Such a Shame

“The dice decide my fate, that’s a shame”

In 1984, UK pop band Talk Talk released their second album – “It’s my Life”- from which three songs were taken as singles. The first was the well known title track, the third, “Dum Dum Girl”. The second, released in March ’84, was “Such a Shame”, a song based on the subversive George Cockroft novel “The Diceman”, which he wrote under the pen name Luke Reinhart.

The book tells the story of a psychiatrist who through sheer boredom starts to use the roll of a dice to make life decisions.  Cockroft based the plot on his own real-life experiences as a psychology student (Hollis also studied child psychology in Sussex Uni) during which he based his actions/decisions on the cast of a dice.  The book contains some pretty explosive material relating to experimental sex, rape and murder. It also touches on the world of governance and commerce in a non too respectful manner.  “The Diceman” has ultimately become a cult-classic, and is now in it’s 7th edition.  I for one, (as well as Mark Hollis) can highly recommend it, though it is not for the faint hearted!

Of “Such a Shame” Hollis said:-

“it’s inspired by the book ‘The Dice Man’ which is about decision making through dice throwing. Although they didn’t actually refer to it in the book, there’s a scene when he’s in party for an hour undergoing about ten different personality changes and that idea seemed quite appropriate in terms of what we’re doing. It’s a fabulous book, the idea is so appealing. I’ve just written ten times as many lyrics as I needed and thrown the dice on which ones go in. It’s ultimately wrong though, definitely immoral!”

Phone Box Scene

The video for “Such a Shame” was directed by the award winning Tim Pope and, the basis for the film was, to quote Hollis, “to try to sum the book up in 4 minutes”.  What was interesting was that they decided to use the premiss of the book to decide on how the video should be made. Genius!

See from 2.45 of the video to hear Tim and Mark discuss the method behind the making of the video, including the usage of random personalities (Hollis portrays 6, randomly chosen from numbered pieces of paper) and prominent objects to convey the numbers of the dice (see photo the scene for which represented number 3).

“A good book, not a lifestyle I’d recommend!”

“Such a Shame” became one of Talk Talk’s best selling singles – however, whilst peaking in the Top 10 across several Continental charts (#2 Germany, #3 Italy) it failed to break the UK Top 40.  It did however, help to propel them into the US mainstream market with a US Billboard high of 12.

The song is conceptually and lyrically unique, testament to Hollis’ highly acclaimed writing skills.  Musically it is punchy, rhythmic, piano and percussive driven, and, a sign that Talk Talk were moving away from the synth pop of their early days (the writing was on the wall when keyboard player Simon Brenner was coolly dismissed for being surplus to requirements).

And with the story told, that is how I now find myself…#str …so, I’ll sign off with two videos and the lyrics.  The first is the official Tim pope vid, the second is a 9 min clip of the band playing this song Live in Salamanca, which is a wickedly indulgent rendition of this Hollis classic.  (Video 1 – Lyrics – Video 2).

Official Tim Pope/Talk Talk video

“Such a Shame” (1984)

Such a shame to believe in escape
‘A life on every face’, but that’s a change
Until I’m finally left with an ‘8’
Tell me to relax, I just stare
Maybe I don’t know if I should change
A feeling that we share, it’s a shame

(Such a shame)
Number me with rage, it’s a shame
(Such a shame)
Number me in haste
(Such a shame)
This eagerness to change
It’s a shame

The dice decide my fate, that’s a shame
In these trembling hands my faith
Tells me to react, I don’t care
Maybe it’s unkind if I should change
A feeling that we share, it’s a shame

(Such a shame)
Number me with rage, it’s a shame
(Such a shame)
Number me in haste
(Such a shame)
This eagerness to change
Such a shame

Tell me to relax, I just stare
Maybe I don’t know
If I should change
A feeling that we share
It’s a shame

(Such a shame)
Number me with rage, it’s a shame
(Such a shame)
Number me in haste, it’s a shame
(Such a shame)
Write across my name, it’s a shame
(Such a shame)
Number me in haste
(Such a shame)
This eagerness to change
Such a shame

Songwriters
HOLLIS, MARK DAVID

Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Live in Salamanca

 

 

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6 thoughts on ““This Eagerness to Change” …with a roll of the dice … “Such a Shame”

  1. To me the lyrics always lack the Punctuation marks. It almost tells another story without them.

    Maybe ‘I don’t know’, if I should change.
    Tell me to ‘relax’, ‘I just stare’.
    Tells me to ‘react’, ‘I don’t care’.
    Maybe it’s ‘unkind’ if I should change.

    Like

  2. Um – not inclined to agree with you – the inverted commas only confuse things. Definitely not required around – I don’t know- and -unkind- .

    I think it’s kind of obvious that the dice is telling him what to do – you cannot remove the words out of context – if you look at them in the whole:

    The dice decide my fate, that’s a shame
    In these trembling hands my faith
    Tells me to react, I don’t care

    Like

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