Alison Moyet was born in Billericay, Essex, England to a French father and English mother. She grew up in Basildon, where she attended school. After leaving school at 16, she worked as a shop worker and a piano tuner. She was involved in a number of punk rock, pub rock and blues bands in the South East Essex area during the late 1970s and early 1980s, including The Vandals and the Screamin’ Ab Dabs, The Vicars and The Little Roosters.
Her mainstream pop career began in 1981 when she formed the electro pop duo Yazoo with former Depeche Mode member Vince Clarke. (In the United States, the band became known as Yaz, as there was already a US artist named Yazoo.) Yazoo had several hits, including “Situation”, “Only You”, “Don’t Go”, “Ode to Boy” and “State Farm”, and recorded two albums, Upstairs At Eric’s and You And Me Both. The group was notable for melding Clarke’s trademark electronic sounds with Moyet’s warm, soulful voice.
In 1983 Moyet and Clarke decided to disband Yazoo. While Clarke went on to form, Moyet signed to CBS (in part because it had been Janis Joplin’s label), and began her solo career.
In 1984 she released her debut album Alf (titled after her punk-era nickname). Alf included contributions by popular producers/songwriters Swain and Jolley, as well as a song, “Invisible”, written by Motown legend Lamont Dozier. The record was a hit in Britain, reaching number one in the album charts. Alf spawned 3 hit singles, “Love Resurrection”, “Invisible” and “All Cried Out”. In the US, “Invisible” was a Top 40 hit (something Yazoo had never achieved).
In 1985 Moyet performed at the historic Live Aid concert, alongside. She also released a single not featured on Alf, a cover of the standard “That Ole Devil Called Love.” The single went to #2 on the UK singles chart. (At present, it remains Moyet’s highest-charting UK single.)
In 1986 Moyet had another big UK hit with the single “Is This Love?,” followed in 1987 by the album Raindancing. Raindancing spawned further hit singles, including a cover of Floy Joy’s “Weak In The Presence of Beauty” and “Ordinary Girl”. In 1987, she scored another cover hit with “Love Letters”; the video for the song featured comedy duo French & Saunders.