Monday, November 15, 2010

Control - the history behind "Love on the Run"

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Human League had released two albums with minor success (despite highlights such as "Circus of Death"). Then the band ruptured into two parts, with the remaining Human League part achieving stratospheric success with "Don't You Want Me" and other songs such as "Seconds." The band continued to play with their sound, most notably on the guitar-based "The Lebanon," but the record label wasn't pleased because the band wasn't enjoying success similar to that of "Don't You Want Me." In other words, the record label was asking, "What have you done for me lately?"

That's when the "hot producers" idea kicked in, and an agreement was reached to have Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produce the band. Jam and Lewis, ex-members of the Time, were the hot producers of the moment. Three facts about Jam and Lewis were pertinent:

First, they learned their chops under Prince, who was well known for his controlling nature over projects.

Second, they had just finished working with Janet Jackson on an album called "Control."

Third, the majority of the songwriting credits on the song "Control" were held by Jam and Lewis.

Even if you had never heard the story before, you can probably guess how it's going to end. Robert Windle:

Four solid months of stressful recording followed that were full of vocal retakes and some days would end in creative disagreements. In the end, session musicians and backing singers were brought in as Jam & Lewis sought a level of pitch perfection that was simply alien to the appeal of The League. The production team's trademark was that of polished soul with plenty of treble, whilst the League always favoured an understated and sometimes harsher sound of leftfield pop that would stray from obvious.

Adrian [Wright] eventually gave up on trying to record soul styled keyboard rifts that he was completely unfamiliar with and decided to spend the rest of the sessions playing table tennis....

The recording sessions reached breaking point when it became apparent that only six of the League penned tracks would make it to the album with Jam & Lewis adding a few tracks of their own.

Song writing credits were essential when it came to the bread and butter payments once an album was released.

Jam & Lewis were already receiving a huge production fee from Virgin, and the League felt they would receive little in the way of royalties that were so desperately needed.

As a result, the sessions ended in acrimony even though the personal relationship between the band and the production team had been a relatively good one.

The band reaped material success from the collaboration when the Jam/Lewis-penned "Human" reached number one. But was that the destiny for the Human League - to record songs that could have just as easily been recorded by any other male-female singing group?

However, the band wasn't COMPLETELY shut out of their own album, and the song "Love on the Run" is a bright spot for fans of the band.

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