There was us thinking the Erasure frontman would be an open book when it came to his formative years. Not a bit of it… country & western and steam engines! Welcome to the wonderful world of Andy Bell
When I was a teenager we used to go to a roller disco in Peterborough every weekend. They used to play a song by Charlie Rich called ‘The Most Beautiful Girl’. I was convinced that I was in love with this girl with long, blonde hair. I just followed her round on the roller rink, hoping that I might bump into her, or we’d get talking. It never happened. It was one of those unrequited crushes and I just wasn’t brave enough to break the ice.
For some reason that song just has a resonance with me. I was a bit of a country & western fan, because my parents had a lot of those records, and this song seemed to have a bit of a country tinge to it. I took it as one of those songs that was very truthful. It meant so much to me that on this particular morning, I don’t know why, I thought that this was the girl for me, and this song was an indication of what was going to happen. It gave me butterflies and a complete yearning that I had to meet this girl… but it never ever happened.
This is also Peterborough, from when I was maybe 16 or 17. I was a huge fan of the fairground. I remember one time I was there with all my sisters and we’d been given my mum’s purse, which was full of money from selling Avon. We went on the House Of Fun, and when we came off I realised I’d lost the purse. We were crying, but we stayed there for another couple of hours and when we got home, we pretended to my mum that we’d had a really good time, but that we’d lost her purse on the way home.
The best fairground that I ever went to was this thing called Expo Steam, which they had at the East of England Showground in Peterborough. You’d get all these huge steam engines on display, and at the same time they’d be working the fairground rides. I can still remember the size of the machines, the smell of the engines mixed up with all the popcorn and candy floss.
A few of them used the big cardboard punched-out notes for the steam organ pipes, and I said to Vince one time that we should do an Erasure tour on a steam roller. It would take forever, just driving round the country really slowly, we could set up in the middle of town and do a gig. Vince could get all the synth lines punched out onto these cardboard sheets and all I’d have to do is go out and buy the coal.
JUNIOR SCHOOL CHOIR
My choirmaster in junior school was called Mr Morris. He boosted my confidence so much and was such a kind gentleman. He’d given me a solo in ‘Once In Royal David’s City’ and mum had come down to watch the choir perform.
I was so shy that all I could do was stare at the clock on the wall at the back of the assembly hall or otherwise I’d just be looking down and fiddling with my shorts. I was just so thankful for my teacher for giving me that break. I was very, very shy and I was picked on for being like a girl, so I was really mistrustful of people. He really restored my confidence in myself. I remember I always ran out of breath at the end of the solo. The same thing happened to me in Erasure when I first went into the studio with Vince. I always used to run out breath on the verses of ‘Oh L’Amour’, so I got completely transported back to the choir.