Before there was Alf, The Assembly or Erasure there was the synth-pop duo Yazoo and their defining debut album, 'Upstairs At Eric's'
The inspired partnership of soul singer Alison Moyet with the developing electronic talents of Vince Clarke proved to be a huge and swift success on Yazoo's debut album Upstairs At Eric's. Quite quickly after the departure of Vince Clarke from his former band Depeche Mode, the founding member started to record songs with Moyet. Upstairs At Eric's was released, via Mute records, less than a year after Depeche Mode released their debut album, and the only album to feature Vince Clarke, Speak And Spell. Whilst that album had been a relative success Clarke had become frustrated with the band's direction and chose to leave to form Yazoo. His choice, whilst not wholly appreciated by DM at the time, was to prove very fruitful as Yazoo quickly eclipsed the successes that Depeche Mode had experienced up until that point.
The unlikely pairing of the The Screamin' Ab Dabs singer Alison Moyet with "pretty boy" pop pioneer Vince Clarke may have been something of an "arranged marriage" at the time but it was one that fused the undoubted strengths of both artists to produce some spectacular results. Yazoo's first single, Only You, had already been penned by Clarke by the time that both he and Moyet joined forces whilst the soundtrack for the emotive ballad had also been laid down by VC in advance of them meeting. The song was recorded only three months after Clarke had left DM in the same studios that would come to reference the album's title. It was released on 15th March 1982 as the band's debut single and peaked at number two on the UK charts a month later. (An a cappella version of this song, by the Flying Pickets, went on to reach number one in Christmas 1983).
The band's second single release ahead of the album was the radically different club classic, Don't Go. The iconic high-energy dance track was equally as successful as their first release reaching number three on the main UK chart, number two in Switzerland and Holland and peaking at number one in Belgium as well as on the Billboard American Dance Chart. Both of Yazoo's first two releases shared a synth back drop and were both written by Vince Clarke and both are prime examples of Clarke's particular expertise at delivering very catchy, simple and unforgettable hooks. The revolving keys of Only You and the synth chords that power Don't Go are immediately recognisable and a signature of this sometimes underrated songwriter.
Upstairs At Eric's was recorded by the band with and at Eric Radcliffe's studio in East London, with some additional production help from Daniel Miller, as and when they could get into the studio. Both Clarke and Moyet contributed songs to their debut album, although none of them were collaborative. There are some distinctive differences that arise because of the way that each of the songwriters approached their own songs. The more soulful tendencies of Moyet are definitely brought to the fore on the soulful ballad Midnight and through the sombre reflections on Winter Kills but Alison was still capable of delivering a pop-banger herself. The disillusionment born out in the impassioned Goodbye '70s is as upbeat as any on the album and the original close out track, Bring Your Love Down (Didn't I), is a sure fire floor filler that combines Clarke's ability to superbly arrange a synth soundtrack with Moyet's expressive and rasping vocals.
The split between up-tempo dance tracks and more melancholy reflection served in some respects to define Upstairs At Eric's, making it an altogether more interesting album with seemingly disparate elements. The dark and brooding Tuesday and more experimental In My Room are brilliant manifestations of emotive electro that bring out the best in both of the artists whilst the pure pop of Bad Connection showcase the irresistible, ground breaking, hooks that Clarke has become synonymous for.
Upstairs At Eric's brought together two formidable artists to form an unlikely, but very successful, alliance that would serve as the platform for both of them to go on to deliver yet more inspiring and credible creations in the future.