Talk Talk in concert tonight. With the sad news today of the passing of Mark Hollis founding member, lead guitarist and guiding light of Talk Talk, it’s only fitting that I run a concert as tribute to, not only the passing of a remarkable and innovative artist, but of a band that pioneered Post-Rock in the 1980s and was one of the pivotal voices of that decade.
This comes from their Wikipedia page:
Talk Talk began as a quartet consisting of Mark Hollis formerly from The Reaction (vocals/main songwriter), Lee Harris (drums), Paul Webb (bass guitar), and Simon Brenner (keyboards). In their early years they were often compared with Duran Duran. In addition to a band name consisting of a repeated word, the two shared a Roxy Music-inspired musical direction, as well as the same record label (EMI) and producer (Colin Thurston). The band also supported Duran Duran on tour in late 1981.
The band released their first single, “Mirror Man”, on EMI in February 1982. The single was not a great success, but was quickly followed by their self-titled single in April 1982 (a rerecording of a track by The Reaction) which reached No.52 in the UK. The band’s first album, titled The Party’s Over, was released in July 1982. The band had their first UK Top 40 hits with the singles “Today” (UK No. 14) and a re-release of “Talk Talk” (UK No. 23). These singles also were hits in other countries including Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The re-release of the “Talk Talk” single reached the U.S. Top 75. The album was produced by Colin Thurston, who was Duran Duran’s in-house EMI producer at the time, but picked by Hollis because of his involvement with David Bowie’s Heroes. It was a moderate success in the UK reaching No.21, and was later certified Silver by the BPI for sales of 60,000 copies by 1985. It was a Top 10 hit in New Zealand.
Brenner left after the 1983 non-LP hit single “My Foolish Friend”, which was produced by frequent Roxy Music collaborator Rhett Davies. At this point, Talk Talk was now a trio, as Brenner was never officially replaced. However, Tim Friese-Greene was recruited to assist with the recording of their second album, It’s My Life, and he became the band’s producer as well as keyboardist and Hollis’ songwriting partner. Although a major contributor to the band’s studio output and a de facto fourth member, Friese-Greene never officially joined the band; and as such did not regularly play with the touring band, and was absent from the band’s publicity material.
Although major success still eluded them in the UK, Talk Talk achieved considerable international success in 1984/85, particularly in continental Europe, North America and New Zealand with the album It’s My Life. The accompanying single “Such a Shame” (a song inspired by the book The Dice Man) became a Top 10 hit in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Switzerland during this period. The title track of the album was also a Top 10 hit in Italy (where a remix of six songs from the albums and non-album singles, It’s My Mix, was the #86 best-selling album of 1985), and entered the U.S., Canadian, French, German, New Zealand and Netherlands Top 40. A third single, “Dum Dum Girl”, was a success in some European countries and in New Zealand; however, the album and its singles were largely ignored in the UK. Commercial success notwithstanding, the band made deliberate choices that moved them away from the mainstream. The music video for “It’s My Life”, for instance, featured a grumpy Hollis who mocks lip-synching; after EMI protested, they re-shot the video, turning it into “a total piss-take of lip-synching”, in Alan McGee’s words.
Talk Talk’s influence upon musicians has exceeded the band’s visibility among the general public. Along with the band Slint, Talk Talk are credited with inventing “post-rock” in their last two albums, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock. The artists who have praised the band or cited them as an influence include Tears for Fears, Matthew Good, Elbow, Shearwater, M83, Bark Psychosis,Cedric Bixler-Zavala of The Mars Volta, Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, Storm Corrosion (a joint project between Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt and Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson), Steve Hogarth of Marillion, Richard Barbieri of Japan and Porcupine Tree, and Death Cab for Cutie.
The bands Placebo, Weezer, The Divine Comedy and The Gathering covered their song “Life’s What You Make It” and No Doubt scored a global hit with a cover of “It’s My Life” in 2003. Lights recorded a cover of “Living In Another World” in 2012. Guy Garvey of the band Elbow said: “Mark Hollis started from punk and by his own admission he had no musical ability. To go from only having the urge, to writing some of the most timeless, intricate and original music ever is as impressive as the moon landings for me.”
A tribute album and anthological book, both titled Spirit of Talk Talk, were released in 2012. The book includes all the artwork James Marsh did for the band, and hand-written lyrics (by the band). The album includes covers by various artists, proceeds going to the conservation organization BirdLife International.
Hollis and Talk Talk continue to be praised as artists who did not cave in to the pressures of corporate and commercial interests. Says Alan McGee, “I find the whole story of one man against the system in a bid to maintain creative control incredibly heartening.”
So as tribute to the band and to the late Mark Hollis – here’s their Hammersmith Odeon appearance from May 8, 1986 for BBC Radio 1’s In Concert series. Crank it up.