As keyboard player, arranger and song-writer for Depeche Mode, Vince Clarke had seriously proved his abilities as a hit-maker before he left the band in 1981. Forming Yazoo with Alison Moyet he also stormed the charts, going on to record as The Assembly in 1983 before pausing to consider another new project two years later.
Initially Clarke's plan was to record an album with 10 different singers, but after auditioning a young vocalist called Andy Bell, Clarke recognised their potential as a duo. Erasure came together quickly with the flamboyant Bell acting as a wonderful counterpoint to the low-profile keyboard wizard that is Clarke. After making Mute Records their home, the duo's rapturous Hi-NRG 1986 debut album "Wonderland" followed shortly afterwards whilst their first single "Oh L'Amour" established Erasure's international appeal almost immediately becoming a huge hit in France and Australia. Despite the single's popularity, the album's sales were sluggish and in order to raise their profile the duo commenced tours of nightclubs, presenting their music in its most logical setting.
Erasure's second album, "The Circus" (1987) reached the Top 20 in March 1987 and contained their ecstatic Number 2 hit single, "Sometimes" along with the disco glitter of 'Victim of Love', which sailed into the UK Top 10 in the same year.
The duo were certainly quick to recognise the impact that club culture was having on the musical mainstream in the late 80's. It can be felt on their own remixed and live collection 'The Two Ring Circus' (1987). Skilfully remoulded into cutting-edge, floor filling House music by iconic DJ Little Louie Vega, super producer Flood and Vince Clarke himself, everyone concerned re-designed their tracks to excite the dance floor and confirmed the duo's credentials as a techno-pop hit machine along the way.
Their next album 'The Innocents' (1988) then began an unbroken and extremely impressive run of five chart-topping long-players with the singles 'Ship Of Fools' (1988), and the anthemic 'A Little Respect' (1988) also reaching the UK Top Ten, 'Chains of Love' scored them a respectable UK number but more importantly proved so popular in America, that it created the fanatical US following that Clarke and Bell maintain to this day.
October 1988 saw the release of "Crackers International" EP which provided another UK Number 2 hit with "Stop!", the first of many that Vince and Andy would then write and chalk up together.
Erasure's next full-length outing was one such chart topper. "Wild!" (1989), came replete with yet more single hits too, in the form of the Top 20 placed "You Surround Me" (1989) and the Number 3 smash "Blue Savannah", a sublime and impressive piece of song-writing that the duo and their fans consider to be amongst their best. It certainly succeeded in setting their vast arena concerts alight at the time, as did their stage show with Bell's costumes becoming increasingly bizarre and totally unforgettable in the process. Touring the world with "Wild!" for much of 1990 the boys returned home in September to play to a capacity crowd of 65,000 people at Milton Keynes Bowl.
Recorded in France and Germany before its release in 1991, "Chorus" was yet another hit-filled confection that saw Vince experimenting with vintage synthesizers; challenging himself to only use basic sequencer settings and specific synth sounds. The completed album had a unique feel to it, and with no difficulty whatsoever spawned another raft of Top Ten singles. The finely crafted title track "Chorus"(1991) reached Number 3 whilst the floor shaking "Love To Hate You" (1991) soared to a UK Number 4.
1992 saw a very public display of Erasure's love for the perfect pop of Swedish super-group ABBA with a four song EP of Abba cover-versions called "Abba-esque" .It pre-dated the retro-kitsch bandwagon by several years and saw Vince and Andy pay homage to their heroes in a deliciously campy promotional video too. The EP itself was a quartet of tastefully modernised covers with "Take A Chance On Me" providing the duo with their first UK Number 1 single. An indication of Erasure's popularity came on their 1992 Phantasmagorical WorldTour when they followed an amazing 12 show run at Manchester Apollo with 15 nights at Hammersmith Odeon.
Erasure's hits collection perfectly entitled "Pop" followed topping the LP charts in 1992 before "I Say I Say I Say" repeated the trick in 1994. A UK Number 4 single followed along with considerable US airplay for "Always"(1994). Vince and Andy turned to more deep and experimental matters with their more brooding art-rock album 'Erasure' (1995) , a new direction that was not to everyone's taste despite the album containing some of the duo's most beautiful and critically acclaimed work. The album was beautifully produced by Thomas Fehlmann and Gareth Jones and mixed by the legendary Francois Kevorkian. The single "Stay With Me"(1995) reached a modest Number 15 and Erasure registered a lower commercial profile than usual with "In My Arms" from the album 'Cowboy' (1997) and 'Freedom' from 'Loveboat' (2000). Not that this glitch seemed to unduly bother the boys. They were still Top 20 pop stars whose gigantic, spectacular live shows were filled by hysterical audiences who could not get enough of the duo's more soulful sound and distinctly adult themes.
In 2003, Erasure reflected their maturity with a respectful collection of cover versions called "Other People's Songs". The 12 songs in question included somewhat surprisingly for some, a take on Peter Gabriel's pastoral folk-pop standard "Solisbury Hill"(2003), which as a single took Erasure straight back into the UK Top 10, aptly demonstrating that the time was right for "Hits! The Very Best Of Erasure" (2003) a collection that succeeded in reminding the world just how many superb pop songs that the duo had created during the span of their career.
Since he first turned on a synthesizer Vince Clarke has certainly never been short of side projects either. His production and remixing skills can be heard on records by artists as diverse as The Happy Mondays, Betty Boo, Simple Minds, Sparks and fellow Essex syth-pop boys Nitzer Ebb to name a few.
Clarke has also been known to collaborate with Martyn Ware of Human League and Heaven 17 fame and to date they have released two distinctive instrumental ambient albums for Mute. Both "Pretentious" (1999) and "Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle"(2001) utilise 3D recording technology to create music specifically designed to be experienced through headphones.
Andy Bell's contribution to the history of popular music has been a political as well as artistic one. As one of a distinctive group of openly gay frontmen, his matter-of-fact approach to his sexuality has helped eradicate many of the bigoted and homophobic views that were rife in the tabloid media when he first took to the stage. His amazing voice and larger than life persona radiate warmth, camp humour and most of all fun, qualities that have always earned him many more fans than critics.
Early 2005 saw the release of their next LP "Nightbird", followed by acoustic album "Union Street" in 2006.
With more than 14 million albums sold so far, Erasure have always been proudly, defiantly, shamelessly pop - they even named their chart-topping greatest hits collection Pop! in 1992. But behind all those impressive sales figures and kitsch stage costumes, it has sometimes been overlooked just what consistently great songwriters Vince and Andy have been throughout their career.