Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekend Diversion: erasure

Some people will be appalled by this, others will cheer: If I had to pick a favourite pop group, it would be erasure. The duo of Vince Clarke with Andy Bell on vocals has given me much music that I connect with. In fact, I couldn’t narrow down the videos to only one, so I chose three.

Andy Bell was recruited by Vince Clarke after the end of Clarke’s former group Yazoo (Yaz in the United States), with vocals by Alison Moyet. At the time, many Yazoo fans (which included me) commented how much Bell sounded like Moyet. And yet, he didn’t (especially as erasure went on to have 24 consecutive top 20 hits in the UK between 1986 and 1997). To date, they’ve sold over 20 million albums worldwide. It didn't hurt my appreciation that I quite fancied Bell back then.

Bell is openly gay and HIV-positive. I admire his openness about both in an industry—and society—that doesn’t encourage openness about either. Late last year, the duo released a remix of their hit “A Little Respect” as a fundraiser for the Hetrick-Martin Institute and the True Colors Fund. The original was from their album The Innocents (1988) and reached number 4 on the US Hot 100 chart and number 2 on the US dance chart (and a peak of 24 in New Zealand).

The first video, at the top of this post, is “Sometimes”, one of my favourite erasure tracks. It’s from the album The Circus (1987) and reached number 4 on the US dance charts, and number 15 on the NZ pop charts. I remember watching the video for the song at Sidetrack in Chicago.

Next up is one of their bigger US hits, “Always” from their CD, I say I say I say (1994). It reached number 20 on the Hot 100 and number 4 on the “Top 40 Mainstream Chart”, whatever that is. I also saw this video in Sidetrack, and I have to admit that when I first saw it, I was disappointed: Andy Bell dances and seems to sing to a woman. In context, however, it’s not a straight affectation as I thought at the time. This was the last erasure CD I bought before moving to New Zealand, where Nigel already had the extended version of “I Love Saturdays”.

The final video is “Blue Savannah”, from the CD Wild! (1989). I’ve always thought of this as an album cut, rather than a single (and, in fact, it wasn’t one of their higher charting singles). However, the song took on a different meaning for me when I moved to New Zealand and part of the chorus became particularly important to me: “My home is where the heart is/Sweet to surrender to you only/I send my love to you”. Anyone who listened to my podcast in the early days will know what I mean.

Those are three erasure singles, all of which I liked (and still do). One day I may do another post like this (there are a lot more erasure songs, after all…), but there are other gay artists I like and want to profile this month—though at this point I have no idea who I’ll feature next week!


Angela said...

I <3 Erasure too, I don't care what anyone says. :) I think "Star" is most significant to me, as my college friends and I walked into an impromptu singalong of it (with bongo accompaniment) as we wended our way through our first ever Halloween on the Castro in SF. :)

Arthur Schenck said...

I loved that song, too (and, not surprisingly, there are videos of it on YouTube. It wasn't exactly easy to limit this post to only three songs… ;-)