Life On Your Own, 1984

I’ve always been a big fan of The Human League. It dates back to when my sister bought a copy of their classic Dare album when it was released in 1981 – I was seven years old at the time, and it kind of burned itself into my brain. Many years later, when I started collecting vinyl, I bought a copy of it, and I love the sleeve art as much as the music. When the band toured in December 2021 to celebrate the album’s 40th anniversary, they performed it in full, and I caught the show in Glasgow. It was absolutely fantastic.

This is one of their less well-known songs, but one that has a special place in my heart. I first discovered it in the early 90s when I got a copy of the band’s greatest hits album, and it was only many years later that I saw this video, but it presses a lot of the right buttons for me.

First off, I’m a hardcore introvert, and the song speaks of a need for solitude and isolation, something I completely understand and need a lot of in my life. Secondly, I’m a huge fan of apocalyptic drama and fiction, and so I love this video so much.

It was filmed in April 1984, in various locations in London, the most prominent being the Arding and Hobbs department store, near Clapham Junction station, and at the end, the White City stadium, which by then was closed and awaiting demolition. I think the tube station is Temple, which wouldn’t be far away from the scene of Tower Bridge.

I think it’s safe to assume it was shot very early on Sunday mornings, a technique later used in the horror film 28 Days Later. It’s possible, during summer, to get out on the streets as soon as it’s light very early in the morning on a Sunday and shoot before most people are up and about – you don’t need long to close things off and you won’t see many people. The scenes in this video certainly didn’t need much preparation, but all work very effectively.

The bus is interesting – it’s one of London Transport’s MD class of 164 vehicles, delivered to the capital from 1975 to 1977, but they weren’t a success, and were all taken out of service by 1983. It was mainly because there weren’t many of them – there were over 2000 Routemasters and another 2000 Daimler Fleetlines knocking around – and when service cuts came in 1982, the small MD class got the chop in the interests of standardisation. By the time this video was filmed, the bus was already privately owned, and it eventually ended up in the Scania Museum in Sweden, where it survives to this day. Remind me to go there sometime.

The song was a modest success, getting to number 16 in the charts, but it was released in the height of summer, despite having a very un-summery theme and opening with the words “Winter is approaching”. It was put out following the success of the Hysteria album it was released from, but waiting until Christmas would have made a lot more sense, and may have seen the song perform a lot better.

It stands out to me now as something of a classic, with poignant lyrics, classic 80s synth sounds and a hugely atmospheric and slightly spooky video. Enjoy.

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