Last updated: 10/27/2008 11:00:00 AM
The story began over a decade ago, when a former founder member of Yazoo, The Assembly and "New Romantic supremos" Depeche Mode placed an advert in the music press. 21-year-old Andy Bell, a former professional mincer [honestly!] in a meat factory, was the 41st person to audition as a prospective singer for Vince Clarke's new project. Having hit it off straight away [the pair have, to this day, never had an argument] Clarke and Bell became Erasure.
Despite a distinct lack of initial high-flying chart action [earliest singles "Who Needs Love Like That" and "Heavenly Action" reached the not-so-dizzy heights of Numbers 55 and 100 respectively], Erasure battled on, playing their first gigs at London's Heaven and Marquee clubs. At the latter, the audience comprised of just two people, and a support act in the shape of Primal Scream. The critics described Erasure at this point as "Vince Clarke's latest vehicle for instating the synth as a viable torture weapon." Little were these doubters to know how long their torture was to last......
Third single "Oh L'Amour" was a huge hit in France and Australia, though less huge in Britain - reaching Number 85 in the charts. Erasure went on to play their first UK tour - at clubs and colleges up and down the country, with Andy dressed as a circus ringmaster, in rubber. Attendance was minimal but the response was encouraging - after one gig the entire audience went backstage to tell Vince and Andy how much they enjoyed it [all 18 of them!] The press were now becoming more encouraging, with Sounds commenting that "The combination of a grumpy ex-futurist and an outrageously camp singer may not sound like a recipe for success but, oddly enough, it's so ill-conceived, it's a masterstroke."
From 1987, Erasure started to infiltrate the Top Ten, chalking up a series of hits - including "Sometimes," "Victim Of Love," "Ship Of Fools," "Chains of Love" and "A Little Respect" - over the next couple of years. Their albums were reaching consistently higher placings and Erasure found themselves as [erk!] mainstays at the top of the charts. "The Innocents" was their first album to reach Number One, a spot to which they returned after a full nine months in the charts following release. Their 1989 single "Drama" prompted one reviewer to comment that "Andy sounds like a warbling prarie dog, although that doesn't detract from a triumphant recording." Possibly the most triumphant part of this recording was that doom rockers Jim and William of The Jesus and Mary Chain were persuaded to camp it up and provide backing vocals for the shouty bits in the chorus.
By now Erasure were performing at venues of gargantuan proportions. Vince and Andy donned silver space suits, while the stage set consisted of a jungle with giant steaming plants. The duo's reputation for live shows of preposterous dimensions was only to grow over the next few years. The size of their stage set was to become a problem in Tokyo in 1990, however, when, whilst the duo were enjoying an innocent pre-gig meal in a restaurant down the road, an earthquake caused the whole set to collapse. True to form, of course, Vince remained motionless and apparently unconcerned throughout the whole disruption. At the end of this, highly eventful, world tour, Erasure played to an audience of 60,000 at Milton Keynes Bowl, with Andy appearing as a devil with an extra, dubiously located, horn [years ahead of Take That and their supposedly risquŽ outfits.] The stage set was now becoming ever more ridiculous with the new addition of a giant inflatable snail, Ernie.
In 1991 Erasure released what was possibly their most overtly pop gem yet, "Love To Hate You," followed by the more brooding, "Am I Right," after which the duo made preparations for their most ambitious tour to date - 1992's The Phantasmogorical Entertainment. For this tour Andy entered riding on a swan and appeared variously as a rhinestone cowboy [with bottom exposed to the elements] and as a map of the world. Set changes were multiple and included The Wild West, a voyage by hot air balloon and a night-club, amongst others. The show even included an Abba sequence [to compliment the duo's highly successful "Abba-esque" EP.] In this Vince took the uncharacteristic step of emerging from behind his shield of synthesisers to join Andy in a dance routine in which the duo dressed up as Frida and Agnetha. This is something Clarke has vowed never to do again. Even the usually unshakeable Andy commented that it "all went a bit haywire." 1993 was a quite time for Erasure, the duo taking a much needed rest after the sh
enanigans of the two previous years.
The next year, however, the dynamic duo found themselves at the top of the charts once more, with the album "I Say I Say I Say," part of which was written in the tranquil surrounds of springtime Spain. The single "Run To The Sun," prompted Smash Hits to describe Erasures music as "sometimes a little too much like the theme music to Sonic The Hedgehog." Vince's synth technique had finally been rumbled. The twosome then took a rather different approach, going back into the studio to record their 1995, 70-minute art-rock concept album, imaginatively entitle "Erasure." This darker, some might say more daring, side to Erasure was to suprise more than just the duo's ever-increasing fan-base, showing an aspect of Vince and Andy that many may not have thought existed. The Guardian described the single "Stay With Me" as "more beautiful than this world deserves." Fine praise indeed, although they went on to say, "Now watch Andy Bell go and ruin it by wearing a tin-foil tutu in the video. On his head." TouchŽ!
In the last year, Clarke and Bell have been working on a new album, which is due for release at the end of March, 1997. The album was preceded by a single, "In My Arms," on January 6. They have also made their first tentative steps back onto the live circuit, with the [by their standards] "Tiny Tour," a chance for fans to enjoy the Erasure's greatest hits before they are able to hear the duo's new work. Erasure will be setting out on a tour of larger proportions after the album's release.
Meanwhile, Vince has provided us with his own [revealing as ever] account of a cross-section of tracks from the new album to keep us going until we can hear it for ourselves:
"In My Arms" - This is a slow song
"Rain" - Slightly faster [the music comes mostly from synthesisers]
"Worlds On Fire" - Another song from the album [once again Andy Bell does the singing]
"Boy" - Song Number Four