Wishes (A Glass/A Klippel) 1996 and Don’t Say Goodbye ( A Tierney/ P Begaud/ M Tierney and People Get Ready (C Mayfield) – Human Nature 1997
Toby Allen, Phil Burton and brothers Andrew and Mike Tierney met at the Hurlstone Agricultural High School (Sydney) and as they had all come from choir backgrounds, formed a doo wop group in 1989 taking their musical cues from American groups of that genre and particularly such Motown artists as the Four Tops (below) and the Miracles.The boys were called the 4Trax and they sang a capella covers while busking, at talent quests and in local clubs, their reputation grew as their glorious four-part harmonies quickly resonated with fans.Denis Handlin (below) Chairman and CEO of Sony Music recalled that Human Nature were the first band that he signed without hesitation, after taking a call from Sydney talkback radio presenter Alan Jones in 1995 who said he had seen a vocal group called the Four Trax, and he was sending them to meet Handlin that day at 9.30am. The boys arrived and did their routine, including a stunning version of the Curtis Mayfield song People Get Ready, Handlin recalled this moment at the recent ARIA Awards ceremony in 2019 when the group were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame by Guy Sebastian “ They came into the board room and did two songs a capella, they blew me away, and I signed them on the spot,” the contract was executed in Handlin’s boardroom that afternoon.Mike Tierney suggested a name change to Human Nature, on the premise that they were innately inspired to perform together, and it was in their nature to harmonise. They released their debut single, Get It Goin’ co-written by the Tierney brothers and their producer Paul Begaud, it made #30 nationally and they quickly followed up two months later with Telling Everybody the title track from their debut album, which also peaked at #30. The album which showcased the boys’ ability to perform dance pop and blue-eyed soul, did a lot better and climbed to #7 nationally, sold 280,000 copies, and occupied a spot in the top 50 for 64 weeks!In October ’96 they had their first top ten hit when Wishes was lifted off their Telling Everybody album and charted at #4 nationally, the song was co-written by Alan Glass who had composed hits for Deneice Williams, The Stylistics and the Temptations and Andrew Klippel who had written songs for Phillip Bailey, the Sleepy Jacksons and Katie Noonan. The song features synth-inflected drums and organ and various George Moroder-inspired electronica beeping, clicking, and whirring in the background, Mike Tierney’s plaintive tenor vocals were well-supported by the baritone and bass contributions of the other singers, clearly the group were already competent at producing intricate counter-harmonies.
The success of Wishes revealed the group to be not only artful interpreters of blue-eyed soul songs but also convincing conveyors of boyband pop. Their stage performances were smoothly choreographed and reminiscent of their Motown inspirations the Temptations, the Miracles, and the Four Tops.Five songs were lifted off the debut album, after Wishes the reflective piano ballad Don’t Say Goodbye was released in Feb. ’97 and was a solid hit at #8, the promo clip featured a simple monochrome set with the group singing in a circle, sharing lead vocals, and piano accompaniment, it was classic boyband pop and the singers sported various hairstyles and beards, most unlike the uniformly-attired and coiffured performers of their future Las Vegas routines.
Whisper Your Name was released in June ’97 and charted #18 locally, and in Dec. ’97 they released a very convincing a capella cover of the Curtis Mayfield (below) song People Get Ready, one of their showcase songs when they first performed for Denis Handlin.This song was the biggest hit for the Impressions when released in 1965 charting #14 on the US Billboard Pop Chart, the song is a beautiful gospel-influenced composition which displayed a growing sense of social and political awareness by Curtis Mayfield. It is a much-honored song ranked 24th by Rolling Stone magazine in the list of the greatest songs ever, included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 songs that shaped rock and roll and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
The use of train imagery is a long tradition in black freedom anthems and was inspired by the Underground Railroad, which was not an actual train but an escape route north to freedom for negro slaves.Human Nature used percussive finger snaps and handclaps to add dramatic notes to their a capella version, the song charted #46 and took the boys back to their doo wop roots, it was an under-appreciated recording.