Vince Clarke was a member of a number of short-lived bands in the late 70s and early 80s, between them featuring all of the original members of Depeche Mode, his first successful project. His time with the band though was brief, lasting just one album: Speak and Spell was almost entirely composed by Clarke and produced a couple of major hit singles, but Clarke didn’t feel the group was the right fit for him and moved on. A few more brief projects followed, the most notable of which was the first, Yazoo: four Top 20 singles, a debut album that stayed in the chart for over a year, and a second and final album (Yazoo’s last release) which made #1. Then came The Assembly (single Never Never peaked at #4), and collaborations with Robert Marlow (with Clarke as producer; Marlow’s singles were released on Clarke’s own record label) and Paul Quinn (as a co-performer). In 1985, he advertised in the Melody Maker for a singer for another venture; Andy Bell answered and Erasure was formed, although success wasn’t as immediate as it was for Yazoo. For the first 18 months or so, sales were modest.
Meanwhile Yazoo’s singer Alison Moyet, although a reluctant solo star, had got her career off to an impressive start with her well-received debut album Alf (her nickname), which topped the chart and yielded three Top 20 singles. Her biggest hit came with a cover of the jazz standard That Ole Devil Called Love which fell short of #1 by one place. However, there were long gaps between releases as Moyet considered her options and overcame episodes of stage-fright and anxiety. Second album Raindancing came after a two-and-a-half year wait and sold around half as many copies as her first; the law of diminishing returns applied with its singles, also, with the final offering taken from it, Sleep Like Breathing, failing to make the Top 75. She returned to chart form with her last single of the 80s, another old standard Love Letters, but failed to follow it up. She then effectively disappeared from public view for several years.
Meanwhile, once the momentum had begun there was no stopping Erasure. Just as Moyet was completing work on Raindancing, Clarke and Bell were scoring their first significant hit with their fourth single Sometimes. Every subsequent single of theirs until the end of the decade made the Top 20 and their albums went multi-platinum. Unlike Moyet, Erasure put out an album a year and supported each of them with a several strong singles; their sound developed with each album but they were able to take their audience with them. Moyet had to start more or less from scratch with each LP, such was the length of time between them (there was a four year wait for her third).
Clarke’s most enduring project, Erasure is still active today, but he reunited with Moyet in 2008 for some concerts to commemorate 25 years since Yazoo split.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Mar. 15
YAZOO Only You (Mute MUTE20)
STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE Let Her Go (Korova KOW39)