100 Greatest Tracks of the 70’s #94 The Human League – Being Boiled

Released : 1978

In 1977 the city of Sheffield, as has already been established, felt itself estranged from the phenomenon of punk in a way that neighbouring Manchester and Leeds did not. Quoted in Simon Reynolds’ essential reference work on the era Rip It Up & Start Again, Phil Oakey recalls that it wasn’t the case that there were just a few outsiders playing it’s stilted rock n’ roll forms, but that locally “there were no punk bands – at all.

Ian Craig Marsh, Martyn Ware and Adi Newton meanwhile had started an outfit they’d boldly called The Future; the first two had opted out of a commune-like existence to become computer operators and invested their wages in an £800 (That’s probably the equivalent of a million now) Korg synthesiser. Newton left to form the almost criminally under rated Clock DVA and Oakey – then a hospital porter – was drafted in on vocals.

Enthused, their new vox was swiftly moved to write the words to Being Boiled, including it’s now immortal opening couplet “Listen to the voice of Buddha/Saying stop your sericulture.” Ware and Marsh were so impressed they decided more or less on the spot to change the enterprise’s name to The Human League in response. Marsh added some necessarily primitive show-and-tell rhythms and robo handclaps, whilst the band’s lucky streak ensured that the track reached Bob Last, supremo of Edinburgh-based Fast Product who duly made it the label’s third release. From no punk to high brow in a matter of months, the trio had proven that in Sheffield, abandoning the future might just’ve been the smartest career move imaginable.