Photo by Cody Bralts
I have some time off from my day job coming up, which I’m hoping to use to clear out all kinds of clutter and detritus. There is the closet upstairs, there is the basement, and there is my brain; all three need some help. I also hope to write quite a bit, and clean up the yard a bit, and read and sleep a bit. I might even get to House Pet‘s place this weekend if I can swing a vehicle. It’ll be good to have some time away from my office.
This weekend I spent some time thinking about Talk Talk and Mark Hollis, the band’s singer, as I often do. I blame iTunes for the frequency of these thoughts, as all of the band’s albums, a live thing, and MH’s solo record come up in the old iTunes DJ feature on the regular. This weekend I was mostly listening to Talk Talk’s Live in London release (1986) and was blown away. Again. In a different way than I was last time. I listen to the damn thing about twice a month, and every time it sends me into a different space than the time before.
I found Talk Talk the same way many people my age in the early 80s in the US found them: on MTV, with this video. A couple of years later, there was this video, and then this fantastic video. Then, later, there was this:
Fast forward many years. A couple of years ago, I discovered some video for the aforementioned Live in London performance:
… and realized that they were far more awesome than I ever realized. O, to have been there in 1986! It still sounds great. As in, I’m playing this stuff right now and it sounds fabulous. Just last night I was reading something, somewhere, on the internet, that said Hollis and Co. might have used Steve Winwood’s “Spanish Dancer” (from Arc of a Diver, 1980) as a bit of a template for some of the sounds/moods on The Colour of Spring. Some might disagree, but considering Winwood played on The Colour of Spring (Steve Winwood! From Blind Faith and Traffic!), I wouldn’t say it’s too far off.
Talk Talk went on to mess with everyone’s minds by releasing ambient, so-called “post-rock” stuff long before anyone knew what to do with such a thing (Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock, 1988 and 1991, respectively). This is “I Believe in You” from 1988:
I hear Winwood’s influence here, too, just a bit. Phrasing, maybe. It could be all that piano. I bet Mark Eitzel of American Music Club gave this song a spin more than a few times. Gorgeous.
Mark Hollis released a self-titled solo record in 1998. I remember the day it arrived at Parasol, where I was working at the time. It was wintry and cold outside and, after I liberated it from the delivery box and put it in the CD player, it sounded like Mark Hollis’ head was in the speaker right near my desk – that voice. That voice! It remains an extraordinary piece of music; it’s spare, with just a suggestion of warmth and light… very much the sound of late winter for me. There was no tour.
Now… nothing. He’s disappeared, retired from the music business, no website, no farewell, nothing. It seems so old-fashioned, this notion of falling off the face of the earth, disappearing. Can people really do that these days?