In a set that made headlines, Andy Bell's 2023 Rewind South appearance is certain to go down in history. With the festival issuing a statement acknowledging that Bell's performance "fell short" of what Rewinders could have expected, the drama and fall out from the infamous show has been heavy. Backstage ahead of the headline slot, the atmosphere however was warm and welcoming. In an exclusive, we spoke to the Erasure front man a few hours before taking to the stage for that infamous performance in Henley-On-Thames. Talking stepping out solo, and a little Erasure history; Andy Bell. A little respect; Eamon O'Neill.
Hi Andy, it's a pleasure to chat to you today; how are you doing?
Fine. I'm like, tempering my tequila before I go on. It's nice to have just enough.
You're playing a solo show today; what's it like to be stepping on stage without musical partner Vince Clarke beside you?
Well, I do miss my Vince. Yeah, I really miss my Vince. He's got his own thing going on which I think is healthy for both of us, because we're together all the time, the both of us. I think you've got to have a period apart to appreciate each other and bring different creative things to the process.
Do you feel any pressure by carrying things on your own shoulders, or do you just go out there and have a hell of a time anyway?
I feel really lucky. I have my partner here, Steven, and we kind of have this thing where, you know, we get offered so many things; cruises and stuff like that, solo gigs. We've got our own band which we've put together. We use Erasure basic backing tracks which the band play along to, and so they kind of get a mishmash. Sometimes I play solo stuff, sometimes I don't, so I just think it's a different thing. We both record separate material outside of Erasure, which I think is also healthy.
I have to talk to you about 'A Little Respect'.
We wrote 'A Little Respect', and usually I do the top lines, and Vince says; "oh, you can’t call it 'A Little Respect”. I said; "Vince, you can" I said; "you can call it whatever you like”, because they have R.E.S.P.E.C.T, you know what I mean? But, it was one of those things where it just came out. I love rip-roaring hymns, and to me, it’s a disco hymn.
Your vocal delivery on that song is so striking, and it's got such a powerful lyrical content.
I don’t think about lyrics, honestly; I go by instinct. To me, to even, you know, even have the first line, which sounds like nonsense; "I tried to discover"; all of a sudden it's like; "we tried to discover what?". So you're opening a whole gamut of things. I mean, and then; "Oh baby refrain"; it's like, a refrain from what? Or, now comes the refrain in the song. So all these things just happen purely by chance.
Did you know that it was going to be such a big hit?
Not at all. Not one bit.
Were you under pressure to follow the previous album and the huge hit 'Sometimes'?
Honestly, not one bit. I think we were kind of fortunate because our first album ['Wonderland', 1986] was a flop, so we only had 'Oh L'amour' [as a hit] on that album. So the second album ['The Circus', 1987] was kind of our hit album, which I was pleased about because 'Sometimes' was our first co-write. So then, when we came to 'The Innocents' , and that was our second co-writing album.
So the partnership was maybe coalescing more?
Yeah, because they say your third album is your most difficult, so for us, that was not; that was our second album.
Coming into the band, you were a fan of Vince and Yazoo, weren't you?
Yes, hugely. I was a huge fan of Vince, which I think in some ways was a bit of a disadvantage. Even with Alison [Moyet, Yazoo singer], because even though I believed so much in my own voice, which sometimes I feel was a bit misplaced, because I don't know why, you know? I mean, I love my voice, but when you put it in comparison with other people, which you can't because you're unique.
Your voice is incredible!
I mean, I still do love it, but you can't be arrogant, so you have to put it into perspective. I don't know. I mean, I didn't really know how to do it. That sounds funny, but I really don’t know how to do it; I just sing it.
Twenty million album sales later says that you're doing it right.
It kind of sounds like a lot. It is kind of quite a lot. I can’t even imagine what those numbers mean.
Did you find back in the '80s that everyone wanted a piece of you? Was the fandom a lot?
No, not really. It was very low key. It was all low key until ABBA. When we did the ABBA cover versions thing ['Abba-esque' EP, 1992], which I'm glad we did, but in some ways it kind of dissipated the fact that we were writers. You know, it kind of buried us as writers, so all of a sudden we became a cover band, which was like...?!
So that was frustrating for you?
You know, we're not a cover band, which honestly, that took us ten or more years to get over that. That's how powerful ABBA was, so when people say to us; "oh, you revived Abba", I say; no, we did not revive ABBA; it took us ten years to shake the ABBA... not 'curse', but the Abba mark.
You're still recording now, with latest album 'Day-Glo (Based on a True Story)' released in 2022 . Are there any plans for a new album on the horizon?
I'm working on my solo album right now, and Vince has already written the new Erasure album, which I haven't put the top lines on yet or even heard. So, I've got an amazing new album. I know that sounds like everyone says that, but I know it's really good.
When's that coming?
Hopefully, in the New Year.
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