Erasure’s Andy Bell headlines Razzle Dazzle’s kick-off event, the fundraiser MetroBall
SCOTT HUFFMAN | Contributing Writer
Even before “out” was “in,” Andy Bell dared to be honest. Best known as one half of the iconic pop duo Erasure, the gay singer and songwriter — unlike so many pop stars — never misled the public about his sexuality. Likewise, he was forthcoming later in life about his HIV-positive status. While some might have interpreted Bell’s courageous choices as political activism, Bell modestly claims to have lived openly because he is simply not fond of telling lies.
“I was always very close to my mum,” Bell, a British citizen who divides his time between London and Florida, says. “We could talk about anything, and I’ve always thought that honesty is totally the best policy. I see absolutely no reason for lying. I just wish the world was run on these terms sometimes!”
Bell, who recently turned 50, has amassed an impressive catalog of releases over the years. But he is not allowing past achievement to slow his momentum. In May, he dropped his third solo album, iPop — a collection of tracks he vibrantly describes as “high-quality electro-pop-euro-gay!” And alongside Erasure bandmate Vince Clarke, Bell plans a fall tour to promote The Violet Flame, their new album slated for September release.
At Friday’s MetroBall, Bell plans to perform a selection from his new album along with a mixture of Erasure hits, solo tracks and songs from Torsten the Bareback Saint, a one-man musical he will debut this summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Bell admits to having certain favorite songs, like “Blue Savannah,” to perform.
“I think the songs have to contain something magical in the melody or the words or both,” he says. “You become swept along by it so it sings itself and becomes a pleasure to perform.”
And Bell colorfully uses analogy to describe his perception of performing a few other songs that may be considered by many to be Erasure standards. “It would be like a cobbler wearing the very first pair of shoes he made forever — very comfy, but ragged around the edges.”
Commenting on his current artistic trajectory, Bell feels that today he is freer to select projects, like Torsten, that offer a measure of self-satisfaction. “I think things become much more personal because they have to have meaning for you,” he says. “It is almost impossible to compete with the young guns, so you just put everything down to experience and hope that you may capture the public’s imagination.”
Bell, who realized his passion and talent for singing even as a child, never expected that performing for others would become his life’s work.
“I feel very lucky to have a talent and be able to use it,” he reflects. “The business [today] is very strange because you don’t necessarily even have to be able to sing.
Everything is so commercial — about the packaging and shock value and the dresses you wear – [it’s] very different from when we started out.”
During the course of his remarkable career, Bell — who admits to being star struck often — has enjoyed opportunity to meet many celebrated performers. One special memory, naturally, is that of meeting gay favorite Madonna. “I was completely dumbstruck,” he recalls upon meeting the Material Girl. “I could not say a word and could feel myself fainting!”
Interestingly, the best advice Bell recalls ever receiving was that from his grandmother. “I remember my nan saying to me, ‘Make sure that you look after yourself first,’ which seems kind of selfish,” he says. “But in actual fact is very true because in the end you are only responsible for you and your own actions.”
Today, Bell and his partner, Stephen Moss, are parties to a civil union — though not because “we need validation for ourselves, but the world needs to know that we are all the same. No one love is more important or less than any other!”
That progress has been made in gay equality warms his heart — but he knows the fight isn’t over.
“Slowly but surely things are turning in our favor,” he says, “but we have to be constantly on guard. Our rights could just as easily be taken away from us within a whisper — even after years of fighting for them.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 6, 2014.