I have to admit that I was never a card-carrying Talk Talk megafan, but when I heard that Mark Hollis had died last Monday at just 64 it struck a chord with me. Not the least of which was how Hollis had last released an album, his one solo recording in 1998, then he calmly receded into the shadows of his own volition. How rare it is for a musician to resist the limelight’s beckoning call. But it became readily apparent that Hollis marched to the beat of his own drummer as Talk Talk emerged from the freshly popped balloon of New Romanticism in 1982 to quickly mutate and develop into the sort of artist who can legitimately get put on the same shelf along with fellow rough travelers like Scott Walker and David Sylvian. Gents who could have had the world that pop offered in the palms of their hands but chose instead to make their own path off the comfort of the main thoroughfares of rock.
I first encountered the band when I first got MTV in September of 1982 on my cable system. The band’s hat trick eponymous single [“Talk Talk” by Talk Talk from their EMI America EP “Talk Talk!”] was getting steady play on the new channel and I couldn’t help but be interested in what I heard. Ultravoxian synth-rock with a heavy sense of melodrama. I know that’s a redundancy. After having gotten burned on the US EP by A Flock Of Seagulls earlier that year, I held off on buying the four track EP and was richly rewarded when later that year the band’s debut album, “The Party’s Over” was released with, yes, all four songs from the EP.
I liked the debut album fine enough, but it was a bit also ran. Sub-Ultravox in 1982 was a well-plowed furrow. The song that always stuck with me from this album was the deep cut “Hate.” I was a sucker for the Simmons tom-tom beats that had a relentless quality I enjoyed. But the album was strictly B-list stuff for me in 1982. I ended up selling it off in the Great Vinyl Purge with no regrets.
1984 brought a new album and I recall seeing three videos for the singles “It’s My Life,” Such A Shame” and “Dum Dum Girl” on MTV. “It’s My Life” was a classy upgrade from the sound of the debut album. Looking back now, I am shocked that this superb song got to number seven in Italy but basically got stuck in the 30-s to 60s in other national charts. What were they smoking back then? This song was sheer top ten material worldwide. Even Germany  let us down here! In America it almost scraped into the Top 30, but most shameful of all was the lowly 46 placing in their own UK.
I had always intended to buy this album but with the format switch from LP to CD in ‘-84-’85 for me, I always dawdled and ultimately only ever bought the album on CD in the 21st century! I was shocked at how fine it was. The cruder synth cartoons of the debut album were much more polished this time in a post-Roxy Music sort of vibe. The album was bullish on sampling keyboards but they at least used them with a modicum of taste. No “8-bit orchestra hit” for new keyboardist Tim Friese-Greene! The latter drifted towards the band after producing the hit “She Blinded Me With Science” for Thomas Dolby earlier for EMI and found himself co-writing most of the material with Mark Hollis going forward. The Tim Pope videos for the album were also high quality goods.
Next: …Jettisoning Booster Stages