Vince Clarke And The Art Of Successful Quitting!

By the tender age of 23, Vince Clarke had already formed - and quit - two hugely successful UK pop acts.

When you consider that most who ever pick up an instrument never find themselves in one successful pop band, much less two, that's more than just luck on Clarke's part, that's genius.

With boyhood friend Andy Fletcher, Clarke formed pioneering synth band Depeche Mode in 1980, writing the entirety of their first album, Speak And Spell. Within a year of their formation, the band was performing on Top of The Pops and breaking into the UK Top 10 with third single "Just Can't Get Enough".

Just as all the band's hard work was beginning to pay off, Clarke did the unthinkable and quit the group.

Perfectly content to get a straight job if Mute Records head Daniel Miller didn't flip for his latest batch of demo recordings, Clarke teamed up with an unknown blues singer by the name of Alison Moyet to form Yazoo. Their first single "Only You", which had been offered to Depeche Mode after he left but they declined, went to #2 on the UK pop charts.

"Don't Go" quickly followed and rose to #3 while "Situation" dominated the U.S. dance play charts.

As a young electronic music fan who'd just discovered Kraftwerk and Brian Eno, this writer recalls being absolutely transfixed by the album cover for Upstairs At Eric's. 

The music within turned out to be every bit as disjointed and futuristic as the image had promised; a strange alien mix of minimalist electro and blues. In anybody else's hands, that would have been a recipe for certain disaster, but, somehow, Clarke and Moyet pull it off.

Despite serious tensions between the pair, there would be one more album, You And Me Both, one more Top 5 single, "Nobody's Diary", and then, just like that, Clarke and Moyet would call it a day.

Once again, Vince Clarke was leaving a successful pop band with absolutely no real plan for the future.

Unless, of course, you call forming a third short-lived band (The Assembly, with Eric Radcliffe), issuing one poor-selling single with Paul Quinn, and then putting a "Singer Wanted" classified ad in the back of a UK music magazine a "real plan".

For Clarke, however, the plan worked to absolute perfection as he wound up recruiting Andy Bell, an aspiring singer who considered Clarke his musical hero, and forming one of the UK's most successful pop band's ever, Erasure.

Unlike Depeche Mode and Yaz, Erasure was not an immediate success.

In fact, their first album, Wonderland, was a bit of a flop in the UK, petering out at #79 on the UK albums chart despite including such notable Erasure cuts as "Who Needs Love Like That" and "Oh L'Amour".

While that sort of commercial response must have been jarring to Clarke at the time (and no doubt nerve-racking for Bell as well), persistence finally paid off for the duo when "Sometimes", the first single from their second album The Circus, went to #2 on the UK pop singles chart.

From that point on, Erasure began racking up the Top 10 hits, quickly making them a virtual British hit-making institution throughout the late '80s and early '90s.

Even more amazingly, the once quick-to-split Clarke has stayed with Erasure for 32 years. In fact, the duo is set to release their seventeenth album, World Be Gone (due May 17).

First single "Love You To The Sky" came out in March and shows that the duo haven't lost their knack for airy, effortless ear worm pop or, for that matter, delighting concert audiences, which the duo are certain to do on their world tour opening for Robbie Williams this summer in just about every country on the planet except the U.S. because we, for whatever reason, remain unimpressed by the former boy bander.

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