retro record

LISTEN: This often-forgotten classic by Erasure perfectly captures the heart of queer desire

Long before movies like Call Me By Your Name and Brokeback Mountain, the all too familiar experience of longing for an unattainable love was captured in various forms of art. Among them, music stands out as a powerful medium that can express that powerful feeling of yearning for someone who cannot be had. Erasure’s 1986 track “Oh L’Amour” is one of the greatest examples of this, an often-forgotten gay classic that captures the heart of queer desire.

In 1985, Andy Bell was working in a meat-packing plant in Peterborough when he responded to a newspaper advertisement looking for a singer. Vince Clarke had been Bell’s hero after Bell was successful in his audition, and together, they formed the group Erasure.

Within a matter of months, he was on the way to fame and fortune as one-half of the synth-pop duo, and was openly gay and proud from the start, making a point of neither over- nor under-playing his sexuality. Bell knew the power of hearing an open and defiant gay voice on the radio or at your high school dance, especially during a time when artists like David Bowie tip-toed around sexual ambiguity.

After two singles that were commercial failures in the UK, Erasure’s “Oh L’amour” was the third single released by the English synthpop duo in April 1986. Written by members Vince Clarke and Andy Bell, the song’s lyrics express the pain of unrequited love.

There once was a time / Had you here by my side / You said I wasn’t your kind / Only here for the ride
Oh L’Amour / Broke my heart / Now I’m aching for you

The feeling of longing mixed with the overflow of drama evoked by Bell’s delivery of the song’s heartfelt lyrics creates a perfect rush of camp and romance. The spellbinding, yearnful nature of the song is easy to view through a queer lens, especially with such a catchy chorus.

Despite its melancholic subject matter, and a somewhat initial flop upon release, the track is an upbeat synthpop dance number that became a staple in clubs, particularly with the inclusion of the “Funky Sisters Remix” on the UK 12-inch single and as a bonus track on the US release of their debut album, Wonderland.

This enduring gay classic is a relatively hidden gem that proves there’s no better place to find solace in heartbreak than the pulsating energy of a dancefloor.

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