It’s almost a shame that after three years making records concerning sericulture, medieval time-slips, singles-as-singularities, assassinations, Judge Dredd, Dr Who and whatever the hell “Crow And A Baby” was about, the Human League get to #1 with a straightforward song of embittered romance. They maybe felt the same: “Don’t You Want Me” was the fourth single off Dare, released at the insistence of the label. Who of course were quite right.
Their cosmic imagination was only part of what made the League’s records good, though. They made their synthesisers slam together in an awkward but still addictive dance, and they had Phil Oakey’s marvellously rigid voice. Which you might not have thought was suitable for a song as directly emotional as “Don’t You Want Me”, but no – its limited range and perpetual tetchiness are ideal for a record about a man who simply won’t or can’t acknowledge the reality of the situation. Nobody else could have made the chorus sound quite so honestly uncomprehending.
For all that the guy in “Don’t You Want Me” is obviously a bit of a shit – “and I can put you back down too” – there’s something so hangdog about Oakey’s delivery that you feel sorry for him, like you might feel sorry for Alan Partridge or David Brent. Susanne Sulley’s polite and pitying dismantling of his perspective – blankness masking obvious irritation – leaves you in no doubt whatsoever that this is indeed a full stop.
As with “Tainted Love”, this is not a record I expect to stop meeting any time soon. I don’t think it’s as good as “Love Action” or “Sound Of The Crowd” – to be honest by now I’d even prefer to hear “The Lebanon” if I’m out of an evening. But it’s also easy to hear why it did so well: even beyond the all-too-yellable chorus, its clear-sighted outline of a whole romantic history makes it one of the most complete number ones.