Yazoo (known as Yaz in the U.S.) are an English synthpop duo from Basildon, Essex. They had a number of top ten hits in the British charts in the early 1980s. Formed in late 1981 by former Depeche Mode songwriter Vince Clarke (synthesizer) and English singer Alison Moyet (vocals), Yazoo was signed to Mute Records in the United Kingdom and (as "Yaz") to Sire Records in the United States.
Yazoo's debut single "Only You" backed with "Situation," was released on March 15, 1982 and rose to number two in the UK charts. Yazoo released two successful studio albums, Upstairs at Eric's in 1982 and You and Me Both in 1983. Shortly after, Moyet and Clarke decided to break up. Moyet pursued a solo career while Clarke went on to form Erasure, another synth pop duo. Yazoo temporarily reunited in 2008 with a tour in Europe and the United States and the release of a four-disc box set.
Though short-lived, Yazoo continues to influence and inspire many of today's bands, including LCD Soundsystem, Gil Mantera's Party Dream, Hercules and Love Affair, Shiny Toy Guns and Blaqk Audio.
Yazoo performing in Germany in 2008
Yazoo was formed in late 1981 by Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet in Basildon, Essex, England. Clarke was previously the main songwriter for Depeche Mode, who also came from Basildon and 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". The name 'Yazoo', according to Moyet, came from the labels of old blues albums: Yazoo Records. Yazoo was signed to Mute Records in the United Kingdom and to Sire Records in the United States. Yazoo's initial foray into the US was disastrous when they received a ??3.5 million lawsuit threat over the band's name. Yazoo renamed to Yaz for the US market because the name was already in use by a small American rock band.
Yazoo's debut single "Only You" backed with "Situation," was released on March 15, 1982 and rose to number two in the UK. Yazoo's next single, Don't Go, was released on July 3, 1982 and hit number three, and became popular on MTV in the United States. 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 final) album, You and Me Both, yielded more success, hitting the top of the UK charts, and featuring the hit single "Nobody's Diary". Commercial success in the US was initially not as strong. Both "Situation" and "Only You" were released as singles and airplay and peaked at #73 and #67 respectively. Despite the modest chart success of those singles and of Upstairs at Eric's (which reached #92 on the album chart) word of mouth helped to eventually push the album to platinum status for sales of over one million copies by 1989, seven years after its release.
Shortly before the release of You and Me Both, Clarke and Moyet announced they were to go their separate ways.
Breakup and legacy
Moyet signed to Columbia Records and began her successful solo career after leaving Yazoo. Clarke recorded a single with producer Eric Radcliffe and Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey as The Assembly, and another with vocalist Paul Quinn. Around this time, Clarke also produced "The Face of Dorian Gray" for his friend and singer Robert Marlow. Clarke then started the synth pop group Erasure with vocalist Andy Bell.
Mute Records released a remixed version of "Situation" as a single in 1990 which was moderately successful, reaching #14 on the charts. A compilation entitled Only Yazoo ??? The Best of was released in 1999, 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 film 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 J. C. Penney commercial; Don't Go appeared in the BBC series I'm Alan Partridge and was used in the film Tango and Cash. 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. In 2007, "Bring Your Love Down (Didn't I)" was used in The Sarah Silverman Program episode "Not Without My Daughter".
Antony Hegarty, lead vocalist in Antony & The Johnsons, talked with Terry Gross in Feb., 2009, about recording the debut self-titled Hercules & Love Affair album. He said he'd been asked by New York based DJ Andy Butler to join the project and that the objective was or became "Let's sound as much like Yazoo as we can .... We loved Yazoo."
In December 2007 Side-line announced that Mute plans to reissue both albums as remastered versions. The band would also plan a live gig to promote the re-releases. The promotional tour received moderate television coverage including a performance on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross broadcast on 16 May 2008, a prime time BBC chat show.
The news was confirmed later on including extra details. In Your Room, a four-disc box set featuring the stereo remasters and 5.1 mixes of the albums Upstairs at Eric's and You and Me Both next to a disc with B-sides and remixes was released in 2008. Add to this a DVD featuring an exclusive short film with new interviews from Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet and the videos for "Don't Go", "The Other Side Of Love", "Nobody's Diary", "Situation (1990)" and "Only You (1999) as well as several original appearances on BBC".
The release has been followed by the 'Yazoo Reconnected: Live' tour. Currently, 18 dates have been announced, starting in Copenhagen on May 26. The first three dates of the U.S. tour saw Yazoo performing in Oakland, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Yazoo wrapped up the final two dates of the U.S. tour by returning to New York City for the first time since October 1982. A limited edition vinyl 12" with new dance mixes was also be released to promote the boxset. A video was released in late April 2008 in which Clarke and Moyet discuss Yazoo's first single "Only You". In an interview with Side-Line Magazine, Clarke announced that a live CD is also planned. The recordings are planned to take place during the band's two upcoming performances in London. No live DVD is planned though.
The July 10 concert Yazoo played at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles, California has been recorded to be re-aired on Richard Blade's Sirius Radio Show.