Soul Serenade: Alison Moyet, “Invisible”

Written by Ken Shane's Soul Serenade, Music

One of the great songs of the ’80s has a classic pedigree

Alison Moyet

There is a connection between last week’s artist and this week’s artist. Can you guess what it is? Keep in mind that last week I featured Mary Wells in the column. So what do a classic era Motown star from Detroit and a singer from Billericay, Essex in England, who was a ’80s superstar in the UK, have in common? Think about it, and read on.

Alison Moyet got her pop music start in 1982 as half of the synth pop duo Yazoo. The other half was Vince Clarke, who had been in Depeche Mode. For legal reasons they were called Yaz in the US, but it didn’t matter much because they weren’t all that successful here. Still, they had hits in the UK including the singles “Only You,” “Don’t Go,” and “Situation,” and they recorded a couple of albums too. Not bad for a band that lasted about a year.

In 1983 Yazoo broke up and Clarke went on to form another popular duo, Erasure, with Andy Bell. Moyet was done with duos however, and opted for a solo career. She was signed by CBS Records, and the following year Alf, her debut solo album, was released. Every song on the album was written by Moyet and her two co-producers, Steve Jolley and Tony Swain, with one exception. That exception was a heartbreaking powerhouse of a song called “Invisible”.

I don’t recall when or where I first heard “Invisible,” but it was certainly around the time of its release. If you ask me to name another Alison Moyet song I would be hard pressed to do so without looking it up. But that one stuck with me then, and it sticks with me today. It appears on numerous playlists and mix tapes that I have created over the years. As noted in my bio, I’m not much of a fan of ’80s music, but even the very ’80s production of “Invisible” doesn’t put me off. That’s how I know it’s a great song, and a great vocal performance by Moyet.

“Invisible” did well as a single in the UK, reaching #21 on the pop chart. It did even better in Ireland (#6) and New Zealand (#4). Yes, it was released as a single in the US as well. In fact it was Moyet’s most successful US single, reaching #31 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1985. It was the only Top 40 record Moyet ever had here. It is worth noting that the B-side of the single was Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch Hike.”

So what is it already, you’re wondering. What is the connection between Moyet and Wells? What line runs between Detroit and Billericay? The answer is Lamont Dozier, who wrote “Invisible” specifically for Moyet. Of course Dozier was a member of the classic Motown writing and production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. One of the first hits that the team wrote was “You Lost the Sweetest Boy” which was a hit for Mary Wells in 1963.

More than 20 years passed between Lamont Dozier’s early success with Mary Wells and his brilliant songwriting for Alison Moyet, but as “Invisible” proves, his greatness never waned.