South Wales Echo 4th December 2004

League of their own

Joanne Manning

ASK Susan Sulley what her enduring memory of Wales is and she'll reply 'almost freezing to death!'


The blonde corner of the Human League triangle is referring to the time she and bandmates Philip Oakey and Joanne Callas got stuck in a snow drift in South Wales the day after their most famous song Don't You Want Me went to number one in December 1981.


"We were booked to play a gig in Southern Ireland so we had to drive through South Wales to get to the ferry, but it was the worst weather I think I'd ever seen," explains Susan, still a plain-speaking Sheffield lass who along with Phil and Jo play the Newport City Live Arena on December 5.


"There was a blizzard and our bus broke down five miles from the nearest village.


"We were so cold I swear we thought we were going to die. But thankfully we were taken in by the locals.


"We were put up in this hotel and there was no electricity because there'd been a power cut. But the people were fabulous and they made us sandwiches and kept us warm.


"It was a hell of a night and the gig was cancelled. Our equipment had got stuck before it'd even reached Wales."


It's not the only trouble the band have experienced in relation to the song most identified with them.


Contrary to popular belief, The Human League have received not one penny from the use of Don't You Want Me in that recent car ad because it was re-recorded.


It's still plainly a sore point for Susan: "The company asked if they could use it and wanted to give us a paltry sum of money for it," she explains. "We said no, but in the long run we ended up losing out big style.


"All they did was re-record the song and legally they didn't have to give us anything.


"It nearly bankrupted us at one stage. We went through litigation to try and stop them using it, but in reality we were throwing tens of thousands of pounds down the drain. There was nothing we could do."


But despite these difficulties and many other ups and down in the League's 25-year history, Susan and the others still have an awful lot of affection for their most successful track - a million-seller and Virgin Records' first number one single.


"I never get fed up of talking about or singing that song," says Susan, who famously joined Human League when Oakey spotted her and Jo dancing in a Sheffield disco.


"It's done us a lot of good all over the world and we couldn't go on tour without playing it."