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Empire State Human 1980 reissue front with sticker includes free single.jpg

Empire State Human is a song written by Oakey/Marsh/Ware and recorded by The Human League.

It was released as a single in 1979, re-issued in 1980 and was included on the group's debut album Reproduction.

The song is also included on the compilation albums The Very Best of The Human League (2003), All The Best (2014) and A Very British Synthesizer Group (2016).

Content and lyrics[]

The song depicts a typically science-fiction type scenario where a man describes in first person how he does not wish to remain 'human size' but to grow 'tall tall tall, as big as a wall'. The title refers to the Empire State Building in New York, the tallest building in the world until late 1970. The protagonist partially succeeds in his endeavour and becomes 'fourteen storeys high, at least' although then declares he intends to go to Egypt to be as big as a pyramid.

The song follows a fairly conventional structure of verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus although the two verses differ somewhat in structure. The chorus is a repetitive chant which doubles up in the second to include a sub-chorus "brick by brick, stone by stone, growing 'til he's fully grown/fetch more water, fetch more sand, biggest person in the land". The words 'Empire State Human' are sung only once in the song.

The lyrics were published in Smash Hits (July 10 - 23 July 1980 issue) as part of a feature on the group written by David Hepworth (pp. 12-14).


Writing credits for both tracks are attributed to Oakey/Marsh/Ware.

Production credits are attributed as co-produced by The Human League and Colin Thurston (for Cracker Music).

Single release[]

'Empire State Human' was first released as a single on Virgin slightly ahead of the release of the Reproduction album. The single failed to chart on its first release although it reached no. 62 in the UK Charts when it was released for a second time in 1980, with 'Only After Dark' b/w 'Toyota City' included as a free bonus single.

The B side 'Introducing' is an instrumental track which remained exclusive to this release until being included on the CD re-issues of the Reproduction album (1988, 2003).

Track listing[]

Virgin, 7" single - VS 294

  1. Empire State Human (3:10)
  2. Introducing (3:10)

Virgin re-release VS 351 (1980) 2 x 7"

  1. Empire State Human (3.10)
  2. Introducing (3.13)
  3. Only After Dark (3.15)
  4. Toyota City (5.38)

a single 7" under same cat no. with tracks 1 & 2 were available after initial copies had sold out.

The single was also re-issued as a 12" in 1980 although the tracks and artwork were identical to the single 7". A 1979 issue 12" version was released in Australia.


The front cover bears a photo montage of a man ripping open his shirt to reveal a brick wall in the place of his chest. The origin and graphic artist remain uncredited and unknown.

The rear cover bears a still from the 1956 science-fiction film The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Promo video[]

A promo video for Empire State Human was made. It shows the group performing the song on stage in a 'live' performance.

Alternative issues[]

The single was issued in The Netherlands in 1980 with a different sleeve and B side.

Virgin, 7" single - 102.262

A. Empire State Human (3:10)

B. You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling (4:10)

Alternative versions[]

There is only one officially released version of the song. It was remixed for the first time by Chamber for inclusion on the bonus remix disc of The Very Best of The Human League compilation album in 2003.

Live performance[]

'Empire State Human' has been part of the group's live set since 1979, often played as an encore or the closing song. Although it was performed by the group in the years immediately following the split in 1980, it disappeared from live performances during much of the 1980s and 1990s but reappeared again from The Very Best of Tour onwards.

The song was performed live on BBC TV's Mainstream show in 1979. Although this particular performance was originally included in the tracklist of the A Very British Synthesizer Group deluxe edition DVD, it was in fact omitted from the disc.

The song has been performed live by Heaven 17.

Cover versions[]

'Empire State Human' has been covered by the following artists:

  • Optiganally Yours for inclusion on the Reproductions album.
  • Marsheaux: initially recorded for the Electronically Yours event (11/10/2007) the Greek duo's version was later included on their covers album E-Bay Queen Is Dead (2012).
  • Heaven 17: included on their 2008 *Naked As Advertised: Versions 08 album.
  • Parralox: included on their Holiday '15 album (2015).


Empire State Human review in Record-Mirror-1980-06-21-p.10.jpg

Record Mirror re-release news, 14 June 1980.

External links[]