The Human League Wiki
Being Boiled Fast 4 1980 re-issue front.jpg

Being Boiled is a song written and recorded by The Human League. It was released as the group's first single on the Fast Product label in 1978. The song was re-recorded in early 1980 and included on the Travelogue album and Holiday '80 EP.

The original version eventually entered the UK charts in early 1982 after The Human League had become one of the country's most successful recording artists. This version has been included on all the group's greatest hits compilation albums and was also made available on the CD re-issues of the Reproduction album.


The song is among the earliest tracks recorded as The Human League, with Oakey contributing lyrics. It was in fact Oakey's contribution that led to him becoming part of the group, and the track became their first single release.


Writing credits have been attributed either to The Human League or Marsh/Oakey/Ware. The lyrics were written by Phil Oakey.

Content and lyrics[]

Phil Oakey's opening spoken words on the original version, “OK. Ready. Let’s do it”, are allegedly the final words uttered by the murderer Gary Gilmore before his execution in 1977.[1] The lyrics reference "sericulture", the practice of cultivating silkworms, and boiling the cocoons, for the production of silk.[2] The practice of killing live creatures has been a contentious aspect of Buddhist culture[3], both in India and China where silk was produced, hence the refernces to "buddha" in the lyrics.

Single release[]

The song was released on the Scottish independent label Fast Product in 1978 together with Circus of Death (cat no. FAST 4). The labels state that both tracks are 'mono' recordings. A re-release on Fast Product via EMI in 1980 carries the same tracks, with the same sleeve but with a different label design. These again state 'mono' although it is generally believed to be a stereo remix. Both versions feature a 'faded out' ending. The re-released single eventually made the UK Charts in early 1982 reaching no. 6.

Due to its chart success the single has been included on all the groups hits compilation albums either with the fade-out or abrupt ending version, which has been used since 2003. The latter was also included on the CD re-issue of the Reproduction album (2003), marked as 'Fast Version'.


Fast Product, 7" single FAST 4

timings are stated on the 1980 release labels only

A. Being Boiled (3:45)

B. Circus of Death (4:47)


Promo video[]

No promo video was made for Being Boiled.

Critical reception[]

Writing in the Smash Hits singles reviews in September 1980, Mark Ellen described the re-released original version of Being Boiled as "...a slab of ice that's only two steps ahead of a dirge. A re-issue, too." [4]


Peel session version[]

The song was also recorded for the group's only John Peel session on 8 August 1978, first broadcast on 16 August 1978. This track is the only one from the four track session to have been officially released and can be found on the compilation CD Movement: BBC Radio 1 Peel Sessions 1977-1979.

'State Of The Art' mix[]

A demo version of the track, which is closer to the Holiday 80 version, was available as a bootleg for many years before being officially released on the deluxe version of the A Very British Synthesizer Group anthology in 2017. The track has Phil OAkey intriducing the recording as the "state of the art mix".

Holiday '80/Travelogue version[]

Holiday 80 Being Boiled 7in front.jpg

A final new radical re-recording was released in 1980 as part of the Holiday '80 EP and successively on the Travelogue album. According to the Holiday 80 cover notes it was recorded on 8-track and engineered and produced by the group and John Leckie. The "synthetic horns" were programmed by The Boys of Buddha (an allusion to "the voice of Buddha"). The 'State of the Art mix' (see above) is very close to this finished version and so presumably also from early 1980.

For the Canadian issue of Travelogue, Being Boiled was renamed "Voice of Buddha" and re-positioned as the opening track of the album.

The opening part of the Holiday 80 version was used by BBC Radio 1 DJ Richard Skinner as intro music to his Saturday afternoon show Rock On in the early 80s.

Live performances[]

The song was a regular part of early live dates although like many early songs was dropped for performances during the 1980s. The song has been regularly included in more recent live concerts.

So It Goes[]

The group appeared on the Granada TV show So It Goes in February 1980 to perform Being Boiled live. This version is closer to the Peel session than it is to the original although also contains keyboard parts which would feature on the Holiday '80/Travelogue version. The show and the performance were introduced by Tony Wilson.

The song has been performed live by Heaven 17.


version available on
'Fast version' (fade-out)
  • FAST 4 - 7" single
  • Fast Product compilation (1979)[1]
  • Mutant Pop 78/79
  • Greatest Hits (1988)
  • Greatest Hits (1995)
'Fast version' (abrupt ending)
Holiday '80 / Travelogue version
John Peel session version
  • Movement: BBC Radio 1 Peel Sessions 1977–1979 (2011)
'State of the Art mix' A Very British Synthesizer Group

Richard X 'mash-ups'[]

Being Scrubbed Richard X 7in 2003 front Being Boiled mash up.jpg

In 2001 DJ and producer Richard X released a single under the name of Girls On Top, featuring the original 'Fast' version of 'Being Boiled' in a 'mash-up' with the song 'No Scrubs', originally released by TLC. [2] The front cover of the limietd edition 7" is also a pastiche of the original.

In 2003 he released a new mash-up of the song entiled 'Being Nobody', this time as Richard X vs. Liberty X, mixing 'Being Boiled' with 'Ain't Nobody', originally released by Chaka Khan.[3]

Cover versions[]

Notable cover versions include