Upstairs at Eric’s is one of the gems of the early 80’s that I keep coming back to. It’s a perfect blend of Vince Clarke’s layered synths and Alison Moyet’s strong vocals that equaled up to one of the best albums of 1982. It carried a maturity and strength to it that most synthpop records just didn’t have during those fledgling years. A lot of that can be attributed to the complexity of Moyet’s vocals, which carried a lot of emotion in a genre of music that tended to be on the more robotic or austere side. Clarke’s growth as a songwriter can’t be ignored either though, and the partnership with Moyet certainly felt well matched.
When Vince Clarke left Depeche Mode after Speak & Spell in 1981, he was leaving a band that had just charted in the top 10 and had a growing fan base. It looked to be the end of Depeche Mode, for sure, and Clark’s future certainly looked unknown. He’d not wanted to be part of the teen sensationalism that Depeche Mode had found themselves in and sought a more serious outlet for his songwriting. He had a solid hit in his back pocket with “Only You”, which he’d written while still in Depeche Mode. While I’m a huge fan of Dave Gahan I can understand why Clarke had decided to hold onto the track. Gahan’s vocals just weren’t ready for a song like that…he’d not yet grown into the platinum selling baritone we all know and love. Clarke found the perfect voice in Alison Moyet, who up to that point had been lending her bluesy vocals to multiple bands. Her career shot to the moon when “Only You” skyrocketed to #2 on the UK charts. The rest is history.
While Upstairs at Eric’s may be over 30 years old, it stands as a tribute to what could come out of the electronic experimentations of the early 1980’s. Though Yazoo was only a stepping stone for Clarke on his way to Erasure and Moyet would go on to a successful solo career, Upstairs at Eric’s is something they can both look back on with pride.