Erasure – Yahoo!
Oh, I do miss a good old-fashioned pop rivalry – those lovely tribal school days when your social standing depended to a large degree on which band you liked. When girls were divided into the Spandau or Duran camps, and all the boys liked Madness because it felt like your safety depended on it. Band loyalty seemed desperately important at the time, and I suppose it was oddly comforting that playground spats seemed to happen just as often in the much more adult world of pop.
Then, as Neil Tennant later pointed out, Live Aid came along and ruined it all by uniting everyone. The tribal element sort of vanished in a blaze of amicability and the pop world became a big jolly Radio 1 Roadshow. But for those of us that couldn’t quite let go, there was still fun to be had in appointing a nemesis for your own favourite group, imagining that there was fierce mutual loathing and strenuous avoidance of each other at the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party. My chosen band of that time was Pet Shop Boys, so clearly, to my mind, I had to hate Erasure. I convinced myself that the PSBs did everything with wit and élan, and that Erasure were crass and obvious. I don’t know about you, but I really want to slap my fifteen year old self. Having said that, you never see them out at dinner together do you?
The strange thing was, this hatred didn’t actually stop me from buying Erasure records. What started out as a kind of ‘know your enemy’ exercise turned into a slightly begrudging acceptance of their better qualities and eventual admittance that yes, they were a great pop group.
During the mid eighties and early nineties, the chart battle between the two duos was a fascinating thing – Pet Shop Boys seemed to get all the no.1 singles (four to Erasure‘s one), while Erasure bagged the album chart trophies (four to Pet Shop Boys‘ one, five if you include the greatest hits set Pop!). While both traded in synth-pop and even shared a producer (Stephen Hague on Please and The Innocents respectively), their approaches were by no means the same: Erasure (specifically Andy Bell) tended towards showmanship and crowd-pleasing, Pet Shop Boys towards standing still and crowd-avoidance. The public perception of the two was also quite different – certainly in my school Erasure had the more laddish appeal whereas Pet Shop Boys spoke to those who had perhaps chosen Home Economics over Technical Drawing. Of course nowadays it all looks like the gayest thing ever, but you have to remember that this was a time when George Michael having a girlfriend seemed perfectly plausible. And it was none of our business anyway.
What both groups excelled at was picking the right singles, which is why they have so few potential Into the Popvoid entries. But there was always one Erasure song that I absolutely adored which wasn’t a single, and that was a track from 1988’s The Innocents – Yahoo!
Although it killed me to admit it at the time, The Innocents was a brilliant album – yet it was only mined for three singles; Ship of Fools, Chains of Love and finally, in September 1988, A Little Respect. I fully expected Yahoo! to become the fourth, just in time for Christmas – because if you’re going to try and get what is essentially a rather jolly hymn that’s brimming with religious ecstasy into the charts, December would be the time to do it. The chorus is one of Erasure‘s finest – simple and repetitive (just a refrain of “Yahoo! ah…higher, higher, higher / Yahoo! ah…find your way unto the Lord”) but it is absolutely uplifting and features terrific backing vocals, some of which are supplied by a pre-Soul II Soul Caron Wheeler. The production is totally ace, full of lovely little bits like the extra synth line that crops up at 2:56 and the gorgeous echoey swell that heralds each chorus and makes it really, really exciting.
I seem to recall it coming as quite a surprise at the time, but instead of a fourth single the festive season brought the Crackers International EP (I suspect having recorded Stop! Andy and Vince were unwilling to sit on it) – and thus the Innocents era drew to a slightly premature close. By this time I would almost have called myself an Erasure fan, though my original loyalties got a slightly smug boost when they were denied a Christmas no.1 (something Pet Shop Boys had achieved in 1987) by Cliff Richard and Kylie and Jason. Old habits die hard…
Entered chart: was not released
Who could sing this today and have a hit? I always had an urge to hear Aretha Franklin tackle this, and I see no reason why she couldn’t still do so.