Top Ten 80s Songs #4: Ship of Fools – Erasure

The Innocents

I’m a child of the eighties and proud of it. Musically, it was a funny old decade with some serious songs but also many bizarre ones as well. I think of the eighties as a colourful, fun decade of dominant cheesy pop but with some timeless masterpieces not far behind the chart toppers. Over the next ten days I will attempt to disclose what are for me the ten greatest songs of the eighties. It’s always hard to compile a list of this nature and my opinion is likely to change in the near future, but for now here are my golden ten.

I am indebted to www.songmeanings.net and to all those that have contributed to some very interesting discussions about all the songs featured here. It’s important that everyone finds their own meaning in any song but some of the opinions I heard were certainly eye openers for me. I intend to share my own thoughts on these songs and how, after all these years, they still have a profound impact on my life.

Erasure: Ship of Fools (1988)

The InnocentsReleased in the UK in March 1988, my favourite Erasure song only reached no.6 in the charts but that doesn’t diminish its quality in my mind. It is a song that has resonated with me often. Whenever I’ve done something regrettable I’ve embraced the notion that I too sail on the Ship of Fools. The meaning of Erasure’s song, for me, is of someone young learning of the uncompromising damage being in love can be, especially if your new and strong feelings are not reciprocated. I believe it’s from the viewpoint of all who have taken a chance in pursuing who they want but have been left with fragile hearts.

The music video begins with singer, Andy Bell, lying reflectively on a beach surrounded by empty seashells and the remnants of a boat. The seashells could be symbolic of his own feeling of emptiness while the washed up timber could be all that is left of the Ship of Fools that Bell has sailed on but now, having reached dry land, he is able to reflect on his past and gain a new perspective on his mistakes. The shots of Bell lying on the beach sandwich images of him and Vince Clarke surrounded by the ocean, mostly beneath the waves, as he relives his own tragic past.

I must have first heard “Ship of Fools” on the radio, perhaps back in the eighties, but I didn’t rediscover it until I visited my brother when he once lived in Selby, Yorkshire. His girlfriend at the time put on Erasure’s “Pop!” album that contained their first 20 hits. When “Ship of Fools” came on I stopped everything I was doing and found the words and music were familiar to me. I wish I could distinctly recall the first time I heard the song but it’s now too long ago for a poor memory such as mine, but it will remain one of my all time favourites

Top Ten so far:

4) Erasure: Ship of Fools (1988)

5) Ultravox: Vienna (1981)

6) Nik Kershaw: The Riddle (1984)

7) Marillion: Kayleigh (1985)

8) U2: Pride (In The Name Of Love) (1984)

9) Guns ‘N’ Roses: Sweet Child O’ Mine (1988)

10) Depeche Mode: Just Can’t Get Enough (1981)

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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