Hear the late Talk Talk founder’s early attempt at landing a record deal.
Before forming Talk Talk in 1981, Mark Hollis was a singer and songwriter attempting, as all aspiring artists do, to take his music to the next level by signing to record label. He’d turned 21 in 1976, when England was in the midst of the first-wave punk explosion that begat bands including the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Buzzcocks, the Slits, Siouxsie & the Banshees, and hundreds more.
Hollis told interviewer Rachael Demadeo in a 1986 interview that for him the most important thing about the punk explosion “was that it concerned itself with enthusiasm rather than technique and, as such, opened music up to everyone. From a record company point of view, it put them into a position where they no longer understood reasons for success––they certainly would have difficulty basing upon usual standards for image, song writing or talent. Consequently, it opened the way for many bands to get record deals and an inroad into music as a profession.”
But Hollis wasn’t interested in disruption for disruption’s sake. He liked songs and sound, and was particularly struck by garage rockers, R&B singers, and jazz vocalists whose recordings contained depth, dynamics, and empty space.
Hollis, whose older brother Ed managed the proto-punk band Eddie & the Hot Rods, formed the Reaction as punk tore through England, and recorded a demo for Island Records in 1977.
If you’ve never heard this version of “Talk Talk Talk Talk,” which was included on a 1977 collection on Beggars Banquet called Streets, prepare to have your mind blown.
Two years later, Hollis and the Reaction recorded a full set of demos. You can hear those two years in the profound artistic evolution that Hollis underwent. You can also hear him maturing as a songwriter as he was pouring all of his energy into it.
I don’t think of songwriting as pure inspiration … something that comes to you in a blinding flash … You might get the germ of an idea like that, but you can sometimes try a hundred different ways of putting it into words and still come up with nothing. I heard Anthony Burgess talking about his writing recently and he was saying he can spend six hours writing thousands of words and then throw almost all of them away. It’s the same with songwriting. It’s worth it for the stuff you’re left with at the end. The last thing in the world I would want is to be thought of as a disposable group. I want to write stuff that you’ll still be able to listen to in ten years time…still think of as a good song then.
Here’s are those Reaction demos, thought to be from 1979. A few of these songs went on to appear in vastly different forms on The Party’s Over in 1982 and 1984’s It’s My Life.
Crying In The Rain
Have You Heard The News
I Keep On Telling You
It’s A Question Of Time
Want more Hollis and/or Talk Talk demos? Good news: Here are five from 1983.
With his passing, celebrating the great drummer, singer and composer through video footage With his metronomic timing, calm vocal delivery, and movie-star good looks, musician Yukihiro Takahashi left […]