Monday, August 30, 2021

"Chains of Love" by Erasure

Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  3598
Date:  07/30/1988
Debut:  91
Peak:  12
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Musician and songwriter Vince Clarke had scored four UK Top 10 hits between '81 and '83. Oddly, he got those hits as a member of three different bands; Depeche Mode, Yazoo, and The Assembly. He was a founding member of all three outfits, but it seems that Clarke had trouble seeing eye-to-eye with his bandmates. Even though he was having success, Clarke just hadn't found the right collaborator with which he could remain with for more than just a year or two. That finally changed when Clarke met Andy Bell through an advertisement Clarke had placed in a music magazine. The pair hit it off and in '85 they signed on with Mute Records and work began on a debut album that would be titled Wonderland. Expectations were high for the release due to Clarke's previous hits, but after three singles that performed poorly on the UK singles chart, the album stalled at a low #71. Undeterred, the pair moved forward with their next album, 1987's The Circus. Its first single, "Sometimes," provided them with the breakthrough they needed. It peaked at #2 and was the first of three Top 10s from the LP, which got to #6. In the US, the singles from The Circus would do well in clubs with three songs making the Dance Top 10 including the #1 "Victim of Love," but they were shut out of mainstream radio and the album tanked at #190. Clarke and Bell then solidified their musical partnership with a third album titled The Innocents. It would end up being their most successful studio LP reaching #1 in the UK and going double-platinum. In the US, the duo would finally breakthrough with this single from the album. After peaking at #4 on the Dance chart, the song began to cross over to Pop and catch on. It would stop just short of the Top 10. The hit helped the album get to #49. With Bell, Clarke had finally found the right collaborator and The Innocents seemed to seal the deal. They have remained together over the long haul and in 2020 released their eighteenth studio album The Neon (#4 UK).

ReduxReview:  By the mid- to late-80s, I think true synthpop was a real hard sell for the US pop audience. Of course artists were utilizing a lot of synths, drum machines, and samplers in their productions, but many were using them as enhancements rather than using them for nearly everything. So Erasure's full-on synthpop sound wasn't what was in favor at the time, except in the dance clubs. To get more mainstream action, they needed a song so irresistible that pop music fans and radio just could not ignore it. That song finally arrived with this track. With hooks galore including the opening line, the song was pure ear candy. The bouncy groove drove the soulful tune while Bell's falsetto helped carry the infectious chorus. The gay subtext was lost on a lot of folks, but that was okay. Bell had a way of cleverly weaving around the subject without being blatant. I loved this song from the get-go and got the album as soon as I could. It quickly became a favorite and one of those that I listen to at least once a year. The pair would go on to do some excellent work, but they were at their peak with The Innocents and this hit, which not only should have gone Top 10, but straight to #1.


Trivia:  Although Erasure's time on the US Pop chart would be limited, they were highly successful on the US Dance chart. From 1985 through to 2007, the duo would score eighteen Top 10 hits on the Dance chart including two #1s.  They would also have good success on the new 1988 Billboard chart initially titled Modern Rock Tracks (later Alternative Songs, then Alternative Airplay) getting six Top 20 entries including three Top 10s. At home in the UK, they would earn seventeen Top 10s. They would only ever reach #1 once; and it wasn't even a single. In the UK an EP was considered a single and would chart as such whereas in the US it was considered an album. In 1992, Erasure did an EP of ABBA covers titled Abba-esque. With their popularity high and ABBA songs highly regarded, the EP flew off shelves and made it to #1 on the UK singles chart. In the US, the EP was far less successful. As there were no singles released to promote it, the EP stalled at #85 on the album chart.


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