Top 100 singles of all time: 74 – Human League – The Lebanon

I’m going to keep this brief, since I’ve previously mentioned this as a guilty pleasure a few times. The Lebanon, released by The Human League in 1984, is Phil Oakey’s synthpop crew at their most ill-advised and wonderful. Jointly written by Oakey and keyboard player Jo Callis, it was created under the intense pressure from Virgin to follow up the success of their previous album, Dare.

The band holed up in Air Studios for a year – at a cost of £1000 per day – and argued relentlessly about every aspect of every song. The Lebanon was a harder – almost rock – sound for the band, in clear violation of their “no guitars” rule established in 1981. More controversial, of course, were the political lyrics, regarding Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon during its civil war. While political lyrics in music were nothing new, the band were considered too lightweight to debate the subject with any authority – and the line about “where they used to be some shops” is considered by many to be among the most banal and stupid lyrics of all time. The single’s number 11 chart placement was viewed as disappointing for the band, though obviously it still denotes a very popular band.

To be honest, I never noticed the silly lyrics growing up. I was too busy enjoying that wonderful guitar riff and the song’s exultant chord structures. It might be an unfashionable song to enjoy, but it’s one of my favourites and I’m sticking with it.

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