NME Poll Winners 1952-1992 (Part Two)

Finally, having worked through all the other categories, let’s take a look at the artist winners for the NME Polls from 1952 to 1992. As I mentioned last week, it’s hard to trace the winners of a particular category through time, so I’ve taken a few liberties. Essentially anything that seems to be roughly the same category has been treated as the same thing. Also, for the year ranges, there are a few missing years here and there, so for instance 1967-1970 could mean anything between 2 and 3 wins.

Best Newcomer

For thirty-five years, the NME Poll included a newcomer award, variously titled “World’s Most Promising New Name”, “Best New Group”, and various other things. It’s an amazing time capsule of new acts throughout the ages – who would have thought that Cliff Richard and The Stone Roses could appear on the same list?

Best New Artist

  • 1956 – Ronnie Scott
  • 1958 – Cliff Richard
  • 1959 – Craig Douglas
  • 1960 – Emile Ford
  • 1961 – John Leyton
  • 1962 – Frank Ifield
  • 1963 – Gerry Marsden
  • 1964 – Mick Jagger
  • 1965 – Seekers (group) & Donovan (solo)
  • 1966 – Spencer Davis Group (group) & Stevie Winwood (solo)
  • 1967 – Bee Gees (group) & Engelbert Humperdinck (solo)
  • 1968 – Love Affair (group & Mary Hopkins (solo)
  • 1970 – Jethro Tull
  • 1971 – McGuinness Flint (group) & Elton John (solo)
  • 1972 – New Seekers (group) & Rod Stewart (solo)
  • 1973 – Golden Earring (World) & Leo Sayer (British)
  • 1975 – Bad Company
  • 1976 – Eddie and the Hot Rods
  • 1977 – Tom Robinson
  • 1978 – Public Image Ltd.
  • 1979 – The Specials
  • 1980 – UB40
  • 1981 – Altered Images
  • 1983 – The Smiths
  • 1984 – Bronski Beat
  • 1985 – The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • 1986 – The Housemartins
  • 1987 – The Proclaimers
  • 1988 – The House of Love
  • 1989 – The Stone Roses
  • 1990 – The Charlatans
  • 1991 – Kingmaker
  • 1992 – Suede

Technical Categories

A lot of categories seem to have come and gone throughout the history of the awards to celebrate particular types of performer. Here are some of the highlights!

Musician of the Year

  • 1952 – Ronnie Scott
  • 1954 – Eric Delaney
  • 1957 – Eddie Calvert

Best Guitarist

  • 1954 – Bert Weedon
  • 1973 – Eric Clapton
  • 1976 – Jimmy Page
  • 1978 – Mick Jones
  • 1979-1982 – Paul Weller
  • 1983 – The Edge

Best Bassist

  • 1973, 1976 – Paul McCartney
  • 1978 – Jean Jacques Burnel
  • 1979-1982 – Bruce Foxton
  • 1983 – Peter Hook

Best Keyboardist/Electronics

  • 1973, 1976-1977 – Rick Wakeman
  • 1978-1981 – Dave Greenfield
  • 1982 – Vince Clarke
  • 1983 – Steve Nieve

Best Drummer

  • 1973, 1975 – Carl Palmer
  • 1976 – John Bonham
  • 1977 – Paul Cook
  • 1978 – Keith Moon
  • 1979-1982 – Rick Buckler
  • 1983 – Budgie

Best Instrumentalist

  • 1962-1963 – Jet Harris
  • 1973 – Roy Wood
  • 1975-1977 – Mike Oldfield
  • 1981 – Saxa
  • 1982 – The Emerald Express, Violin
  • 1983 – The TKO Horns
  • 1985 – Johnny Marr

Best Producer

  • 1973 – David Bowie
  • 1975 – Eddie Offord

Best Songwriter/Composer

  • 1973 – Elton John / Bernie Taupin
  • 1976 – Bob Dylan
  • 1978 – Elvis Costello
  • 1979-1982 – Paul Weller
  • 1983 – Elvis Costello
  • 1984-1985 – Morrissey / Johnny Marr

Best Solo Artist

Curiously, the solo artist categories were for the longest time broken up into “world”, “British”, and even “US” for a while.

Best Female Singer

  • 1952-1954 – Lita Roza
  • 1957 – Ruby Murray
  • 1958 – Alma Cogan
  • 1959-1961 – Connie Francis
  • 1962-1964 – Brenda Lee
  • 1965-1967 – Dusty Springfield
  • 1968 – Lulu
  • 1970 – Dusty Springfield
  • 1971-1973 – Diana Ross
  • 1975 – Joni Mitchell
  • 1976 – Linda Ronstadt
  • 1977 – Julie Covington
  • 1978 – Debbie Harry
  • 1979 – Kate Bush
  • 1981-1983 – Siouxsie Sioux
  • 1984-1986 – Elizabeth Fraser
  • 1987 – Suzanne Vega

Best British Female Singer

  • 1955, 1957 – Alma Cogan
  • 1959-1960 – Shirley Bassey
  • 1961-1962 – Helen Shapiro
  • 1963 – Kathy Kirby
  • 1964-1966 – Dusty Springfield
  • 1968, 1970 – Lulu
  • 1971-1972 – Cilla Black
  • 1973 – Maggie Bell
  • 1975 – Kiki Dee

Best US Female Singer

  • 1955-1957 – Doris Day
  • 1958 – Connie Francis

Best Male Singer

  • 1952-1954 – Dickie Valentine
  • 1955 – Frank Sinatra
  • 1956 – Dickie Valentine
  • 1958 – Frankie Vaughan
  • 1959-1962 – Elvis Presley
  • 1963 – Cliff Richard
  • 1964-1972 – Elvis Presley
  • 1973 – David Bowie
  • 1975-1976 – Robert Plant
  • 1977-1978 – David Bowie
  • 1979 – Sting
  • 1980 – Paul Weller
  • 1981 – David Bowie
  • 1982 – Paul Weller
  • 1983 – David Bowie
  • 1984 – Bono
  • 1985-1992 – Morrissey

Best British Male Singer

  • 1955, 1957 – Dickie Valentine
  • 1959-1967 – Cliff Richard
  • 1968-1970 – Tom Jones
  • 1971-1972 – Cliff Richard
  • 1973 – David Bowie
  • 1975 – Paul Rodgers

Best US Male Singer

  • 1955-1956 – Frank Sinatra
  • 1957 – Pat Boone
  • 1958 – Elvis Presley

Outstanding Popular Singer

  • 1955 – Frank Sinatra
  • 1957 – Pat Boone
  • 1958 – Elvis Presley

Best Instrumental Personality

  • 1958 – Eddie Calvert
  • 1959-1960 – Russ Conway
  • 1961 – Bert Weedon

Best Musical Personality

  • 1955 – Bill Haley
  • 1956 – Dickie Valentine
  • 1957-1959 – Elvis Presley
  • 1960 – Duane Eddy
  • 1961-1972 – Elvis Presley

Best British Musical Personality

  • 1956 – Dickie Valentine
  • 1957 – Tommy Steele
  • 1958-1959 – Frankie Vaughan
  • 1960 – Lonnie Donegan
  • 1961 – Adam Faith
  • 1962-1963 – Joe Brown
  • 1964 – Cliff Richard
  • 1965 – John Lennon
  • 1966-1972 – Cliff Richard

Genre-Specific Categories

These are just a selection of the categories that relate to a particular genre of music.

Best Soul / Funk Act

  • 1973, 1975 – Stevie Wonder
  • 1984 – Womack & Womack
  • 1985 – Cameo

Best Reggae Act

  • 1984 – Smiley Culture
  • 1985 – UB40

Best R&B / Blues Act

  • 1964-1965 – The Rolling Stones
  • 1966 – Spencer Davis Group
  • 1967-1968 – The Rolling Stones
  • 1970 – Fleetwood Mac

Best Traditional Jazz Act

  • 1961 – Acker Bilk
  • 1962-1963 – Kenny Ball

Best Group

Finally, we reach the categories for best group – of which there are a few.

Best Group

  • 1954 – Stargazers
  • 1955 – Four Aces
  • 1956 – Stargazers
  • 1957 – The Platters
  • 1958-1962 – Everly Brothers
  • 1963-1965 – The Beatles
  • 1966 – The Beach Boys
  • 1967-1970 – The Beatles
  • 1971 – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • 1972 – T. Rex
  • 1973 – Yes
  • 1975 – Roxy Music
  • 1976 – Led Zeppelin
  • 1977 – Sex Pistols
  • 1978 – The Clash
  • 1979-1982 – The Jam
  • 1983 – New Order
  • 1984-1987 – The Smiths
  • 1988 – The Wedding Present
  • 1989 – The Stone Roses
  • 1990 – Happy Mondays
  • 1991-1992 – R.E.M.

Best British Group

  • 1955 – Stargazers
  • 1957 – King Brothers
  • 1958-1959 – The Mudlarks
  • 1960 – King Brothers
  • 1961-1962 – The Springfields
  • 1963-1971 – The Beatles
  • 1972 – T. Rex
  • 1973 – Yes

Best British Small Band

  • 1952 – Johnny Dankworth Seven
  • 1954 – Ronnie Scott and His Orchestra
  • 1955-1957 – The Kirchins
  • 1958-1959 – Lonnie Donegan
  • 1960-1963 – The Shadows

Best British Large Band or Orchestra

  • 1952-1961 – Ted Heath and His Music
  • 1962-1963 – Joe Loss

Best British Instrumental Unit

  • 1964-1971 – The Shadows
  • 1972 – Collective Consciousness Society

Best Live Act

  • 1973 – Alice Cooper (World) & Genesis (British)
  • 1975 – Genesis
  • 1982 – The Jam
  • 1985 – The Pogues

That’s it for now – we’ll continue our journey through the NME Awards soon.

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NME Poll Winners – The 1980s

Throughout the 1980s, the NME Poll Winners suffered without an annual ceremony where they could drink lots and vomit on the politicians of the day. Overshadowed by the more popular BPI Awards and British Rock & Pop Awards, it’s notable by the late eighties that contemporary pop has been eschewed altogether by NME’s readership.

Oh, and you might enjoy the slightly questionable choices for “human being of the year”…

1980

  • Best Group: The Jam
  • Best New Act: UB40
  • Best Male Singer: Paul Weller
  • Best Guitarist: Paul Weller
  • Best Drummer: Rick Buckler
  • Best Songwriter: Paul Weller
  • Best Bassist: Bruce Foxton
  • Best Keyboardist: Dave Greenfield
  • Best Other Instrumentalist: Saxa
  • Best Single: The Jam, for Going Underground
  • Best Album: The Jam, for Sound Affects
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: The Jam, for Sound Affects
  • Best Disc Jockey: John Peel
  • Best Dressed Person: Adam Ant
  • Haircut of the Year: Eugene Reynolds
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Paul Weller
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • Event of the Year: Death of John Lennon
  • TV Programme: Not the Nine O’Clock News
  • Movie of the Year: The Elephant Man

1981

  • Best Group: The Jam
  • Best New Act: Altered Images
  • Most Missed Person: John Lennon
  • Best Songwriter: Paul Weller
  • Best Female Singer: Siouxsie Sioux
  • Best Male Singer: David Bowie
  • Best Single: The Specials, for Ghost Town
  • Best LP: Echo and the Bunnymen, for Heaven Up Here
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: Echo and the Bunnymen, for Heaven Up Here
  • Best Guitarist: Paul Weller
  • Best Bassist: Bruce Foxton
  • Best Drummer: Rick Buckler
  • Best Keyboardist: Dave Greenfield
  • Best TV Programme: Coronation Street
  • Best Radio Show: John Peel
  • Best Film: Gregory’s Girl
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Paul Weller
  • Best Dressed Person: Michael Foot
  • Creep of the Year: Adam Ant*

* The NME website says “Adam Andy” but I suspect this must be a typo – please correct me if you disagree!

1982

  • Best Group: The Jam
  • Best Male Singer: Paul Weller
  • Best Female Singer: Siouxsie Sioux
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Paul Weller
  • Best Songwriter: Paul Weller
  • Best Single: The Jam, for Town Called Malice
  • Best Longplayer: The Jam, for The Gift
  • Best Live Act: The Jam
  • Best Dancefloor Favourite: Wham!, for Young Guns (Go for It)
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: Siouxsie and the Banshees – A Kiss in the Dreamhouse
  • Event of the Year: The Jam Split
  • Best Dressed Male: Paul Weller
  • Best Dressed Female: Siouxsie Sioux
  • Best Haircut: Paul Weller
  • Best Electronics: Vince Clarke
  • Best Guitarist: Paul Weller
  • Best Bassist: Bruce Foxton
  • Best Drummer: Rick Buckler
  • Best Miscellaneous Instrument: The Emerald Express, Violin
  • Best Radio Show: John Peel
  • Best Music Video: Madness, for House of Fun
  • Best TV Show: The Young Ones
  • Best Film: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

1983

  • Best Group: New Order
  • Best New Act: The Smiths
  • Best Dressed Female: Siouxsie Sioux
  • Female Singer: Siouxsie Sioux
  • Songwriter: Elvis Costello
  • Male Singer: David Bowie
  • Best Dressed Male: David Bowie
  • Best Long Player: Elvis Costello, for Punch the Clock
  • Best Single: New Order, for Blue Monday
  • Best Film: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
  • Best Promo Video: Michael Jackson, for Thriller
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Paul Weller
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • TV Show: The Tube
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: New Order, for Power, Corruption and Lies
  • Best Radio Programme: John Peel
  • Best Guitarist: The Edge
  • Best Drummer: Budgie
  • Best Miscellaneous Musician: The TKO Horns
  • Best Bassist: Peter Hook
  • Best Keyboardist: Steve Nieve

1984

  • Best Group: The Smiths
  • Best New Act: Bronski Beat
  • Best Reggae Act: Smiley Culture
  • Best Soul Act: Womack & Womack
  • Best TV Show: The Tube
  • Best Radio Show: John Peel
  • Best Single: Frankie Goes to Hollywood, for Relax
  • Best LP: Cocteau Twins, for Treasure
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: Frankie Goes to Hollywood, for Welcome to the Pleasuredome
  • Promo Video: Frankie Goes to Hollywood, for Two Tribes
  • Best Film: Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • Best Male Singer: Bono
  • Best Songwriter: Morrissey / Johnny Marr
  • Best Female Singer: Elizabeth Fraser
  • Best Instrumentalist: Johnny Marr
  • Best Dressed Person: Paul Weller
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Arthur Scargill

1985

  • Best Group: The Smiths
  • Best New Act: The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • Best Male Singer: Morrissey
  • Best Female Singer: Elizabeth Fraser
  • Best Songwriter: Morrissey / Johnny Marr
  • Best Single: The Jesus and Mary Chain, for Never Understand
  • LP of the Year: The Smiths, for Meat is Murder
  • Best Soul/Funk Band: Cameo
  • Best Reggae Act: UB40
  • Best Live Act: The Pogues
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Bob Geldof
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • Best Dressed: Morrissey
  • Worst Dressed: Bob Geldof
  • Best Haircut: Morrissey
  • Worst Haircut: Feargal Sharkey
  • Biggest Mouth: Bob Geldof
  • Best Film: Letter to Brezhnev
  • Best TV Programme: The Old Grey Whistle Test
  • Best Radio Show: John Peel
  • Best Video: Talking Heads, for Road to Nowhere
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: The Pogues, for Rum, Sodomy and the Lash
  • Best Hype: The Jesus and Mary Chain

1986

  • Best Single: The Smiths, for Panic
  • Best LP: The Smiths, for The Queen is Dead
  • Best Male Singer: Morrissey
  • Best Female Singer: Elizabeth Fraser
  • Best Group: The Smiths
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Morrissey
  • Best Club/Venue: Town & Country Club
  • Best Dance Record: Cameo, for Word Up
  • Threat of the Year: AIDS
  • Sex Symbol: Joanne Whalley
  • Event of the Year: 1986 FIFA World Cup
  • Best Film: Mona Lisa
  • Best TV Show: The Singing Detective
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • Best New Music: The Housemartins
  • Best Radio Show: John Peel

1987

  • Best Group: The Smiths
  • Best Single: Prince, for Sign O The Times
  • Best LP: The Smiths, for Strangeways Here We Come
  • Male Singer: Morrissey
  • Best Female Singer: Suzanne Vega
  • Best New Act: The Proclaimers
  • Best Dance Record: M/A/R/R/S, for Pump Up the Volume
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Morrissey
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • Bad News of the Year: Another Conservative Victory at the General Election
  • Safe Sex: Morrissey
  • Radio: John Peel
  • Best TV Programme: Brookside
  • Best Film: Angel Heart
  • Event of the Year: Nuclear Agreement

1988

  • Best Band: The Wedding Present
  • Solo Artist: Morrissey
  • Best New Band/Act: The House of Love
  • Best Single: The House of Love, for Destroy the Heart
  • Best LP: R.E.M., for Green
  • Best TV Show: Brookside
  • Ugly Bastard of the Year: Bros (collective award)
  • Object of Desire of the Year: Wendy James
  • Film of the Year: A Fish Called Wanda
  • Favourite NME Cover of 1988: Morrissey
  • Best Night Out: The Wedding Present
  • Radio Show of the Year: John Peel
  • Stimulant of the Year: Acid
  • Event of the Year: Nelson Mandela‘s Birthday Bash
  • Bad News of the Year: US Election Result
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Morrissey
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher

1989

  • Band of the Year: The Stone Roses
  • LP of the Year: The Stone Roses, for The Stone Roses
  • Single of the Year: The Stone Roses, for Fool’s Gold
  • Best New Band/Artist: The Stone Roses
  • Best Solo Artist: Morrissey
  • Best Dance Record: Happy Mondays, for WFL
  • Hype of the Year: Batman
  • Object of Desire: Wendy James
  • Radio Show: John Peel
  • TV Show: Blackadder
  • Film of the Year: Dead Poets’ Society
  • Fashion of the Year: Flares
  • Club/Venue of the Year: The Haçienda
  • Event of the Year (Music): Reading Festival
  • Event of the Year (Real Life): Revolution in Eastern Europe
  • Bastard of the Year: Margaret Thatcher

See also

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.

Yazoo – Upstairs at Eric’s

After his shock departure from Depeche Mode just a matter of months earlier, the young Vince Clarke wasted no time by partnering with the incredible vocalist Alison Moyet to form Yazoo (or Yaz, if you were in the US). Their debut release Upstairs at Eric’s first appeared an incredible thirty-five years ago this week.

It opens with the glorious single Don’t Go. Could anything really be better than this? Where Depeche Mode‘s debut Speak and Spell was naïve and at times a bit silly, this has all the confidence of a group that might have been around for decades. They hadn’t – Clarke and Moyet were still barely in their twenties.

This isn’t a perfect album, by any means – Too Pieces, for example, is nice but doesn’t quite sound fully formed. But at worst, everything on here is pleasant – and a lot of the time, as with Bad Connection, it’s actually pretty good. Taking heavy influence from the soul and Motown tracks of the preceding decade or so, there’s a lot to enjoy about it.

Curiously, the longest track on here is the experimental instrumental I Before E Except After C. Understandably omitted from the early CD versions (it was replaced with a couple of non-album tracks), it’s a bit of an oddity. As a minimum, it does include the famous Alison Moyet laugh that would be sampled by the Spice Girls a decade and a half later. You can appreciate this a lot more if you try to remember just how young sampling technology was at this point.

Midnight is the first of four Moyet-penned tracks, and does show a very different songwriting style. It’s a brilliant combination, actually – maybe Clarke found it difficult initially to work his synthesiser sounds around someone else’s song, but he seems to have taken to it extremely well.

Side A closes with the brilliantly experimental In My Room, which could easily have been a catchy pop song, but is instead haunting and eerie, punctuated by Vince’s sampled vocals and essentially only one or two instrumental sounds at any given time.

Then Side B opens with the fantastic debut single Only You, a song which Clarke had famously offered to Depeche Mode as a leaving present. It goes without saying that this is a fantastic song, far and away the best thing on here, although it’s difficult to imagine what it might have sounded like on A Broken Frame.

Goodbye 70’s is a rather brilliant period piece, in which Moyet tells us she’s tired of fighting in their fashion war. Ironic, to say the least, given the many best-forgotten looks that the 1980s would give us. Great song though.

Tuesday is a fantastic template for modern pop music, but Winter Kills might actually be the best thing on here. There’s so little to it – much of it is just a rippling piano, a single soaring synth line, and a bit of low percussion, of course alongside Moyet’s evocative vocal – but somehow it’s delivered quite beautifully.

The first album closes with Bring Your Love Down (Didn’t I), which might lack the strength of its predecessor, but it’s still pretty catchy. There’s a lot to enjoy on this album, and at its worst it’s at least an interesting listen. A lot may have happened in the thirty-five years that have followed, but it’s still a great debut release.

You can find the 2008 remastered version of Upstairs at Eric’s at all major retailers.

Erasure – Cowboy

When you hear talk about an Erasure album being twenty years old, it’s easy to assume it’s one of the early ones that’s being discussed. But this week we celebrate the coming of age of Cowboy.

The late 1990s weren’t entirely kind to Erasure. Before Britpop came along, they still held enough sway to reach the number one spot with their 1994 comeback album I Say I Say I Say, and the following year’s eponymous album also charted respectfully (at that time, even a number 14 album in November would have easily sold enough to have reached the top 200 of the year).

A little over a year later came Cowboy, released in the traditionally quieter first quarter of the year, and thanks to some creative scheduling it scraped into the top ten and delivered a couple of respectable placings for its singles.

This is an album characterised by three or four minute pop music. It starts with Rain, a perfect four-minute song which really does put most mid-90s pop to shame. This was also released as the third single, although the German release failed to chart, and the UK release followed in the steps of the previous year’s Rock Me Gently by appearing only in chart ineligible versions. It definitely deserved to be a hit.

For perhaps the first time for nearly a decade, this album saw Erasure concentrating on what made them great – short, snappy, catchy pop songs. Worlds on Fire is followed by Reach Out, before we get to the understated but beautiful first single In My Arms.

It’s a strange one, in a way – think of what else was on the chart at this time, and you realise just how good this was, but it also doesn’t quite have the drive that you might expect of a lead single. Not for the first time, I think Erasure got their strategy slightly wrong – maybe if the first two singles had been switched around, things could have gone even better for them?

The second single comes next, the extravagantly titled Don’t Say Your Love is Killing Me. It’s difficult to think of exactly which of their previous hits they’re channelling here, but somehow this sounds entirely the way you would expect Erasure to sound. Which is fine – that seems to have been exactly what they were trying to do with this album.

Think of this, perhaps, as a last cry for acceptance. Followed by the “guitar album” Loveboat, then the cover version album Other People’s Songs, it would be close to a decade before they produced anything anywhere near this good again – even two decades before they resumed their previously consistent form.

Which is difficult to swallow around the middle of this album, as Precious and Treasure are both brilliant – the latter bringing shades of their 1991 album Chorus. In retrospect, this was even a fairly contemporary album – Vince Clarke may have still been delighting in sequencing his backing tracks on an antique BBC computer, but as we saw earlier, there were plenty of similar but less competently produced songs on the charts.

There’s nothing particularly downtempo on here, but Boy is one of the gentlest songs, and also turned out to be the fourth single from this album when the acoustic version was released a decade later.

There is a bit of room for Clarke to do a bit of silly synth work, so that’s how How Can I Say kicks off, building into another fun song before the brilliantly flamboyant Save Me Darling. There’s really nothing bad on here, and at barely forty minutes it’s nice and compact too.

Closing the album is the stunning Love Affair. It’s also somewhat understated – in the hands of another producer, this could easily have been an enormous, anthemic piece. Erasure gave it 808 cowbell sounds. But why not? It sounds amazing, and as always, Andy Bell‘s vocal performance really brings it to life.

It’s easy to feel a degree of sadness now when listening to this, knowing just how long it would take them to do something this good again. But it’s also an extremely good little album – and what more can you ever really ask for?

The original release of Cowboy is still widely available, and it’s also now available in a nice heavyweight vinyl edition too.

Erasure – The Circus

Having failed to make much of an impact with debut album Wonderland (1986), Erasure returned thirty years ago with their second full-length release. This time, it was heralded by two enormous hit singles – Sometimes had appeared out of nowhere the preceding autumn, making number 2 in the UK chart, and then It Doesn’t Have to Be came out just before the album and gave them their second top twenty hit.

It is that second hit that opens the album, in brilliantly uptempo form. It’s funny now to think of a time when Erasure weren’t well known, and with that in mind it’s impressive that It Doesn’t Have to Be performed as well as it did on the charts. What on earth is that middle section all about? (According to Wikipedia it’s a reference to Apartheid, which is of course fantastic, but I can’t honestly believe many people realised that at the time.)

The cheesier moments of the debut album still exist, and Hideaway deftly walks the line between that sound and being a fantastic pop song. It feels as though a 2017 re-recording of this song would do it a lot of favours, but it does show a lot of potential on here.

Don’t Dance and to a lesser extent If I Could both tread similar paths, sounding good but still very immature. It’s almost as though Wonderland was just a collection of demos, and this was their first proper album, but even that ignores the fact that Vince Clarke was already a very well-established musician. It’s very strange to say the least.

There’s definitely a bit of an agenda here, as Sexuality demonstrates – it comes across as a fairly innocent pop song charged with a lot of desire. But it’s the pure pop moments that hit their mark the best, as third single and second side opener Victim of Love demonstrates.

Unusually for Erasure, most of the hits are loaded on Side B here – second track Leave Me to Bleed wasn’t a single, but it definitely should have been – it’s probably one of the best songs on the album, and unlike some of the earlier tracks it doesn’t suffer too much from its production.

Sometimes is next, and is obviously exceptional. Oddly, having worked through the rest of the album, it’s easy to find yourself pulling holes in the production of this track too, but on its own this is flawless, and easily one of the best songs that Erasure ever recorded.

Fourth single and title track The Circus is the penultimate song, a curiously dark but happy piece, full of little circus acrobatics. It’s beautiful and haunting, and sadly overlooked as another of the best songs of their early career, although the single version is definitely tighter.

Right at the end comes Spiralling, which is definitely an appropriate closing track, but doesn’t quite have the atmosphere it seems to want, particularly when the circus-inspired Safety in Numbers turns up to close the album. Nice, but I think that’s about as far as you would want to go with this one.

If nothing else, The Circus shows a lot of promise which would be quickly realised on subsequent album The Innocents (1988) and wouldn’t really let up for another couple of decades. But you can also enjoy some great early songs from one of the most important duos in pop, so definitely it shouldn’t be dismissed too quickly.

If you can find copies of the 2011 special edition of The Circus, which should still be available here, that’s the version to get.

White Town – Women in Technology

I’ve often wondered what most people made of White Town‘s 1997 album Women in Technology. Released in haste after the sudden success of Your Woman, it almost made the charts but sold respectably. This week, it celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its brief fling with fame, which seems a good time to give it another listen.

It opens with second single Undressed, a good opener, as it showcases White Town‘s lo-fi charms with a particularly good song. If you came to this expecting twelve clones of Your Woman, you probably would have been disappointed, although contemporary reviews for the album were actually fairly complimentary, and this single did make the lower ends of the chart, meaning White Town don’t (doesn’t?) quite go down in history as a one-hit wonder.

Next is the more uptempo Thursday at The Blue Note, and while it does come a little closer to cloning Your Woman, by now you probably should have got that idea out of your mind. It’s a great indie party track, the highlight of which surely has to be the Derby-accented lady who speaks the title towards the end.

There’s an impressive variety of styles at play here, with the acoustic sound of A Week Next June coming next, and then the moment that you could probably be forgiven for waiting for, the number one hit single Your Woman.

It still blows my mind slightly whenever this turns up on the radio – in context, on the album, it makes some degree of sense as a song – you can accept that Women in Technology is an album for misfits, and that a man telling someone he could never be their woman is OK. Randomly heard on the radio in amongst early 1990s rock (as it often is), you might be left a little confused. The computer pips in the middle section are, of course, the finest moment of the song.

An updated version of debut eponymous single White Town follows, before some warped electronics introduce The Shape of Love. One of the more interesting things done on the album sleeve was to scatter the songs around a discreet image of a lady’s body. The Shape of Love is somewhere just above the left knee. The song is actually largely acoustic and fairly simple, with the grimy electronics just creating background atmosphere.

Wanted comes next, a grimy production which uses a female vocal sample as part of the rhythm track, and featuring a great lead vocal from Ann Pearson. This was at one point planned as the second single, but for some reason never appeared, which is a shame, because Vince Clarke‘s remix on the promo CD is great (actually I think it’s probably fair to say that it’s better than the original, although it definitely wouldn’t have worked as an album track). There’s also a very rare promo 12″ which includes remixes by various other synth legends, and is probably worth buying if you’re ever lucky enough to find a copy.

For every more forgettable moment on here (The Function of the Orgasm is fine, but nobody was going to buy this album purely for this), there’s another great track – Going Nowhere Somehow could have easily been another hit single if White Town had been destined for stardom. Theme for an Early Evening American Sitcom is a slightly daft instrumental, but The Death of My Desire is another indie/rock crossover for misfits.

That’s very much the theme of this album – it was clearly never intended to be the biggest seller ever, but there’s plenty to enjoy if you like honest, home produced but professional sounding music. And ultimately what more can anyone ask for? Women in Technology closes much the same way it opened, with a sweet song with enormous drumming, Once I Flew, then a matter of months later White Town and the record company parted company, and everyone got on with their lives again. But for a brief, fleeting moment, this was an album that offered a lot to it audience, and I suspect those who haven’t heard it might still find something to enjoy.

You can find Women in Technology at all major retailers.