15 February 2009

The Taverner Tape by The Human League

"No Future," they say.
But must it be that way?
Now is calling
The city is human

The Human League needed help. Not in their struggle against The Pansentient Hegemony. That was long past. No, The Human League needed help with something much more difficult, something on which their future very much depended. The Human League needed help getting a record contract. And they turned to the only man they knew who could help, Jason Taverner.

It was the Spring of 1979. Martyn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh, and lop-haired vocalist, Phil Oakey, had already scored a surprise success with their first single, the inscrutable but irresistible, "Being Boiled." Recorded for the princely sum of two and a half pounds ("And that was for the Letraset for the sleeve," Martyn would later claim), the first pressing of "Being Boiled" had sold out in a matter of days. John Peel played it on his show, they appeared on the cover of the NME, and David Bowie called them the "future of music." But they were broke. "Being Boiled" was, after all, released on their manager's tiny independent label, Fast Records. To move to the next stage, to become the all-conquering pop stars they imagined themselves being, they needed a deal with a major.

The trio gathered home-made demos of several of the tracks they had been playing live, in support of bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Stranglers, and asked local network television personality Jason Taverner to introduce them on a tape to be sent round to the labels. Taverner was an avuncular figure; when they appeared on his show, he liked to call Ian, Martyn, and Phil, "the lads," and praised their youthful optimism when other bands "were just trying to shock people." In return, the band had recorded a hit album, There'll Be A Good Time With Taverner Tonight. This was sure to get the attention of the A&R men.

Of course there was no Jason Taverner. The League had never been on tv, let alone recorded a hit album. It was all an elaborate ruse, somewhere between Situationist prank and Monty Python skit, with Phil playing the part of the regional television personality to a tee. To further confound matters, they inserted the same fifteen second theme, the so-called "Dominion Jingle," after each song. An obscure reference to a fictional drug, and sounding like a lost sound cue from a low budget horror movie set in an abandoned amusement park, the jingle cast an ominous shadow over the demo's collection of pop songs and futuristic instrumentals, reminding listeners that the League were as much descendents of Delia Derbyshire as Donna Summer.

And it worked. The Banshee's label, Polydor, expressed interest. Soon Virgin and Fiction, home to both The Cure and The Associates, were in a bidding war for the synthesizer band from Sheffield. Finally, in April, The Human League signed with Virgin. "I was really taken with their version of 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin,'" recalls A&R man Simon Draper. "They were very original and Phil had his amazing asymmetrical hair; I immediately wanted to sign them. But they were very avant garde and I wondered whether they were going to be successful or not."

Commercial success would, in fact, largely elude the original line up of The Human League, but their albums have become among the most revered in the minimal synth canon. Here, then, is the long lost demo tape that started it all. Though every effort has been made to restore the tracks (among other things, Second Chameleon is a trained sound engineer), the quality is less than ideal. We trust that the historical significance of the tape out weighs such concerns in this instance.

--Crash The Driver

The Taverner Tape

1. First Jason Taverner Intro
2. Blind Youth
3. Dominion Jingle
4. Interface
5. Dominion Jingle
6. Again The Eye Again
7. Dominion Jingle
8. Second Jason Taverner Intro
9. Toyota City
10. Dominion Jingle
11. Path Of Least Resistance
12. Dominion Jingle
13. Zero As A Limit
14. Dominion Jingle
15. Third Jason Taverner Intro
16. You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'


  1. Hey Crash, no-one will get your reference to The Pansentient Hegemony. Because, truly, no-one is as geeky as we two.

    But at least we can share the music.

  2. Wasn't Jason Taverner the main character (and TV show host) in the Phlip Dick book, "Flow My Tears The Policeman Said". That would seem in keeping with a lot of theses bands love affair with the madder side of SF at the time.

  3. Yes he was. Not exactly subtle, those Human League blokes.

  4. By the way, this is a wonderful blog you have going. I have had (and unfortunately lost) many of these marvellous recordings over the years and it is truly a pleasure to be able to hear them all again. I knew the internet was useful for something!

  5. Thanks for this.. been looking for ages

  6. Whoa! It's amazing to hear these demos. Thanks.

  7. Hi there! Sorry, I AM late--but not too late, I hope. I tried to download The Taverner Tape but no chanced! Rapidshare is telling me that "Download permission denied by uploader. (0b67c2f5)". So, no chance for me to dl...could you please re-up somewhere else???

  8. All Rapidshare links (or at least those that haven't received complaints) are working again. Sorry for the interruption in service!