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Andy's muses

Andy's muses


An open relationship provides juicy fodder for Light at the End of the World, Erasure's latest release.

If navigating one long-term partnership with another man seems difficult, try Andy Bell's life. Relationship number 1 is his most famous: With Vince Clarke in the supergroup Erasure, he's sold more than 20 million albums, and the two are preparing for the release of their new album, Light at the End of the World. His second relationship, with longtime partner Paul Hickey, is less well-known but nearly as long-lived.

It's his third relationship, though, that has proved the toughest for Bell to manage. As he's hinted in past songs, his relationship with Hickey was an open one, though it came with restrictions. Those rules had to be reexamined recently when Bell met the new man in his life: his boyfriend, Dave.

"Paul and I had kind of a half-and-half platonic relationship," Bell explains, "and I had the freedom to meet other people, but the shutters had to come down if I started becoming emotionally involved with someone. Then I met this guy."

Though their relationship began playfully--"I met him at a club, through some mutual friends in London...the first thing he did was show me his cock on his phone"--things soon became serious. As he details in the new song "When a Lover Leaves You," the most difficult thing about the new relationship was for Bell to maintain his already existing bond with Hickey, who suffered a stroke in 2000 and is, like Bell, HIV-positive.

"I'm pretty much a coward, so I can't give up one life and start a new one fresh," Bell says. "At the same time, as you look at your own spiritual health, you don't want to be a bastard. I've been very selfish in my whole relationship with Paul, and he's taught me a lot about how to love someone, which is giving and not expecting anything in return. I just want to show that to someone else."

In Bell's professional relationship, with Light following on the heels of the band's Union Street, an album of Erasure classics in acoustic and country stylings, he and Clarke have been keeping up a furious pace. "It isn't like we're on our last legs," Clarke explains. "We're still really enjoying what we do."

Both men attribute Light's up-tempo vibe and positive outlook to their lives: Clarke and his wife, Tracy, are raising their 1-year-old son, Oscar, and Bell, who just visited his doctor, pronounces himself in good health. Though they live on separate coasts now, Bell and Clarke have few problems recapturing that Erasure magic.

"There are still times when we sit in a room and go, 'Well, what now?' " Clarke admits. "But something always turns up, and that's very exciting."

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