Aug 11


Popular66 comments • 7,005 views

#677, 13th June 1992

I’ve always found it hard to get a handle on Erasure. I end up filing them in the same headspace as ELO: remarkably successful, remarkably long-lived pop craftsmen who are generally – as here – enjoyable but only very rarely hit any sort of emotional or even conceptual payday. After playing all four ABBA-esque covers I couldn’t help myself: I cued up the Pet Shop Boys’ “Where The Streets Have No Name / Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” medley and had forgotten anything I might have liked about Erasure within ten seconds.

But they were never a poor man’s PSBs – there was something intriguingly different about Erasure, the way their two halves never quite gelled: Vince Clarke’s sleek, tidy, heads-down synthpop and Andy Bell’s roaming, reaching vocals. On their best singles the clash was productive – a track like “Drama” seems lopsided and unwieldy but it absolutely works: both men are fizzing and they end up going in the same direction. More often the potential was missed: on their worse tracks one or the other seemed bored.

The problem with ABBA-esque is that they both seem scared to cut loose and play to their strengths instead of the songs. Bell is subdued, in the shadow of Frida and Agnetha’s pristine takes. Clarke fiddles around at the edges of the tracks but only on “Voulez-Vous” shows much sign of wanting to strip them down and refit them. The whole project roars to life exactly once, when MC Kinky takes over for thirty delightful, crass seconds in the middle of “Take A Chance On Me” and shows the song a little creative disrespect at last.

The “Take A Chance” video, on the other hand, caught the tone of the next several years of ABBA revivalism: wigs out, tunes ahoy, kitsch as you like. Like most great pop bands ABBA fitted their time so well that they were utterly vulnerable to shifts and revisions in the meaning of that time. This was the high point, the crossover moment, in a long-building rehabilitation of the 70s, an acknowledgement that if it was (as The Face sniffed) “the decade that taste forgot”, maybe forgetting taste was a pretty smart idea? The 70s were proudly naff, therefore ABBA were proudly naff. I’m not against that – it opened up the space for the other sides of them to be remembered, and it’s quite possible that without the Bjorn Again-Erasure-Gold domino topple I wouldn’t love them so much now.

But this EP seems overshadowed by the rediscovery it helped spark – Erasure’s versions, zesty at the time, simply don’t touch the originals on any level. The songs are terrific, of course, and the record is in a different world of care and effort than a KWS. But if a singer as florid as Andy Bell can’t have fun with “Lay All Your Love On Me” then somewhere an opportunity is being missed.



1 2 All
  1. 31
    Alfred on 25 Aug 2011 #

    What are Erasure’s total sales in the UK versus the Pet Shop Boys’?

  2. 32
    weej on 25 Aug 2011 #

    My recollection is that Radio 1 (especially the top 40 countdown) and TOTP only played ‘Take A Chance’, but my view may have been narrowed a bit by a focus on those two programmes. The Chart Show only played ‘Lay Your Love’, which is, I suppose, the reason I bought it.
    At the time it seemed very strange that producers faced with an EP with four tracks (with four professionally produced videos) would always choose to play the same one, week after week.

  3. 33
    swanstep on 25 Aug 2011 #

    Things like Oh L’amour and Sometimes are OK I suppose, but, honestly, the first thought that occurs to me in both cases is ‘Would be measurably, perhaps 50% better if Moyet was singing it’. That is, now I think about it, it isn’t just that Bell’s voice strikes me as somewhat anonymous, it’s that the character it does have inclines towards and seems to invite comparison with Moyet’s. Compare with Glenn Gregory from Heaven 17: his voice is slightly anonymous/generic, but he never sounded like an approximation to Oakey so at least Heaven 17’s stuff got to stand on its own merits, didn’t come pre-shadowed/pre-refuted as Erasure’s largely does for me. Is my sort of reaction unfair? Possibly, but it’s not as though Clarke’s changed things up musically to help avert or forestall the problem. Bernie Sumner would have have always just been a poor man’s Ian Curtis (and New Order probably wouldn’t have amounted to much) if they hadn’t evolved their sound away from the original Joy Division template. But by 1983 NO were already playing plenty of songs that you really couldn’t even imagine Curtis as we’d known him singing – the break was accomplished. Clarke didn’t do anything like that, and he’s paid a price for it. Erasure are, in my view, essentially, ineliminably a minor group.

  4. 34
    Erithian on 25 Aug 2011 #

    Ha, I was going to say I was surprised nobody had mentioned French and Saunders yet, until I noticed Mark had alluded to it in comment #1! Just checked and their Abba spoof “C’est La Vie”, with Raw Sex, dates from 1988, so was already getting on for four years old when “Abba-esque” came out, and it really colours your impression of Erasure’s “Take A Chance” video. It looks more send-up than tribute, which is unfortunate. It’s also striking, and I say this as a straight male, how attractive Andy Bell is – and I don’t mean in drag. I’m siding with Punctum on the rap though.

    I must not have been paying attention at the time, as the other tracks are pretty new to me. I agree with Tom that “Voulez-Vous” is the only one where they produce something that sounds like it comes from Erasure-world as opposed to a homage to the original. With its sonic effects VV could be up there with the Erasure canon we’ve been enthusing about, “Blue Savannah” a particular favourite of mine.

  5. 35
    MarkG on 25 Aug 2011 #

    #29, don’t get the J&MC reference.

  6. 36
    chelovek na lune on 25 Aug 2011 #


    I recall, when Erasure had a big hit (Xmas no 2?) with the “Crackers International EP” (perhaps a much more nominal EP than this one) in ’88, while “Stop!” was clearly the lead track and got most of the airplay, Capital Radio also played (increasingly, as the EP’s chart run dragged on) what I think was Side 2, Track 1, “Knocking On Your Door” (which was clearly inferior).

    Not exactly the same phenomenon, but there’d been a couple of instances in the period leading up to that, where the “lead” side of a highly selling double-A single had effectively been “swapped” mid-way during a single’s chart run (Rick Astley: When I Fall In Love/My Arms Keep Missing You, Matt Bianco: Don’t Blame It On That Girl/Wap Bam Boogie) – even, in one case (the Matt Bianco one ) to the extent of releasing a new cover sleeve with a different design to highlight the previously neglected track. In the latter case it was certainly an effective way of extending the single’s chart life (and probably also highlighted the better track)

  7. 37
    MarkG on 25 Aug 2011 #

    I think that Rick Astley one had worn out it’s welcome pretty quickly, also Nat King cole had his single re-released to cash in (successfully), whereas Matt Bianco’s b-side got a lot of club play.

  8. 38
    will on 25 Aug 2011 #

    I believe there’s a bunnyable Number One from July 97 which had its side ‘flipped’ by Radio One.

    The whole Abba revival brought a wry smile to my face around this time. I remember all too well having the piss taken out of me aged 9 for saying I liked Abba (‘girls’ music’ was the concensus amongst my peer group.) So to have my original instincts confirmed so emphatically was quietly satisfying.

  9. 39
    thefatgit on 25 Aug 2011 #

    Either I’m listening to something else, or totally missing something important that everybody else is hearing and I’m not (or vice versa).
    Andy Bell’s voice, to me at least is one of the more distinctive voices that emerged from the 80s. There is the hint of a wobble on tracks like Sometimes and Stop! which I hear quite clearly as “well that’s Bell’s trademark, innit?”. Someone upthread said “constricted”, but I don’t get that sense at all. He’s not on the verge of sobbing like, say Kevin Rowland but there is in my mind some element of emotion in there; that sense of affrontery which precedes the sobs, the cusp of losing it, even on Erasure’s more joyful outings it’s evident to my ears at least.

  10. 40
    23 Daves on 25 Aug 2011 #

    @36 – there’s probably no need for me to add to this list, but when the festive season finished, I distinctly remember that Wham’s “Last Christmas” was ditched on the radio (and Top of the Pops) in favour of “Everything She Wants”. I did wonder whether the switch would be enough to propel it to number one at the time, but it didn’t happen.

  11. 41
    glue_factory on 25 Aug 2011 #

    Re:35, aren’t they supposed to have sung the backing vocals on it?

  12. 42
    Gavin Wright on 25 Aug 2011 #

    This was the first record (well, cassette) I ever bought with my own money – I’d heard and liked all four tracks so as an EP it struck me as great value. The ‘trailer’ effect Special Girl AKA mentions certainly worked on me as by the end of the year I owned both [i]ABBA Gold[i] and [i]Pop! The First 20 Hits[/i]. Having revisited the EP fairly recently only ‘S.O.S.’ really holds up but I do have a fondness for a fair few of Erasure’s earlier singles, particularly ‘Chorus’ and ‘Ship of Fools’. Punctum’s “rarely innovative but always craftworthy, with the occasional flash of true inspiration” sounds about right – by the mid-’90s the spark had gone completely I guess.

    I should mention that 1992 was the year I really started paying attention to the charts and I [i]really[/i] wish I’d kept the compilation tapes I’d made by recording songs off Radio 1 (or at least the tracklistings) – from what I can remember, my tastes as an 11-year-old were quite, er, AOR.

  13. 43
    MarkG on 25 Aug 2011 #

    #41 Ah, now that rings a (and e) bell.

  14. 44
    weej on 25 Aug 2011 #

    Will @38 – At risk of enraging the bunny, are you thinking of May ’98? None of the memorable #1s in or around July 97 seem to fit the description.

  15. 45
    Billy Smart on 25 Aug 2011 #

    More like September 1997, I surmise. It was all very sad.

  16. 46
    MarkG on 25 Aug 2011 #

    I don’t think Radio 1 flipped that one..

  17. 47
    Billy Smart on 25 Aug 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: Erasure twice performed ‘Take A Chance On Me’ on Top of the Pops;

    4 June 1992. Also in the studio that week were; Take That, Lionel Ritchie, Utah Saints and KWS. Tony Dortie & Claudia Simon were the hosts.

    9 July 1992. Also in the studio that week were; Smart E’s, Dina Carroll, Joe Cocker, Urban Hype and Bryan Adams. Femi Oke & Adrian Rose were the hosts.

    They also performed ‘Voulez-Vous’ on the edition transmitted on 13 June 1992. Also in the studio that week were; Incognito, The Wedding Present, Manic Street Preachers and Cyndi Lauper. Adrian Rose & Femi Oke were the hosts.

  18. 48
    Billy Smart on 25 Aug 2011 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Erasure’s many UK TV appearances include;

    BIG WORLD CAFE: with Eagle Eye Cherry, Mariella Frostrup, Erasure (1989)

    THE BRITS: with Richard O’Brien, Shakespears Sister, Right Said Fred, Annie Lennox, Tasmin Archer, Genesis, The Cure, Erasure, Simply Red (1993)

    DES O’CONNOR TONIGHT: with Erasure (1991)

    LATER WITH JOOLS HOLLAND: with The Pretenders, Erasure, Jonathan Richman (1994)

    LIVE FROM THE PALLADIUM: with Dionne Warwick, Ronnie Corbett, Rick Astley, Erasure, Dave Lee (1988)

    THE O ZONE: with Erasure (1992)

    THE O ZONE: with Erasure (1994)

    THE O ZONE: Erasure Special (1995)

    PARAMOUNT CITY: with Curtis & Ishmael, Jo Brand, Erasure, Sweeney & Steen (1991)

    THE ROXY: with Erasure, Broken English, Alison Moyet (1987)

    SATURDAY LIVE: with Ben Elton, Erasure, Chris Barrie, Kit Hollerbach (1987)

    THE SMASH HITS POLL WINNERS PARTY: with Dean Cain, Andi Peters, M People, Erasure, East 17, Take That, Jack Dee, Mark Owen, Gabrielle Reece, Michelle Gayle (1994)

    TOM JONES: THE RIGHT TIME: with EMF, Erasure, Shakespears Sister (1992)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates, Simply Red, Erasure, Los Lobos, Yargo (1987)

    WOGAN: with Ronnie Barker, Barbara Cartland, Erasure, Elaine Stritch, Sue Lawley (1988)

    WOGAN: with Chris Rea, Chris Eubank, Amelia Bullmore, Philip Middlemiss, Erasure, Albert Brooks, Amanda Donohoe (1991)

  19. 49
    Ed on 25 Aug 2011 #

    @11 and @12: And the original victims of the curse were, of course, Abba themselves: Bjorn and Benny the pharaohs sacrificing their marriages to the gods of music, money and fame.

  20. 50
    Ed on 25 Aug 2011 #

    @29: Charity shops always have an Erasure CD, don’t they?

  21. 51
    hardtogethits on 25 Aug 2011 #

    #47, glad my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me wrt Voulez Vous (#26).

    #32. Radio 1 had an ‘A’ list and a ‘B’ list for records in heavy rotation. It ‘A’ listed “Lay All Your Love On Me”, and none of the others, so really the other tracks would have been played once or twice in a week, maximum.

    Other ILR stations (+ Capital) were generally the same, though there may have been regional preferences for the others. I couldn’t pretend to know what Radio 1 played on the chart show, other than in the year end Top 40, when they played Take A Chance On Me.

    I’m aware this is of fairly little importance in the scheme of things, but a friend recently advised me that her desire to learn a simple, single fact about an old no.1 single had led her to google, and google had led her to freakytrigger … and whilst she thought it had been “a hoot”, wading through the “opinonated and strong-willed”, she still didn’t have an answer to her question.

  22. 52


  23. 53
    weej on 26 Aug 2011 #

    #51 Ah, perhaps I shouldn’t rely on my memories so much. Not surprised your friend was unable to find what she wanted – generally the discussion seems to move away from the song itself fairly quickly, that’s what makes it such fun to read.

  24. 54
    Mark M on 26 Aug 2011 #

    In the summer of 1992 I pitched a feature on the latest 1970s revival to the IoS, with the ABBA revival being at the heart of it. They commissioned and then spiked it, which was fair enough since it was almost very poor (all I remember is desperately trying to get stallholders in Camden Market to say something interesting!). But there certainly seemed to be something broader afoot in the perception of the 1970s versus the 1980s, which (at that point) a fair number of people seemed fairly eager to put behind them (the 1992 election result notwithstanding).

  25. 55
    Ed on 29 Aug 2011 #

    @54 That sounds like the IoS displaying all of the editorial acumen that has made it the force in the British newspaper market it is today. Under the Twenty Year Rule, the seventies revival was nailed on.

    As well as Abba, we had grunge, of course, where Nirvana = Black Sabbath and Pearl Jam = Grand Funk Railroad. And then Britpop, where Suede = Bowie, Pulp = Roxy, and Oasis = Slade. Damon Albarn is a very Bowie-like figure, too.

  26. 56
    Rory on 30 Aug 2011 #

    Erasure were one of those bands that half the English students around me in 1992 seemed to love, but which I really didn’t get; they just seemed too distant from my old Oz-rock leanings or my nascent indie-alternative ones. This EP hit number one at the end of my studies that year, and it felt like a sign that UK pop was heading off in its own direction without me after those few brief months we had in common. Within a month I was picking up a very different pop landmark in Tower Records in Atlanta, Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend, which was much more a sign of where I was headed.

    So how does this music strike me now? Not too bad, but the rap in “Take a Chance on Me” does nothing for me, and cancels out some of the more intriguing elements here. The intro of “Voulez Vous” is my highlight; but with that and all the other tracks, I’m just left wanting to hear the originals. Fortunately, I picked up every last ABBA album after Popular rekindled my interest a few years ago, so I can.

    5, because the songs are so strong and the performances are sufficient.

  27. 57
    stebags on 24 Jun 2012 #

    I remember The Chart Show playing the videos to all 4 tracks pre/post release.
    SOS was my pick at the time but Voulez Vous overtook it eventually (as I made my own dance up to it)

  28. 58
    wichita lineman on 22 Dec 2012 #

    David Davies’ handle on Erasure:


  29. 59
    DanH on 7 Jan 2014 #

    No one’s mentioned “Chains of Love” yet…was it only a hit here in the States?

  30. 60
    Mark G on 7 Jan 2014 #

    It made number 11, but they had a bunch of “Of” songs, don’t recall this one as much as “Victim/Love” or “Ship/Fools”

  31. 61
    DanH on 8 Jan 2014 #

    I had thought “Chains of Love” was their only U.S. hit for the longest time (it was their highest charter, at #12). Then a few retail places started playing “Always” a lot a few years back. That one made #20, and now I see “A Little Respect” made #14. So, more than I thought.

  32. 62
    Nixon on 28 Sep 2014 #

    A night of Robot Unicorn Attack and a skim of the new album brought me here again :)

    Just a tiny aside to Punctum #4 (I didn’t see this the first time round) – subtitling one’s career retrospective “The First 20 Hits” might *sound* like ill-advised hubris, but in fact in Erasure’s case it turned out to be entirely accurate. Fanbase dedication (and size) was enough for them to keep piling up decent-sized UK chart hits throughout the 90s and 00s, almost none of which made any impression on me personally (they had a top five hit in 2005 with “Breathe”, which turns out to be quite pretty but still, buh? But there they all are in print), and they seem to have kept on quietly doing it under the radar, until the download era killed the streak; they still had enough to release “The Second 20 Hits” in 2009.

    (Although, granted, the combined omnibus edition being called “The First 40 Hits” now feels silly.)

  33. 63
    Lee Saunders on 16 Sep 2020 #

    This isn’t really picked up on (other than Punctum calling them ‘industrious’) but in my ears this EP has a really strange sound. Sort of like harsher 1979 minimal synth (thinking especially of things like the Human League’s Dancevision). Except it sounds like Eurodance as well – and the two of them together make a sound that’s almost chiptune at times ?? (most evident when bits of LAYLOM sound like Super Mario SFX). Voulez-Vouz, while not departing from this sound at all, sounds techno-y. I know the line between ’79 electronica and ’92 rave is clear but its not one I’d expect an Erasure ABBA covers EP to be making so public.

  34. 64
    Jonny Example on 5 Apr 2021 #

    Hilarious, both the original article and some of the comments on here. You DO realise they’re lined up to tour again as soon as it’s safe in 2021, and still pulling in huge crowds. But I guess the job of the critic is to be bitter that they don’t possess even 1% of the talent that either Vince or Andy have in their little fingers. Pop music, in case you’re unaware, is there to be enjoyed, it’s fun, not there to be intellectualised. Good job critics aren’t in it for the money, as 28 million albums and rising would have raised more cash than they know what to do with….. Here’s the link just in case anyone fancies enjoying themselves: https://www.viagogo.co.uk/Concert-Tickets/Rock-and-Pop/Erasure-Tickets

  35. 65
    Ben Wainless on 6 Apr 2021 #


    My first gig was ABBA-Esque era Erasure, and Pop! is a genuinely terrific Greatest Hits collection. However I’d admit that, for me, they filled a gap while the PSBs were on hiatus between Introspective and Behaviour, and I have little interest in anything they did after Pop!

    Likewise I don’t think it’s a slight to suggest that ABBA are superior. ABBA are superior to 99% of acts who ever recorded pop music, and that figure may be an understatement.

    This is a no.1s blog, and I don’t think Erasure are best represented by this, their sole no.1 hit. That said I think 5 is harsh. I’d probably give it 7 out of nostalgia, but Sometimes, A LIttle Respect, Stop! and Drama! would all receive at least 8. Which is a very strong mark by the standards set here.

    ABBA by contrast had 9 number ones, of which about two thirds are among the greatest and most abidingly popular singles of the 20th century.

    For Erasure, second best British electro-pop chart act of the late 80s/early 90s is still pretty damn good in my book.

  36. 66
    Gareth Parker on 1 May 2021 #

    The cover of Take a Chance on Me would get a 4/10 from me. Just seems a bit limp and lifeless, however I have no problem with Erasure in general.

1 2 All

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page