wasn’t a member of The League and I used to be associates with everybody, and likewise Dare is an excellent album, you’ll be able to’t knock it, it’s improbable. Penthouse And Pavement was a really cool album and it acquired talked about lots and it stayed within the charts for over a yr. It was an actual sluggish burner, not as instantly ‘pop profitable’ as Dare. Dare was a zeitgeist factor: the correct place, proper time, proper producer, proper women, proper boys, every little thing. So I don’t assume there was any jealousy nevertheless it did add gasoline to the hearth of us desirous to be extra profitable.