How We Met: Alison Moyet & Vince Clarke

Alison Moyet, 46, was one half of the 1980s pop duo Yazoo, alongside Vince Clarke. Her subsequent solo career included the top-10 hits “All Cried Out” and “Love Resurrection”. She has just reunited with Clarke for a comeback tour. She lives in Basildon, Essex, with her husband and their three children

Everyone thinks it was a Melody Maker advert that brought Vince and I together, but I’d known him since I was 11. We both went to the same Saturday music school. I never spoke to him but remember him because he and his two brothers all had white-blond hair. They looked like a family of ducks.

Basildon back then was a new town and had no culture, so just about everyone was in a band and it was just a matter of time before we did meet. When I did place that ad in Melody Maker – I was looking for a band to sing with – he called me at my parents’ house and asked if I’d sing on a demo he’d just written.

About a week later he said his record label wanted us to make it into a single. So we released “Only You”. It did really well. Then we released another and that did really well too. And an album. The whole thing all happened within about three months. We never spoke about anything other than recording – nothing. Suddenly we were in a really successful band but we hadn’t even ever gone for a pint together. It was really weird – almost like an arranged marriage.

I like to be affectionate but I couldn’t make him warm to me. It was frustrating because I knew that he would like me if only he was open to it. He was, I think, sad at the time after leaving Depeche [Mode, Clarke’s former band] and remote, a bit angry, but it was all internalised. Whereas I was this disaffected, slightly aggressive ex-punk rocker where nothing was internalised. I was probably quite difficult to be around. He didn’t speak until he said, “I don’t want to do this any more.”

There was an initial feeling of rejection – and I was slightly comforted that his first project after me [Erasure, with Andy Bell] didn’t immediately go quite so well as my first project after him. I was jealous, though, when I heard how well they got on. Then I met Andy and he turned out to be a really lovely bloke and any feelings of resentment dissipated. As the years pass, you start to think, “How fantastic that I knew him for that time” and “How brilliant was that record?”

Eventually, last year, I decided to email him about reforming for a tour and we met for the first time in 16 years just a couple of months ago for a photoshoot. We were going to meet for a drink before but, not being one for small talk, I thought “Let’s just dive in,” so our first meeting was a difficult situation. But the irony was, we really wanted to talk to each other. The conversation flowed and it was like, “Wow, after all this, we actually have so much in common.”

Vince Clarke, 47, was a founding member of Depeche Mode, before having chart success with Yazoo and, to the present day, with Erasure. He lives in Maine, in America, with his wife and son

Before I first met Alison, 26 years ago, my best friend Robert was in her punk band. I’d seen her perform with them and with an R&B band in local venues. She had a huge voice, and made an impact.

When I left Depeche I wasn’t sure I’d still have a record deal and was keen to play the label something of my own, so I wrote the song “Only You” but needed someone to demo it with. Alison happened to be advertising in a local paper so I called her. She sang the song beautifully and made it sound exactly as I’d had it in my head.

It all happened very fast and because we hadn’t been in a band for years, playing in clubs, it was very much just a working relationship – we never had the chance to bond. We never really knew each other. Not really. We weren’t mates or anything.

There was tension, yes. I think I was definitely intimidated by Alison. She had a big personality and she was quite vocal, whereas I’m more of a sulker. The fact that we never talked, never socialised together, meant that when problems came up we didn’t know how to communicate and sort things out. It seems strange but we really were just working all the time. I loved being in the studio so much that the thought of leaving to go out for a drink seemed like wasting time. I got quite good at using synthesisers, but I was crap at talking. Also, we were only about 21. It led to paranoia.

What I’ve since learned from Andy [Bell] is that music is important, but it’s not everything. Andy’s very chilled, not uptight. Not that I’m saying… well, both me and Alison were both very uptight when we were together.

Her email came out of the blue: she asked me if I was interested in working together again. It was a really nice email. She said some really kind things. Next thing I know, I’m doing a Yazoo tour.

When we first met up again I was a little nervous. Then we started talking immediately about the people we both knew from our home town and past, and it just felt really comfortable straight away. We may even be a little bit more mature. We might even spend some social time together this time. I hope so.

Interviews by Kate Burt

First published in The Independent june 8th, 2008.

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