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B
Being Boiled
 
While the Sex Pistols' early singles had been hugely important in proving to Britain's youth that anyone could express themselves in a rock 'n' roll band, The Human League's debut single, recorded in a disused factory on a domestic tape recorder at a cost of £2.50, demonstrated that anyone could make electronic pop music.
Opening with what sounds like the long-overdue release of some incredible pent-up pressure, the track begins its voyage through a series of unearthly effects without ever losing sight of that all-important pop sensibility. The almost incomprehensible lyrics could only add to the sense of this being something new, something original. An outstanding debut, by anyone's standards.
The League later added some overdubs to the original track, including a new vocal, and this version was distributed to record companies on a demo cassette compilation. Another demo version was recorded around this time, known as the 'dub mix'. Mainly instrumental, it features possibly the most tedious introduction in recorded history (the same riff repeated for about two minutes!) and minimal vocals (Martyn intones just one line twice, "Listen to the voice of Buddha"). Soon after this, the group recorded the song for John Peel's BBC Radio One show, using a new keyboard arrangement and a similar dance-oriented rhythm.
This formed the basis of a third demo version, with similar rhythms but another new keyboard arrangement, which was more forceful but perhaps a little over-ambitious in places. Many of the ideas present in this recording would then serve as a blueprint for the final version recorded in 1980 with producer John Leckie.
Although some complained that the 1980 version was too 'glossy', it took the song to a new level. Gone were the lo-fi home-made electronics - this version was perhaps the most sophisticated-sounding track the early League ever recorded. The infectious rhythms, in-your-face hand-claps and Funkadelic-inspired 'synthetic horns' by Martyn and Ian (calling themselves the Boys Of Buddha) combined to create a dynamic dance-pop classic. The recording of the 'horns' was inspired by the experiments of Frank Zappa, who would record instruments at half-speed to create new sounds, and the League recorded the horn parts in this way, partly because they were too intricate to play at full speed, but also to give the sounds more 'attack'.
Incidentally, an alternate version has appeared on certain bootleg tapes, which does not have quite so many layers; this version lacks the 'synthetic horns' and certain percussive sounds such as the hand-claps which were overdubbed later.
An excerpt from the completed 1980 version was adopted by Radio One DJ Richard Skinner as his signature 'jingle' in the early 1980s. In late 2000, Richard X (as Girls On Top) mixed the music of the original single version with the vocals from TLC's hit single No Scrubs to create the much-sought-after bootleg single, Being Scrubbed (Black Melody MEL 1), which featured a pastiche of the Fast Product sleeve on its front cover - see Old Imagery: Miscellaneous. Richard has since used Being Boiled for another single, this time re-recording the original music with pop group Liberty X singing Chaka Khan's Ain't Nobody over the top, to create the March 2003 Virgin single, Being Nobody.
The song has also covered by numerous other artists, including Hybrid Machine's Kraftwerk-style arrangement on their 1994 album Concrete Ground, and Garlands' version, recorded with jangly 'indie' guitars (!) for March Records' disappointing League 'tribute' album Reproductions in 2000. Simple Minds also covered the song on a b-side in 2001, though with limited success.
Martyn and Ian nowadays often perform the song live with Heaven 17 and a recording of this is available on their How Live Is album - see Miscellaneous releases (part two).
Lyrics
Fast Product version released on single, Reproduction (CD only), Fast Product (The First Year Plan) - see Compilations (part one), German 12" reissue (1988), Greatest Hits (1988 and 1995) and The Very Best Of - see Compilations (part two)
first 'demo' version possibly released on some editions of the 'Human League cassette'
John Peel session version unofficially released on In Darkness
second and third demo versions and 1980 pre-overdubs version unreleased

completed 1980 version released on Holiday '80 (double single and single), Travelogue and Cash Cows - see Compilations (part one), and as a bonus track on German 12" reissue of Fast Product single (1988)

The Black Hit Of Space
 
A tongue-in-cheek piece of sci-fi, telling of an extraterrestial record so terrifyingly bland that it numbs the minds of the entire human race, taking control of the planet Earth. Along the way, there are mentions for fictional hero Buck Rogers and James Burke, who at the time was well-known in Britain as a presenter of primetime science-based TV programmes.
Set to a suitably futuristic backing track, this was a great and original way to begin the second album, with highly effective use of abrasive noise (used throughout the album) and no shortage of drama. The track originally had a longer introduction which was edited for the final version - unsurprising, as the deleted section added nothing to the song.
Incidentally, this song apparently began life with a completely different title (I Held You Underwater), though it's not known whether the track had lyrics at that stage.
The Black Hit Of Space has been covered in recent times - first by Ex-Rental (download an MP3 of the demo version exclusively from this site) and then by The Hidden Variable, on March Records' Reproductions compilation, and by Sarah Nixey on her 2007 Sing, Memory album. The finished mix of Ex-Rental's cover recently appeared on the album, Unpopular Pop.
Lyrics
Released on Travelogue and Machines - see Compilations (part one)
Blank Clocks
 

An interesting experiment by The Future. After the spoken introduction, the three take turns to utter phrases composed of two words. The first word each time is one of constantly repeating cycle of four words (your, the, my and blank). This is followed by one of a second constantly repeating cycle, this time comprising seven words (face, clock, mind, heart, thigh, pain and time - though the fifth of these sometimes sounds more like fine). This loop continues until the music ends, by which time all possible combinations of words have been used at least twice.

The music itself is a light (some would say insubstantial) mid-tempo arrangement and is again a series of loops, not really going anywhere and very nearly outstaying its welcome...
Lyrics
Released on The Golden Hour Of The Future
Blind Youth
 
One of the League's earliest compositions, the original demo was known as Optimistic Anthem - an apt title, given the song's rejection of the nihilistic attitude adopted by many punk bands at that time. The opening line, "'No future', they say" refers to the closing refrain of the Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen (Philip once remarked, "I can't believe they're serious").
Although the demo version didn't quite gel, a faster-paced recording (subtitled [Progression]) was later made for John Peel's BBC Radio One show. A similar tempo was also used for the second demo version, which is perhaps the best recording of this song. Although lacking some of the additional synthesizer melodies used on the album version, the second demo featured a driving rhythm track and highly energetic keyboard and vocal performances. However, the group evidently decided that this approach was a little too fast and recorded a slightly slower version for their debut album.
Discussing the group's lyrics, Martyn once commented, "I don't think we've ever written a conventional lyric. I think the nearest is Blind Youth, which is saying to the youngsters in the audience, 'don't worry - your time will come'. I don't see any reason to be depressed."
Lyrics
Original demo version and John Peel session version released (unofficially) on In Darkness
Original demo version also officially released on the 'Human League cassette' and included on the 'Taverner tape'
Second demo version unreleased
Album version released on Reproduction and Canadian I Don't Depend On You single