Mark Hollis: A Life

Posted by in Music


You can imagine my surprise this morning when I woke up and saw, not from the BBC, but on a friend’s page that Mark Hollis, lead singer of TALK TALK, had passed. While they were never a major band for me, they did play a part in the new wave and in my musical upbringing during the eighties.

I first heard of them with Today, a top 10 single in New Zealand but didn’t manage to get the album – The Party’s Over until much later (when back in the UK). It was/is still a well crafted pop album, a little of its time because of the electronic drums and ubiquitous fretless bass.

But I still love It’s So Serious (one of the few band compositions) and the Moody Blues meets Duran Duran of Have You Heard the News? The brooding mysterious Candy wraps things up. An early indication of where the band would head.


The Rhett Davies produced single My Foolish Friend passed me by completely and the next thing I heard would have been one of the It’s My Life singles (possibly the title track which sure does have the Rhett Roxy sound but is actually Tim Friese-Greene producing).

There were some nice tracks on that album, still very much ‘trendy’ pop, only Such a Shame (a big hit in Italy) and Renee hinted at the ambient playing field that lie ahead.


Onto 1986, January, it was cold, dark and so was the video for Life’s What You Make it with all those insects crawling around. How I wish the orchestral ending had been the album version instead of just a ‘video version.’

The album The Colour of Spring, their only top 10 in the UK, would prove a tipping point. They were no longer pop but what the hell was it, adult orientated rock? I really didn’t rate the opening Happiness is Easy (love Subshine‘s recent version – in tribute to Mark) but liked the rest of the first side. Especially the minimal April 5th.


The worst track of all would be Chameleon Day and of course that’s the direction they would go in, more sparse, more avant garde. The first fruits of Eden would come in I Believe in You. Had it been George Michael the chart success probably would have been huge (as he proved with A Different Corner) but Talk Talk were different.

The album was a total shock. Back in 1988 only David Sylvian dared to be this ballsy. Spirit of Eden still managed a respectable top 20 placing and it is the UK they remained biggest (in terms of charts) though none of their singles would trouble the top 10. Wealth remains my favourite with what must be one of the greatest ‘fade-outs’ in recorded history!

In 1990, against band wishes, some dance remixes were commissioned by EMI. I have to admit I do love Gary Miller’s take on Such a Shame – giving it a danceable groove, especially that bass on the chorus. As for Laughing Stock – I don’t really know so don’t feel qualified to comment, I purchased it for a musician friend in Portugal as he had trouble sourcing a copy.

As for the solo album, I may have heard it, I may not – I really can’t remember but whatever the fact Hollis drifted away and stayed true to his word on being a good dad is quite something of a rarity. Rest in Peace Mark Hollis.


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Today (from The Party’s Over) – Talk Talk
Talk Talk (from The Party’s Over) – Talk Talk
It’s So Serious (from The Party’s Over) – Talk Talk
Have You Heard the News? (from The Party’s Over) – Talk Talk
Candy (from The Party’s Over) – Talk Talk
It’s My Life (from It’s My Life) – Talk Talk
Call in the Night Boy (from It’s My Life) – Talk Talk
Life’s What You Make it (from The Colour of Spring) – Talk Talk
April 5th (from The Colour of Spring) – Talk Talk
It’s Getting Late in the Evening (from Asides and Besides) – Talk Talk
Wealth (from Spirit of Eden) – Talk Talk

Photos: Discogs