Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y is for... Yazoo





Alison Moyet had spent her teens singing in various punk and blues bands. After The Screamin' Ab Dabs split up in late 1981, she placed an advertisement in the UK Weekly music magazine Melody Maker looking for musicians to form a 'rootsy' blues band. She received only one response - from Vince Clarke, who had recently stunned the music press by quitting Depeche Mode after writing their debut album and three hit singles. Clarke's best friend had been in a band with Moyet previously, and Clarke had seen Moyet sing live a few times. He was looking for someone to sing on a demo of a song he had written called "Only You". Clarke was worried that by walking out of Depeche Mode he would lose his record deal with Mute Records and wanted to show the label that he still had something to offer them, so he had responded to Moyet's advertisement.

Despite having differing views on music, Moyet was won over by the song Clarke had written and his positive attitude to making music. She sang the lyrics into a tape recorder and Clarke took the demo to his record label. The label asked the duo to record the song as a single and make an album together. Clarke had already written "Don't Go" but both he and Moyet felt it was too good to be a B-side, so they quickly wrote the song "Situation" together.

According to Moyet the name Yazoo was taken from the specialist blues record label, Yazoo Records. This decision led to a £3.5 million lawsuit threat by the label over the band's name and coupled with the fact that the name Yazoo was already in use by a small American rock band, the group was renamed Yaz for the North American market.

"Only You" was released in the UK in March 1982 and rose to number 2 on the UK singles chart. The duo recorded their debut album at Blackwing Studios in south-east London, where Clarke had recorded Depeche Mode's album Speak & Spell the previous year. As the studio had already been booked out during the day, Yazoo recorded most of the album during the early mornings. Clarke had expected that Daniel Miller would produce the album, but discovered that Miller was already otherwise occupied, so Blackwing studio owner Eric Radcliffe ended up carrying out production duties with Clarke and Moyet. The album was named Upstairs at Eric's in recognition of Radcliffe's input.


Upstairs at Eric's was released in the UK in August 1982, peaking at number 2 on the UK albums chart and going on to sell more than 300,000 copies and achieving platinum status. In the US initial success was more modest and the album peaked at number 92 on the Billboard 200 album chart, but by 1989, seven years after its release, word of mouth had helped to push the album to platinum status for sales of over one million copies. The duo played 24 dates in support of the album across Europe and North America.

There was growing tension between Clarke and Moyet by the time came around to record a second album. Clarke had thought of Upstairs at Eric's as a one-off project. The label publishers pressured him into making a second album stating it would not go down well if he was seen to walk out of a second band within a year of the first. Moyet was only 21 at the time, and was struggling to come to terms with being in the spotlight and sudden fame. And she felt that Clarke was leaving her to carry out all the promotional work for the records by herself. The two were rarely in the studio at the same time in the making of the second album. Clarke would record instrumentals in the morning, and Moyet would come in the evening to record vocals.

A single, "Nobody's Diary", was released in May 1983 ahead of the album and reached number 3 in the UK charts, but within days of the single's release, Yazoo announced that they were splitting up. The album, ironically titled You and Me Both, was released in the UK in July 1983 and reached number 1 in the album charts, a feat it would also achieve in New Zealand. However, with no further singles or live appearances to promote it, it did not sell as well as Upstairs at Eric's, although it still achieved gold status in the UK for sales of 100,000 copies. In the US You and Me Both peaked at number 69 on the Billboard 200.

In 2008, 25 years after splitting up, Clarke and Moyet reconciled and reformed Yazoo to play a successful tour of the UK, Europe and North America in support of the reissue of Yazoo's two studio albums and a box set of their material. The pair briefly reunited again in May 2011 to play three Yazoo songs at a music festival organized by their record label, but it seems unlikely that Clarke and Moyet will play together again in the future.


The band's songs have appeared in a number of films and television shows. In 1988, "In My Room", "Ode to Boy", and "Only You" were used in the film The Chocolate War (the adaption of the book of the same title). "Only You" was used in the film Napoleon Dynamite, the BBC television series The Office, the film Can't Hardly Wait, the Fringe episode "Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11", and the "The Americans" episode "Dimebag"; a cover version of "Only You" by Joshua Radin was used in 2007 in a J. C. Penney commercial; "Don't Go" appeared in the BBC series I'm Alan Partridge and was used in the film Tango and Cash. The song "Situation" was used in the 1990 TV movie Exile and was also used in a Nintendo commercial highlighting the classic edition of the Game Boy Advance SP and the NES games ported to it. In 2007, "Bring Your Love Down (Didn't I)" was used in The Sarah Silverman Program episode "Not Without My Daughter".

For your listening enjoyment: Upstairs at Eric's

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLzX9FK4hvfZOhXLD6T3kmsRtdwezw4kBz



What does tomorrow bring?


Will it be ZZ Top?  Zac Brown Band?  The Zutons?

or maybe "Zombie"?  "Zero"?  "Ziggy Stardust"?

Tune in to find out!





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