Monday, October 17, 2005

My '80s Remastered - Crash

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The year is 1986. I have recently moved from London to Minneapolis after six years of going to school in the UK. I try to get "a real job" but have no luck and end up working in a record shop in the mall downtown. It's not a cool record shop - it was the corporate chain store, pushing the big label product. Anyway, one day I'm at work, which is right next door to a dry cleaners. I look out into the mall, and I see Joanne Catherall and Susan Sulley walk past my store and go into the dry cleaners. OH MY GOD. It's the two chicks from the Human League. Like 15 feet away from me. In Minneapolis. I have just lived in the UK for six years, worshipped this band, and never once got close to them, and here are the two girls. This led me to find out that the band was in fact in town, staying at the hotel that sat atop the mall I worked in, recording a new album with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. Wow, I thought, what a concept. The masters of the "Minnneapolis sound" producing the Sheffield electro poppers. Over the next few weeks I saw the girls a few more times. Then one evening I was alone in the store, working the closing shift. I looked up to see a customer walk in to the store. It was Phil Oakey. I couldn't believe it. He was in the store for a while, and eventually came to the counter with a stack of 12"s. I couldn't tell you what he bought. I was completely unable to pluck up the courage to say a damn thing to him (or to the girls) other than polite customer service chit chat. Why? Because I was just a shy music geek. It was a wasted opportunity that I regret to this day, though it does make for a fun story.

The resulting record was the so-so Crash which just got the remastered reissue treatment - the 3 extra tracks are remixes of the singles. It's a handful of songs with Jam & Lewis at the controls and the rest more typical League fare, although not of the quality of Dare. I really like the big hit singles though. It's such an odd collision of musical worlds, hearing Phil crooning and the girls cooing over the kind of modern American r'n'b track that Janet Jackson and the SOS Band were releasing. The intro to Human (Extended Version) is pure Jam & Lewis balladry, with it's percussive intro and the big keyboard run. It's a lovely song that had a very aquatic looking video that I felt matched the tune perfectly. It was also the band's biggest hit since Don't You Want Me. Love Is All That Matters (Extended Version) is an uptempo, funky jam - again it's classic Jam & Lewis. All in all a brave attempt to mess with the formula that ultimately, in my opinion, fails. Oh well, I still bought the damn reissue, didn't I?

Need some more Human League? Check out the "Futuristic Sounds" page at Blind Youth. They have a bunch of great pre-Virgin Records recordings that Martyn Ware provided them with. There are also some remixes available at Secrets Online (scroll down the page a bit) and at The Pansentient LEAGUE site.

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