Alison Moyet, an incredibly gifted singer with a deep, rich, bluesy voice, first found fame in her early 20s. Joining forces with Vince Clarke, a former member of Depeche Mode, Alison formed Yazoo, a synth-dance band, in 1981.
Yazoo was a major success in England. Their first two albums, Upstairs at Eric’s and You and Me Both, peaked at #2 and #1 respectively on the record charts, and four of their singles became Top 15 hits. In the United States, the duo (renamed Yaz because an American rock band was already using the name) saw three of their singles become number one hits on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart, but they weren’t nearly as successful on mainstream radio.
Alison and Vince decided to disband Yazoo shortly before their second album was released.
Vince Clark went on to form Erasure with Andy Bell and had an astonishing 24 consecutive singles become Top 20 hits in the UK Alison Moyet began a solo career, and while her success hasn’t rivaled that of her former band mate (she’s had nine singles become Top 40 hits in England), she has never particularly strived for success on the radio. Instead, she has gloriously followed her own path.
The only real success Alison Moyet has had as a solo artist in the United States is with a song titled “Invisible” that became a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 4, 1985. But that song was enough to make me a lifelong fan.
As a member of the immortal songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Lamont Dozier helped pen some of the best of Motown’s many hits, including “(Love Is Like a) Heatwave”, “Where Did Our Love Go”, “Band of Gold”, “Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone” and “Reach Out, I’ll Be There”. So it’s not surprising that, on his own, Dozier would write a beautiful, heartbreaking song for Alison Moyet to perform.
But the combination of a great song and a great voice resulted in something far more powerful, and the video only added to the sense of drama and alienation. Alison is enveloped in a shapeless black dress, surrounded by dancers half her size (at least) and pouring her heart out while everyone literally ignores her. To a gay teenage boy growing up in a small Southern town, the song was a revelation.
Watching the video play late on a Friday night on SuperStation’s Night Tracks (the music video series that continuously beat MTV at its own game), I shared her pain. I knew exactly what it felt like to be invisible (just as I suspect most people do, regardless of labels or situations), and it comforted me knowing that I wasn’t the only one that felt separated and alone at times.
For anyone interested in more by her, I would recommend her Singles collection, or—if you’d like to listen to some of her albums—Alf, her debut CD, is an excellent collection of ‘80s pop, Essex is a ‘90s mix of pop, dance and alternative, and Voice is a standards covers album that ranks with the best.
If there are any one-hit wonders you’d like to see featured in coming weeks, please let me know in the comments section.
// Notes from the Road
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