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The soaring falsetto of Andy Bell combined with the infectious electronic melodies of Vince Clarke to position Erasure among the most commercially successful techno-pop acts of their era. Born April 25, 1964, in Peterborough, England, Bell was among over 40 applicants who in 1985 responded to a blind ad in a British music weekly seeking a singer; at the audition, he discovered the advertisement was placed by synth pop pioneer Clarke, famed for his previous stints as a member of Depeche Mode and Yazoo. Bell's powerful rendition of "Who Needs Love Like That?" so impressed Clarke that Erasure was formed on the spot, and months later the same song became the duo's debut single. One of the first openly gay stars in pop, Bell's gender-bending flamboyance and high-pitched vocals proved the perfect complement to Clarke's moody persona and buoyant popcraft. Although their 1986 debut LP Wonderland was a commercial and critical disappointment, with 1988's The Innocents Erasure scored a pair of American pop hits, "Chains of Love" and "A Little Respect." While both 1989's Wild! and 1991's Chorus topped the British charts, the advent of grunge minimized dance-pop's immediate appeal, and subsequent outings appeared to little notice outside of their core audience. In 2005, Bell made the announcement that he'd been HIV positive since 1998. Two albums appeared that year, Erasure's Nightbird and his first solo album, Electric Blue. Five active years for the band kept Bell away from his solo career until 2010, when his club-oriented album Non-Stop arrived. Three more Erasure albums appeared before Bell returned to his solo career in 2014, this time in the medium of theater. Assuming the role of Torsten, a "polysexual semi-immortal," Bell premiered his theater piece Torsten the Bareback Saint at that year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A soundtrack album was also released in 2014, while 2016 saw the character revived on the album Torsten the Beautiful Libertine. ~ Jason Ankeny