When Cher’s cover of ABBA’s Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) was released earlier this month and immediately mashed-up with Madonna’s Hung Up, one Facebook friend of mine declared that the result was gay ground zero. To this I meekly respond… “….but what about Erasure’s cover of Gimme Gimme Gimme? Cuz, ya know… lead singer Andy Bell is actually… gay?”
Erasure’s version first appeared in 1986 as a B-side of their third single, Oh L’Amour, a modest chart hit at the time that has proven to be one of the band’s signature songs.
Trying to keep track of Erasure’s discography takes more time than anyone but the most devoted fan has to offer. Album track listings vary on different releases throughout the world, not to mention multiple reissues and bonus editions. As far as I know, this original version of Gimme Gimme Gimme was never included on any of their official album releases, although there was a remix on a 2011 Wonderland double-CD reissue and a live version was included on Two Ring Circus.
It was also a staple in their live act in the 1980’s – there are several versions on concert DVD releases, some with Andy singing a few a capella bars from ABBA’s Money Money Money before launching into Gimme Gimme Gimme.
I was an ABBA fan from childhood and got into Erasure as a teen, when Andy Bell was one of the few out gay singers. Any gay singer at that time still had to remain coy in their lyrics – Boy George would tumble for “you” rather than “him.” Frankie might say “Relax” but not “when HE wants to come.” Erasure singing Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) was quite a revelation to my 18-year-old gay self. Covering a song without changing the gender in the lyric is done more frequently now – often just to be provocative. But in the 80’s? Not so much.
I remember playing the song in my freshman dorm room (vinyl on a real record player, thank you very much) while my straight but artistic roommate came to the realization that the androgynous singer pleading for a man after midnight was a dude. Towards the end of this version, the song builds as the tempo speeds up … and up… and up…with Andy Bell imploring “Gimme. GimmeGimme….” Well. I thought my roomie’s Depeche-Mode-lovin’ head just might explode.
ABBA had not experienced any kind of renaissance at this point. They were a 70’s relic, prone to ridicule like Saturday Night Fever or Donny and Marie. Most of their LP catalogue was out of print. If you had their old albums, you certainly did not bring them to college. It wasn’t until the 90’s that the group would have wave after wave of resurgences – ironic or otherwise.
1992 saw the release of Erasure’s ABBA-eque EP – a collection of 4 ABBA covers that hit #1 on the UK charts. Unfortunately, Gimme Gimme Gimme was not a part of this collection, which featured SOS, Lay All Your Love On Me, Take A Chance On Me and Voulez-Vous. The video for Take A Chance… had Vince Clarke and Andy Bell in and out of drag, playing all 4 member of ABBA.
The ABBA Gold greatest hits came out later in 1992 and never stopped selling…. followed by the film Muriel’s Wedding in 1994…
… and then the A*Teens, the stage musical Mamma Mia, the movie(s)… and the rest is history.
So maybe Erasure had a part in ABBA’s renaissance. Or maybe they just caught the first wave. In any case, their version of Gimme Gimme Gimme deserves a listen. Maybe someone will mash them up with Cher AND Madonna for the ultimate gay apocalypse.
Oh! And while Andy Bell was often the one running around scantily clad onstage, here’s a NSFW pic of Vince Clarke from photographer Rankin’s book Male Nudes. Gimme Gimme indeed.