Sunday, September 06, 2020

Weekend Diversion: Yazoo

Earlier this week I told the story of a dream I had, one that revolved around a Yazoo song, “Only You”. I realised then that I’d never talked about them in any great detail. In fact, I only ever mentioned them in a Weekend Diversion post about Erasure back in 2011. It’s time to fix that oversight.

I have to begin, though by acknowledging an uncomfortable fact: The videos I share may be geoblocked. I’ve never done a post like this knowing that it’s possible that all the videos might be geoblocked, but this is justified, I think.

Yazoo (known as Yaz in the USA) was a synth-pop duo made up of Vince Clarke and singer Alison Moyet. Clarke was originally part of Depeche Mode, and he and Moyet had known each other in school. They released two albums in eighteen months: Upstairs at Eric’s (released in August 1982) and You And Me Both (released in July 1983). And that was that. Moyet went on to a solo career, and Clarke went on to form Erasure with Andy Bell.

What all this means is that several groups that I really liked are all linked, at least partly, to Vince Clarke: Depeche Mode, Yazoo, The Assembly, and Erasure, and Alison Moyet. There aren’t many other interconnecting performers I can think of, but maybe there are more than I realise.

In any event, the video up top is a different version of “Only You” (the 1999 mix) to the one I shared the other day. It was Yazoo’s first single, released in the UK in March 1982, and the USA the following November. It reached Number 6 in Australia, 2 in the UK, and 67 on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100”. It didn’t chart in New Zealand. There was a cover version of it the following year, done by the UK a cappella group the The Flying Pickets. That version was the Christmas Number One in 1983 in both the UK and Ireland [WATCH/LISTEN].

Their next single was their 1982 single, “Don’t Go”:

This one is a little complicated. This was the second official single, but their third single, "Situation", was originally the B side of “Only You”, and released in the USA before “Don’t Go”. But more about that later. “Don’t Go” reached Number 6 in Australia, 22 in New Zealand, 3 in the UK (Silver), and Number 1 in the Billboard “US Hot Dance Club Play”.

Their third official single, and second in the USA, was “Situation”:

The version above is “Situation '90 (Alternative People Version)”, which is a remix of the original. It gives a feel for what the original version was like, though updated. “Situation” reached Number 31 in Canada, Number 1 in the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100”, and Number 1 in the Billboard “US Hot Dance Club Play”. It didn’t chart in Australia or New Zealand. I’m unclear on when it was released in Australia and New Zealand—whether it was the third or second single released in those countries.

And finally, my favourite Yazoo song back in the day, 1983’s “Nobody’s Diary”:

The song was the first and only single from their second album, You And Me Both, and was released in May 1983. It was written by Alison Moyet. It hit 17 in Australia, 14 in New Zealand, 3 in the UK (Silver) and Number 1 in the USA’s Billboard “Dance Club Songs”.

As for the albums, Upstairs at Eric’s reached Number 10 in Australia, 49 in Canada, 9 in New Zealand, 2 in the UK (Platinum), and 92 in the USA’s Billboard “Hot 200” (Platinum). Their second and final album, You and Me Both reached 21 in Australia, 33 in Canada, Number 1 in New Zealand, Number 1 in the UK (Gold), and 69 in the USA’s Billboard “Hot 200”.

These four songs are the ones I knew the best, mainly because I heard them in clubs at the time, and because my friend from childhood, Doug, introduced me to their music (and later, Erasure’s, too). In fact, Doug introduced me to a lot of the 1980s music I love to this day. I still listen to all that music, and I still feel the excitement of the time—being young, newly out, and seeing a world that seemed to be filled with possibility, despite Reagan being in the White House. For me, the music isn’t nostalgic as such, but more the very real soundtrack to my life in those days.

I liked Yazoo’s music, and the duo’s later work, too. But “Nobody’s Diary” back then, and “Only You” at the moment, are by far my favourite Yazoo tracks, and I don’t think that’s likely to change.