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Back in Sheffield, the group began recording for their new record label. Curiously, the group's first Virgin release was issued under the pseudonym of The Men. The single, I Don't Depend On You, was recorded to appease those at Virgin who feared that the public would not accept a synthesizer-only group. The track featured a live rhythm section and female backing vocalists, and was decidedly more commercial than the group's previous releases.
By now, Martyn and Ian were also contributing lyrics to the songs. Philip: "Martyn Ware is a very good lyricist. Ian wrote the Men lyrics... people would take the lyrics as a block thing, they'd either take it or leave it. However, sometimes I might find that I'd said everything I want to say in the first verse, and ask someone to finish it. It was really, really shared. We wanted to be a cottage industry with a few machines. It was socialist. It was us against the world."
from Sounds magazine, late 1979
The release of the group's ground-breaking debut album, Reproduction, in October 1979 was met with a number of unenthusiastic reviews. Although promoted with the subsequent release of the Empire State Human single, taken from the album, sales of Reproduction were substantially lower than Virgin had anticipated.
As a result, Virgin decided to cancel all but two dates of the group's proposed UK tour. At the remaining shows, Adrian's short film Zero As A Limit was shown on a 21' by 14' screen and Teardrop Explodes provided support.
Virgin instead arranged for the group to support Talking Heads on their November tour of the UK. However, things changed again soon after Bob Last issued this press release to announce the group's plans for the tour:
"The Human League, intrigued to experience their own performance themselves, have designed a remotely controlled touring entertainment. Therefore, 30 Human League minutes will be available on the upcoming Talking Heads tour. The League themselves may well join the audience on some evenings to savour the occasion. The arrangement will allow them on other evenings to continue working on their second album in their Sheffield workshop."
Unfortunately, someone somewhere was clearly not amused by this concept of live performance and the League were dismissed from the tour shortly before the first show. The news came in the form of a telex: "Regret must cancel Human League appearance on Talking Heads tour in deference to ticket buyers due to format of League's show."
Bob was understandably annoyed: "What right has the agent and promoter to speak for ticket buyers? Why do we have to get up on stage and pose with a guitar?" But despite having invested much time and money in these plans, the group were not too distraught. In fact, they seemed to thrive off such setbacks.
Adrian: "Spirits were quite high, because everybody was against us and we were all really tough about it."
Talking Heads tour advertisement (detail)
For the record, the League planned to include the following songs in these shows: King Of Kings, Almost Medieval, Girl One, Circus Of Death, Stylopops, Blind Youth, The Touchables, Being Boiled, Zero As A Limit and Empire State Human.
Their next challenge was to persuade Virgin to finance the establishment of their own personal recording studio in Sheffield. Virgin were eventually convinced, realising that it would cost less to set up the group with their own studio than it would to hire other studios for future recordings.The League chose a disused vetinary surgery, close to their old rehearsal room in the centre of Sheffield, and with their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks, named the new studio Monumental Pictures...
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