The idiot's guide to Erasure...
Synth duos were ten a penny in the '80s, but like the stubborn understains in a student's linen, few survived, adapted and thrived like Vince Clarke and Andy Bell.
AS IT HAPPENS...
Think of Erasure as the comedy duo of electro-pop. Andy Bell is the flamboyant exhibitionist and Vince Clarke is the straight man (no, really). But it could have easily worked out differently. Vince had come from good synth-based stock, having already been part of Depeche Mode and Yazoo, and after a brief spell with Fergal Sharkey as the Assembly, had decided to form Erasure in 1984. Vince worked through 41 singers and was probably about ready to give Alison Moyet a ring, when in flopped ex-choirboy Andy Bell. Erasure was born.
Clarke’s expert songcraft ensured that Erasure’s noise-making didn’t go unheard, and although their first album ‘Wonderland’ peaked at No.57, it did produce the moderately successful single ‘Who Needs Love Like That’. 1985 was a bumper year by comparison, with the follow up album ‘The Circus’ typifying the ‘80s pop sound, and the single ‘Sometimes’ bringing Erasure to the fore. It’s safe to say that after this, it was downhill all the way.
OUT AND OUT
Erasure’s appeal was a very clever two pronged affair. Clarke’s upbeat melodic dance-pop garnered fans of all musical denominations. But Bell’s overtly camp stance was a breath of fresh air and attracted a massive gay following. While Clarke was happy to remain meekly tucked behind his keyboard, Andy Bell lolled around onstage in a manner so camp he made Quentin Crisp look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Many consider Bell to be the first openly gay performer, which isn’t a bad title for a former choirboy from Peterborough. Even the Americans bought into the quaint versus absurdly theatrical formula (‘Chains Of Love’ paved the way for mainstream Stateside success in 1988). Gareth Gates, this could be you one day.
COME AND ABBA GO...
Although they’d had successful albums and singles, it took a synth-pop rehash of Abba classics to gain Erasure their first UK No.1. Andy Bell gave his rubber jumpsuits time to air and he stepped into shoes of Abba’s Agnetha Faltskog, even managing to persuade the limelight-avoiding Vince to dress up as Anni-Frid. This little cross-dressing foray sparked something in Vince, and before we knew it he was getting his knob out for Rankin photographs, an honour we would have expected from Andy, but we digress. Every great success has a downside, however, and such was Abba-Esque’s success that it prompted Australian Abba clones Bjorn Again to return the gesture with Erasure-ish. It was crap.
WHICH BRINGS US TO...
The rest of the ‘90s saw Britpop take on all comers, but Andy and Vince carried on regardless, much like earlier albums ‘The Innocents’, and ‘Wild!’, ‘Chorus’ and ‘I Say, I Say, I Say’ still managed to top the album charts. And for those that miss the quirky pop pairing, take heart from the news that the duo are touring the UK in February (something Vince was adamant he’d never do again) so dig out those Abba wigs, and bring a bottle of fabric de-odouriser, cos while the music stands strong, it’s not as strong as a middle-aged man in a rubber catsuit.