Being Boiled

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"Being Boiled"
Single by The Human League
from the album Travelogue
Released 30 June 1978[1] (Fast Product)
August 1980[2] (Fast Product re-release)
Recorded Sheffield, England
Genre Synthpop, minimal wave
Length 3:54 (original recording)
4:22 (Holiday '80/Travelogue re-recording)
Label Fast Product (1978 & 1982), Virgin (1980)
Writer(s) Philip Oakey, Martyn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh
Producer(s) The Human League
The Human League singles chronology
"Being Boiled"
(1978)
"I Don't Depend on You"
(as "The Men")
(1979)

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"Being Boiled" is a song composed by Sheffield musicians Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, with lyrics by Philip Oakey, and recorded by them as The Human League. It is notable as one of the first pieces of electronic pop music produced in the UK.

Different versions[edit]

"Being Boiled" was first released as a single in 1978 on the Fast Product label, and although failing to chart, was influential amongst other new wave and post-punk artists. In 1987 this version was added as a bonus track to the CD edition of the Reproduction album. Although the Blind Youth fan page[3] claims that on the vinyl edition the song was characterized by a faded ending, the CD reissue has a sudden ending.

A totally re-recorded version of "Being Boiled" was included on the Holiday '80 EP, which reached number 56 in 1980 and number 46 in 1982. This version was also included on their 1980 Travelogue album.

A stereo remix of the original mono Fast Product version was released as a single in August 1980 through EMI Records, failing to chart. This stereo remix was then reissued in January 1982, this time reaching Number 6 in the UK Charts, shortly after the band's commercial breakthrough with Dare and "Don't You Want Me". It was later included on their Greatest Hits anthology released in 1988.

Tracklists[edit]

7" Single (1978 Fast Product release)

  1. "Being Boiled" (original version)
  2. "Circus of Death" (original version)

Holiday '80 EP (Virgin Records release)

  1. "Being Boiled" (re-recorded version)
  2. "Marianne"
  3. "Dancevision"
  4. "Rock 'N' Roll"/"Nightclubbing" medley

1980 EMI release and 1982 EMI reissue

  1. "Being Boiled" (stereo remix of the original version)
  2. "Circus of Death" (stereo remix of the original version)

Style[edit]

Being Boiled was one of the first singles to use entirely electronic instruments and is strikingly different from and darker than the group's more well known songs.[4]

It has a strong bassline, inspired by Bootsy Collins. The lyrics (described as "Bizarre" and "confused"[5]) combine a protest against silk farming with vague material about oriental religion - ("Listen to the voice of Buddha/saying stop your sericulture"). In Japan, bells are referred to as "the voice of Buddha".

Origin[edit]

The song's music predates Philip Oakey's joining the band. The Future, a band comprising Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, had just parted company with singer Adi Newton, later of Clock DVA. They needed a new singer and contacted former schoolmate Philip Oakey, giving him the music to listen to. Two days later he was back, having written the lyrics. Ware and Marsh liked them (and him), and the song was born.

The original version of the track was recorded on a domestic tape recorder, in mono, in an abandoned factory, at a cost of £2.50.[6]

Fast Product release[edit]

Fellow Sheffield musician Paul Bowers (of the band 2.3) liked the song and passed a copy to Fast Product label manager Bob Last, who had just released 2.3's first single ("All Time Low"/"Where To Now?"). Fast Product released it in June 1978, the sleeve bearing the slogan "Electronically Yours".

A press release was put out by Fast Product on computer paper - at the time a novel idea. It read, in part:

The League would like to positively affect the future by close attention to the present, allying technology with humanity and humour. They have been described as 'Later Twentieth Century Boys' and 'Intelligent, Innovatory and Immodest'.

Also included in the release were a cassette of demo recordings and a sticker bearing the "Electronically Yours" slogan.

Reception[edit]

The song received a mixed reception among established artists of the time. David Bowie declared it to be "the future of music", but former Sex Pistols singer John Lydon, reviewing the single for the New Musical Express, dismissed the band as "trendy hippies". Peter York in Harper's and Queen cited the cover as an example of "post-modern packaging".[7]

The song has become an influence on several musicians. Vince Clarke stated that the song was his favourite record and inspired him to form Depeche Mode.[8]

Circus of Death[edit]

The b-side, "Circus of Death" begins with the following spoken introduction by Phil Oakey:

"This is a song called "The Circus of Death".It tells the true story of a circus we met. The first two verses concern the actual arrival at Heathrow Airport of Commissioner Steve McGarrett. The third emotionally describes a map showing the range of the circus. The fourth and fifth were extracted from an article in The Guardian of March the 19th, 1962. The last is a short wave radio message from the last man on Earth."

The "McGarrett" referred to was a character from the television show Hawaii Five-O.

There are at least three different versions of "Circus of Death": the first is the original Fast Product version, the second is a totally re-recorded version included on the Reproduction album, the third is a stereo remix of the original version (released as a b-side on the 1980 EMI issue of "Being Boiled").

The spoken-word introduction was taken from a live television broadcast by LWT continuity announcer Peter Lewis.

The original take was added as a bonus track on the Reproduction CD edition, although without a sample from the 1974 film Dark Star that marked the end of the vinyl version. The re-recorded Reproduction version contains a shorter and totally different spoken intro.

The stereo remix of the original version is still waiting a CD reissue.

Holiday '80[edit]

Main article: Holiday '80

In 1979 The Human League, having signed to Virgin Records, re-recorded "Being Boiled" for their Holiday '80 double single. This release flopped, and a normal one-disc EP was hurriedly put out. This reached Number 56 and the band were asked to appear on Top of the Pops, an unusual request by the programme, which usually only featured top 40 acts. Holiday '80 was then reissued in 1982, reaching Number 46.

Cover versions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ Blind Youth page
  4. ^ allmusic ((( Being Boiled > Overview )))
  5. ^ Reynolds, S. Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984, (Faber and Faber 2006), p.162
  6. ^ "...recorded in a disused factory on a domestic tape recorder at a cost of £2.50, demonstrated that anyone could make electronic pop music" in [3]
  7. ^ "Empire State Human" in "Depeche Mode and the Story of Electro-pop" (EMAP 2005), p.30
  8. ^ Being Boiled by The Human League Songfacts

External links[edit]