“Victim of Love” Erasure The Secret Policeman’s Third Ball (The Music) 1987
The Secret Policeman’s Ball shows, an acclaimed UK series of comedy and music benefits for Amnesty International, seem to have gone largely unnoticed in the US outside of the new wave community. The music artists and song selections lent themselves to a certain sensibility of the cause at hand among college alternative fans, particularly in the late ’80s. (Yes, I had an Amnesty International poster up on the closet door in our dorm room of the lone protester standing down a row of tanks in Tiananmen Square.) Boasting a lineup that included Kate Bush, Duran Duran, Lou Reed, Bob Geldof, Peter Gabriel, World Party, and Erasure, the Third Ball soundtrack fit easily into my collection.
While difficult to pick a standout among the album’s selection, Erasure’s deceptively joyous reading of “Victim of Love” gets high marks if only for singer Andy Bell’s over-the-top “Merci beaucoup!” exclamation at the song’s end. But there is more to it than that. The song itself, originally found on the duo’s second album, The Circus, released the same year as their Secret Policeman’s Ball appearance, works thematically for the era. It’s a cautionary tale about guarding one’s heart when entering into a new relationship. And in that period of late adolescence and young adulthood, it is appropriate advice, even if I never personally followed it at the time.
This is one of a handful of songs that didn’t actually appear on either of the original End of the Eighties mix CDs, but the Third Ball album was so prominent in my CD player that year John and I roomed together, and I hold this era of Erasure so closely to my relationship with Pam, there was simply no way I could ignore it when the playlist expanded. And it seemed to fit nicely next to Yaz’s “Only You” in the running order, contrasting two of Vince Clarke’s musical outlets.