Hollis, Webb, and Harris in 1988
|Genres||Synthpop, new wave (early)
Art rock, post-rock (later)
|Associated acts||.O.rang, Bark Psychosis|
|Past members||Mark Hollis
Talk Talk were an English musical group, active from 1981 to 1991. The group was part of the British new wave movement. They had a string of early hit singles including "Today", "Talk Talk", "It's My Life", "Such a Shame", and "Dum Dum Girl". Always uncomfortable with the requirements and pressure of the pop industry, Talk Talk moved away from synthpop toward more experimental music in the mid-1980s. A few more singles, including "Life's What You Make It" and "Living in Another World", achieved success in Europe and in the UK, but their commercial appeal receded quickly as their critical reputation increased.
The band broke up in 1991. Singer Mark Hollis released one solo album before retiring from the music industry. Founding bass player and drummer Paul Webb and Lee Harris played in a couple of bands together; de facto fourth member Tim Friese-Greene continued in the business as a musician and producer. Their final two albums, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock, were highly acclaimed and remain influential to experimental alternative rock genres, especially post-rock. 25 years after the release of what The Guardian called their masterpiece (1988's Spirit of Eden), Talk Talk was still praised as a classic example of a band refusing to compromise its art to commercial pressure, and Hollis and his bandmates are seen as some of the more interesting acts to come out of the synthpop movement of the 1980s.
Formation and early successes (1981–1983)
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 generally associated with the New Romantic movement; more specifically, they were often compared with Duran Duran, as both bands sported a name which was a single word repeated, a Roxy Music-inspired musical direction, and shared 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 some other countries including Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand. The album was produced by Colin Thurston, who had also produced Duran Duran's first two albums but was 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 officially a trio, as Brenner was never officially replaced. However, Tim Friese-Greene was brought in to assist with the recording of It's My Life, and he soon became the band's producer and occasional keyboard player, as well as Hollis' frequent songwriting partner. Although a major contributor to the band's studio output, Friese-Greene did not regularly play with the band during live shows or appear in publicity material, and was never identified as a full member of Talk Talk.
Commercial peak (1984–1986)
Talk Talk achieved considerable international success in 1984/85, particularly in continental Europe, and Australia (peaking at #40 on the ARIA charts), 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 5 hit in Austria, Germany, Italy 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 album, It's My Mix, was the #86 best-selling album of 1985), and made the U.S., Canadian, French, German, New Zealand and Netherlands charts. A third single, "Dum Dum Girl", was a success in some European countries and in New Zealand; the album and its singles, however, were largely ignored in the UK. Commercial success notwithstanding the band made deliberate choices that moved it 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.
The artist James Marsh designed the first cover image for It's My Life based on the band's name. He followed the theme for subsequent singles, remaining the band's artistic frontman and creating all their covers and posters throughout their career.
Talk Talk abandoned the new wave style completely with The Colour of Spring in 1986. It became their biggest studio album success in the UK, making the Top 10 (and certified Gold by the BPI for sales over 100,000 copies), in part due to the Top 20 single "Life's What You Make It", which also became an international success, as the album itself. Another single, "Living in Another World", charted in the Top 40 in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy (and reached #48 and #44 in the UK and France, respectively). By this time, all Talk Talk songs were being written by Hollis and Friese-Greene.
The extended line-up for the 1986 tour consisted of Hollis, Webb and Harris, plus John Turnbull (guitars), Rupert Black and Ian Curnow (keyboards), Phil Reis and Leroy Williams (percussion), and Mark Feltham (harmonica). Most notable among these concerts was that at the Montreux Jazz Festival, 11 July 1986, released on DVD in 2008 as Live at Montreux 1986.
Later period (1988–1991)
The success of The Colour of Spring afforded the band a bigger budget and schedule for the recording of their next album. About a year in the making, and featuring contributions from many outside musicians, Spirit of Eden was released in 1988, on EMI's Parlophone label. The album was assembled from many hours of improvised instrumentation that Hollis and Friese-Greene had edited and arranged using digital equipment. The result was a mix of rock, jazz, classical, and ambient music. Critically praised, the album was certified Silver by the BPI for sales of over 60,000 copies and made the UK Top 20 upon release. The band announced they would not be attempting to recreate the album live (since, according to Hollis, "People would just want to hear the songs as they are on the album and for me that's not satisfying enough"). Without touring and without music videos and singles as the band originally intended, there was little marketing left that the record company could do; in the end the band grudgingly agreed to a video for the remixed version of "I Believe In You", released as first single. Hollis, though, was unhappy with the video, as he made clear in an interview with Q Magazine: "I really feel that [the video] was a massive mistake...I thought just by sitting there and listening and really thinking about what it was about, I could get that in my eyes. But you cannot do it. It just feels stupid. It was depressing and I wish I'd never done it."
During the making of Spirit of Eden, Talk Talk manager Keith Aspden had attempted to free the band from their record contract with EMI. "I knew by that time that EMI was not the company this band should be with", Aspden said. "I was fearful that the money wouldn't be there to record another album." EMI, however, wished to keep the band on their roster. After many months of litigation, the band ultimately succeeded in extracting themselves from the contract. EMI then sued the band, claiming that Spirit of Eden was not "commercially satisfactory", but the case was thrown out of court.
With the band now released from EMI, the label released the retrospective compilation Natural History in 1990. It peaked at number 3 on the UK album chart and was certified Gold by the BPI for sales of over 100,000 copies. It was also an international success and eventually went on to sell more than 1 million copies worldwide. The 1984 single "It's My Life" was also re-released, and this time became the band's highest charting single in their native country, reaching number 13 on the UK Singles Chart. A re-release of the single "Life's What You Make It" also reached the Top 30. Following up on this renewed popular interest in the band, the label then released History Revisited in 1991, a compilation of 12 inch singles and alternative versions which made the UK Top 40, an unusually high placing for what was effectively a remixes album (it also reached the Top 30 in Germany and the Top 75 in the Netherlands). The band sued EMI for releasing the remixed material without their permission.
In 1990, Talk Talk signed a two-album contract with Polydor Records. They released Laughing Stock on Polydor's Verve Records imprint in 1991. By this time, Webb had left the group and Talk Talk had morphed into what was essentially a brand name for the studio recordings of Hollis and Friese-Greene, along with a bevy of session studio players (including long-term Talk Talk drummer Harris). Laughing Stock crystallised the experimental sound the band started with Spirit of Eden (which has been retroactively categorised as "post-rock" by some critics). Laughing Stock peaked at No. 26 in the UK Albums Chart.
After Laughing Stock, Talk Talk disbanded in 1992, as Hollis wished to focus on his children. There were stories of "hedonistic, opium-laced sessions" but no evidence of such extravaganza. Paul Webb rejoined Lee Harris, and the two went on to form the band .O.rang, while Tim Friese-Greene started recording under the name Heligoland. In 1998, Mark Hollis released his self-titled solo début Mark Hollis, which was much in keeping with the minimalist post-rock sound of Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock. Hollis retired from the music industry shortly afterwards.
Webb also collaborated under the name of Rustin Man with Portishead lead singer Beth Gibbons and released Out of Season in 2002, while Lee Harris featured on the Bark Psychosis 2004 album, ///Codename: Dustsucker.
Legacy and influence
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. Sigur Rós has played Talk Talk songs before their shows.
Bands and artists that have claimed to be influenced by and/or a fan of Talk Talk include Portishead, Bark Psychosis, Catherine Wheel, Slowdive (on their last album, Pygmalion), Radiohead, DJ Shadow, Elbow, Shearwater  and Death Cab for Cutie. The bands Weezer, The Divine Comedy and The Gathering covered their song "Life's What You Make It" and No Doubt scored a hit with a cover of "It's My Life" in 2003. Lights recorded a cover of "Living In Another World" in 2012. "John Taylor of Duran Duran also has expressed fondness for the group; Talk Talk opened for Duran Duran back in 1982. Guy Garvey of the band Elbow has 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 (a double CD) 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 to the pressures of commercial interest. Says Alan McGee, "I find the whole story of one man against the system in a bid to maintain creative control incredibly heartening."
|1982||The Party's Over||21||132||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||8||94||47||–||–||–|
|1984||It's My Life||35||42||–||59||12||–||4||10||3||–||27||–||49||2||–||–|
|1986||The Colour of Spring||8||58||16||14||–||5||11||8||1||12||7||71||25||3||15||9|
|1988||Spirit of Eden||19||–||–||–||–||–||16||30||32||–||–||–||–||12||–||3|
- London 1986 (1999) : GER No. 46
- It's My Mix (1985; released only in Italy and Canada)
- Mini LP (1985, contains remixes only and similar to It's My Mix).
- Natural History: The Very Best of Talk Talk (1990) : UK No. 3, Germany No. 10, Netherlands No. 16, New Zealand No. 20, Switzerland No. 27
- History Revisited: The Remixes (1991) : UK No. 35
- The Very Best of Talk Talk (1997) : UK No. 54, Norway No. 20 (in 2002)
- Asides Besides (1998)
- 12x12 Original Remixes (2000)
- The Collection (2000)
- Remixed (same as 12x12 Original Remixes) (2001)
- Missing Pieces (2001)
- Time It's Time (2003)
- The Essential (2003)
- Introducing... (2003)
- Essential (2011)
- Natural Order (2013)
|UK Singles Chart||CA||FR||GER||NL||NZ||IRL||IT||SA||SWI||US Hot 100|
|1982||"Mirror Man"||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||The Party's Over|
|"Talk Talk" (Reissue)||23||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||1||–||75|
|"My Foolish Friend"||57||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||Non-LP single|
|1984||"It's My Life"||46||30||25||33||30||32||–||7||–||–||31||It's My Life|
|"Such a Shame"||49||–||7||2||9||39||–||4||–||1||89|
|"Dum Dum Girl"||74||–||–||20||31||34||–||–||–||24||–|
|"Tomorrow Started (Live)" (Dutch release)||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||—|
|1985||"It's My Life" (Reissue)||93||–||–||33||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||It's My Life|
|1986||"Life's What You Make It"||16||48||49||24||11||11||17||14||–||17||90||The Colour of Spring|
|"Living in Another World"||48||–||44||34||22||–||–||26||–||23||–|
|"Give It Up"||59||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|"I Don't Believe in You"||96||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|1988||"I Believe in You"||85||–||–||–||65||43||–||–||–||–||–||Spirit of Eden|
|1990||"It's My Life" (2nd Reissue)||13||–||–||49||–||–||23||–||–||–||–||Natural History: The Very Best of Talk Talk|
|"Life's What You Make It" (Reissue)||23||–||–||–||–||–||23||–||–||–||–|
|"Such a Shame" (Reissue)||78||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|1991||"Living in Another World '91" (Remix)||79||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||History Revisited: The Remixes|
|"After the Flood"||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||Laughing Stock|
|2003||"It's My Life" (Liquid People vs. Talk Talk)||64||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
- In 2002 Sandra released a cover version of "Such a Shame" which became a major international hit.
- In 2002 the song "Life's What You Make It" was featured in the Grand Theft Auto Vice City.
- In 2003 No Doubt released a cover version of "It's My Life" which became a major international hit.
- Brenner and Hollis received co-credits for Alex Gold's 2003 song "LA Today" (featuring Phil Oakey)
- In 2006 the song "It's My Life" (extended version) was featured in the Grand Theft Auto Vice City Stories.
- In 2008 "It's My Life" was featured in Saints Row 3.
- Live at Montreux 1986 (DVD)
- Guinness Rockopedia – ISBN 0-85112-072-5
- The Great Rock Discography – 5th Edition – ISBN 1-84195-017-3
- Ankeny, Jason. "Talk Talk - Overview". allmusic. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
- Seabrook, Thomas Jerome. Bowie in Berlin: A New Career in a New Town. Jawbone. pp. 250–51. ISBN 9781906002084.
- "Talk Talk - The Party's Over (Album)". Charts.org.nz (Hung Mediane / Media Jungden). 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
- Crane, Larry; Eckman, Chris (2010). "Sharing food and conversation with Phil Brown". In Larry Crane. Tape Op: The Book about Creative Music Recording, Volume 2. Hal Leonard. pp. 74–77. ISBN 9780977990306.
- Steffen Hung. "Talk Talk - Such A Shame". austriancharts.at. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
- "Hit Parade Italia - Indice per Interprete: T". Hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
- Steffen Hung. "Talk Talk - Such A Shame". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
- "Gli album più venduti del 1985" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- Steffen Hung. "Talk Talk - It's My Life". charts.org.nz. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
- Steffen Hung. "Talk Talk - It's My Life". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
- Talk Talk - Dum Dum Girl. hitparade.ch. Retrieved on 2012-04-10.
- McGee, Alan (9 April 2008). "Wherefore art thou Mark Hollis". The Guardian.
- Steffen Hung. "Talk Talk - The Colour Of Spring". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
- Deevoy, Adrian (28 August 2013). "Talk Talk: 'You should never listen to music as background music' – a classic interview from the vaults". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- Irvin, "Paradise Regained", 54.
- Buckley, Peter. "The rough guide to rock". Rough Guides, 2003. vii. ISBN 1-84353-105-4
- Myers, Ben (28 February 2012). "How Talk Talk spoke to today's artists". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- Explore: Post-Rock. AllMusic. Retrieved on 2012-04-10.
- Elbow makes its bones in 'Seldom Seen Kid'. NY Daily News (2008-04-19). Retrieved on 2012-04-10.
- “A Body, Not Just a Brain”: An Interview with Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg - Arts. The Wesleyan Argus. Retrieved on 2012-04-10.
- Death Cab For Cutie on Arcade Fire, U2 and their influences - Q25. YouTube (2011-07-28). Retrieved on 2012-04-10.
- Lights- Living in Another World feat. Darkstars (+ Download!). YouTube. Retrieved on 2012-11-08.
- Mojo magazine, May 2012.
- Battan, Carrie (25 January 2012). "Talk Talk Celebrated With Tribute Album, Book". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- Talk Talk albums in various charts
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 547. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "Talk Talk – It's My Mix". Discogs. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- "Talk Talk: It's My Mix". Ultratop. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- Talk Talk singles in various charts
- Talk Talk at WorldMusicDatabase
- Talk Talk discography at Discogs
- British Phonographic Industry (BPI) searchable database