Tell Me When

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"Tell Me When"
Single by The Human League
from the album Octopus
Released 26 December 1994
Format 7" single, 12" single, 2 x CD single
Recorded 1994
Genre Synthpop
Length 3.58
Label EastWest
Songwriter(s) Philip Oakey and Paul Christopher Beckett
Producer(s) Ian Stanley
The Human League singles chronology
"Soundtrack to a Generation"
"Tell Me When"
"One Man in My Heart"
"Soundtrack to a Generation"
"Tell Me When"
"One Man in My Heart"
Audio sample

"Tell Me When" is a song by the British synthpop group the Human League. Written jointly by lead singer Philip Oakey and Paul C. Beckett, it was recorded at 'Human League Studios', Sheffield in 1994. The single and the Octopus album were produced by Ian Stanley (formerly of Tears for Fears).

"Tell Me When" was the first Human League single to be released from Octopus and was issued in advance of the album. It was released on 26 December 1994 (but is considered a 1995 single as it did not chart until the first week of January). It became the Human League's most commercially successful single in nine years and reintroduced the band to many of the British general public. It peaked at number six on the UK Singles Chart in early 1995, their highest UK chart position since 1983, spending a total of nine weeks in the chart.[1] It also peaked at number 31 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving the band their last hit to date in the United States. The song fared well on the Mainstream Top 40 charts, where it peaked at number nine.


The song was originally written for the act, "Fast Arithmetic" (Oakey - Beckett), A side project in development within the HL environment. A demo version was recorded in 1991 and presented to Max, Ian and Jean at East West. It then became the first release by the band under their new label EastWest, who had signed the Human League after their dismissal by Virgin in 1992.

As it was the first commercial release in the UK by the band for four years it is often incorrectly described as a comeback as many people erroneously believed the band had disbanded in 1990. Band principal Philip Oakey takes issue with this description and will point out in interviews that the band has never stopped recording and performing since its formation in 1977[2] The band had collaborated with Yellow Magic Orchestra prior to signing with EastWest.[3]

Music video[edit]

The official music video for the song was shot entirely on location in Prague[citation needed] in the Czech Republic and directed by Andy Morahan.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

Billboard were favourable, writing: "British synth-pop act that enjoyed a high profile during the '80s returns with a percolating swinger, which harkens back to its now-classic hits, "Don't You Want Me" and "Fascination".[5] Dave Thompson of Allmusic agreed that "Tell Me When" echoes earlier material, likening it to "Fascination" and "Mirror Man." He went further, saying: "the real difference is found in the vignette-esque lyrics and the more complex vocals. And these slight changes make all the difference, turning synth dreams into techno club success."[6]

Track listing[edit]

  • CD 1 1994, East West (YZ882CD1)
  1. Tell Me When (7" Edit) 4.42
  2. Tell Me When (Mix 1) 5.09
  3. Kimi Ni Mune Kyun (YMO Vs The Human League) 4.55
  4. The Bus To Crookes 4.52
  • CD 2 1994, East West (YZ882CD2)
  1. Tell Me When (Mix 2) 6.11
  2. Tell Me When (Red Jerry Remix) 7.36
  3. Tell Me When (Strictly Blind Dub) 5.51
  4. Tell Me When (Overworld Mix) 6.26
  5. Tell Me When (Mix 1) 5.09
  • U.S. CD 1994, East West Records America (66147-2)
  1. Tell Me When (Utah Saints Mix 2*) 6.12
  2. Tell Me When (Red Jerry Mix) 7.36
  3. Tell Me When (Strictly Blind Dub) 5.51
  4. Tell Me When (Edit Version Overworld Mix) 5.25
  5. Tell Me When (Utah Saints Mix 1*) 5.09

These versions (*) are identical to the UK mixes.


  1. ^ "Artist Chart History - The Human League". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 22 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Interview Philip Oakey GMTV 1995 Transcribed:
  4. ^ Garcia, Alex S. " - the Human League - "Tell me when"". Music Video DataBase. Retrieved November 4, 2015. 
  5. ^ Single Reviews. Billboard. 4 March 1995. Retrieved 22 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Thompson, Dave. "Tell Me When Single Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 22 June 2013. 

External links[edit]