Monday, December 15, 2008

Before there was love and dancing, there was murder and mayhem (Human League, "Circus of Death")

Follow-up to my November 22 post.

As I was nosing around YouTube, I found this old video from the Human League, pre-dating the departure of Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh from the band.

Just to set this in perspective, "Circus of Death" came out several years before "Seconds," back when Philip Adrian Wright's contributions to the band were primarily limited to visual media.

The song was rooted in the television series Hawaii Five-O:

Jack Lord played Steve McGarrett, head of an elite state police unit investigating "organized crime, murder, assassination attempts, foreign agents, felonies of every type." James MacArthur played his second-in-command Danny ("Danno") Williams, with local actors Kam Fong, Zulu, Al Harrington, and Herman Wedemeyer, among others, playing members of the Five-O team.

And yes, McGarrett was a little violent:

[T]he popularity of action-adventure did revive, especially in the early 1970s when crime shows became all the rage. The Nielsen rankings of 1974-75 had nine in the top twenty-five, although only CBS' Hawaii Five-O was in the top ten. Some of the most graphic violence appeared on this series (1968-80) in which a stern Steve McGarrett led a highly competent team of detectives against local crime and international intrigue.

Some of the stuff was too strong for today's audiences, and even for yesterday's audiences:

Why has the second season episode "Bored She Hung Herself" not been seen since the original broadcast in 1970 and is not included in the second season DVD box set?

No one at CBS or Paramount has offered a direct explanation as to why this is so. According to Mrs. Leonard Freeman (wife of the late creator of the show), speaking to some fans at the 1996 Five-O convention, someone tried the hanging technique depicted in the show (supposedly yoga-related, but more like autoerotic asphyxiation) and killed themselves. As a result, the show was not rebroadcast and never included in any syndication packages.

By the time the Human League wrote their song, there was some clowning around - well, in a Stephen King sort of way:

The narcotic that forges their union
Is a substance known only to one
To the clown it is known as Dominion
It's a secret that he'll give to none
The drug which gives the clown power
Means the circus can never be stopped
And his dream can go on unhindered
Till the last human being has dropped
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