Vince Clarke is probably the only man in music history who has managed to fall on his feet every time he has jumped into a new venture. Previously to joining Erasure in 1985, his credits had been The Assembly with Fergal Sharkey, teaming up with Paul Quinn from Bourgie Bourgie for one single, the infamous Depeche Mode, and somewhere in between all that lot was Yazoo.
After being introduced to a very young spiky haired, pouty girl called Genevieve Alison-Jane Moyet who had already fronted little known band, The Vicars, Clarke got to hear her sing for a demo tape and was immediately struck by this girls extremely powerful voice. They teamed up together after Clarke had talked her into cutting a record. She was equally impressed with his synthesiser genius and electro style. By the time 1981 was drawing to a close, these two young musicians from Basildon in Essex set to work on producing their first single.
Only You, by Clarkes fair hand was released in 17th April 1982, a date that had become a musical mark in history. It was on this day in 1960 that Eddie Cochran was killed in a car crash in Chippenham and it was also the date of Billy Furys birthday. Still, this track had immediately become not just a hit, but a forever widely covered song. Not in the least bit surprising that their first record should be such a success, with both having vast experience in the music industry, albeit, Clarke more than Moyet, they had invented was not just a sound that was both modern and in touch with the growing new romantic movement, but with Moyets incredible voice, classic, clear and pleasing to all generations. It was this single that was the featured in the album, Upstairs At Erics a amateur themed in the bedroom singing with a hairbrush in your hand including voices of friends and Erics mum. (Whoever Eric is..)
Whatever the case, what we were introduced to was the fusion of two great music minds of the post punk era.
Visually, they had looked rather comical. Miss Moyet was a large girl of a big frame and face to match. A smile and voice that was quite intimidating and God help if she ever fell on top of you. Vince Clarke on the other hand was the complete opposite. Small, meek with floppy fringe and spoke very little. Pouted with head down and generally appearing like some dopey student in tatty clothes.
Moyets deep and unmatchable vocal boomed across the airwaves on the radio in those early days like some mysterious and emotional diva. Crying from the bottom of her heart, her energy in her performance on both record and stage was quite remarkable. Apart from having to change their name to Yazz whilst touring over in the States due to an American record label of the same name, they embarked on little upheaval. Eventually, after releasing only three, yet highly acclaimed albums, they decided to split in 1983. A strange move as they were at the height of their career as a band and with America now under their belts, many were puzzled at the decision. Admitting that they wanted to break whilst the going was good, they were quick to release the potential they were creating for themselves in their chosen ventures simply because Yazoo were still very mush in the public eye. Moyet was able to launch her successful solo career although, her diversity and acclaimed vocals were lost in the sea of ballad commercialism and she seemed never wanting to return to the sound of Yazoo again. Meanwhile, Vince Clarke went on to form the Assembly with old friend Fergal Sharkey and they had one hit titled, Never, Never' in November 1983 reaching number 4.
Upstairs At Erics was trusted onto the chart in August 1982 as Yazoos very first album. Its mannequin cover showing both dummies cut off at the waist and torsos sitting on the table with their detached legs still sitting bent on the chairs, they face each other as if in deep discussion. Photographed by Joe Lyons, upstairs in a disused warehouse one night, it gives the purchaser the theme of the electronic, synthesised age where music and culture became flatly unemotional. All industries were obsessed with robots and all that was unhuman. This showed in predominately the music industry and yet also very much in the fashions of that time. Buskers on city streets gave miming shows pretending to be robots and mimicking passers by. The new romantic movement had a emotionless face about it. The costumes that the young wore (myself included here!) were right out of the 18th Century. All the fellas wanted to look like Dick Turpin and both sexes wore as much make up as they possibly could, thus giving a mechanical impression of a soulless existence. I hardly believe at the time, that this is the way we wanted to look, but unfortunately that was the rest of the world saw.
The first track on this album is probably the best known song by Yazoo, titled, Dont Go. Released in July 1982, it was one out of only six singles that they recorded together. It rushed its way straight to number 3 and hung around for a fair 11 weeks in the chart. The track opens with the famous right handed flutter of notes on the keyboard that has been used as recognisable by the public as the band themselves. A fast, drum machine based track, Moyet shows off her diva like vocals with defiance and dignity. She is allowed to use her voice in this track and stretch it in ever way imaginable. She drops her vocals and throws her lyrics up to the ceiling to see if they would stick like a pancake. its a quick passed song with equal amounts of speed and energy as a lap of a race track. Using a heavy base line that was only just being introduced into these electric sounds at the time, it is rather edgy and angry in its theme. It is however, a classic example of the extensive talents of both Clarke and Moyet, both using their abilities to their best. It is a touching note to add in here that on the credits of the album, Vince Clarke is credited for his noises rather than noting the instruments that he plays .Added noises were played by Daniel Miller. He appears on about half of the tracks on the album.
Too Pieces, starts with the extreme opposite of life as the previous track. A gentle yet very simple flick across the keyboards is used here. A logo for all Clarke creations. There is depth and feeling in this track. Not that there was in the last, but this theme is softened by its simplicity. The drum machine winds down the mood and gives Moyet the ability to water down her diva like style. A track that surprisingly is more instrumental than vocal, it is the post punk eras version of a love song. It was better in most cases, in those days to create a vision of romanticism through instruments rather than vocals. This back end of new wave lacked any deep emotion, so therefore, anything written with a love theme in mind was difficult if it was also going to appeal to the buying public.
Bad Connection, is the first track in a series of pieces on this album that feature sound effects and backing pieces of talking. A feature that was also introduced in the new wave scene to literally liven records up a towards the end of the new wave era, records started to sound flat and boring. What is used here is the old familiar sound of a phone ringing and the dial tone. Opening like Kids In America but with some featured optimism, this track is jolly in its theme, and sounds rather like OMD but after a very good nights sleep. Chatty backing vocals also by Moyet it is loosely based on a sixties theme of bubble gum pop from the days of Dusty Springfield. A nice touch of the operator reporting a bad line whilst Moyet sings of her urgency to speak to her boyfriend. Id wish theyd fix the wires cause my baby dont know, that Im leaving in the morning and Im ready to go The lyrics are simple and almost childlike. No imagery and colourful word play added here within the lyrics. The backing lines of oh can you hear me? strung in a chanting backing create a beat on its own making this a very catchy, pleasant tune.
I Before E Except After C opens with a recording of a series of voices repeating their prose. The features voices, that grow in number after a few seconds are the voices of D.Davis, Moyet and Erics Mum. Like a bad dream or a very heavy drinking session that is drawing to a close at closing time, or even a bad trip, these voices entwine and become a mass of whispers and distortion. It is totally impossible to concentrate on anything whilst listening to this that does feature some experimental synths and drum machines. It does, however, remind me of something between The Shamen and a hot sweat in the middle of the night. A disturbing piece that leaves us with Erics mum hysterically laughing. Not a song in any stretch of the imagination, more like Vince Clarkes version of that strange, mysterious Number Nine, the Lennon composition.. It is Clarke in his primitive days of experimental synths and playing around with dubbing and over dubbing, editing and mixing, a very up and coming thing for artists to play with, so Clarke set off on a road not travelled, ahead of his time. One actually has to remember how long ago this recording actually was. I dont feel that Yazoo as a band were ever given the recognition for introducing certain sounds and experiments than they were. It is compelling listening and youll be drawn into the track and not clearly understand why
Midnight, enters on Moyets voice totally unaccompanied, then with religious themed keyboards backing Moyets desperate voice it fundamentally opens on just about the same line as Dont Go. Moyet has this uncanny knack of pushing all emotion ever felt by a singer in just one screaming note. Precisely in tune and never off key, her vocals were quite extraordinary for the type of music that she was signing. New wave, post punk new romanticism whatever you wish to call it, never relied on such strong vocals. Debbie Harry full of all alluring appeal was not the worlds greatest singer but Blondie were massive, and it was purely because new wave wasnt about talent or even control over a song, it was about meaningless sounds and vocals. Unfortunately Yazoo were the last band to fit into the new wave category for these reasons. It truly meant that Yazoo were in a music genre of their own. This track is equally as pleasant as the rest of the album bar one or two pieces. Yet again, in this track she accentuates on her every note giving a fairly flat song depth and strength. Not surprising that it was actually written by her, and the first track of hers featured on this album.
In My Room is probably the nearest we get to experience punk/electro on this album. Each track so far has been a simmered down versions of a mixture of genres around at that time. Featuring a slowed down deep chant of The Lords Prayer, this extreme experimental track of distorted drum beats and elongated keyboards chords a layered feel with the icing on the top of this cake, Moyets voice which seems to have taken an electronic form. Mixed in a misbeated theme, this track will do little to tap your feet or move your head, it will probably flit over you whilst you await the next track and that of one being the biggest hit. Perhaps this track is misplaced in the production of this album and probably belongs elsewhere. Still, it is Clarke in playful form, and probably not to everyones taste. He does, at this stage of his career be preoccupied with voices mixed with noises, these deep, still vocals where words are spoken rather than sung seems high up on the agenda for this piece of work from a young band. It certainly was the order of the day, we must be aware of that, despite what we think
Unfortunately, when I think of Only You, I immediately think of the acappella version by the Flying Pickets which reached a number one position Christmas, 1983. This might have upset Vince Clarke as it was obviously his song, but only managed number 2 the year before with Moyet on vocals. This had to be Clarkes masterpiece through his career, even in the days of Erasure, I do believe that this is the song that he will be remembered for. Basic and a very pop version of a new wave track. This was the track that I feel kicked off the very pop essence of the eighties. Many believe that it was Visages Fade To Grey, that was the very beginning of the new romantic movement in its musical sense. For me, it was Only You, by Yazoo that was the fore runner for the eighties pop era. It was far from punk and really nowhere near new romanticism, but it did pave the way for a lot of bands coming along who were all geared up with synths and drum machines but lacked direction. Clarke is one of those behind the scenes man in British music history who will be not just one of the innovators of the British pop scene but also one of those people who could be easily forgotten. The lyrics were teenage perfection and simple to understand. A little love song of a break up to fit the era and also very fitting for the vocal range of Moyet.
Goodbye 70s is a very interesting track in the sense that it is not just closing the door on the seventies punk/glam rock scene, but it opens the eighties with the same excitement as 1980 did at the time. This is a mesmerising track in its speed and disco effect with thundering keyboards and laser effect sounds sitting over a steady drum machine, it is Pet Shop Boys before they knew themselves, it is again, an example of the shape of the pop sense was to become in the following decade. Fast and furious, defiant and excitingly entrancing, we even feel a detection of rave/techno music in this track, years before its time. Moyet adjusts her vocals to fit this disco feel in a range that suits her, which is any range really .
The next two tracks wind the album down on a gradual sombre note from each track to the next, the theme becomes more introverted and distracted from its speedy theme from previous tracks. Tuesday, is the first of these tracks, that feels little to me and sounds more like a B side to a far better standing song. The keyboards are whining somewhat and Moyet sounds slightly bored. In actually puts me in mind of Nobodys Diary, which was to be the last hit for the band before they split. It was this track that I felt Yazoo where on a slight down hill slide. We can look at Moyets solo career to recognise that the spark from her days with the creative Clarke had all but vanished in her music. Her voice doesnt hold so much strength in this track of Tuesday, as the others
Winter Kills, is the most morose piece I have ever heard from either of the two musicians here. Written by Moyet, it a shockingly far cry from Goodbye 70s which was also written by her. It is not advisable to listen to the track too often without fear of wanting to slash your wrists. It is not just disappointing, but worrying as I feel Moyet needed some help in her life if she had this type of material in her in the first place. I try and figure out what was attractive about this song for them to produce it onto the album. Surely Clarke could have talked her out of it ? Perhaps he was just as miserable at the time too. Moyets voice has lost all strength and energy. She still give a performance matching nothing else, but I did think that this track held not place on this type of album at all. I wonder if song is about someone who had died, the track continues..lost in daydreams you drove too fast and got nowhere, you rode on half fare when you got too scared Bar one or two incredible notes of hope, this track holds no glimmer of recovering what so ever. Best left to a funeral march, I do believe Siouxie And The Banshees have come up with jollier stuff than this
Bring You Love Down (Didnt I?) picks up the tempo and we are relieved. We relax in the knowledge that Yazoo havent completely lost the plot towards the end of this album and we find ourselves back to square one, like slapped over the face with a wet kipper, we find ourselves bewildered from the experiences of the last two tracks. With clappy drum machine beats and catchy, fluttering lyrics, we are back safely in the arms of the security songs that were Yazoo. We are even graced by the sound effect of a glass clinking party going on in the background to end the album on a disco, unharmed and happy note. This track really holds little meaning in a lyrical sense, but we dont care! Its the best way to leave Yazoo, Moyet bouncing her large chest around the stage and Clarke, ever the party animal, moody with ever growing fringe, looking as though he was wishing he was somewhere else ..
Their story was a very brief one, but their careers mountainous ever since. It would seem that even though this was only a short space in time for both Alison Moyet and Vice Clarke, it was certainly the most important
When this album was released again on CD, it featured the dreaded bonus tracks which are always dumped in on a new cd release of an old album just to justify the money spent on putting it on CD in the first place. These were; The Other Side Of Love (November 1982, number 13) and; Situation, (September 1982, no position reached in singles chart)
All songs written by Moyet and Clarke
Produced by E.C.Radcliffe and Yazz
Vocals and Piano by Moyet
Noises by Clarke.
Bought at a record fair, Brighton, East Sussex, two pounds 2005.
~ Yazoo - Upstairs At Erics ~
~ Released formats ~
1982 : UK / US ; LP / Cassette ( LP Stumm 7 / C Stumm 7 )
1986 : UK / US : CD ( UK - CDStumm 7 ; US C-LP-Stumm 7 )
In the UK , all releases were through Mute Records , while in the US through Sire Records .
This review relates in main to the UK released CD version , with associated comments relating to the other versions available .
~ Group background ~
Unhappy with the achievements of her then current 60's cover band The Screaming Addabs , one Genevieve Alison ( aka Alf ) Moyet , decided to take her future into her own hands , and via Melody Maker , placed an ad ' looking for rootsy blues musicians ' . The year was 1982 .
The year earlier had seen the hugely successful debut album release of the group Depeche Mode . Founder member and main song writer Vince Clarke , immediately left , not happy with the groups progression , which was different to what he envisaged .
Back to ' 82 , and seeing the ad , Vince auditioned , despite the fact that he is a synthesiser guru , and difinately not a blues musician . However that something special , almost mystical , element struck them both , and they decided to collaborate on what was initially envisaged as a one of project , and so Yazoo was born ( the name Yazoo taken from an old Mississippi blues record label ) .
To follow were two almightly huge albums , from which three ( they had four UK hit singles - the fourth being the non album track 'The Other Side Of Love' ( see later ) and an additional US single hit with the remix of Situation ( the B side of ' Only You ' ) hit singles were released . However before the second album had even been oficially released the group had ammicably split , the essential spark having been extinguished .
THE CORRECTED PART ....:
Whilst the above have for many people , myself included , has been the believed truth , it is in fact totally ficticious . The actual events leading to the conception of Yazoo are as follows ( as told by Alison Moyet herself ) .
Vince had recently left Depeche Mode . At the time of departure he had been working on a new song . Soon it was completed , so he offered it to Depeche Mode , who understandably turned it down .
With song but no one to sing it , he remembered an old contact from his early musical years , and so made contact . That person was Alison Moyet and the song ' Only You' .
She agreed to provide the vocals as a one off venture , however upon its recording , Mute realising this was something special , persuaded Vince to further colaborate with Alison to produce an album , whose title would become ' Upstairs At Erics ' .
Alf has since gone onto a very successful solo career , while Vince started The Assembly ( one hit / one record wonder ) , and then formed Erasure with which he still has chart success .
~ The Album ~
With two hit singles under their belt ( Only You and Don't Go ), August 1982 saw the debut album release from Yazoo ( known as Yaz in America ) .
The album topped the album charts and was critically acclaimed by musical journalists . Indeed many even to this day recognise this debut album as one of the most complete debuts ever to be recorded , such was its strengths with no weaknesses to be found .
That is not to say all tracks were taken kindly to , as musical experimentation was a key factor in its success .
In 1982 the now common CD format was not available - it was in existance but only in developmental stage . The format of choice was vinyl , and for those on the move cassette .
The original track listing was as follows :
1) Don't Go
2) Too pieces
3) Bad Connection
4) I Before E Except After C
6) In My Room
7) Only You
8) Goodbye 70's
10) Winter Kills
11) Bring Your Love Down ( Didn't I )
The US CD release was as above , yet the UK CD release saw Track 4 removed and the inclusion of the tracks ;
1) The Other Side Of Love ( 12" )
2) Situation ( US 12" remix )
'The Other Side Of Love' being the third single released released by Yazoo , recorded after the completion of ' Upstairs At Erics ' yet never included on their next album release ' You And Me Both '
The tracks are a mixture of styles combining Vince's technical synth precision with the range and power of Alf's vocal delivery, combining deep soul tragedy in with innate pop sensibilities. It was by not limiting themselves to any one particular style that paved the way to the immence public interest and affection that followed.
For starters you have the emotional power of songs such as 'Too Pieces'
, 'Bad Connection', 'Tuesday' and 'Midnight' .
Then you have the synth powerpop of classics such as 'Don't Go' and ' Only You '.
Finally you have the strange with ' I Before E Except After C ' and ' In My Room ' .
~ My choice stand out tracks ~
Ignoring the single releases whose success speaks volumes for the quality , my favourites have to be :
1) ' I Before E Except After C
Not on the UK CD release , this track was basically mixed-up chit chat bordering on schizophenic tendancies , coupled with an eerie musical backdrop . On first hearing this track I would skip it , but after many years I have finally come to appreciate it subtleties .
2) ' In My Room '
Who else could combine studio talk , the Lords Prayer simple lyrics on the subject of loneliness and a understated musical beat , to produce a stunning piece of musical genius.
3) ' Too Pieces '
One short verse - the subject a broken relationship , coupled with a musical score - a masterpiece that transends time , it just has to be listened to.
~ The Cover / inlay ~
The main cover image is of dismembered showroom dummies - very apt and portraying the group members highly different musical preferences and also their musical differences with the then current musical vogue .
Inside you find simple black and white images and the complete song lyrics , which again are in tune with the cover image statement .
~ Availability ~
Not generally found available in high street stores , you can order this album , along with all Yazoo releases from Mute Records web site ( www.mute.com ) . For those interestested in obtaining this release in its original LP guise ( ie US CD release ) , keep a check on ebay where it does periodically rear its head .
~ Overview ~
Stunning release that would be a hit if released toda
y , despite being in excess of twenty years old . Not many of todays releases will be able to that in ten years time , let alone twenty . A must have album.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Don't Go
2 Too Pieces
3 Bad Connection
5 In My Room
6 Only You
7 Goodbye '70s
9 Winter Kills
10 Bring Your Love Down (Didn't I)
11 Other Side Of Love