Before we broke up for our extended winter holidays, the last oldie we looked at was The Human League‘s classic album Dare. Somehow it seems appropriate to follow that up by looking at how the album was treated subsequently.
Looking back now, it’s hard to conceive a time when The Human League weren’t regarded as the grandparents of the modern pop song. But everything about the 1995 version of their Greatest Hits seems to scream “we were told to do this by our record company”. In fairness, it’s actually a vast improvement on the original 1988 version, flipping the tracks into a better order, adding two tracks from Octopus, and also gaining the brilliant non-album track Stay with Me Tonight.
But remixing Don’t You Want Me with contemporary versions by massive mid-nineties euro-dance names? A good idea, or a travesty? Let’s find out…
I want to make it clear at this point that I do have some respect for Red Jerry. A lot of his mixes are pretty good. It was he, after all, who founded the label Hooj Choons, which some years later would give us the excellent mixes of The Things That Dreams are Made Of. His take on Don’t You Want Me, however, is far from good. I can only assume that he was asked to complete this mix during a five minute toilet break between other projects, because I can really think of absolutely nothing good to say about it. His additional “Don’t you want me, do-do’nt you want me” section is awful, and frankly the fade is the best thing about it.
Then comes a mix by Snap! (as in, “I’m as serious as cancer when I say rhythm is a dancer,” which is surely the best lyric of all time). Their mix is very marginally less awful, but it does mess with the arrangement by starting with the chorus, which is an odd decision to say the least. It also bears an uncanny resemblance to Rhythm is a Dancer, particularly the absolutely awful middle section in which the “I guess it’s just what I must do” line is steadily faded out as Phil Oakey gets faded back in. It is this version which closes the reissued Greatest Hits collection, which must be a tad irritating for any self-respecting League fan.
The UK release of the single then generously gives you extended versions of the Red Jerry and Snap! mixes, while the Dutch version gives you an Oliver Lieb mix which I can’t comment on as I don’t have a copy. The extended versions barely scratch six minutes each, which suggests to me that even the people doing the mixes were getting bored of them. Can you seriously imagine any of these mixes ever being played in a club? Really?
The penultimate track, and honestly the saving grace of the whole bunch, is surprisingly Red Jerry‘s dub mix. Freed from the shackles of having to destroy a classic eighties anthem, he was able to construct a relatively decent euro-dance track which perhaps unsurprisingly is not unlike Felix‘s Don’t You Want Me. It barely even mentions the words “don’t you want me” and is considerably better for it.
Finally, you get a reminder of the original 1981 version, and everything is OK again. But, all in all, to answer my original question, I think it’s fair to say that this single is definitely a travesty, and let’s never mention it again.
If you want to buy a copy of this single, [sarcastic comment removed! Basic message is: don’t bother unless you’re an ultra-completist.]