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artist information

Yazoo

Yazoo (known as Yaz in the U.S.) was a short-lived but highly successful English synthpop duo from Basildon, Essex that had a number of top ten hits in the British charts in the early 1980s.

Heavily influenced by earlier bands like Kraftwerk, Yazoo expanded upon the synthpop formula by juxtaposing Alison Moyet's bluesy and emotional vocals with Vince Clarke's clinical electronic hooks. Its sound referenced disco but added a more disaffected attitude that disco lacked. Their second album saw greater songwriting input from Moyet, adding a rather more mature and soulful flavour, particularly on the hit single "Nobody's Diary."

Overview and history

The group was formed in 1981, using a moniker that Alison Moyet, veteran of a number of southeast Essex based punk and rock bands, had seen on the labels of old blues albums: Yazoo, although Clarke would later confess that this came from mis-hearing the name of the mouth instrument Kazoo which was popular in the late 1970's. Clarke had been the main songwriter in Depeche Mode, who at that point had recorded one album and three singles for Mute Records, including the hits "New Life" and "Just Can't Get Enough". Clarke surprised many by quitting Depeche Mode just as they were beginning to reap success, claiming that they "just weren't getting on, really", forming Yazoo with the then relatively unknown Moyet. Mute Records continued to release the output of this new Clarke project. The band was licensed to Sire Records in the United States.

Its debut single "Only You" backed with "Situation," was released in April 1982 and rose to number two in the UK. Clarke had offered the song as a parting gift to his former bandmates in Depeche Mode, but they declined. Yazoo quickly scored another hit with the next single, "Don't Go," which hit number three, and became popular on MTV in the United States thanks to a Frankenstein-themed video. They continued their successful streak with their first album, Upstairs at Eric's, which went platinum in Britain. The band received favourable reviews for their pioneering sound. Clarke and Moyet toured briefly, while releasing a stopgap single, "The Other Side of Love."

The duo's second and last album, You and Me Both, yielded more success, hitting the top of the UK charts, and spinning off one single. The album's success was tainted by Clarke and Moyet deciding to go their separate ways.

Moyet decided to venture off on a solo career, signing to Columbia Records, where she would enjoy a great deal of early success. Vince Clarke recorded a single with producer Eric Radcliffe (the same "Eric" from the title of Yazoo's debut album) and Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey as The Assembly, and another with vocalist Paul Quinn. Clarke then founded the highly successful pop group Erasure with vocalist Andy Bell.

Mute Records released a remixed version of "Situation" as a single in 1990 to moderate success. In 1999, a compilation was released, entitled Only Yazoo - The Best of and was preceded by a re-release of Yazoo's debut single, "Only You", featuring a new remix of the title track and several more of "Don't Go". The band's output was bookended with yet another release of "Situation", accompanied by many remixes.

Clarke was tapped to remix Moyet's 1994 single, "Whispering Your Name" and with Erasure, Clarke and Moyet tried to record her single "This House" as a duet. This project never came to surface, because Sony Music Entertainment would not permit it.

The band's songs have appeared in a number of films and television shows. "Only You" was used in the Napoleon Dynamite, the BBC television series The Office, and the film Can't Hardly Wait; a cover version of "Only You" by Joshua Radin was used in 2007 in a JC Penney commercial; "Don't Go" appeared in the BBC series I'm Alan Partridge, was used in the movie Tango and Cash, and can be heard in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories; 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 classic NES games ported to it.

Discography

Albums

YearAlbumUKGERUS
1982Upstairs at Eric's21492
1983You and Me Both11569
1999Only Yazoo - The Best of Yazoo22--

Singles

YearSongUK singlesGERUS Hot 100US DanceAustraliaAlbum
1982"Only You"27267-7Upstairs At Eric's
1982"Don't Go"34-16Upstairs At Eric's
1982"Situation" 1NRNR731NRUpstairs At Eric's
1982"The Other Side of Love"1335---Upstairs At Eric's (Re-Release)
1983"Nobody's Diary"318-117You and Me Both
1990"Situation" (1990 remix)1436-46--
1999"Only You" (1999 Mix)38-NRNRNROnly Yazoo - The Best of Yazoo
1999"Don't Go"/"Situation" (new remix)1NRNR-1NROnly Yazoo - The Best of Yazoo
1999"Situation" (new remix)*2--NRNR-Only Yazoo - The Best of Yazoo
  • 1 US-only single
  • 2 Ineligible for UK singles chart
  • NR - Not released in that country

Awards

  • 1983 BRIT Awards - Best British breakthrough act

References

LCD Soundsystem, the musical project of producer James Murphy, in "Losing My Edge," the first track on the second disc of his self-titled album LCD Soundsystem, references Yazoo in the following manner:

"I hear you're buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator, and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real. You want to make a Yaz record."

The Bayside Boys remix of Los Del Rio's "Macarena" samples the laughter of Alison Moyet from Yazoo's 1982 single "Situation." The laughter has been sampled in dozens of tracks over the years.

Trivia

  • Smash Hits did an interview with Yazoo on May 13, 1982. The interview was conducted by Neil Tennant, who would later make it big as half of the Pet Shop Boys four years later.