Around 7 PM today the first messages appeared stating that Talk Talk front man and musical genius Mark Hollis had passed away. Unfortunately, this was confirmed some two hours later. He left us with a number of truly magnificent albums.
On January 4th, 1955, Mark Hollis was born in London. His older brother, who was a disk jockey and producer, introduced him to the (music)world. It soon became apparent that Hollis had a talent for beautiful melodies and lyrics.
In 1977 he formed the band The Reaction and recorded a demo (one of the songs was called Talk Talk Talk Talk). After releasing one single The Reaction disbanded. Consequently, Hollis met musicians Paul Webb, Lee Harris and Simon Brenner, with whom he formed Talk Talk in 1981.
In 1982 their first single, Talk Talk, a re-recorded version of the previously recorded demo by The Reaction, was released, followed by their debut album The Party’s Over. In the beginning the band was often linked to so-called new romantics bands like Duran Duran (they even opened up for the band during one of their early tours).
In 1983 Brenner left the band and Talk Talk became a trio. Well, not exactly, as the band invited Tim Friese-Greene along to help them record their second album , It’s My Life. Greene never left and went on to become the band’s producer and writing partner for Hollis.
It’s My Life was a huge success in Europe, North Amercia and New Zealand. The singles Such A Shame, It’s My Life en Dum Dum Girl were hugely successful as well. Everywhere in the Western world, really, except for home country England. The second album saw the band moving in a different direction. Beautiful melodic songs with a melancholy mood and a distinct unique sound.
By the third album Talk Talk didn’t resemble the band that recorded their debut at all. The Colour Of Spring was released in 1986 and was (once again) successful (this time England didn’t fall behind). It is a phenomenal album, which contains the absolutely brilliant Life’s What You Make It. A great song, making Talk Talk deservant of everlasting praise (in my book anyway). The second single, Living In Another World, was beautiful also.
Due to the success, Talk Talk was given carte blanche for their next album. Spirit Of Eden was released in 1988. Hailed as a masterpiece by critics and music lovers, record company EMI was not that enthusiastic.
The band didn’t tour the album, didn’t release any singles and refused to do promotion. The band wanted out of their deal with EMI and succeeded. EMI subsequently (unsuccessfully) sued the band, because Spirit Of Eden was not “commercially satisfactory“. Spirit Of Eden was not a commercial success, but it was the album Talk Talk, and Hollis in particular, wanted to make. Webb left the band at the end of 1988.
In 1990 EMI released the compilation Natural History, a huge success. The band signed with Polydor and released Laughing Stock in 1991. Once again not commercially successful, but (also once again) another masterpiece. In 1992 it was all over. Talk Talk disbanded.
- The Party’s Over (1982)
- It’s My Life (1984)
- The Colour of Spring (1986)
- Spirit of Eden (1988)
- Laughing Stock (1991)
- London 1986 (Hammersmith Odeon) (1998)
In 1998 Hollis released a solo album (Mark Hollis) and consequently quit the music business. In 2001 he played along on an album by Anja Garbarek, in 2004 he received a Broadcast Music Inc. Award for composing It’s My Life and in 2012 he consented the use of the piece ARB Section 1 in tv series Boss.
His decision to quit music was motivated by his desire to be with his family: “I choose for my family. Maybe others are capable of doing it, but I can’t go on tour and be a good dad at the same time“.
Despite the complete disappearance from the public eye, the name Hollis wasn’t. It was regularly featured in articles and magazines. Famed for his genius music and refusal to meet expectations that weren’t his, the name Hollis remained vibrant.
Almost twenty years after his early retirement Hollis unexpectedly died and it became (music)world news. And, despite the fact he didn’t make (or release?) music anymore, the loss is still huge.
Mark Hollis – Talk Talk live Montreux 1986 image: opuszine.us
All item images: discogs.com