Thirty years ago: a retrospective review of Erasure’s 1989 album “Wild!”
By 1989, Andy Bell and Vince Clark had joined The Pet Shop Boys as Britain’s most successful electronic-pop music act with three hugely successful albums behind them including their 1988 chart topper “The Innocents” and its three globally successful singles. Their Christmas 1988 EP “Crackers International” had spent four weeks at No.2 on the UK singles chart, crowning the end of their best year yet. Erasure went straight into the studio soon after to write and record their fourth long player, which was likely to see the light of day before the decade was out. This time the pair joined forces with producers Gareth Jones, who had worked on many of Depeche Mode’s earlier albums, the group Clark had founded at the end of the 1970’s, and Mark Saunders, who had produced David Bowie’s “Dancing In The Street” and “Absolute Beginners”.
By the Autumn of 1989, the album was ready. And this is how it turned out…
1. Piano Song (instrumental)
The album begins with, well as it suggests, a piano instrumental, backed with a synthesiser symphonia that is an elegant curiosity and fades away no sooner as it has arrived.
2. Blue Savannah
Album number four proper begins here and in fine style. “Blue Savannah” song is joyous Erasure at its very best. Although the song never really takes off till the middle-eight, Andy’s vocals across the first verses and chorus are both haunting and sensual in equal measure. The song is also memorable for the accompanying video, with the boys splashed with blue paint against a white background as a mysterious blue hand brushes anything and everything in site! Thankfully, “Blue Savannah” was released as a single, the third from the album in March 1990 and it became one of their biggest hits of all, peaking at No.3 in the UK as well as charting in Germany, Ireland and Canada. The song has gone on to become a staple of Erasure’s live shows and a firm fan favourite that is always well received.
“Drama” was the lead single from this album and thus, the showcase track with which to reel everyone in. With a clang of a bell, we are summoned back into the church of Erasure and treated to a quintessential piece of late 80’s electro-pop perfection that builds and builds to its exciting climax. Scottish rock group The Jesus and Mary Chain were recording their album “Automatic” in the next studio as Vince and Andy were laying down this track and were roped in to perform each “guilty” as heard over the final choruses when Bell sings the line “we are guilty and how we ever entered into this life”. Released in September 1989, “Drama” gave the duo their third consecutive UK top five hit in twelve months when it made No.4 at the beginning of October. Additionally, the song made No.12 in Germany, No.5 in Ireland and No.10 on the US dance chart.
4. How Many Times?
“How Many Times?” is like playing on the keyboards at school! Pressing all the different buttons and seeing what the ‘pop’ one sounds like! The song is more down-tempo that the previous two tracks, with Andy demonstrating the lower depths of his vocal range. Beautiful nonetheless.
“Star” returns us to more lively, energetic Erasure as the chorus comes in first then the song gathers pace with each successive verse and chorus. “From Moscow to Mars”, that’s where the stars go showering down between. Apparently! It was actually written as a protest song by Andy and Vince, referencing nuclear war. The song was given a slight overhaul with more bass and beat when it was released as the fourth and final single from the album in June 1990, reaching No.11 in the UK and Ireland, and No.4 on the US dance chart and dance music sales chart.
6. La Gloria
There’s more than a touch of Mexican/South American influence in “La Gloria”, which will give even Gloria Estefan a run for her money! It’s fast paced with lots of “la la la” and “arriva arriva”s thrown in every so often. You can just imagine if they had made a video for this track, Andy in a huipil with maracas, ‘gliding’ across the set and clearly relishing every moment of it!
7. You Surround Me
Time to be serious now. “You Surround Me” is a brooding number with Vince turning on the synths at maximum level while Andy remains in subdued restraint for the most part. Clarke has said that this was his attempt at writing a James Bond theme! With Gladys Knight performing the 007 song that year (“Licence To Kill“), we can only imagine that this is what was envisaged for the 1990’s. It kinda happened with the Garbage song in 1999, but how different, had there of been a Bond film in the early 90’s, as was planned, with Erasure doing the main title theme… “You Surround Me” was released as the second single in December 1989 and charted at No.14 in the UK, yo-yoing up and down over the Christmas and new year period, as often happened with singles at that time. Strangely, it wasn’t released in the US and so only charted in Germany and Ireland outside their home country.
8. Brother And Sister
More dark synth, electro-heaven next with “Brother And Sister”, following neatly on from “You Surround Me”, a song about family and family differences. Bell references “Brother and sister and father of mine, keep us together and keep us in line”, while love is sent to “Mother”, separately. Revealing.
9. 2,000 Miles
“2000 Miles” is another song that tells of heartache and wanting to be as far from someone as possible. Andy repeatedly sings “I want to be at least 2000 miles away from you”, informing whoever has been ‘unfaithful’ in no uncertain terms, how he feels. This has a great rhythm and worthy of potential single release.
10. Crown Of Thorns
More torrid, dark synth-pop now, very reminiscent of “Ship Of Fools”, it could almost be part two of that song and, justifiably, that makes it a contender for possible single release, especially as “Ship” proved so successful and eternal. The song comes to a dramatic and lengthy end as it fades away with Bell’s haunting “oooh oooh oooh” over a pulsing synth drum beat.
11. Piano Song
We entered this album with “Piano Song” intrumental, so now here is “Piano Song” itself. A piano ballad, one of just a few songs of this style that the pair have ever written or recorded, but nevertheless, beautiful and reverential, and, after all that Erasure standard tunes, very welcome indeed.
By 1989, Erasure had built a loyal following with three multi-Platinum selling albums and hits all around the world, so all eyes were on how album number four was going to play. “Wild!” was the title chosen, perfectly and accurately summing up this new collection of superb, classic Erasure songs (“Blue Savannah” and “Crown Of Thorns”) with outrageous and joyous new numbers (“La Gloria” and “Star”). “Wild!” was released in mid-October, four weeks after the lead single “Drama” and immediately became a massive hit, topping the UK album chart (their second to do so). The album carries a triple Platinum certification for sales of more than 900,000 copies and, to date, remains their biggest selling studio album in their home territory.
Overseas, “Wild!” continued their run of successful releases in Germany, Sweden and Switzerland and peaked at No.57 in America, just a few places lower than “The Innocents” a year and a half earlier. The album has sold over 400,000 copies there. Erasure promoted the album with a series of sellout concerts, over one hundred in fact across Europe and the US, culminating with their biggest show ever in Milton Keynes, England, where they played to an audience of 60,000. “Wild!”, along with all of Erasure’s back catalogue, was acquired by BMG in 2016 and early in 2019, a new 30th anniversary edition of the album was released containing B sides, live tracks and remixes, bringing the “Wild!” era together, nicely in one fan filled package to be treasured and remembered as the time when Andy and Vince really were at the very top of their game and ruled the charts.