Saturday, November 22, 2008

Philip Oakey and Philip Adrian Wright get serious - "Seconds"

In one sense it's sad that many bands only get known for a song or two, which may or may not be representative of their entire body of work.

Take the Human League. I'd be willing to bet that most people today don't even remember the band, and that those who do remember them just know them from the songs "Don't You Want Me" and/or "Human." They released an EP entitled "Love and Dancing," and that pretty much sums up the popular impression of the band.

But I was a fan of the Human League both before and after "Dare," and ended up collecting a cassette or two by the band. Yes, they're electronic (although they branched out a bit after "Dare") and for that reason may sound dated to some. But they did release some songs that went beyond the "love and dancing" theme.

I'm writing this on Saturday, November 22, 2008, the 45th anniversary of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. On a day like today, Human League fan thoughts naturally turn to one of the other songs on the "Dare" album, "Seconds." If you've never heard it, then be sure to watch this excellent video assembled by rabidgod.

Lyricsmode has the lyrics for this song. Here's how they begin:

All day
Hiding from the sun
Waiting for the golden one
Waiting for your fame
After the parade has gone

The rest of the lyrics are here.

Musically...well, let's just say that you have to like the 80s. However, there is a gunshot sound effect in the song that is, in its own way, chilling.

Others have spoken of the song. Trouser Press:

The irresistible mix of state-of-the-art technology and old-fashioned pop-single formulae set millions of toes tapping, although the Dare LP contains much headier and heavier stuff as well. With incredible ambience and subtle tension, "Seconds" — about the Kennedy assassination — is, in fact, the LP's unheralded best track. A great record, and not just for its popular songs.

Russell Clarke:

[T]he band approached the song writing with the mindset that they wanted every track to be a potential single....[W]ith the exception of the brief cover of the "Get Carter" theme and the somewhat austere "I Am The Law" every track on Dare would have made a viable single , though a song like "Seconds" -about the assassination of John F Kennedy and - were in truth too dark thematically in those hedonistic times to be commercially viable.

And Oakey himself, along with...Rick Wakeman?...discussed the song on BBC2:

Rick Wakeman
Track eight on the Dare album, Seconds. A song written by Adrian Wright about the asassination of president John Kennedy.

Phil Oakey
It’s about being in the room that Lee Harvey Oswald was in, the atmosphere in that room. Jo and Adrian worked on it in Adrian’s flat and just brought it in and I helped them push the lyrics around a little bit. Adrian was absolutely fascinated with the Kennedy’s. He sort of really liked modern history, in that strange television lead way.

Philip Adrian Wright was primarily known as the "visual" person within the band (one of the original members, his first job was as "Director of Visuals"). You can see why the Kennedy assassination would appeal to him, since we perceive it in such a visual way.

P.S. If you want to see a detailed online biography of the Human League, go here.
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