The Human League - Don't You Want Me. 1981
With a hit album and three hit singles in a row Virgin's Simon Draper decided to pull one more single from the album before the end of 1981. Their choice of "Don't You Want Me" instantly caused a row with Oakey who did not want another single released because he was convinced that "the public were now sick of hearing The Human League" and the choice of the "poor quality filler track" would almost certainly be a disaster, wrecking the group's new found popularity Virgin were adamant that a fourth single was going to be released and Oakey finally agreed, on the condition that a large colour poster was given away with the single because he felt fans would "feel ripped off" by the 'substandard' single alone.
"Don't You Want Me" was released in the UK on 5 December 1981 and to everyone in the band (and especially Oakeys) amazement it went almost immediately to number one and remained in the UK charts for 13 weeks. The success was repeated six months later with the release of Dare in the U.S., with "Don't You Want Me" hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Billboard magazine ranked it as the United States' sixth-biggest hit of 1982.
The lyrics were originally inspired after lead singer and front man Philip Oakey read a story in a "trashy tabloid". Originally conceived as a male solo, Oakey was inspired by the film A Star Is Born and decided to turn the song in to a conflicting duet with one of the bands two teenage female vocalists. Susan Ann Sulley was asked to take on the role. Up until then she and the other female vocalist Joanne Catherall had only been assigned backing vocals; Sulley says she was chosen only through luck of the draw. There are two more realistic reasons for her choice, that Sulley was the better singer and/or that Catherall, a very introverted character at the time, shied away from the role.
"Don't You Want Me"
In 1981 record company Virgin were becoming aware that promotional music video was evolving into an important marketing tool, with MTV being launched that year. Because it was agreed that the video for Open Your Heart had looked "cheap and nasty", for "Don't You Want Me" they commissioned a much more elaborate and expensive promotional video than for any of their previous releases.
The music video for the song was filmed in Slough, UK in November 1981 and has the theme of the shooting and editing of a murder-mystery film, featuring the band members as characters and production staff. Due to it being a "making of" video, the crew and camera apparatus used within appear throughout. It was conceived and directed by filmmaker Steve Barron, and has at its core the interaction between a successful actress played by Susan Ann Sulley walking out on 'film director' Philip Oakey on a film set. It is based on the theme of the film A Star Is Born. Shot on a cold, wet, winter night it was shot on 35mm film instead of the cheaper video tape prevalent at the time. Susan Sulley states now that Steve Baron was heavily influenced by the cinematography of the promo video for the Ultravox single "Vienna" and used it as a benchmark when shooting "Don't You Want Me". Steve Baron was also influenced by François Truffaut and his film Day for Night and because of that the clapper board seen in the video bears the inscription "Le League Humaine" as a tribute to Truffaut. The video is credited for making Oakey, Sulley and Catherall universally known visual icons of the early 1980s; but became controversial later for a scene where Jo Callis appears to shoot Joanne Catherall with a pistol from a car window (a Saab 99 turbo). The scene is edited out of the DVD version and when shown on MTV. The other car that was used in the video, was a gold W-Reg Rover SD1. The video was released in December 1981, just as the music video culture was becoming a standard in music.