Around my sophomore year in high school, I remember playing “Don’t Go” from Yaz to a friend. His remarks, something like WTF in so many words may have come due to the stark contrasts in the song. The meeting of Vince Clarke’s icy new wave synths with Alison Moyet’s intense and soulful voice took many by surprise in 1982.
Two years later Yaz (or Yazoo) ran its course and disbanded, but Moyet would not be idol. After all why should she have been, her’s was just the most exciting voice to have come out of Britain for years. Her debut solo album Alf ( a reference a nickname from her punk days – not the popular TV show which would come more than a year later) zeroed in on what made her so special in the first place: her sometimes passionate and intense blue eyed soul.
Produced by Tony Swan and Steve Jolley, the team responsible for Bananarama’s bubble gum pop, Alf was a textbook example of a slick pop record circa 1984. Recorded, mixed and mastered in both England and New York, it was an example of just how international the music business had become.
While her impact in Europe was greater than in The States, her effect here would be more about changing perceptions of British pop. Moyet may have been one of the few artist at the time who could be seen on all three of the major video networks. The exposure on MTV, VH-1 and BET all played a key role in the success of her biggest hit ‘Invisible”.
She had other hits in America with “Love Resurrection” and to a lesser extent “All Cried Out”. Everyone’s favorite, “Invisible” was written for Moyet by Motown’s own Lamont Dozier. The Motown connection was fitting because Moyet like many British artist were studying American soul when growing up, long after many American kids had moved on to psychedelia.
That dedication to American soul would see Moyet embraced by black radio and featured in Jet and Ebony magazines. In addition to the black media, Moyet would become an early prototype of the ’80s club diva in the gay underground. Moyet opened the door wider to a smaller soulful invasion from England that would lead to acts like Sade and Lisa Stansfield. Her transition from Yaz to solo artist followed the trend where new wave was quickly becoming top 40 synth pop.
In effect her jumping ship was the proverbial nail in the coffin of new wave as its former stars would change with the new pop environment. I don’t know if she knew this or saw it coming, but her timing was spot on. Like many things in retrospect, Alf was the right album at the right time. Moyet’s songs recalled all the right cues; gospel, soul and pop in just the right amounts. Alf might not be her best, but proves that good timing is everything in pop music.