Formed in 1981, this high quality UK band initially comprised Mark Hollis (vocals), Lee Harris (drums), Paul Webb (bass) and Simon Brenner (keyboards). They were soon signed to EMI Records who were intent on moulding them into the same league as stablemates Duran Duran. In fact, they could not have been more different. They went along with their company's ideas for the first album, The Party's Over, which produced the memorable UK hit singles 'Today' (number 14) and 'Talk Talk' (number 23). Keen to shake off the 'New Romantic' tag, Talk Talk dismissed their keyboard player to make them a looser, more flexible creative unit, with producer/co-writer Tim Friese-Greene becoming a de facto fourth member of the band for studio sessions.
For the next couple of years Hollis spent the time writing new material and assembling a pool of musicians to record It's My Life, although the catchy title track was only a minor hit. The format was repeated with 1986's highly accessible and mature The Colour Of Spring, which included the sublime UK Top 20 hit 'Life's What You Make It'. Both albums were critically acclaimed and proved that the band was a much more creative and imaginative act than their debut had suggested. Spirit Of Eden, however, showed their true musical preferences. A solemn six-track record of pop mixed with jazz, it had little commercial appeal, and no obvious hit single. It was a remarkable record deserving of a much better fate.
The poor showing of Spirit Of Eden led to EMI dropping the band who went on to sign a new recording contract with Verve Records. It was three years before another studio album appeared, and to fill in the gap a greatest hits compilation was issued without the band's permission. It nevertheless managed to sell over a million copies and give them three more hit singles. Ironically, their biggest success so far was the EMI reissue of their previous hit, 'It's My Life', which climbed to number 13 in May 1990. Laughing Stock picked up where they had left off although like its predecessor it failed to match the catchy commercial appeal of The Colour Of Spring. The group subsequently disbanded.
Webb and Harris went on to record together in the band .O.rang, while Tim Friese-Greene issued several albums under the moniker Heligoland. It was over seven years, before Hollis broke his silence with an astonishingly quiet and delicate acoustic solo album, recorded with a single pair of microphones, which appeared to have taken his musical vision to its logical conclusion.
Talk Talk deserve to be reappraised as, during a particularly barren time for UK pop music, they were unfairly compared to image seekers with little talent. The imaginative arrangements, ambitious songs, and distinctive vocals of Hollis were rarely off target.
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