Following the disbandment of the short-lived synth pop group Yazoo, former Depeche Mode member Vince Clarke formed Erasure in 1985 with singer Andy Bell. Like Yaz and Depeche Mode, Erasure were a synth-based group, but they had stronger dance inclinations, as well as a sharper, more accessible sense of pop songcraft, than either of Clarke’s previous bands.
Furthermore, Erasure had the flamboyantly eccentric Andy Bell — one of the first openly gay performers in pop music — as their focal point. Bell’s keening, high voice and exaggerated sense of theatrically became the band’s defining image. In their native Britain, Erasure were successful from their inception. After a few years, the duo achieved commercial success in America with 1988’s “Chains of Love,” but they remained, in essence, a cult band on both sides of the Atlantic, cultivating a dedicated fan base over the course of their career.
Before forming Erasure, Clarke was one of the founding members of the groundbreaking synth pop outfit Depeche Mode. He left after recording only one album with the group, choosing to form Yaz with Alison Moyet instead. After Yaz released two albums, Moyet left to pursue a solo career. Clarke participated in a short-lived alliance with vocalist Feargal Sharkey and producer Eric Radcliffe called the Assembly in 1984. Following a single with vocalist Paul Quinn, he decided to form Erasure. Clarke placed an advertisement for vocalists within a British music newspaper and received over 40 demo tapes, from which Bell was selected as his partner.
Released in 1986, Erasure’s first album, Wonderland, received poor reviews and weak sales upon its release. The duo quickly followed the album with “Sometimes,” a preview from their forthcoming second album. “Sometimes” reached number two on the U.K. charts, beginning a string of successful singles that would run into the ’90s.
The Circus, the group’s second album, was released in the spring of 1987 and peaked at number six on the U.K. charts. The Innocents, Erasure’s third album, became their first number one album in Britain upon its release in 1988. The album featured the group’s first American hit, “Chains of Love,” which reached number 12 in the U.S.; its follow-up, “A Little Respect,” peaked at number 14 in America.
At the end of 1988, Erasure released the Crackers International EP, which reached number two in Britain.Erasure’s fourth album, Wild!, appeared in 1989, and like its predecessor, it reached number one in the U.K.