Tag: Talk Talk (Page 1 of 4)

The Electronic Legacy of GREATEST HITS

Despite his lukewarm review of NEW ORDER’s ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ for ‘Smash Hits’, as a fan of their singles, Neil Tennant wrote: “I’m still looking forward to their ‘Greatest Hits’”.

Not appreciating a greatest hits of an artist who you admire is the ultimate in fan snobbery; that they are in a position of being able to release one is often a symbol of wider acclaim and success.

Despite what those too cool for school hipster types would have you believe, when you are 15 years old with just £4 in your hand, if you are choosing a record of an artist who you only know the singles of, you tend to opt for a compilation where possible, that is a fact.

The greatest hits compilation has its place in documenting the immediate appeal of an artist. It can often be the only release that most casual listeners need, especially if the albums were disappointing and featured all the wrong versions of their best songs as was the case with FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD.

But then, duos like PET SHOP BOYS and ERASURE were just supreme in the singular format while conversely, there are those like HEAVEN 17 and VISAGE whose best work can be found on their first two albums. However, bands such as NEW ORDER could often be better represented by their singles rather than their albums, as many of them were standalone releases that were not included on their long players which were often quite different in musical style.

Now while something as “commercial” as releasing a greatest hits would have been an anathema to NEW ORDER’s label Factory Records in 1983, flush with unexpected success and cash, Tony Wilson wanted to play their singles using the CD player that came with his brand new Jaguar car.

Thus, the ‘Substance’ compilation was born in 1987; issued in a variety of formats including double vinyl, cassette, DAT and CD, the latter three variants made use of the extra playing time available and included bonuses such as B-sides, tracks only previously issued in Belgium, instrumental versions and those rarely essential dub experiments.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly despite its flaws with re-recordings, edits and omissions, ‘Substance’ has gone on to sell around twelve million copies worldwide and was many fans’ entry point into NEW ORDER.

A good compilation does the job of attracting new fans while providing something extra for long standing fans and completists where possible. New versions or up-to-the-minute remixes of established standards were the fashion for a period but thankfully, this marketing strategy is today generally considered passé and previously unreleased songs are now considered the main draw.

But ultimately, what makes a great greatest hits package is a seamless listening experience, although this is something which even the best acts don’t always get right despite the quality of their best output.

So The Electricity Club takes a personal look at the electronic legacy of greatest hits via twenty notable artist compilation albums, each with valid reasons for their inclusion, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order within. And as one great Northern English philosopher once wrote: “some are here and some are missing…”


ULTRAVOX The Collection (1984)

At the time of release, ‘The Collection’ was novel. Not only did it feature all thirteen Midge Ure-fronted ULTRAVOX singles to date, but in ‘Love’s Great Adventure’, it also included a brand new one too. Yes, 2009’s ‘The Very Best Of’ features four more tracks including the cancelled 1984 single ‘White China’, but honestly who really needs the singles from ‘U-Vox’? ‘The Collection’ was a perfect package that could be played from start to finish, from ‘Dancing With Tears in My Eyes’ to ‘Lament’ via ‘Vienna’.

‘The Collection’ was released by Chrysalis Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


DEPECHE MODE The Singles 81-85 (1985)

The ideal DEPECHE MODE greatest hits package would be CD1 of ‘The Singles 86-98’ which ends with the ‘Violator’ 45s coupled with the innocent synthpop period gathered on ‘The Singles 81-85’. But as that doesn’t exist, the very first DM singles compilation wins over thanks to its inclusion of candid photos from the band’s history and some amusing negative review quotes, highlighting that once upon a time, DEPECHE MODE actually had a sense of humour. Oh! Those were the days!

‘The Singles 81-85’ was released by Mute Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


GARY NUMAN Exhibition (1987)

The first compilation ‘New Man Numan’ was a 1982 singles collection that sold poorly as his star turn was on the wane. But by 1987, there was renewed interest in trailblazing exploits of Gary Numan; the ‘Exhibition’ double CD package featured not only his singles up to 1983 but choice album tracks from his imperial Beggars Banquet phase like ‘Metal’ and ‘Remind Me To Smile’ which should have been singles plus rarities like ‘On Broadway’ and B-sides such as ‘Do You Need The Service?’.

‘Exhibition’ was released by Beggars Banquet

http://garynuman.com/


CHINA CRISIS Collection (1990)

CHINA CRISIS had their fourteen track ‘Collection’ of primarily singles released in a wonderful limited edition double CD package with fourteen of their B-sides. Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon were better than their four Top20 hits suggested, with songs like ‘African & White’ and ‘Arizona Sky’ in particular deserving of much higher chart placings. Add in B-sides like ‘No Ordinary Lover’, ‘A Golden Handshake For Every Daughter’ and ‘Dockland’, and you have a near perfect document of their career.

‘Collection’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial


JIMMY SOMERVILLE The Singles Collection (1990)

The diminutive Glaswegian never stuck around in his bands for long but he had one of the most recognisable voices in pop, thanks to in his glorious falsetto. So what better than compiling his BRONSKI BEAT and COMMUNARDS singles alongside his solo work? From the poignant commentary on gay rights in songs like ‘Smalltown Boy’ and ‘Why?’ to the HI-NRG covers of disco standards ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ and ‘Mighty Real’, this was a fine collection.

‘The Singles Collection’was released by London Records

https://www.jimmysomerville.co.uk/


TALK TALK Natural History (1990)

After 1988’s financially disastrous ‘Spirit Of Eden’, EMI were keen to recoup their investment on the now departed TALK TALK and what better than with a compilation. While primarily based around their hit singles, ‘Natural History’ actually pulled off an accidental masterstroke by including the full-length album versions of songs like ‘Such A Shame’ and ‘Living In Another World’ which had sounded terrible as single edits. This all made for a better listening experience for those new to Mark Hollis and friends.

‘Natural History’ was released by EMI Records

https://spiritoftalktalk.com/


PET SHOP BOYS Discography (1991)

‘Discography’ gathered all of PET SHOP BOYS singles during what Neil Tennant has always describe as their imperial phase and could rightly be called one of the best greatest hits albums ever. Featuring four UK No1s, there were others like ‘Left To My Own Devices’, Being Boring’ and the Dusty Springfield duet ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This? that were equally as worthy. Later compilations like ‘PopArt’ mighty have ‘Go West’ and more, but ‘Discography’ captures the duo at their most consistent best.

‘Discography’ was released by EMI Records

https://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


ERASURE Pop! The First 20 Hits (1992)

Coming not long after ‘Discography’, ‘Pop! The First 20 Hits’ saw ERASURE take on PET SHOP BOYS at their own game. Andy Bell and Vince Clarke may have only had three less UK No1s than Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe but that’s a bit like saying Nigel Mansell wasn’t a good as Nelson Piquet on stats alone. ERASURE have always been a better singles act than they are an album one, but while a second volume was added in 2009, this initial volume is the more essential purchase.

‘Pop! The First 20 Hits’ was released by Mute Records

https://www.erasureinfo.com/


KRAFTWERK The Model (1992)

Los Angeles goth industrial specialists Cleopatra Records pulled off a major coup by licencing the music of KRAFTWERK from their then-US label Capitol Records for a compilation album. Covering the period 1975-1978, the main point of interest for Kling Klang enthusiasts was the first time on CD release of ‘Radio-Activity’, ‘Trans Europe Express’, ‘The Robots’ and ‘Neon Lights’ in their single edits! ‘The Model’ retrospective was a good introduction to KRAFTWERK for the more cautious consumer.

‘The Model’ was released by Cleopatra Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Bang!… (1993)

Liverpool’s FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD are probably the epitome of hype over substance, but in their name came some magnificent ground-breaking singles. For a band who released only two albums, they have been documented more than most already with six greatest hits collections and a plethora of remix packages. The very first one ‘Bang!…’ was undoubtedly the best, serving the Frankie phenomenon in mostly bite size single edit portions with album highlights and perfect for the casual but interested observer.

‘Bang!…’ was released by Warner Music

http://www.ztt.com/artists/frankie_goes_to_hollywood.html


JOHN FOXX Modern Art (2001)

The first John Foxx compilation ‘Assembly’ in 1992 while welcome, suffered from being selected by the man himself, as artists are not often the best judges of their own work. Much better and more comprehensive was ‘Modern Art’ which gathered all his singles into one place in their correct versions, while also adding a remastered version of the ‘Smash Hits’ flexi-disc ‘My Face’ as a bonus for Foxx aficionados as well as new material from ‘The Pleasures Of Electricity’.

‘Modern Art’ was released by Music Club

http://www.metamatic.com/


SIMPLE MINDS Early Gold (2003)

Before Jim Kerr hectored audiences to show them his hands, SIMPLE MINDS were one of the best art rock bands in the UK, swathed in Eurocentric synths and rhythms. ‘Early Gold’ satisfied those who always felt the Glaswegians lost it after ‘New Gold Dream’ by including The Blitz Club anthem ‘Changeling’, the Moroderesque ‘I Travel’ and the glory of ‘Someone Somewhere in Summertime’. However, the magnificent ‘Theme For Great Cities’ is missing but you can’t have it all…

‘Early Gold’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.simpleminds.com/


NEW ORDER Singles (2005)

With its hotch-potch of wrong mixes and ordering, the first edition of ‘Singles’ is historically incorrect. But unlike ‘Substance’, it has the correct takes of ‘Ceremony’ and ‘Temptation’. Yes, there’s the album cut of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and an edited B-side version of 1963 as well, BUT as a listening experience, CD1 of ‘Singles’ does a better job of capturing NEW ORDER up to the end of 1987. ‘Blue Monday’ remains intact, and while the edit of ‘Thieves Like Us’ is annoying, ‘Confusion’ is more tolerable in abridged form.

‘Singles’ was released by London Records

http://www.neworder.com/


JAPAN The Very Best Of (2006)

First up, there is no ideal JAPAN compilation. But ‘The Very Best Of’ wins over because it was the only one that had the key Ariola Hansa era singles ‘Life In Tokyo’, ‘I Second That Emotion’ and ‘Quiet Life’ alongside the Virgin period that produced ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Nightporter’. However, the clumsy 1980 early fade of ‘Quiet Life’ was included rather than the sharper 1981 hit single edit. Also, were two versions of ‘Ghosts’ necessary when ‘Swing’ could have been dropped in? It all spoilt what potential this compendium had.

‘The Very Best Of’ was released by Virgin Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


DURAN DURAN The Singles 81-85 (2009)

DURAN DURAN were described by The Guardian in 2015 as “an electronic band with a heavy rock guitarist bolted on” and that era of the classic Le Bon / Rhodes / Taylor / Taylor / Taylor line-up is captured in this 3CD package largely firing on all cylinders. Originally issued in 2003 as a lavish 13CD boxed set and featuring all their singles, extended versions and B-sides from that period, ‘The Singles 81-85’ is superior to the both the preceding ‘Decade’ and ‘Greatest’ compendiums.

‘The Singles 81-85’ was released by EMI Records

http://www.duranduran.com/


LADYTRON Best Of 00-10 (2011)

“They only want you when you’re seventeen” sang LADYTRON on their single satirising modern day audition culture and perhaps not coincidently, their ‘Best Of 00–10’ featured that number of tracks. A fine introduction to the quartet via their more immediate songs like ‘Discotraxx’, ‘Playgirl’, ‘Runaway’ and the mighty ‘Destroy Everything You Touch’. Extra points were awarded for the right wing baiting revisionist cover of Nazi folkies DEATH IN JUNE’s ‘Little Black Angel’ in a defiant act of artistic and ideological subversion.

‘Best of 00-10’ was released by Nettwerk Records

http://www.ladytron.com/


CAMOUFLAGE The Singles (2014)

Often seen as Germany’s answer to DEPECHE MODE, CAMOUFLAGE added in elements of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and have a marvellous back catalogue that is well worth investigating. ‘The Singles’ is a fine introduction, containing their signature song ‘The Great Commandment’ as well as ‘Stranger’s Thoughts’, ‘Love Is A Shield’, ‘Suspicious Love’, ‘Me & You’ plus a great cover of Moon Martin’s ‘Bad News’. With liner notes by The Electricity Club, what more could you want? 😉

‘The Singles’ was released by Polydor Records

http://www.camouflage-music.com/en/News


JEAN MICHEL JARRE Essential Recollection (2015)

Jean-Michel Jarre has several greatest hits albums but they all have been frustrating listens. This has largely been due to his synthesizer symphonies not being suited to sub-three minute edits, a flaw heavily exposed on the ‘Images’ compilation. But ‘Essential Recollection’ collected the French Maestro’s most accessible moments with sympathetic fades that captured the essence of his electronic wizardry. However, 2000’s ‘The Bells’ was odd inclusion in a collection that focussed on his earlier imperial phase.

‘Essential Recollection’ was released by Sony Music

https://jeanmicheljarre.com/


SOFT CELL Keychains & Snowstorms – The Singles (2018)

No-one expected Marc Almond and Dave Ball to reunite as SOFT CELL for a final show in 2018, but a bigger surprise was a brand new single ‘Northern Lights’ b/w ‘Guilty (Cos I Say You Are)’. Both tracks were included on a new singles compilation which reminded people that SOFT CELL had five UK Top5 singles in just over thirteen months between 1981 and 1982. However, a minus mark gets awarded for using the inferior album mix of ‘Tainted Love’ instead of the chart topping single version!

‘Keychains & Snowstorms – The Singles’ was released by Universal Music

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


OMD Souvenir (2019)

As with JAPAN, there is no perfect OMD compilation. The brand has had some quite different phases, so means different things to different people. ‘The Best Of’ is still their biggest selling album but the comprehensive ‘Souvenir’ gathers all their singles, from the exemplarly ‘Messages’, ‘Enola Gay’ and ‘Maid Of Orleans’ to the more recent ‘Dresden’ and ‘Don’t Go’. But while there’s duffers like ‘Stand Above Me’ and ‘If You Want It’, maybe it’s the ideal time to put those CD programmers and playlists to work!

‘Souvenir’ was released by Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
25th July 2020, updated 27th July 2020

The Electricity Club’s 25 CLASSIC SYNTH B-SIDES

It really is the other side of love. B-sides have been a wondrous platform of adventure for the music fan, a hidden treasure trove of experimentation that was often a secret society that positioned the listener into being part of a mysterious taste elite.

So here are The Electricity Club’s favourite 25 Classic Synth B-sides… but how was this list defined?

These artefacts are flipsides of vinyl or bonus tracks on CD singles; basically songs that were not featured on the original issue of a full length album, or subsequently included on a new one. However, bonus tracks on later reissues are permitted. With TEC’s 25 Synth Instrumentals Of The Classic Era being covered in a separate listing, wordless wonders are also omitted. The listing runs up until the start of the 21st Century.

However, there is a limitation of one song per artist moniker in this chronological retrospective, so rare indulgers of the B-side such as HEAVEN 17, JAPAN and SIMPLE MINDS get equal billing with prolific exponents like PET SHOP BOYS, DEPECHE MODE, OMD and ULTRAVOX. That may seem unfair but then life can be unfair…


THE NORMAL TVOD (1978)

the_normal_-_warm_leatherette_-_front_smWas ‘TVOD’ actually the A-side of this seminal and only release by THE NORMAL which launched Mute Records? But as ‘Warm Leatherette’ is listed at the top of the back sleeve and has moved into legend having been covered by GRACE JONES, LAIBACH and CHICKS ON SPEED, ‘TVOD’ qualifies for this list. With its hypnotic bassline and warbling synth hook, JG Ballard makes his influence heard as Daniel Miller monotones about a dystopian future where television is the new narcotic…

Available on the single ‘Warm Leatherette’ via Mute Records

www.mute.co.uk


TUBEWAY ARMY We Are So Fragile (1979)

are friends electricIn the days when the B-side mattered as much as the A-side, more intuitive purchasers found another gem on the flip of ‘Are Friends Electric?’ with this pounding system of romance. Being the antithesis of the discordant diabolis in musica of the main act, ‘We Are So Fragile’ fused Minimoogs with guitars and a four-to-the-floor beat as the vulnerability of Gary Numan connected with the Cold War dystopia of the times in a musical winter of discontent.

Originally the B-side of ‘Are Friends Electric?’; now available on the album ‘Replicas’ via Beggars Banquet Records

www.numan.co.uk


JOHN FOXX 20th Century (1980)

foxxCommissioned as the theme to Janet Street-Porter’s early youth vehicle ‘20th Century Box’ which gave platforms to two then unknown bands SPANDAU BALLET and DEPECHE MODE, the combination of Foxx’s starkly dominant Compurhythm and ARP Odyssey dystopia were harsh but strangely danceable. However, ’20th Century’ signalled the wind down of the mechanical phase of John Foxx before thawing out and turning more conventional to less distinctive effect on ‘The Garden’.

Originally the B-side of ‘Burning Car’; now available on the deluxe album ‘Metamatic’ via Esdel Records

www.metamatic.com/


SIMPLE MINDS New Warm Skin (1980)

Like a number of bands of the period, SIMPLE MINDS went off doing B-sides as they progressed, often lazily filling the flips with live tracks or instrumental versions of existing tracks. ‘New Warm Skin’ was the original B-side of ‘I Travel’ and saw the Glaswegians ape SPARKS for this claptrap filled electronic cacophony of sound. Not claustrophobic enough for ‘Empires & Dance’, this is a delightfully creepy synth laden rarity in the SIMPLE MIDS back catalogue.

Originally the B-side of ‘I Travel’; now available as a bonus track on the boxed set ‘X5’ via Virgin Records

www.simpleminds.com


DEPECHE MODE Ice Machine (1981)

dreamingofme1With so many great B-sides in the long career of DEPECHE MODE, it might seem strange that their best B-side was actually their first. ‘Ice Machine’ is possibly Vince Clarke’s darkest five minutes, but it has also proved to be highly influential. ROYKSOPP and S.P.O.C.K have covered it while the song’s core arpeggio has been borrowed by LADYTRON and FEATHERS. It is not only one of DM’s best B-sides, it is among one of the best songs of the Synth Britannia era.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE boxed set ‘DMBX1’ via Mute Records

www.depechemode.com


HEAVEN 17 Are Everything (1981)

heaven-17-im-your-money-virginHEAVEN 17 were an act who rarely did B-sides and even this cover of a lesser known BUZZCOCKS single started life as a track for the BEF ‘Music Of Quality & Distinct Volume 1’ opus but was quickly shelved. Unusual in many respects as ‘Are Everything’ features the early HUMAN LEAGUE synth sound emblazoned with acoustic guitar from Dave Lockwood, Glenn Gregory snarls in post-punk fashion away from the new funk hybrid which was later appear on ‘Penthouse & Pavement’.

Originally the B-side of ‘I’m Your Money’; 12 inch version now available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ via Virgin Records

www.heaven17.com


JAPAN European Son (1981)

life in tokyoOriginally recorded as a demo for the 1979 Giorgio Moroder sessions that produced ‘Life In Tokyo’, this sequencer heavy number was rejected by the Italian disco maestro. Left dormant in the vaults of Ariola Hansa, after JAPAN left the label, ‘European Son’ was subsequently finished off by John Punter and tagged onto a 1981 reissue of ‘Life In Tokyo’. Retrospectively, it shows David Sylvian’s vocals in transition from the catty aggression of earlier albums. In 1982, it became an A-side remixed by Steve Nye.

Originally the B-side of 1981 reissue of ‘Life In Tokyo’; now available on the JAPAN album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Virgin Records

www.nightporter.co.uk/


ULTRAVOX Paths & Angles (1981)

Ultravox-the voiceA unique curio in the classic ULTRAVOX cannon as it does not feature Midge Ure. Chris Cross handled guitar duties and backing vocals while Warren Cann took the spoken lead. The powerful Linn driven track was provided the punch with the Minimoog bass while Billy Currie tastefully layered with his piano and violin interplay. ‘Paths & Angles’ was undoubtedly strong enough to have been an album track, but highly unlikely to have remained in this form if Ure had been involved.

Originally the B-side of ‘The Voice’; now available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Rage In Eden’ via EMI Records

www.ultravox.org.uk


BLANCMANGE Running Thin (1982)

blancmange-living-on-the-ceiling-1982Originally recorded for a John Peel session but rescued for the B-side of ‘Living On The Ceiling’, ‘Running Thin’ featured a much starker, claustrophobic template than the subsequent ‘Happy Families’ album. Driven by a Roland drum machine, haunting blips and “elastic stretched too far” guitar, Neil Arthur’s resigned baritone matched the music backdrop. The track has since been revisited by BLANCMANGE for the upcoming 2CD ‘Happy Families Too’ 2CD set.

Originally the B-side of ‘Living On The Ceiling’; now available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Music Club

www.blancmange.co.uk


THOMAS DOLBY One Of Our Submarines (1982)

She_Blinded_Me_with_ScienceBorrowing the main melody of ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ theme and coupled with a sharp Tim Friese-Greene production, ‘One Of Our Submarines’ was actually based on the poignant story of TMDR’s uncle Stephen. He served in a submarine during World War Two but died while on manoeuvres as opposed to battle. His death became Dolby’s metaphor for the fall of the British Empire and his rebellion against the post-war Boys Own adventure illusion that his generation grew up in.

Originally the B-side of ‘She Blinded Me with Science’; now available on the THOMAS DOLBY album ‘The Golden Age Of Wireless’ via EMI Records

www.thomasdolby.com


THE HUMAN LEAGUE You Remind Me Of Gold (1982)

the-human-league-mirror-man-virginOutstripping the electro Tamla of the A-side, ‘You Remind Me Of Gold’ had the balance of weirdness, accessibility and the spectre of Jo Callis’ guitar synthesizer. Coupled with the precise but edgy production of Martin Rushent, this gave high hopes that the follow-up to the million selling ‘Dare’ would be a goody. Unfortunately, the band fell out with Rushent and the lukewarm ‘Hysteria’ was the result and it would take years for THE HUMAN LEAGUE to recover.

Originally the B-side of ‘Mirror Man’; now available on the HUMAN LEAGUE deluxe album ‘Dare / Fascination!’ via Virgin Records

www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


OMD Navigation (1982)

OMDmaidOMD often were at their best when indulging in their vertical take-off experiments. Covered in hiss and layered with a shrilling, almost out-of-tune Mellotron, ‘Navigation’ was an abstract collage with the punching snare drum crescendo leading to a weird droning beacon of strange noises taken from their pre-OMD tapes that conjured the image of foggy uncharted oceans. It is without doubt, one of Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey’s stand-out recordings.

Originally the B-side of ‘Maid Of Orleans’; now available on the OMD album ‘Navigation’ via Virgin Records

www.omd.uk.com


SOFT CELL It’s A Mug’s Game (1982)

Where the Heart IsBoy George once described SOFT CELL as music for teenagers who hate their parents. With ‘It’s A Mugs Game’, that ethos came to its head with this comical tirade of angry, adolescent angst! Marc Almond goes from crisis to crisis as he tries to annoy his dad by playing loud, all the records “he especially hates… ’Deep Purple In Rock, ‘Led Zeppelin II’”. But as Almond retorts: “even you hate those”! The closing rant of “I can’t wait until I’m twenty one and I can tell them all to sod off!” is classic!

Originally the B-side of ‘Where The Heart Is’; now available on the SOFT CELL album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Phonogram Records

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


TALK TALK ? (1982)

Perhaps unsurprisingly with Colin Thurston at the production helm, the cryptically titled ‘?’ did sound like a DURAN DURAN flipside with thundering Simmons drums, disco bass and a fabulous synth solo from original keyboardist Simon Brenner. Utilising a weird chorus effect which sounded like the song was recorded on using dirty tape heads, while not a particularly prolific B-side band, TALK TALK certainly delivered more extras than perhaps JAPAN ever did.

Originally the B-side of ‘Talk Talk’. Available on the TALK TALK album ‘Asides Besides’ via EMI Music

https://spiritoftalktalk.com/


VISAGE I’m Still Searching (1982)

night trainOne of the few vocal tracks to be a VISAGE B-side, ‘I’m Still Searching’ in hindsight sounds ahead of its time with its proto-PET SHOP BOYS vibe. Featuring just Steve Strange and Rusty Egan as the ULTRAVOX and MAGAZINE boys were all back in their day jobs, it hinted at a New York electronic disco direction which was expanded on with ‘Pleasure Boys’. But by the time of the third VISAGE album ‘Beat Boy’, rock was the name of the game with Strange’s voice left exposed and totally unsuited to its histrionics.

Originally the B-side of ‘Night Train’; now available on the VISAGE album ‘The Anvil’ via Rubellan Remasters

www.visage.cc/


YAZOO Situation (1982)

only youA B-side that was later issued as an A-side in various markets, ‘Situation’ was one of only three writing collaborations between Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke. At barely 2 minutes in its original form, it made its point with its rousing blues based sequenced dance pop; it became a US club favourite remixed by Francois Kevorkian who was later to work with KRAFTWERK and DEPECHE MODE. Another version mixed by ERASURE producer Mark Saunders took the song into the UK Top20 in 1990.

Originally the B-side of ‘Only You’; now available on the album ‘The Collection’ via Music Club

www.yazooinfo.com/


CARE Sad Day For England (1983)

careWhen Liverpool band THE WILD SWANS split, two thirds formed the basis of THE LOTUS EATERS while their singer Paul Simpson teamed up with ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN producer Kingbird aka Ian Broudie. Combining acoustic guitars and stark drum machine with strong synthesizer melodies and melancholic vocals, ‘Sad Day for England’ was a mournful recollection of young manhood. The duo split before their debut album was completed. Broudie eventually formed THE LIGHTNING SEEDS.

Originally the 12 inch B-side of ‘My Boyish Days’; now available on the CARE album ‘Diamonds & Emeralds’ via Camden Records/BMG Records

http://music-isms.blogspot.com/2007/12/care-singles-1983-1984.html


DURAN DURAN Secret Oktober (1983)

union_of_the_snakeThis atmospheric ballad from the ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ sessions turned out to be one of the the most synth led recordings under the DURAN DURAN name. Featuring just Nick Rhodes and Simon Le Bon, it showcased the more esoteric influences of JAPAN who the pair were particularly fond of. A precursor to their painfully pretentious ARCADIA project, none of those songs ever reached the heights of ‘Secret Oktober’. It was dusted off for the 1998 Greatest Hits tour.

Originally the B-side of ‘Union Of the Snake’; now available on the DURAN DURAN boxed set ‘The Singles 81-85’ via EMI Records

www.duranduran.com


HOWARD JONES It Just Doesn’t Matter (1983)

B-sides are for quirky experimentation and Howard Jones certainly veered from the norm with this oddball slice of electro-ska. With the declaration that “If I haven’t got any friends, it just doesn’t matter” and “If I’ve been misunderstood, it just doesn’t matter”, the song was possibly written as a positive motivator to face the music whatever following the success of his debut single ‘New Song’. The critics may not have loved him but his fans did, with the ‘Human’s Lib’ album entering the UK chats at No1.

Originally the B-side of ‘What is Love?’; now available on the HOWARD JONES album ‘The Very Best Of’ via WEA

http://www.howardjones.com/


ALPHAVILLE The Nelson Highrise (1984)

Subtitled ‘Sector One: The Elevator’, ‘The Nelson Highrise’ was the B-side to ‘Sounds Like A Melody’ which wasn’t released as a single in the UK. After a dynamic instrumental build of over a minute and a half, the opening line “Time is fleeting, you can’t stop time” was deeply ominous while the backing was almost industrial with very sharp edges. The dystopian air might have been a surprise to some, but then ‘Big In Japan’ was inspired by the plight of heroin addicts in Berlin…

Originally the B-side of ‘Sounds Like A Melody’; now available on the ALPHAVILLE deluxe album ‘Forever Young’ via Warner Music

https://www.alphaville.info/


CHINA CRISIS It’s Never Too Late (1985)

CC-black man rayRecorded during the ‘Working With Fire & Steel’ sessions produced by Mike Howlett, ‘It’s Never Too Late’ was a lost gem probably droppedby CHINA CRISIS from the album on account of it sounding like a more steadfast ‘Wishful Thinking’, featuring its familiar Emulator strings sound in the melody. Unreleased until 1985, even then it was tucked away on the limited edition 12 inch of ‘Black Man Ray’, making it one of the rarest of high quality B-sides from the era.

Originally the 12 inch limited edition B-side of ‘Black Man Ray’; now available on the CHINA CRISIS deluxe album ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’ via Caroline International

www.facebook.com/pages/China-Crisis/295592467251068


PET SHOP BOYS That’s My Impression (1986)

love comes quicklyPossibly the song which indicated that PET SHOP BOYS were going to be around for a while and not just a flash in the pan, ‘That’s My Impression’ was menacing as opposed to melancholic, combining SOFT CELL with DIVINE. Neil Tennant’s final angry refrain of “I went looking for someone I couldn’t find – staring at faces by the Serpentine…” is pure Marc Almond, tense and embittered in a manner that turned out to be quite rare in PET SHOP BOYS later work.

Originally the B-side of ‘Love Comes Quickly’; now available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Alternative’ via EMI Records

www.petshopboys.co.uk


NEW ORDER 1963 (1987)

true faithIs this song about JFK? Is it a homo-erotic love story that ends in murder? Who knows? But ‘1963’ was an outstanding result of the sessions NEW ORDER had with PET SHOP BOYS producer Stephen Hague that also spawned ‘True Faith’. However, much to Hooky’s annoyance, his contributions on ‘1963’ were virtually written out. Bloody mindedness ensured ‘1963’ was tucked away as a B-side for 8 years before it was released as an A-side in a more Hooky audible rework by Arthur Baker.

Originally the B-side of ‘True Faith’; now availableon the NEW ORDER album ‘Substance’ via Warner Music

http://www.neworder.com/


CAMOUFLAGE Kling Klang (1989)

Bietigheim-Bissingen’s CAMOUFLAGE took over the mantle of delivering the heavier synthpop blueprint which DEPECHE MODE started during ‘Construction Time Again’ and ‘Some Great Reward’, but left behind with ‘Black Celebration’. ‘Kling Klang’ actually was a B-side to their single ‘One Fine Day’. This was not only a tribute to KRAFTWERK but in a rarity for the trio, it was also sung in German. But it was so rigidly authentic that at times, it inadvertently sounded like a Bill Bailey musical comedy skit.

Originally the B-side of ‘One Fine Day’, now available on the CAMOUFLAGE deluxe album ‘Methods Of Silence’ via Bureau B

http://www.camouflage-music.com/en/News


ERASURE Over The Rainbow (1991)

erasure-chorus(2)This bouncy tune with its lyrical celebration by Andy Bell of ABBA borrowed heavily from OMD. Vince Clarke went on record to say the record that influenced him most to start working with synthesizers was ‘Electricity’. So on ‘Over The Rainbow’, he borrowed its lead melody wholesale and added a few of the speaking clock samples that had adorned OMD’s ‘Dazzle Ships’. Listen carefully and listeners will also notice ULTRAVOX are affectionately pillaged too!

Originally the B-side of ‘Chorus’; now available in the boxed set ‘EBX4’ via Mute Records

www.erasureinfo.com


‘TEC Has Everything B-Sides’, a playlist comprising of a number of flips from several eras can be listened to at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/44O9vvXs2sAJv24kdPQ9tC


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th June 2020

Lost Albums: TALK TALK The Party’s Over

Following the sad passing of Mark Hollis, front man and songwriter of TALK TALK, many of the obituaries that followed focussed on their final two records ‘Spirit Of Eden’ and ‘Laughing Stock’.

But very little mention was made of TALK TALK’s 1982 debut long player ‘The Party’s Over’. Even Alan Wilder, executive producer of the 2012 tribute ‘Spirit Of Talk Talk’, in an interview with The Electricity Club admitted that although “I liked the sound of the singles ‘Today’ and ‘Talk Talk’”, he had “never heard the first album” adding “In fact I still haven’t heard that album in full.”

Synthpop has often had a credibility problem, especially among “too cool for school” hipster writers and even so-called commentators of electronic music. But ‘Spirit Of Eden’ and ‘Laughing Stock’ might not have happened had TALK TALK not had single success in 1982 during one of the most exciting and enjoyable years in music.

It was a year that saw ASSOCIATES, SOFT CELL, SIMPLE MINDS and JAPAN slugging it out in the Top40 alongside ABC, DURAN DURAN, SPANDAU BALLET, YAZOO, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, VISAGE, ULTRAVOX, DEPECHE MODE and BLANCMANGE, while HEAVEN 17, CHINA CRISIS and B-MOVIE were knocking on the door and looking for a way in.

At the time, TALK TALK comprised of Paul Webb on bass, Lee Harris on drums and crucially Simon Brenner on keyboards who came armed with a Roland RS09 and Oberheim OBXa. Signing to EMI, TALK TALK were originally dismissed by the press as DURAN DURAN copyists as they shared the same label, the same producer in Colin Thurston and even had a repeated word name!

Released in July 1982, ‘The Party’s Over’ was an impressive synth flavoured collection devoid of guitar that very much captured the sound of the era with its thundering Simmons drums and fretless bass. It opened with the very immediate ‘Talk Talk’, a heated song which began life in 1977 as a song for THE REACTION, a punk band that Hollis was in, which was co-written by his brother Eddie Hollis who managed EDDIE & THE HOT RODS.

Although it flopped on its initial single release in April 1982, it belatedly became a hit later that Autumn in a remix by ROXY MUSIC producer Rhett Davies. ‘Talk Talk’ possessed an anguish and frustration in Hollis’ voice like Bryan Ferry through clenched teeth and it was a seed that was to serve him well through the band’s small recorded portfolio.

A band composition, ‘It’s So Serious’ was a delightful number influenced by OMD with catchy hooks and the then state-of-the-art production techniques. But things were to get even better. The moody ‘Today’ dominated by Webb’s melodic bass playing showed TALK TALK had more in common with artistically thoughtful bands like JAPAN rather than more obvious pop combos like DURAN DURAN; it reached No14 in the UK singles charts but deserved to go much higher.

The template of Sylvian & Co was taken further with the magnificent title track, another band composition which made impressive use of penetrating oriental overtones and an epic gothic backdrop for the track’s conclusion.

Beginning the second side, the aggressive chant-laden ‘Hate’ did as the title suggested, frantically laced with Harris’ reverberant percussive barrages reminiscent of ULTRAVOX’s live version of ‘The Voice’ from that period.

The serious lyrical matter of the solemn ‘Have You Heard the News?’ with a narrative about the aftermath of a car accident highlighted how TALK TALK were indeed not part of the SPANDAU BALLET league. But the album exposed its weak link with the ploddy ‘Mirror Man’, surprisingly issued as the first TALK TALK single with its noticeable BEATLES-influenced string aesthetics.

But it all got back on track with ‘Another Word’, a song from the solo pen of Paul Webb and his only one in the TALK TALK catalogue. With an enjoyably memorable chant and uptempo rhythm construction, it was released in its own right as a single in Germany thanks to its use in the domestic TV detective series ‘Derrick’.

That German single was backed with ‘Candy’ which closed ‘The Party’s Over’. Here, TALK TALK aped FOREIGNER and featured some fabulous piano playing from Brenner; it was a final moment that was to be symbolic.

Although there was an excellent interim non-album single ‘My Foolish Friend’ produced by Rhett Davies and co-written by Brenner in 1983, the keyboardist left TALK TALK with good old fashioned musical differences cited.

In 1984, Mark Hollis said to Electronics & Music Maker: “Each album should be a definite move on from the one before it. Now y’see some people understand that and other people don’t understand that. Some people think that if you have a hit with something like ‘Today’ then what you should do is maintain that style and that will ensure more hits right?”

Simon Brenner’s departure was to be significant as for TALK TALK’s second album ‘It’s My Life’, Hollis was to find his ideal collaborator in producer Tim Friese-Greene.

He had been an unlikely writing partner as his credits included STIFF LITTLE FINGERS and somewhat bizarrely TIGHT FIT’s ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, but it was to be the start of a fruitful partnership.

Although the more sonically adventurous ‘It’s My Life’ album sold well in Europe, TALK TALK would not actually have another UK Top20 hit until 1986 with ‘Life’s What You Make It’. It was here where Hollis headed into the more traditional instrument direction he craved and was to become lauded for with ‘The Colour Of Spring’ album.

And as if to prove that TALK TALK were maybe ahead of their time, the ‘It’s My Life’ single finally became the UK Top20 smash it deserved to be on its 1990 re-release to promote the excellent singles compendium ‘Natural History’

Becoming reclusive artist in the mould of Scott Walker and David Sylvian who each also had successful pop careers before venturing into more experimental territory, Mark Hollis left a legacy of artistic ambition over commercial success. But without the latter, as with the aforementioned Walker and Sylvian, it might not have happened.

While ‘The Party’s Over’ is very much of its time, as a result, it still retains much of its charm.

Despite being generally glossed over in TALK TALK history, the album is an excellent under rated synthpop jewel that has aged well, thanks to the quality of its songs and is probably a better body of work than say ‘Quartet’ by ULTRAVOX from the same year.


In memory of Mark Hollis 1955 – 2019

‘The Party’s Over’ is still available in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats via Universal Music

https://spiritoftalktalk.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SpiritOfTalkTalk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Peter Fitzpatrick
2nd December 2019

NO-MAN Interview

Lauded by Drowned in Sound as “probably the most underrated band of the last 25 years”, NO-MAN have had a career that has stylistically covered pop, art rock and TALK TALK flavoured balladeering.

This breadth of musical output should hardly come as a surprise given the group is made up of Tim Bowness and Prog powerhouse Steven Wilson whose work has included not only his own solo output but also PORCUPINE TREE, BLACKFIELD, STORM CORROSION with OPETH’s Mikael Akerfeldt and critically acclaimed 5.1 surround remixes for acts as diverse as KING CRIMSON, XTC, MARILLION and TEARS FOR FEARS

Now more than a decade since the ‘Schoolyard Ghosts’ album, NO-MAN have reconvened with a return to their electronic roots, ‘Love You To Bits’.

The cover of this release which features a disco mirrorball gives a clue to the content within, a fantastic mix of GOLDFRAPP, KRAFTWERK and ROBERT FRIPP which underpins a wonderful vocal performance from Tim Bowness who took time out to discuss the album with The Electricity Club.

‘Love You To Bits’ was one of the great ‘lost’ NO-MAN tracks, the demo being some 25 years old. Why is now the right time to finish and release it?

It was originally written at the same time as a track called ‘Lighthouse’ in 1994. Both songs were intended to be part of a follow-up to ‘Flowermouth’. At that stage, the tracks were very much in their infancy and though we had grand ideas for them, only the opening song sections existed. In another universe, the successor to ‘Flowermouth’ could have been more stylistically logical and just consisted of extended versions of those two tracks.

Due to the band getting dropped by its labels in the UK and US, publishing company and manager, we pursued the more aggressive ‘Wild Opera’ material. It suited our, by then bleak, mood better!

Over the years, we continued to work on ‘Love You To Bits’ and there were a number of versions which varied in length from 4 minutes to 12 minutes (some including significant contributions from saxophonist Theo Travis). The truth is that it didn’t seem right for anything we were working on. Post-‘Wild Opera’, the band’s sound became more organic and we’d abandoned using samples and beats, so ‘Love You To Bits’ seemed out of place for a very long time.

In October of last year, we decided that we were finally going to make the ‘Love You To Bits’ album we’d always wanted to. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to do an album length exploration of the piece and we also knew that it was going to deal with the different perspectives in a break-up. It was great to find time to make the dream a reality and truly dedicate ourselves to the project.

Does revisiting an older demo as the launch point of this project mean the album is a nostalgic look back or a taste of what’s to come?

Perhaps it’s both? A lot of the album was written over the last year and the vast majority of the recording was done this year. It was constantly being re-written and added to up to the point of completion in July of this year. As such, it feels fresh.

Listening to the earlier demos shows that it’s changed a lot since its inception. One 10 minute version from 2008 was surprisingly Industrial, while a much earlier version was considerably lighter in tone than it is now.

The sessions in October of last year were intense and exciting and I’d say that during that time we finally created a framework that seemed complete. I spent a fair bit of this year, writing new lyrics, re-writing old ones and re-recording the vocals. All the overdubs from the guest players were also recorded this year. One of my favourite sections – the brass band coda to ‘Love You To Bits’ – came about when I could hear a brass tone in the synths and suggested a far more elegiac ending that would more effortlessly merge into ‘Love You To Pieces’. Luckily, Steven really liked the idea so we pursued it. The whole process was surprisingly flexible.

‘Love You to Bits’ is a self-described return to your more synthpop roots, was there anything in particular that has lead you back down that path?

I think both of us, for different reasons, had been gravitating towards more dynamic and more electronic music in our solo projects of late.

In 2018, Steven released ‘To The Bone’ and I released an album by my pre-NO-MAN 1980s band PLENTY. Accidentally, we’d ended up in a similar creative place / space.

PLENTY was very much an electronic orientated Art Pop band that had aspects of THE BLUE NILE, IT’S IMMATERIAL and other bands of the era. Although we kept the electronic soundscapes intact, on the 2018 re-recordings I changed some of the words and vocal lines to suit my current style. It was a great fusion of the past and the present and I felt it was something of a wake-up call.

Returning to the older material challenged me in terms of my voice and my vocal expression. I hope I managed to sing with a level of control I didn’t have in the 1980s, while shaking up my current approach with a more dramatic influence from my own past. The excitement of making the PLENTY album directly fed into my 2019 solo album ‘Flowers At The Scene’. Steven co-produced the album with me and PLENTY’s Brian Hulse and also mixed it and it was while we were making ‘Flowers At The Scene’ that we decided to properly pursue ‘Love You To Bits’.

Are you wary of existing fans of both the band’s more recent works and your respective solo output being unhappy with a possibly lighter tone from a ‘pop’ album?

To a degree, yes. I’ve genuinely got no idea how people are going to react to the album. And at this stage of my music making, that’s a good thing!

It is NO-MAN’s most direct album and does have a strong Pop element, but it’s also one of our most experimental and ambitious releases. The album evolves in several ways that I don’t think would be anticipated by its beginning.

Both the music and lyrics on the album are working a great deal with contrasts: light / darkness; energy / blissful release; brutality / beauty; simplicity / complexity etc. The latter contrast highlights the fact that as an album contains some of the band’s most simple work, yet as a whole it’s perhaps NO-MAN’s most compositionally sophisticated album.

As a band you have entrusted mixing this release to Bruno Ellingham, the first time you’ve gone externally. Any particular reason for this decision?

After we finished the album, Steven did several mixes. He felt that ‘Love You To Pieces’ was very nearly complete, but that ‘Love You To Bits’ was notably short of where it should be (mainly because some of the rhythm elements and guitar processing betrayed too much of the song’s mid-1990s roots). I agreed, though the dated processing bothered me less than it did Steven.

It was looking like the album could be abandoned due to Steven starting work on his forthcoming solo album, so I suggested we bring in another mixer to fully complete what was there. Steven agreed it was a good idea.

Bruno was at the top of my list of potential mixers. His experience of working with MASSIVE ATTACK, UNKLE, BEN WATT and GOLDFRAPP seemed ideal for what we wanted and although Bruno made his name with Dance and Indie music, he actually comes from a Classical background and is an accomplished violinist. As he also shared a love of the likes of TALK TALK, THE BLUE NILE, NICK DRAKE, PINK FLOYD, GRACE JONES and TANGERINE DREAM, he felt like a very good fit.

Bruno pulled together the programmed rhythms and real drums more effectively than Steven had done and gave some of the album a greater sense of groove, space and power.

It was subtle and he didn’t overwhelm what we’d given him, but his involvement has meant that this is perhaps the best sounding NO-MAN album ever.

You are working with Carl Glover on the art for this release. How does your relationship with him work when pulling the cover concepts together?

It varies. Sometimes – on albums such as ‘Flowermouth’, ‘Returning Jesus’ and ‘Dry Cleaning Ray’ – as I do with the artwork on my solo albums, I have a very clear idea of what I want and Carl realises the idea better than I ever could. At other times, Carl comes up with ideas of his own based on his interpretation of the music. ‘Love You To Bit’s – like two of my favourite Carl covers, ‘Together We’re Stranger’ and ‘Plenty’s It Could Be Home’ – is Carl’s visual interpretation of the music. As with ‘Together We’re Stranger’, I think he’s got it right. Glamour and glitter are pitched against grim reality and that’s a fairly accurate summation of the contents.

The advances in recording technology have been significant in past decade, has this changed how you and Steven approached the writing and recording of the album?

I guess so. We’ve always kept up with technological advances in studio recording and since we started ‘Love You To Bits’, Steven’s studio mastery has grown immeasurably and I’ve created a home studio set-up that enables me to produce results of an acceptable quality.

In terms of the way we work, ‘Love You To Bits’ has been one of the most hands-on and collaborative albums in the band’s history. As with ‘Wild Opera’ and the band’s very earliest experiments in the 1980s, we spent time in the studio together and traded ideas in real time. The likes of ‘Schoolyard Ghosts’ and ‘Together We’re Stranger’ were produced quite remotely with me bringing in compositions and recordings to Steven, and Steven sending me backing tracks to write to. Of course, we NO-MAN-ised the results in both cases, but outside of us writing the song ‘Wherever There Is Light’ together in real time in 2008, ‘Love You To Bits’ marked a return to a more traditional NO-MAN way of putting music together.

The success of your online label and store Burning Shed has been gratifying from my view point as a fan of a number of the acts you work with that wouldn’t possibly have an outlet for their releases otherwise. What do you look for in an artist when deciding to work with them?

Burning Shed started off as a label that focused on releasing obscure music cost-effectively (utilising on-demand CDRs). Very quickly, the sales dictated us producing proper CDs and soon after that taking over the NO-MAN and then the PORCUPINE TREE stores.

Everything evolved unexpectedly and grew through word of mouth. Some of the artists we deal with I actively pursued as a fan (sometimes for several years), some of the artists I already knew and had worked with, and some artists approached us due to the people we were already dealing with.

The good thing about the success of Burning Shed is that it’s meant that I’ve become even more bloody minded and idealistic concerning my own music. I only ever release what I believe in and what I believe deserves to be heard in the wider world.

As for what I look for, it varies and is difficult to define.

You’ve worked with a number of musicians that readers of The Electricity Club will know such as Richard Barbieri and Brian Eno. Did these collaborations have a starting point of you being a fan of their respective outputs?

In almost all cases, yes. I’ve been extremely lucky in being able to work with a large number of musicians who were amongst my teenage heroes, ROBERT FRIPP, PHIL MANZANERA, KEVIN GODLEY, ANDY PARTRIDGE, PETER HAMMILL, IAN ANDERSON, JANSEN BARBIERI & KARN and others.

That said, the important thing is that I feel they’re able to bring something to the songs they work on and that the songs they’re working on can bring out interesting qualities in their playing. There’s no point in people collaborating for the sake of collaborating (or just for the sake of adding a star name to a recording).

You were born in Cheshire between Liverpool and Manchester. Did this geography influence you musically?

I think it probably did! There’s a particular melancholy in my music that may well be a result of my Northern English background.

Although my upbringing was relatively middle class and suburban, it was still tough. That was partly down to difficulties in my own dysfunctional family, and partly because of the harshness of the environment as a whole. It was a wonderful place to be in terms of having easy access to great cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Chester, but when I was at school there was no encouragement regarding creative endeavours and absolutely no nurturing. Family and school colleagues alike considered the idea of wanting to make music to be a case of having ‘ideas above your station’.

The positives were that both Liverpool and Manchester had very active music scenes and truly supportive music media. Radio DJs – particularly Mark Radcliffe and Roger Eagle – and newspapers (especially Mick Middles at the Manchester Evening News) were fantastically helpful to many aspiring artists, including me. For that, I remain grateful.

The Bush Hall gig in 2008 is in my personal top 10 shows. Are there any plans for live shows to support this release?

Thank you. After such a long absence from performance, it was an emotional occasion for all of us!

We have discussed the idea of playing live. If it happens, it’ll be early in 2020 and it’ll be quite different from how we last played. I imagine it to be a more radical combination of acoustic and electronic elements. It would also be interesting to see a return to us utilising backing tracks in the way we did when we first started.

NO-MAN has been an interesting and varied musical journey, what have been the highlights for you?

As it’s been so enjoyable to make, ‘Love You To Bits’ is a definite highlight. Outside of that, I still have a strong attachment to all our studio albums, but ‘Flowermouth’ and ‘Together We’re Stranger’ particularly stand out for me.

Playing in Poland in 2012 was also a great experience and in some ways, as strange as it may sound, talking to fans after the gig was the first time I realised that I’d had something of a career.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Tim Bowness

Special thanks to Abi Skrypec at Caroline International

‘Love You To Bits’ is released by Caroline International on 22nd November 2019 in CD, vinyl LP, cassette and digital formats

http://no-man.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/nomanofficial/

https://twitter.com/nomanofficial

https://www.instagram.com/nomanhq/

https://timbowness.co.uk/

http://stevenwilsonhq.com/


Text and Interview by Ian Ferguson
16th November 2019

MARK HOLLIS 1955 – 2019

Although he had been out of the public eye for over two decades and had all but retired from music, the sad passing of Mark Hollis, frontman and songwriter of TALK TALK, was a shock to many.

Also featuring Paul Webb on bass and Lee Harris on drums, TALK TALK released a series of highly regarded albums and even had several hit singles such as ‘Today’, ‘Life’s What You Make It’ and belatedly ‘It’s My Life’ which was later covered by NO DOUBT.

TALK TALK were originally dismissed by the press as DURAN DURAN copyists as they shared a label in EMI, producer in Colin Thurston and even had a repeated word name! Hollis was particularly irked by the DURAN DURAN comparisons, stating to ‘Smash Hits’ that their overall sound was “just bass drum” and citing Otis Redding as one of his own main influences.

Although their debut album ‘The Party’s Over’ released in 1982 was an impressive synth flavoured collection that very much captured the sound of the times with its thundering Simmons drums and fretless bass, the serious lyrical overtones of the title track and ‘Have You Heard The News?’ indicated that TALK TALK had more in common with artistically thoughtful collectives such as JAPAN and THE BLUE NILE. But despite his apparent dour persona, Hollis later revealed his sense of humour by employing Tim Pope to direct the band’s promo videos.

Following the departure of their original keyboardist Simon Brenner and an excellent interim single ‘My Foolish Friend’ produced by Rhett Davies of ROXY MUSIC fame, for their acclaimed second album ‘It’s My Life’ released in 1984, Hollis found his ideal collaborator in producer Tim Friese-Greene. On paper, he was an unlikely writing partner as his credits included STIFF LITTLE FINGERS and somewhat bizarrely TIGHT FIT, but it was to be the start of a fruitful partnership.

To give TALK TALK a unique aural template, Friese-Greene exploited the use of a Roland Jupiter 8 for the ‘It’s My Life’ album’s guitar solos. in particular on the solemnly emotive ‘Tomorrow Started’ which also featured jazz trumpeter Henry Lowther and the magnificently powerful ‘Such A Shame’. Although the album sold well in Europe, it was largely ignored in the UK but this overseas success allowed EMI to provide a bigger budget for their third long player ‘The Colour Of Spring’ in 1986.

Hollis had insisted around this time that he hated synthesizers apart from their use in live work and the band had only used them because they couldn’t afford traditional instruments or the session musicians to play them. Hollis strived for a more organic keyboard template, as well as expanding the palette to include electric guitar as on the progressive wonder of ‘Living In Another World’, a children’s chorus on the hypnotic ‘Happiness Is Easy’ and a full choir on the epic album closer ‘Time It’s Time’.

But despite a hit single in ‘Life’s What You Make It’, ‘The Colour Of Spring’ was TALK TALK in transition, mutating from a well-crafted intelligent pop rock combo into something much deeper. Even so, when ‘Spirit Of Eden’ came out in 1988, its uncommercial freeform nature where conventional song forms had all but disappeared was totally unexpected.

Jazz influences came to the fore with the intro of ‘The Rainbow’ sounding not unlike Miles Davis, while the tranquil artrock of ‘I Believe In You’ recalled THE VELVET UNDERGROUND despite being described by Hollis as an “anti-heroin song.” Totally uncompromising in its nature, the album also featured a chamber orchestra and Nigel Kennedy, using space and silence in its non-conformist construction.

While unhappy with ‘Spirit Of Eden’, EMI sensed the band had been ahead of their time and keen to recoup their financial investment, the label released a compilation ‘Natural History’ in 1990. This led to ‘It’s My Life’ belatedly becoming a Top 20 UK hit single. By now, EMI’s relationship with TALK TALK had completely deteriorated but keen to exploit Hollis, Webb and Harris further, a remix album ‘History Revisited’ was issued, with EMI charging the band for the privilege from their unexpected boost in royalties. TALK TALK sued their former label and won, leading to all remaining copies to be destroyed.

Despite Paul Webb leaving, TALK TALK released one more album ‘Laughing Stock’ in 1991 via the jazz imprint Verve revived by Polydor Records. Expanding on ’Spirit Of Eden’, despite the post-rock acclaim, sales were poor and any new fans acquired via ‘Natural History’ were totally confused; TALK TALK disbanded.

Hollis was left bruised and disillusioned by his experiences in the music industry, so he effectively semi-retired to study music composition. But in 1998, there was the surprise of a self-titled solo album where all the notes were written before any music was recorded. Sparse and minimal, it drew from 20th-century classical music and jazz. But it was to be Hollis’ final full length work as he withdrew to devote his time to his family.

A reclusive artist in the mould of Scott Walker and David Sylvian who each also had successful pop careers before venturing into more experimental territory, Mark Hollis leaves a legacy of artistic ambition over commercial success, standing up to the corruption of the music business. But ultimately, he was prepared to abandon everything for tranquillity and his own personal well-being.

Hollis’ songwriting capabilities were apparent from the first TALK TALK album and his varied output has been appreciated at various times by pop fans and serious music connoisseurs. But he was perhaps underappreciated by the wider public in his day… such a shame.


Text by Chi Ming Lai
25th February 2019

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