In LGBT+ History month Erasure celebrate their role in the struggle with a classical reworking of ‘It’s Still Not Over.’ I don’t know when it began, but there has been an epidemic of classical versions of pop songs recently. Even so, it is very unusual to do it with an obscure album less than a year old. But that’s what Erasure have done with their 2017 album ‘World Beyond.’
Erasure are best known for glorious, ebullient disco anthems, like ‘Sometimes,’Abbaesque,’ or ‘Chorus.’ Since Erasure’s glory days, singer Andy Bell has recovered from a ten year cocaine addiction, had both hips replaced, had one life partner die, and married another. So ‘World Be Gone’ is a much more downbeat and considered album than the rest of the back catalogue. The standout track is ‘It’s Still Not Over’ which marks the progress of the LGBT+ community, and reflects how much more there is to do. Personally, I prefer the 2017 pop version to the 2018 classical rework. The contrast between the disappointment of the lyric and the more cheerful melody line better marks the fabulousness of the LGBT+ movement, and better celebrates all they have achieved.
But there are more important issues here than whether one interpretation of a song is better than another. The sheer bravery of what Erasure have done, both with this album and in support of the LGBT+ movement in general is remarkable. “World Beyond” is an intensely personal and heartfelt set of songs, so letting a team of classical musicians loose on something so precious, and performing them without a pop-tastic backing was really difficult.
But it was braver still for Andy Bell to be an openly gay public figure in the 1980s. When Erasure launched in 1985, AIDS was still seen as a gay plague, in 1988 the government introduced section 28 to limit the promotion of homosexuality in schools. Bell did not talk about his sexuality in interviews, but he didn’t pretend to be straight either. Even I, a straight 12 year old Catholic girl with hopeless gaydar, knew he was gay. Erasure’s songs taught me how little and how much sexuality matters. They described precisely the intense joy and sorrow I felt about my own relationships. I learned that whether a man or woman makes you feel it, love is love.
In 2018 we go to gay pride, gay weddings and bingewatch RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix, so most of us think LGBT+ equality is here. It isn’t. The LGBT+ community has significantly worse mental health than the straight community, too many are bullied, and there are countries where gay people are killed for their sexuality. February is LGBT+ awareness month. For whatever reason, in whatever
version, it is worth spending four minutes in the company of this defiantly fabulous song.
And if you like that track, there’s more to come. The classically reworked album ‘World Beyond’ will be released on 9 March.