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The Things That Dreams are Made of by The Human League

For any fledgling traveller seeking musical encouragement then listen no further than this

For any fledgling traveller wishing to embark on a foreign adventure and who’s seeking musical encouragement, then listen no further than The Human League’s ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of,’ from the album Dare, celebrating 40 years since its release this year. 

Go travel, that’s an order

The band were among the electronic pop pioneers of the 80s and this song contains those typical early synth elements and modulated beats synonymous with the likes of Kraftwerk. Embedded in this comes an almost rigid authoritarian sound which in light of the lyrics makes it feel like the singer Phil Oakey is actually ordering us to travel and fulfil our dreams. And who’s to argue with that? In the first verse we are instructed to, ‘Dream life the way you think it ought to be, See things you thought you’d never ever see.’

If you were in doubt as to what you should be seeing, don’t despair, there are plenty of suggestions to come, the first of which is a cruise to China, or a train to Spain, or simply, ‘Go round the world, again and again.’ 

The first part of the chorus tells us what’s necessary in life: everybody needs love and adventure, cash to spend, love and affection and two or three friends. The assumption is that all these can be gained through travel (though it’s always advantageous to have cash before embarking on a trip), and it’s these things that dreams are made of. 

Love on the road

The love that is referred to in this song is a particular type of love which we could call the ‘holiday romance’. We learn that we should be meeting boys and girls on boats and trains and falling ‘in love without the pain.’ This is interesting. By the very suggestion that travel love is painless implies that non-travel love is painful. Is that because travel love is more likely to be unrestrained, unhinged, and perhaps, inevitably, short-lived? What is possibly being suggested is that love found on the road is, like travel itself, part of a dream-fulfilment and is therefore not susceptible to pain. Unless of course, it becomes a nightmare, which can sometimes happen.

Good times

There are more travel destination suggestions that involve countries such as America and Russia, and some general suggestions as to what constitutes as ‘good times’ which interestingly mentions Norman Wisdom (who was an English comedian) and members of the punk band The Ramones, reportedly listed, along with ice cream and TV, because they were some of The Human League’s favourite things.   

So in summary: go travel, fall in love, eat ice cream, listen to The Ramones and ‘Do all the things you’ve ever dared.’ 

For more travel encouragement check out Lemon Jelly’s ‘Ramblin’ Man’ here.

Cover Photo: “The Human League – 2007.12.07 Sheffield” by WillScott73 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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