Yaz - Upstairs At Eric's (Mute, 1983)
All Time Albums Series
So, for a very short period around 1985/1986 I was a bad DJ at a club called The Candy Store (seriously, can't make that up) in Denton, Texas.
I had just started college, and was hanging out with a crew of other club kids.
I wish I could say that our minds were squarely on our schoolwork, but mostly we were concerned with seeing shows and going out to the clubs.
Many nights I would work until 1 a.m. in Denton, then jump in a car with friends and we would drive to Dallas where the clubs didn't close until like 8 a.m.
(There was a reason my first playlist on this blog was all 80's dance club hits).
Well, for most of the girls that I hung out with at this time, the sun rose and set by the band Yaz.
Alison Moyet and Adele are spiritual sisters (even if they don't know it).
That is not an entirely crazy statement either, Alison Moyet has a huge very soulful voice (not entirely unlike Adele).
I am going to go into depth on Vince Clarke, but I have always loved Alison Moyet's voice.
I might not have admitted it then, but, I loved (and still love) Yaz too.
The Incredible Vince Clarke
I want to take a second to appreciate the great Vince Clark.
So, Vince became interested in in moving from piano to synthesizer after hearing an OMD song in 1979 and he really hasn't stopped making music since.
It all started with being in three bands that eventually morphed into the band we all now know as Depeche Mode. Clark wrote three of the most well-known songs on their 1981 debut album Speak and Spell.
Clarke left the band almost immediately after, there is lots of speculation over what caused him to leave, but nobody really knows (except for him).
From the release of Speak and Spell through 1983, Clarke was the musical mind behind Yazoo. Despite pretty huge success for a synth-pop duo, Yazoo broke up quickly too.
Some of the problem was that Moyet was a blues traditionalist and didn't really love the synthesizers while Clarke was not a blues enthusiast. There were apparently also some serious communication issues between the pair.
FYI, for some reason during this period several bands had a US name (in this case Yaz) and a U.K. name (Yazoo) - apparently there was also a U.S. band that had rights to Yazoo.
Clark was then in another charting group called The Assembly, which lasted for a few more years.
And, then, Clark formed Erasure with Andy Bell. Erasure has been together pretty much ever since (and the structure and sound of Erasure is very similar to the structure of Yazoo oddly enough).
Erasure has released 16 albums since.
How many people have been in so many pioneering and popular bands? All of his bands charted multiple times. Pretty crazy impressive career. And just by doing a quick search, you will find lots of artists who were and are influenced by Vince and by Yaz.
Upstairs At Eric's
As a mediocre (at best) DJ in a middling club in a college town, I played what the girls wanted to hear, so, I played Yaz a lot.
You might be wondering what the title means, it is a reference to E.C Radcliffe's Blackwing Studios (where the album was produced).
And while both Yaz albums were out by this time, Upstairs at Eric's was the better album (Sorry to any fans of You and Me Both, we used to argue about this all the time back then too).
The amazing thing, as I am writing this, is how well these songs have stood up to the test of time.
I still love so many of the songs on UAE:
Don't Go Too Pieces, In My Room, Goodbye 70's, Situation, Bring Your Love Down (Didn't I)
All great songs, and the torch songs aren't bad either.
Probably not an album for the cynical serious music critic I can sometimes become, but listening to it now still brings a smile to my face.
In addition, and I have made this point in regards to Kraftwerk, Yaz in many ways formed the template for what has become the dominant means of making music today.
You take a really talented electronic music producer, someone who can come up with catchy beats and sounds, in this case Vince Clarke, and pair that producer with a singer with a big voice and let the magic happen.
At the time, if you asked me what the "core" of the dance sound of the 80's was, I would probably have pointed to Yaz. They were also one of the few bands that were as likely to appear in gay and straight dance clubs with equal frequency (as you probably get by now, I love music that bridges cultures and genres).
And all you have to do is look up Yaz on spotify or on YouTube and the sheer quantity of remixes tells you how influential they have been.
It has been a down music week with Lemmy (from Motorhead) and John Bradbury (of The Specials) both passing away, Upstairs at Eric's has been a great way for me to clear out some of the gloom.
What do you think of Yazoo? Did you love Upstairs at Eric's? Let me know what you think, leave a comment!