Monday, January 10, 2005

"Being Boiled"

I have a soft spot for electronic music, the idea that wires and transistors can do what catgut and wood have done for centuries. The whistles, squeaks and buzzes that the Human League started out playing with are assembled into a sparse, droning dystopia about as far from Bach as you can get. And the lyrics - baffling art-school vocabulary. You could call it Meccano music.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And did you know 'sericulture' - as in, 'listen to the voice of Buddha/saying stop your sericulture' - has something to do with the breeding of silk worms?

It's probably the only thing I remember from my days of reading Smash Hits in the early 80s. That, and Toyah featuring on the cover with truly stunning hair and make-up to promote her single Brave New World.

It's worth pointing out that the version of Being Boiled which features on The Human League album Travelogue is, in my view, a far better version than the single. It simply hangs together better, plus you can actually dance to it rather than stand around to it. The single version, recorded much earlier, was rush-released by FAST Records immediately after Don't You Want Me got to number one, in order to make an opportunistic killing. I'm sure they did - as I recall, the single got to number four in the charts.

The Human League had been with Virgin for quite a while by then and didn't want Being Boiled released, certainly never that version and the better one was by an older incarnation of the band when it still had two members who would go on to form Heaven 17 in it.

They couldn't do anything to stop the single being released but they urged fans through the press not to buy it. They didn't listen. Of course, it had no video to promote it and nobody to appear live performing it. It was still 'shown' on Top of the Pops, though, as the music played over the closing credits with some seriously dodgy dancers (as ever) trying their best to move to it. The thing about this song, in this version, is that when you try to dance to it you come across as being arthritic. It doesn't matter who. You just do.

The b-side, Circus of Death was a cheery little number which I never understood the lyrics of, though it seemed to be about something that was a cross between a Hammer Horror movie and a Biblical apocalypse. It featured a sound clip from Hawaii Five-O at the beginning. I've no idea why...