With a unique and versatile voice, a recording career spanning more than 25 years and worldwide record sales in excess of 20 million, Alison Moyet is one of the top female vocalists of our time.
Born into an Anglo-French family in 1961, Alison Moyet grew up in Basildon, Essex. Leaving school at 16, she began a music foundation course at the Southend College of Technology but quit on being asked to resit her theory class, even after passing her exam with Distinction – punk never being the thing to please the establishment. After a stint working in a music shop, she studied musical instrument technology at the London College of Furniture and sang pub gigs in her local area with unsigned bands. Moyet formed the Vandals with school friends Kim Forey and Sue Paget, hijacked guitarist Robert Allen (Marlowe) and anyone they could pick up on the night to play drums. The Vandals were reviewed by Trouser Press, the first paper outside of punk fanzines to name them.
When the band fell apart, Moyet joined the Vicars and got involved in the Canvey Island scene. Ultimately, not being keen on the material, she left, taking drummer and new best mate Micky Ogden and guitar player Andy Stevens, to form the blues band The Screaming Abdabs. The band co-existed with shop work and London College of Furniture. Moyet’s involvement in the Abdabs came to an abrupt end when the bass player and guitarist ousted her for a bloke that played harmonica. She went on to sing backing vocals for a few months for the band The Little Roosters. Moyet quit the band after being told that the lead singer was heard asking Sounds magazine’s Charles Shar Murray not to name check her in his review of a Canning Town Bridge House gig. A couple of weeks later, after putting an ad in Melody Maker, a bloke named Vince called.
A Band Called Yazoo
In 1981 Moyet formed synthpop duo Yazoo with Vince Clarke, formerly of Depeche Mode. The combination of Moyet’s rich voice and Clarke’s electronica proved phenomenally popular; Yazoo’s first single ‘Only You’ reached number two in the charts, their first album Upstairs At Eric’s went platinum in 1982 and their second, You And Me Both, reached number one in 1983, earning them a Brit Award for Best British Breakthrough Act.
Despite their easy success, the two had grown apart and Vince wanted out. Yazoo disbanded just as You And Me Both was released. Clarke went on to form Erasure, and Moyet, who had quit her college course after the triumph of ‘Only You’, embarked upon what very quickly became an incredibly successful solo career.
Hitsville – The Eighties
Her 1984 debut album Alf, co-written with Swain and Jolley, enjoyed immediate popularity; it produced three UK hit singles, shot to number one in the album charts and went quadruple platinum after two years in the charts. Moyet’s rich, energetic collection of songs of longing, love and dissatisfaction was rewarded with a Brit award for Best British Female Solo Artist in 1985.
The following year Moyet toured, performed at the Live Aid concert and released two new singles, a cover of the classic ‘That Ole Devil Called Love’, which reached number two in the UK, and ‘Is this Love?’.
Infused with self-consciousness and introversion, Moyet’s second album Raindancing mustered only a lukewarm critical reception on release in 1987, but went to number two in the album charts, gave her two Top Ten hits and a further Best British Female Solo Artist Brit Award (1988).
The Real Moyet Emerges – The Nineties
Hoodoo, released in 1991, marked a turning point in Moyet’s career as she sought to assert herself above the level of commercially-friendly pop. Hoodoo’s upbeat rock and darker soulful songs of passion and strife are suffused with emotional depth and traces of Gospel energy. It went to number eleven in the album charts, and ‘It Won’t Be Long’ earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Performance.
Released in 1994, Essex embodies a multiplicity of styles, marking the site of struggle between Moyet, who desired the freedom to develop her voice and style, and record label Sony, who clung to commercial certainties. Essex went to number 24 in the album charts.
Due to protracted litigation with Sony after Essex while she fought to be released from her contract, Moyet was not to release another new album for eight years. During this time Sony released Singles in 1995, a collection of Moyet’s greatest hits, including familiar Yazoo tracks and two new tracks: ‘Solid Wood’ and Ewan MacColl’s ‘The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face’. It went straight to number one in the album chart and was later re-released with a second live disc recorded during her sell-out UK tour.
A New Stage – 2000 And On
In 2001 Moyet made her stage debut as corrupt jailer Matron ‘Mama’ Morton in the West End musical Chicago, and ‘promptly stole the show…the Adelphi’s packed auditorium saluted Ms Moyet’s long overdue return with a deafening cacophony. And then she sang, and the audience fell silent’ (Luke Leitch, Evening Standard 14.08.01). Although Moyet never had ambitions to appear on the stage, she enjoyed it so much that her initial short run was extended to six months.
The Essential Alison Moyet, almost a carbon copy of Singles but for the addition of four previously unreleased tracks, was released by Sony in 2001, reaching number 16 in the album charts. The Essential DVD, much requested by her fans, was eventually released in 2002. Meanwhile, Moyet continued to work, collaborating with other musicians including Tricky, The Lightning Seeds and Ocean Colour Scene. Moyet’s ‘Le Soleil Est Revenu’ appears on the original soundtrack to the 2002 film XX/XY.
Hometime, released to great anticipation in 2002, was Moyet’s first album with Sanctuary Records. Produced by The Insects (Goldfrapp, Massive Attack), Hometime reached number 18 in the album charts and gave Moyet a Brit nomination for Best Female Vocalist. Moyet describes it as ‘chill-out music for grown-ups… it’s kind of intelligent, it’s moody, it’s dark, it’s sexy, it’s neurotic, you know – things that I like… this is the bottom line, this is my album’ (BBC Breakfast interview).
Moyet narrated The Josephine Baker Story series for BBC Radio 2 and Jazz FM in 2003, and narrated Behind the Glass – The Phil Ramone Story for BBC Radio 2 in 2005. Voice, an album of classic song, released in 2004, exhibits Moyet at her most versatile and accomplished. Taking in diverse genres, from the Gershwin brothers’ ‘The Man I Love’ to the traditional folk song ‘The Wraggle Taggle Gypsies O!’, to Jacques Brel’s ‘La Chanson des Vieux Amants’ to the blues lament ‘Cry Me A River’, Voice is a certified Gold album which went to number seven in the album charts. A DVD of Moyet’s One Blue Voice sell-out tour was released in 2005.
Returning to the stage, Moyet composed and performed three new songs for the stage play Smaller, in which she starred alongside Dawn French and June Watson. Smaller, written by Carmel Morgan and directed by Kathy Burke, toured the regions before a successful run at the West End’s Lyric Theatre in 2006.
2007 heralded the 25th anniversary of Moyet’s recording career and a new album released by W14 Music, the new imprint of Universal Music Group. The new studio album, entitled The Turn, includes songs from the stage play Smaller and new compositions from Moyet, such as ‘One More Time’, the lead single and ‘A Guy Like You’, the follow-up single released in November 2007.
Revisited – Revamped, Renewed
2009 ended with Moyet releasing yet another Greatest Hits album entitled The Best Of – 25 Years Revisited. Re-recording hits such as ‘Ordinary Girl’, ‘Midnight’ and ‘All Cried Out’ acoustically the release offered fans much needed refreshment. Revisited is currently accompanied by a sellout tour of the UK and Europe to rave reviews from the press and fans alike. Releasing new music with Moby and My Robot Friend Moyet revisits Yazoo and alludes to what a new and rumored Yazoo release might deliver.
However much to Moyet’s chagrin, the most intense focus of recent times has been not on her music but on her dramatic physical transformation. It must be said that she is half the woman she used to be with absolutely no negative connotations. She has always been a beautiful and large woman; now she has a curvy yet tiny figure and an incredibly sexy new look including beautiful designer clothing. And yet of course, there is still the same effusive, affecting and aurally demanding voice. The delivery of revamped, yet familiar hits. And the same beautiful face – at 48 years of age, beauty is never amiss in anything that Alison Moyet produces.