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"Don't You Want Me" is a single by British synthpop group The Human League, released on 27 November 1981 as the fourth single from their third studio album Dare (1981).

It is the band's best known and most commercially successful recording to date. In 1981 it was the Christmas number one in the UK, where it has since sold over 1,560,000 copies, making it the 23rd most successful single in UK Singles Chart history.[1] It later topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the US on 3 July 1982 where it stayed for three weeks.

The title is frequently misprinted by the media and by covering artists as "Don't You Want Me Baby",[2] which is a prominent lyric in the song's chorus.


 [hide*1 Background


The lyrics were originally inspired after lead singer Philip Oakey read a photo-story in a teen-girl's magazine. Originally conceived and recorded in the studio as a male solo, Oakey was inspired by the film A Star Is Born and decided to turn the song into a conflicting duet with one of the band’s two teenage female vocalists. Susan Ann Sulley was then asked to take on the role. Up until then, she and the other female vocalist Joanne Catherall had only been assigned backing vocals; Sulley says she was chosen only through "luck of the draw".[3] Musicians Jo Callis and Philip Adrian Wright created a synthesizer score to accompany the lyrics which was much harsher than the version that was actually released. Initial versions of the song were recorded but Virgin Records-appointed producer Martin Rushent was unhappy with them. He and Callis remixed the track, giving it a softer, and in Oakey's opinion, "poppy" sound. Oakey hated the new version and thought it the weakest track on Dare, resulting in one of his infamous rows with Rushent.[4] Oakey disliked it so much that it was relegated to the last track on the B side of the (then) vinyl album.

Before the release of Dare, two of its tracks—"The Sound of the Crowd" and "Love Action (I Believe in Love)"—had already been released as successful singles. To promote the new album, Virgin released "Open Your Heart" in October 1981, which hit #6 in the UK Singles Chart. With a hit album and three hit singles in a row, Virgin's Chief Executive Simon Draper decided to release one more single from the album before the end of 1981. His choice, "Don't You Want Me", instantly caused a row with Oakey who did not want another single to be released because he was convinced that "the public were now sick of hearing The Human League" and the choice of the "poor quality filler track" would almost certainly be a disaster, wrecking the group's new-found popularity. Virgin were adamant that a fourth single would be released and Oakey finally agreed on the condition that a large colour poster accompany the 7" single, because he felt fans would "feel ripped off" by the 'substandard' single alone.[5]

The Human League often added cryptic references to their productions and the record sleeve of “Don’t You Want Me” featured the suffix of “100”. This was a reference to The 100 Club, a restaurant/bar in Sheffield.[6]

Today, the song is widely considered a classic of its era. In a retrospective review, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, senior editor for AllMusic, described the song as "a devastating chronicle of a frayed romance wrapped in the greatest pop hooks and production of its year."[7] Oakey still describes it as overrated, but acknowledges his initial dismissal was misguided and claims pride in the track.[citation needed]

An urban myth has grown around the song that it is autobiographical. This is untrue. Susan Ann Sulley is often irritated that she constantly has to refute the mistaken belief that the song is a reference to her and Joanne Catherall joining the band.[citation needed] At only 17 years old when the song was recorded, she was legally too young by UK law to have been a cocktail waitress and was, in fact, still in Secondary School. Oakey is also at pains to point out another misconception, that it is not a love song, but "a nasty song about sexual power politics".[8]

Chart performance and sales[edit][]

"Don't You Want Me" was released in the UK on 27 November 1981. To the amazement of the band (and especially Oakey),[9] it shot to number one on the UK charts. This success was repeated six months later in the U.S., with "Don't You Want Me" hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks. Billboard magazine ranked it as the sixth-biggest hit of 1982. The single was certified Gold by the RIAA the same year for sales of a million copies. It is notable as the first song featuring the revolutionary Linn LM-1 drum machine to hit #1 on the UK charts and also the first LM-1 track to top the Billboard Hot 100. The song was remixed and re-released in 1995, peaking at #16 on the UK chart.[10] As of November 2012, "Don't You Want Me" is the 23rd best-selling single in the UK with 1.55 million copies sold.[1]

Music video[edit][]

[2][3]Susan Ann Sulley in the 1981 "Don't You Want Me" video.

In 1981 record company Virgin were becoming aware that the promotional music video was evolving into an important marketing tool, with MTV being launched that year. Because it was agreed that the video for Open Your Heart had looked "cheap and nasty", Virgin commissioned a much more elaborate and expensive promotional video for "Don't You Want Me".

The video for the song was filmed in Slough during November 1981 and has the theme of the filming and editing of a murder-mystery film, featuring the band members as characters and production staff. Due to it being a "making of" video, both crew and camera apparatus appear throughout. It was conceived and directed by filmmaker Steve Barron, and has at its core the interaction between a successful actress (also a 2nd negative cutter) played by Susan Ann Sulley walking out on 'film director' Philip Oakey on a film set. It is loosely based on the film A Star Is Born. Near the end of the video, Wright, who also plays a film editor, has an expression on his face, while the camera pulls back to reveal that the negative room where Oakey, Wright, and Sulley were working in is another set (the camera can be seen in the mirror's reflection).

Filmed on a cold, wet, winter night, it was shot on 35mm film instead of the cheaper video tape prevalent at the time. Susan Sulley states now that Steve Baron was heavily influenced by the cinematography of the video for the Ultravox single "Vienna". Steve Baron was also influenced by François Truffaut and his film Day for Night; and because of that the clapper board seen in the video bears the inscription "Le League Humaine" as a tribute to Truffaut.

The video is credited for making Oakey, Sulley and Catherall visual icons of the early 1980s; but became controversial later for a scene where Jo Callis shoots Catherall (and later in the video repeated with Oakey shooting Sulley) with a pistol from a car window (a Saab 99 turbo). The scene is edited out of the DVD version and usually on music television. The other car that was used in the video is a gold W-Reg Rover SD1 - an iconic car of the time.

The video was released in December 1981, just as the music video culture was becoming an integral part of the pop music scene, and it was a major contribution to the song's commercial success.

Charts and certifications[edit][]

1981 release[edit][]

Chart (1981-1982) Peak


Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[11] 2
Canada (RPM)[12] 1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[13] 6
France (SNEP)[14] 13
Germany (Media Control AG)[15] 5
Ireland (IRMA)[16] 1
Italy (AFI)[17] 15
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[18] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[19] 1
South Africa (Springbok Radio)[20] 2
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[21] 3
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[22] 4
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[23] 1
US BillboardHot 100[24] 1
US Hot Dance/Disco (Billboard)[25] 3
US Top Tracks (Billboard)[25] 4

Year-End charts[edit][]

Chart (1982) Position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 6

1995 Re-issue[edit][]

Chart (1995) Peak


Japanese Singles Chart (Tokyo)[citation needed] 100
UK Singles Chart[26] 16

Sales and certifications[edit][]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[27] Platinum 150,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[28] Platinum 1,560,000[1]
United States (RIAA)[29] Gold 1,000,000^
Total available sales: 2,690,000

  • sales figures based on certification alone ^shipments figures based on certification alone xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Use in commercials[edit][]

  • In c. 2001/2002, the song was used in a Fiat Punto commercial, starring Myfanwy Waring and James Daffern. Waring was driving Daffern into a petrol station and in what looks as though they have had an argument, Daffern was saying lyrics from the song to Waring in a parody manner over the accompanying music. This was done whilst Waring drove in and filled up with petrol, and later almost drove away from him.[30] However, Fiat's use of Don't You Want Me prompted a bitter legal battle. The Human League ultimately lost the case to Virgin and Susan Sulley later complained: "Now even if we wanted to use the song for a more worthy company, we can't because it will always be associated with a particular brand." [31]
  • In 2003, the song was used in a Super Bowl commercial for Suntrust bank, with a Benjamin Franklin lookalike giving a deliberately camp performance of the song.
  • In 2007 the song was used in a Super Bowl commercial for cookie brand Chips Ahoy! Again the band did not give their consent for the use of the song, but this time for financial reasons did not fight Virgin over its use.
  • In 2009, Procter & Gamble used the song in a few of their U.S. and Canadian commercials for their Swiffer range of cleaning products.
  • In 2012, the song used in a Doritos commercial aired in the United Kingdom, in which it was performed by a Mariachi band.
  • In 2014, the song was used by the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion promoting equality within the Olympic Games, in response to Olympic protests of Russian anti-gay laws within the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
  • The song has also been used to promote the Cascadia Showerhead by Waterpik.[32]

Use in films[edit][]

  • In the movie Ocean's Thirteen (2007), the song was featured as a ringtone for Rusty's cell phone (Brad Pitt's character).
  • The song is used in the movie He's Just Not That Into You (2009).
  • The song is used in the movie 1981.[33]
  • John C. Reilly's character in Cyrus (2010) proclaims this to be "The Greatest Song Ever Recorded," and sings it during a party.
  • Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, as a Greenlandic helicopter pilot, sings the song in a karaoke performance, in the 2013 version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), and a cover version by Bahamas featuring The Weather Station appears on the film's soundtrack.

Use in television[edit][]

[5][6]Two characters from Glee recorded a cover version of the song.*The popular Canadian teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation, which names each episode after an '80s hit song, named an episode after this song.[34]

  • In the 2008 BBC drama Ashes to Ashes (set in 1981), the song is featured as one of the principal soundtrack songs. Later Keeley Hawes's character Alex Drake uses Susan Sulley's line "I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar" in the dialogue; included by the script writers as a tribute to Susan Sulley and The Human League.
  • In the Mighty Boosh episode "Electro" Vince plays the song to Howard, stating that the Human League "invented music" and everything before had just been tuning up.
  • For VH1's Karaoke Cabaret (11-20-1999) Sting covered the Song [35]
  • In the US TV series Will & Grace episode "Marry Me a Little, Marry Me a Little More" just before Grace gets married, she and Will (he alludes earlier in the episode to being a Human League fan[36]), sing part of the first verse on a rooftop.
  • In The Glee Project, is the contestants Samuel and Marissa's 5th music video.
  • In an episode of Glee, "Blame It on the Alcohol," the song is featured as a duet between Rachel (Lea Michele) and Blaine (Darren Criss). This version was released as a single, and reached number fifty in Canada, forty-nine in the US, and forty-four in Australia. After, the song was released in Glee: The Music, Volume 5.

Track listing[edit][]

7" version[edit][]

  1. "Don't You Want Me" – 3:57
  2. "Seconds" – 4:59

12" version[edit][]

  1. "Don't You Want Me" – 3:57
  2. "Seconds" – 4:59
  3. "Don't You Want Me (Extended Dance Mix)" – 7:30


Mandy Smith version[edit][]

"Don't You Want Me Baby"
Single by Mandy Smith
B-side "If It Makes You Feels Good"
Released 1989
Format CD single

7" single 12" single

Recorded 1989
Genre Pop
Length 3:44
Label PWL
Writer(s) Philip Oakey

Jo Callis Philip Adrian Wright

Producer(s) Pete Hammond
Mandy Smith singles chronology
"Victim of Pleasure"


"Don't You Want Me Baby"


"I Just Can't Wait (92' Remixes)"


In 1989 Mandy Smith covered this song. The song was released after her album Mandy (1988). It was also Smith's final single. This song has a B-side, "If It Makes You Feel Good", which appeared on Smith's debut album.

Formats and track listings

CD Single

  1. "Don't You Want Me Baby"
  2. "If It Makes You Feel Good"
  3. "Don't You Want Me Baby" (Cocktail Mix)
  4. "If It Makes You Feel Good" (Extended Version)

7" Single

  1. "Don't You Want Me Baby"
  2. "If It Makes You Feel Good"

12" Single

  1. "Don't You Want Me Baby" (Cocktail Mix)
  2. "If It Makes You Feel Good" (Extended Version)


Chart (1989) Peak


UK Singles Charts 59
ITA Singles Charts 11
Swedish Tracks Charts 16

Alcazar version[edit][]

"Don't You Want Me"
Single by Alcazar
from the album Casino
Released May 2002
Recorded 2001
Genre Eurodance
Length 03:27
Label RCA RecordsBMG
Alcazar singles chronology
"Sexual Guarantee"


"Don't You Want Me"


"Not a Sinner Nor a Saint"


Casino (International Edition) track listing
"Breaking Free"


"Don't You Want Me"


"Shine On"


Don't You Want Me is a eurodance song performed by Swedish band Alcazar and released internationally in 2002. The song was included to the European version of Casino together with a few other, and was recorded in Stockholm at first, but when they wanted it for a new pan-European single, a whole new version was made.

The single was released in Australia as a follow up to the successful single "Crying at the Discoteque" and the release includes the "Ivan's X Mix" of CATD as a bonus. The white 12 inch was released in Europe and distributed to DJs to get maximum airplay at the disco arenas.

So far Don't You Want Me is the biggest hit for the group in United States, climbing to #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart and staying on the chart for 15 weeks. It Also became huge favourite in the Clubs and US Radio Stations.

The Human League themselves have said that they like this version, as it is fairly true to the original; and Alcazar still performs this track at their live shows around the world.

The song is playable on the Karaoke Revolution games.

Music video

The video was filmed at Filmhuset in Stockholm, and once again Jesper Ganslandt directed it all. As always in Alcazar videos the storyline takes place in "Alcazar world" – and this time it all took place in "Circus Alcazar". The video is filled with horses, ducks, an evil parrot, acrobats and the Alcazar ballet.

The whole video shoot took almost 23 hours, and actually includes Annikafiore's boyfriend juggling with fire in the background The Alcazar dog Selma was styled in a pink ballerina dress and waited the whole day for the filming of her scene where she would perform jumps in the circus arena.

Formats and track listings[edit][]

These are the formats and track listings of promotional single releases of "Don't You Want Me".

CD single
  1. "Almighty Radio Edit" – 3:27
  2. "Almighty Club Mix" – 7:25
  3. "Project Eden Remix" – 7:34
  4. "Earth Club Anthem" – 10:24
  5. "Wild Cowboys Radio Mix" – 3:38

Chart performance[edit][]

Chart (2002) Peak


Australian ARIA Singles Chart[37] 37
Belgian Singles Chart (Flanders)[38] 21
Dutch Singles Chart[39] 83
Finnish Singles Chart[40] 18
Swedish Singles Chart[41] 30
Swiss Singles Chart[42] 76
Hot Dance Club Play[43] 30
Japan[citation needed] 3

Other versions[edit][]