Chart for stowaways – 18 November 2017

Here are this week’s top albums:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Yes
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Release
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife
  5. Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental
  6. Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  7. Tears For Fears – Rule The World – The Greatest Hits
  8. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  9. Erasure – World Be Gone
  10. David Bowie – Legacy
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Retro chart for stowaways – 29 November 2014

For the first time ever, here’s a retro chart from the lifespan of this blog, never published before. Here are the albums from just three years ago this week:

  1. Röyksopp – The Inevitable End
  2. Erasure – The Violet Flame
  3. David Bowie – Nothing Has Changed
  4. Sparks – In Outer Space
  5. Goldfrapp – Tales of Us
  6. David Bowie – Reality
  7. New Order – Waiting for the Sirens’ Call
  8. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again
  9. William Orbit – Strange Cargo 5
  10. The Human League – Dare

 

Chart for stowaways – 21 October 2017

Here are the week’s top albums:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Release
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental
  4. Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  5. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  6. Pet Shop Boys – Yes
  7. Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
  8. a-ha – MTV Unplugged – Summer Solstice
  9. Erasure – World Be Gone
  10. Goldfrapp – Silver Eye

Erasure – Rain Plus

The non-charting single is a strange phenomenon that only really appeared in the mid-1990s. Remixes were growing in number, and in the US, the response was to make singles last longer and longer, while the UK put stringent limits on the number and duration of tracks that could be included.

Erasure had toyed with the concept a couple of years earlier, with the German and Czech-only single Rock Me Gently, released as a six-track chart-ineligible import in the UK for fans. With the Cowboy album, I suspect they realised that their days of chart domination were over – In My Arms appeared in the classically quiet first week of January, and then outside of Germany, Rain only ever appeared as the eleven-track collection that we’re listening to today – Rain Plus, which was released twenty years ago this week.

Rain is a peculiarly British song though, obsessing about the weather and the effect it might have on one’s demeanour. For the single, Al Stone remixed it and made it punchier, and it surely deserved to be a decent hit.

It would be difficult to believe that Erasure had any idea what they would get with BBE‘s remix of Cowboy‘s lead single In My Arms. Far from being full-on dance, it’s a soft, slightly cheesy pop version which honestly sounds just like anything else on the charts at the time – even the drums take heavy inspiration from Atomic Kitten.

This is an odd collection to say the least, and so the b-side is Erasure‘s attempt at the theme for Star Trek: First Contact. Inspired (that’s an understatement) by Robert Miles, it’s a brilliant piece of dreamy trance that sounds absolutely nothing like anything Erasure ever did before or since. This might be a bold statement, but I think it’s also one of their finest moments.

The tracks on this release do appear to have been sequenced at random, as the next track is a live version of Rain, amusingly picked at random by an audience member at a concert in San Francisco. We then travel to Oxford for two more live tracks, Sometimes and Love to Hate You. All pretty good, although you have to wonder exactly how and why these tracks were picked (most likely is that they were considering three CDs – one with the original version and a couple of other tracks, then a remix CD and a three-track live CD).

Then we’re into the remixes, starting with Jon of the Pleased Wimmin‘s take on the single, a pleasantly beatsy remake full of arpeggios and drum fills. Then John “OO” Fleming turns up with a slightly inexplicable but admittedly catchy vocal trance version of Sometimes, which seems to have been slightly uncomfortably sped up, but is still rather enjoyable.

Someone else taking inspiration from Robert Miles is Dekkard, whose Vocal mix of In My Arms brings a number of elements together. The completely off-beat loop of the vocal sample doesn’t really work, but in some ways this version has actually aged better than the previous ones. Commissioned for the US release of In My Arms earlier in the year, but then spurned in favour of some dreadful house mixes, it finally found its place on this slightly strange but enjoyable compilation single.

Erasure have never really done deep house, but I think the closest they come is with Blue Amazon‘s Twisted Circles remix of Rain, clocking in at just a touch under thirteen minutes in duration. It’s good, and takes influence from a lot of different places, but you have to wonder whether it got played much in clubs at the time. This lengthy excursion closes the single.

According to the track listing, anyway. There’s actually an instrumental version of First Contact hiding at the end, so you get to enjoy it all over again in its entirety, for no particularly obvious reason other than that it’s good.

Which is a reasonable summary of this single, actually. There’s no particular reason for it to exist, apart from a whole load of decent unreleased remixes and oddities lying around at the end of an album. So why not just throw them all together and call it a special “plus” single? I’m not sure I fully understand, but it’s a pretty good collection anyway – especially if you’re a completist.

The original Rain Plus single seems to have fallen out of print at some stage in the last two decades, but you should be able to find a second-hand copy if you poke around.

Chart for stowaways – 7 October 2017

Here are the week’s top singles:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Reunion
  2. Erasure – Love You To The Sky
  3. Kraftwerk – Trans Europa Express
  4. Kraftwerk – Computerliebe
  5. Depeche Mode – Going Backwards
  6. Saint Etienne – Magpie Eyes
  7. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 17)
  8. Pet Shop Boys – I’m with Stupid
  9. David Bowie – Heroes
  10. Massive Attack – Ritual Spirit EP

Erasure – Pop! The First 20 Hits

Pop! With a simple synth chord, Who Needs Love (Like That) begins. A very minor hit in 1985, Erasure‘s career definitely launched with a slightly uneven start. This collection, released an astonishing quarter of a century ago this week, would enter the charts at number 1 just seven years after that debut single, but it did take them a bit of time to get going.

In the four years since leaving Depeche ModeVince Clarke had founded the hugely successful but turbulent Yazoo, and released two albums as part of that project before attempting a multi-vocalist collaboration called The Assembly which faltered after just one (admittedly substantial) hit. One flop collaboration with Paul Quinn left him scraping around for a new vocalist. Andy Bell replied to the advert, performed amazingly, and so Erasure began.

Debut album Wonderland was, bluntly, a bit of a mess, and the second single Heavenly Action, which flopped in late 1985, is pretty representative of that album. It’s definitely catchy, but it’s far from their best. Oh l’Amour, on the other hand, is one of the best tracks that Erasure ever recorded, and it really is a shame that it charted so low, peaking at number 85 in early 1986.

Fortunately, rather than splitting up immediately, Erasure went back to the drawing board, and reappeared in late 1986 with the astonishing Sometimes, peaking at number 2. The subsequent album The Circus yielded a further three huge hits, It Doesn’t Have to BeVictim of Love, and finally my favourite, title track The CircusErasure‘s legacy was sealed.

By the time The Innocents was released in 1988, they were really at the top of their game, and lead single Ship of Fools, while perhaps not as catchy a lead single as Sometimes, is a beautiful, melancholic, piece of synthpop music. The uptempo follow-up Chains of Love, after some initial signs of potentially being very cheesy, grows into another brilliant song. But I suspect what you remember from this album is A Little Respect, the biggest single from this album, released in September 1988.

I could probably live without the snappy Christmas hit Stop!, but it appears to have become a live favourite in recent years, so I might be alone in that regard. Then we’re on to the 1989 album Wild! (also spelt with an exclamation mark), which launched with the single Drama! (there’s another one) in September 1989.

By 1989, Erasure were pretty much guaranteed a top twenty hit – actually, they had an unbroken run between 1986 and 1997, but more impressive was their string of five consecutive number one albums, of which Wild! was the second. To say that the public loved them would be an understatement, as even their slower tracks such as You Surround Me, a beautiful piece released as their Christmas hit for 1989, still managed a very respectable number 15 at a traditionally very competitive time of year.

Now in the 1990s, the hits continue to fly, with Blue Savannah and Star, before the deeply analogue and beautiful Chorus album opens with its brilliant title track, a number 3 hit in mid-1991. Then, of course, comes Love to Hate You, with its injected crowed noises and middle section borrowed from I Will Survive. Pure pop perfection.

Seasons continue to pass, with the deliciously autumnal Am I Right?, followed by the bubbly spring hit Breath of Life, before the unexpected summer 1992 hit Take a Chance on Me, from the Abba-esque EP, which held onto the number 1 spot for five weeks. This was the most popular of the four Abba covers that made up the EP, and much as I like the others, the decision on their next singles compilation Hits! The Very Best of Erasure (2003) to include no fewer than three of the tracks was clearly misguided.

On the US edition of the album, that’s your lot, but the rest of the world fares better, with the brilliantly punchy Hamburg mix of debut hit Who Needs Love (Like That). This version finally took the song to its rightful place in the top ten, and bookends the album perfectly.

So there’s really no doubt about it – after a slightly uncertain start, Pop! The First 20 Hits builds into a fantastic collection, compiling the first seven years of Erasure‘s career. While they did have some very worthy hits over the next seven years, they slowed down and their consistency finally started to falter. But that’s another story, for another time.

The original Pop! is still widely available, but why not be brave and go with the slightly cheaper double-disc Total Pop!?. Sorry, the punctuation got a bit confusing there.

Chart for stowaways – 23 September 2017

This is the latest album chart:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Release
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental
  4. Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  5. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  6. Gary Numan – Savage (Songs from a Broken World)
  7. Erasure – World Be Gone
  8. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
  9. Goldfrapp – Silver Eye
  10. Sparks – Hippopotamus