December 2nd, 1989.
I was a shy boy from the lonely street with no friends to meet.
I had no job to do.
I’d sit in silence in my bedroom.
I really did have no friends.
I was sixteen and hadn’t yet fallen completely under the spell of Morrissey and the rest of the misery brigade. My record collection was a genuinely peculiar mix of my parents old albums; Motown, The Who, The Kinks, The Jam, Blondie, The Pretenders and my own tentative steps into the world of modern chart music; Wet Wet Wet’s “Popped in Souled Out”, a few Depeche Mode albums, the Human League…and four albums that I loved more than the others.
“Wonderland”, “The Circus”, “The Innocents” and “Wild!” by Erasure. Each one a glistening, towering, shimmering combination of electro-pop, soul, heartache, heartbreak, sex, sexuality and shine. I adored them. I’m not afraid to tell you that many hours were spent in front of the mirror, headphones plugged in, hairbrush as mic in hand…dancing, prancing and miming along to “Oh L’amour”, “Who Needs Love Like That”, “Victim of Love”, “Sometimes”, “It Doesn’t Have to Be”, “Chains of Love”, “Phantom Bride”, “A Little Respect”, “Blue Savannah”, “Drama”, “Star” and so many more.
I had been drawn to Erasure in the first instance by my earlier love for “Speak and Spell” by Depeche Mode which he was a central (the central) part of and Yazoo where, with the divine Alison Moyet, he had crafted a perfect mix of modern electronica and traditional jazz and soul. He was, it was clear, a genius.
Remember earlier I said I had no friends?
Here is all the proof you need…I attended the December 2nd 1989 “Wild!” tour show at the SECC in Glasgow with my mother and her friend. Yup. That’s right folks, at the age of 16 the only people I could take to a concert were my mum and her pal. Pray for me.
It was a night of wonder. A genuine show. Andy Bell, one of the great performers in British pop history, was impossible to take your eyes off of…I’m not sure that I blinked all night. He danced from the first note until the last note, he sang beautifully, he was, quite simply, one of the most incredible things I had ever seen. Growing up in a small town in Fife I hadn’t ever seen anyone like him; he was a star.
It’s nearly thirty years later and I’ve managed to get my hands on two tickets to see Erasure at the beautiful Usher Hall in Edinburgh. The seats are in the back row of the Upper Circle of this old theatre. The only way I could be any further from the stage would be if I was outside. I’m a bit worried about going to this show…what if the years haven’t been kind? What if Vince and Andy have grown tired of the hits and have gone all Bob Dylan on me? What if it’s not as good as the first time…very few things ever are…and it spoils the memory?
The lights go down.
The theme music from “Tales of the Unexpected” blasts from the speakers.
Two dancers gyrate behind screens to the left and right of the stage…they are lit in red, exactly like the opening titles to the television show.
Vince Clarke appears on his own mini-stage/studio on a plinth several feet above the stage.
Framed by neon lights and sitting astride a chair like Liza Minnelli in “Cabaret” Andy appears and starts to sing…
“Oh l’amour, what’s a boy in love supposed to do…”
The entire venue goes absolutely berserk.
I’m on my feet instantly, teetering at the top of a near sheer drop down the stairs of the Upper Circle, my vertigo consigned to the dustbin.
I’ve had a horrible week.
An even worse week looms.
It’s all forgotten.
For the next two hours I don’t stop dancing, I don’t stop singing and I don’t stop smiling.
You know it’s a great concert when you can hear “Sometimes”, “Victim of Love”, “Ship of Fools”, “Blue Savannah”, “A Little Respect” and a cover version of “Atomic” that would have Debbie Harry turning green with jealousy but leave wanting to hear the songs you didn’t know so well again and again…”In My Arms”, “Sacred”, “Mad as We Are”, “World be Gone” (from the flawless latest album of the same name) are just some of the highlights of a set that gives the audience everything it wants and a fistful of things it didn’t even know it wanted.
Andy Bell and Vince Clarke have given the charts more hits than Muhammad Ali gave his opponents. Lyrically they touch on the things that matter most; love, loss, hope, despair and sex. They do it with so much style that Maurice Sedwell probably turns to them for inspiration. We should be grateful that in these troubled and turbulent times they are still here bringing a little charm and a lot of style with them.