Blue Plate Special: Talk Talk
For this edition of the Blue Plate Special, I’m sharing some of my favorite tracks from a very influential band in my early music collecting years, Talk Talk. Formed in 1981 and led by vocalist and guitarist Mark Hollis, the first two albums were very much in line with other synth-heavy new wave bands of the early 80’s, but increasingly their albums became artsy and experimental, culminating in five studio albums and one solo album by Hollis before he left the music industry at the end of the nineties. Hollis had a very unique voice, and wrote most of their tunes as well as all of their lyrics, and was a musical genius who unfortunately passed away from cancer in 2019 at age 64.
Throughout my teen years, Talk Talk was always one of the primary bands that I listened to in heavy rotation. I remember purchasing a second copy of their 3rd album, Colour of Spring, after my original cassette warped and the tape snapped due to overplaying. They were often compared to Duran Duran in their early years, although I never made that connection (as a hard-core Duranie). I would compare them musically, at least on the first 2 albums, more to Naked Eyes or Tears for Fears. I hope you enjoy the collection of hit singles and deep tracks:
Talk Talk – from the album The Party’s Over (1982)
I remember when this single was out and I was instantly attracted to their sound. I was instantly a fan from their first release, which found regular rotation on the radio stations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Living In Another World – from the album The Colour of Spring (1986)
One of my favorite videos, because it really does capture the personality and passion of Hollis, especially when the wind tunnel start on the bridge of the song. Makes me smile every time.
The Gift – from the solo album Mark Hollis (1998)
After retiring from the music scene in 1991 following the release of the final Talk Talk album, Laughing Stock, Hollis took some time off to spend with family, but started on plans for a solo album. In 1998, he delivered his final album, the eponymous Mark Hollis, which was very much in the vein of Laughing Stock. Musically, it also kind of reminds me of Bjork. Beautiful, jazzy, eclectic.
It’s My Life – from the album It’s My Life (1984)
Yes, this is the single that No Doubt covered (and over-produced into a boring mess), but I prefer the original. This was the song that they are probably best known for, and if you listen to their later albums Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock, you can even hear some of the familiar sounds and arrangements here in their second album. I would also encourage you to check out some of their live performances of this era to see Hollis really giving it his all.
I Believe In You – from the album Spirit of Eden (1988)
While Talk Talk’s third album, The Colour of Spring, started to move toward the experimentalism of their later years, their fourth album was a clear departure from the pop structures. And yet this is still very much a Talk Talk song and album. Absolutely love this song.
Ascension Day – from the album Laughing Stock (1991)
Experimental jazz, minimalistic, artsy…and yet still sounds like Talk Talk to me. At this point, Hollis and the only other remaining band member, drummer Lee Harris, joined forces with part-time band member and producer Tim Friese-Greene and jazz-based Verve Records to produce their final album, Laughing Stock.
Life’s What You Make It – from the album The Colour of Spring (1986)
One of their most distinctive songs, this was the biggest hit off their third album, which was their most successful album, reaching the top 20 in numerous countries.