Stowaway Heroes – Vince Clarke

One of the most prolific names in music is Vince Clarke. After a couple of excellent false starts including Yazoo and The Assembly, he’s spent most of his career as the knob-twiddling genius responsible for Erasure‘s backing tracks.

Things started out, of course, with Depeche Mode, and we can’t really overlook his sunglasses and designer stubble in their breakthrough hit Just Can’t Get Enough:

Of course, Erasure is where he’s spent most of the last thirty years, and it would be difficult not to give him credit where it’s due for his exquisite performance in the video to Abba‘s Take a Chance on Me:

In recent years, he has branched out, working again with his old bandmate Martin L. Gore as well as half of Orbital, all of Jean-Michel Jarre, and others. From 2Square, his project with Paul Hartnoll, here’s Better Have a Drink to Think:

Genius is an over-used word without a doubt, but it’s absolutely fair to say that Clarke should be one of our stowaway heroes.

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Stowaway Awards 2018

After all the excitement of previous years, I’ve decided to tone down the Stowaway Awards a little this year, with just six categories. Here they are, with the full lists of nominees!

Best Track

Nominees:

  • Depeche Mode – Where’s the Revolution
  • Erasure – Be Careful What You Wish for!
  • Gary Numan – My Name is Ruin
  • Goldfrapp – Become the One
  • Kraftwerk – Radioaktivität
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – As We Open, So We Close
  • Pet Shop Boys – Reunion
  • Saint Etienne – Whyteleaf
  • Sparks – Scandinavian Design
  • Yazoo – Only You

We announced the winner already – it’s Depeche Mode.

Best Album

Nominees:

  • Depeche Mode – Spirit
  • Erasure – World Be Gone
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury
  • Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  • Sparks – Hippopotamus

The winner is Depeche Mode.

Best Reissue / Compilation

Nominees:

  • Liza Minnelli – Results
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury: B Sides & Bonus Material
  • Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife
  • Pet Shop Boys – Release
  • Pet Shop Boys – Yes

The winner is Pet Shop Boys, for Release.

Best Artist

Nominees:

  • Depeche Mode
  • Erasure
  • Goldfrapp
  • Saint Etienne
  • Sparks

This year’s winner is Sparks.

Best Live Act

Nominees:

  • Jean-Michel Jarre
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • múm

The winner is Jean-Michel Jarre.

Outstanding Contribution

Nominees:

  • David Bowie
  • Vince Clarke
  • The Future Sound of London
  • Leftfield
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

The winner: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Erasure – Other People’s Songs

I think it’s fair to say that Erasure were having a bit of an identity crisis fifteen years ago. Their “guitar” album Loveboat had been an abject failure, and pop generally seemed to be in a bit of a decline. Andy Bell had always threatened to do a cover versions album, which might have made a degree of sense and certainly couldn’t have been any worse than the solo efforts he did release. When it did appear, Vince Clarke had decided to take part as well, and the whole thing ended up smelling more than a little of lousy cash-in.

Other People’s Songs opens with Peter Gabriel‘s Solsbury Hill, a respectable opening track and lead single which adds little to the original other than some cheesy instrumentation and flamboyant vocals. It’s good, but it’s not great.

The strength here is, of course, in the songs themselves. Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime is a great song – one of the best on here, actually – and of course Erasure were, at this stage, still more than competent enough to make a great track out of a catchy song. Especially when the instrumentation didn’t get too cheesy, as it had a little on the first track. The only slight disappointment is that this doesn’t remotely echo Baby D‘s brilliantly manic version of this song from just a few years earlier, although some of the vocal effects do go some way towards making up for that.

There are always the songs that don’t work quite as well – Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) remains a great and catchy song, but it’s hardly an Erasure song, and frankly it made a pretty lousy second single.

And then there are the ones that fail completely – what on earth is Everyday supposed to be? If you want to be really kind to it, maybe it’s a fun reminder of the early days of Yazoo and Erasure, with a fun monophonic synth line and soulful vocals. If you don’t, it’s just plain drivel.

Fortunately, most of the tracks here are mercifully short, and as the equally dreadful When Will I See You Again and the marginally better Walking in the Rain pass you by, you might find yourself starting to lose the will to live.

What you can say here is that there’s always a good song somewhere nearby, and this time it’s the adorable True Love Ways. As with earlier songs, part of the reason it works so well is that the synths are toned down a little here, and this turns out to actually be up to the standard that you might expect from Erasure.

But for every up, there’s always a big down, and Ebb Tide returns us to their earlier form. And again, some of the songs have just been done better by others – Can’t Help Falling in Love is passable, but it’s hardly UB40, and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ was done much better by The Human League.

Of course, Erasure had done plenty of cover versions before, most notably of Abba, and some of them had been very good indeed, and so there was inevitably going to be a moment of absolute greatness on here, but Goodnight is still something of a surprise – it’s so good, in fact, that it overshadows pretty much everything else that Erasure released between 2000 and 2011.

Then they go and spoil it all with Video Killed the Radio Star, which is so objectively bad that I won’t say any more than that.

Ultimately, it has to be said – Other People’s Songs is largely awful. It’s actually bad enough that it’s difficult to fathom how nobody noticed while it was being recorded. Sure, there’s no shortage of great, catchy songs, but most of them would have been better left in their original form, without the awful 8-bit synth sounds that Vince Clarke seemed to be so keen on during this period. On the whole, this one is best avoided.

If that inspired you to track this album down, you can find it here and at all major retailers.

Stowaway Awards 2018 – Nominations

Apart from the Best Track category, which will be awarded based on the “top tracks of 2017” that we listed here on the run-up to Christmas, there are just five other categories in this year’s all-important Stowaway Awards. Here are the nominees:

Best Album

  • Depeche Mode – Spirit
  • Erasure – World Be Gone
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury
  • Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  • Sparks – Hippopotamus

Best Reissue / Compilation

  • Liza Minnelli – Results
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury: B Sides & Bonus Material
  • Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife
  • Pet Shop Boys – Release
  • Pet Shop Boys – Yes

Best Artist

  • Depeche Mode
  • Erasure
  • Goldfrapp
  • Saint Etienne
  • Sparks

Best Live Act

  • Jean-Michel Jarre
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • múm

Outstanding Contribution

  • David Bowie
  • Vince Clarke
  • The Future Sound of London
  • Leftfield
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

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.

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.