New book Spirit Of Talk Talk (out 13 September) tells both the story of the influential band and that of those whose lives their music touched. In an exclusive extract, the Doves‘ Jimi Goodwin explains what Mark Hollis and co mean to him.
I was in Stockholm, Sweden, in the summer of 1986. Back then my unruly band of mates and I used to travel all over Europe and the UK selling concert and festival t-shirts and posters… some still do! You might say we were bootleggers/pirates; I prefer more dandyish titles like “swashbuckler”.
For me it was never really a job or long-term career thing, it was just a way to travel, see bands, and make a little money at the same time. I can’t remember which festival we were at, but my good friend Harry had Talk Talk‘s new album, The Colour of Spring, with him on cassette. I hassled him into lending it to me for the day as we worked. I popped it into my Walkman. It was a beautiful, hot, blue-sky day and I didn’t get much work done as the sounds in my ears were completely blowing me away. I just walked around the circumference of this festival, people watching in a blissful daze, to this new music I’d discovered.
I was familiar with the band’s name. I’d obviously heard their hits Talk Talk, Today, and It’s My life, but this was different. This was a band taking risks and pushing the form. From the bold, eerie opener, Happiness Is Easy, through to the massive hit Life’s What You Make It, to the likes of April 5th, Living In Another World, Give It Up, it was breathtaking in its vision and passion.
I remember seeing them on The Tube, Channel 4’s amazing live music programme, later that summer, and that further cemented the idea that this band was special. Mark Hollis, chief writer, bass player Paul Webb, and drummer Lee Harris were on fire that day!
Fast forward to 1991 and to Doves (or Sub Sub as we were then). We were still in the grip of dance music when Talk Talk’s next release Spirit of Eden came out. Andy Williams was the first to buy it and we would come in from clubbing somewhere in the wee smalls and put this record on. Probably the only so-called rock record at the time that we would listen to.
However, there is nothing you could call traditional rock on the album. The first four songs – starting with The Rainbow, which opens with the sound of wind and feedback, then Eden, Desire, and Inheritance – are all seemingly performed as one, weirdly segueing into each other.
Now considered their masterpiece, Mark was again co-writing with keyboard player and producer Tim Friese-Greene, a collaboration they started on The Colour of Spring… Jimi you’re not a journalist, remember? Oh heck! I’m not here to give you a biography.
There is some good stuff out there about Talk Talk, some great footage of them performing on the web. I can’t really describe this music. Others have managed in words what I can only feel. Okay, I’ll try. Put simply, this music was, and still is, life-affirming. To me it’s like going to church. Shit, I feel I’m doing this band a disservice. I know what it’s like to be written about by someone who hasn’t a clue! But I do love them, so sorry, strike me down.
Mark has always been very secretive and I think he is now retired from music, which as a fan is really sad – but I’m sure he’s not sad! There isn’t enough mystery around bands any more and the enigma of Talk Talk and Mark Hollis suits me just fine.
This is an extract from the Spirit of Talk Talk, published on 13 September. Head to Spiritoftalktalk.com for more information.