Erasure was the first group I ever knew with an openly gay member. I remember reading an article about them in my high school paper and being surprised that a) there was a group in the top 40 with a gay guy in it (I don’t think Boy George or Elton John was out yet, and I’d either forgotten about Sylvester or–stunningly–had not yet realized that he was openly gay), and that they were being written about in my high school paper. I think we were trying to be whatever “edgy” was at that time.
Sexuality or not, “Chains Of Love” was Erasure’s breakthrough song at mainstream radio and is a joyous, danceable treat to this day. Andy Bell’s almost-acapella intro is queer disco drama perfection. There’s no better evidence of this point than my experience at an Erasure show I went to. It was at least a decade ago (maybe more) and Andy and Vince were doing a sold out residency at Irving Plaza. I went to one show after eating a trough of Chinese food with my friend David Middleton (himself a brief indie rock sensation with his band Waxing Poetics). “Chains Of Love” was nearly 20 years old at that point, yet a club filled with 1,000 people (80% of which were queer men, I’m willing to bet) sang every word of “Chains of Love” like it was a national motherfucking anthem. And for those of us living in the shadows at the time (to be fair, I was 12 and hadn’t figured it all out yet), those of us who’d already said “fuck the shadows” and a few folks who just loved great music, it was an anthem.
NOT QUITE FIVE STARS…
“Chain Of Fools” by Aretha Franklin (1968): “Chain Of Fools” is another song I have weird feelings about. The legend of it affects my enjoyment of it to the point that I second-guess my feelings about its rating. When my brain gets weird like that, there’s only one solution. Listen to the damn song. So, off to Spotify I went (because I’m not at home with my library as I write this. Sorry.)
Just about any song recorded during Aretha’s heyday (I Never Loved A Man… through Amazing Grace) should get four stars just as a base, because during those years, Ree could take even the most banal material and make it pop based on the strength and interpretive power of her voice. Add in an intriguing lyric and a smoking band (that intro!) Pretty close to five stars (and I initially rated it as such), but not totally essential. But still great, so…yeah, whatever.