Renee Salamanca

Track 3, on the 1984 Talk Talk album, “It’s my life”, is the soulful “Renee”.

It was never released as a single, but was included in the EMI 1990 reissue of the album’s title track, “It’s my Life”, when the two songs compiled a 7″ single.  The version of “Renee” that appeared on this reissue was live (7:28m), recorded during Talk Talk’s concert in Hammersmith, London on 8th May, 1986.

Hollis’ plaintive voice lends itself to the emotional depth of the song, however, one interviewer back in 1984, begged to differ.  Accusing Hollis of being so withdrawn that none of “the man” came through in either music or performance, and, that maybe he would be best categorised as a “singer-songwriter”, he replied:-

“You may be right. Emotive singers like Van and Otis Redding make very open sounding music. What we do is more closed, textural. Honestly, I often arrange the songs with people like Debussy in mind, so that the singing has to be a texture. If it were different, maybe I could sing it more emotively … Alright, the songs do start as just a piano and my voice, but that whole singer-songwriter thing has such a terrible sound to it. It’s as bad as being called a session man!”

This live version below, the last song of their Salamanca set-list (10th September, 1986), and one of their last live performances ever, is a perfect example of Hollis giving “texture” as he calls it, to the vocal.  It is a performance in line with the emotional quality of the song, but given that Talk Talk were not all about the great romance (in the slushy sense), anything more intense would be overkill.  Hollis sings using phonetic (stress) techniques, and, this is key to giving the vocal performance emphasis at the appropriate or relevant points.

What is the song about? Fairly obvious (to me, a lot of Hollis’ lyrics are – mind you some are as muddied as hell).

“You’re playing his way

But the prize that you’ve been losing was youth

And I say,

“Throw the ace and face up to the truth”

Again, nothing too intellectual and doesn’t need a thesaurus for translation.

Whether the performance in this video is emotional or not, I’ll leave for the viewer to decide. What I will say, is that the live performances of “Renee” were head and shoulders above the original album audio.  For one, there is additional, over-layered instrumentation; the piano element has been extended and been given greater emphasis; the guitar playing is subtle so as to be almost inaudible at times, but is very much a part of the musical-backbone. Further, Hollis’ vocal is much naturally stronger, emphatic and poignant live (I think I answered the emotional point just then!).

What makes this track, aside from the Hollis vocal, is Lee Harris’ wonderful mastery of the electronic drum.  His percussion here is ‘subtlety personified’ – the touch is light, rhythmic, thoughtful.  It’s beat underpins the vocal weighting from downbeat to upbeat – there is perfect synchronicity.

So, here you go, Talk Talk live September 1986, Salamanca (plus lyrics as usual), in one of their last ever concerts (they never played live after 1986 – more of which anon) – decide for yourselves.  Beauty is in the “ear of the listener”

Talk Talk “Renee” (From “It’s my Life” Audio Album, February 1984)

Well, baby how the weeks fade

Baby, was the best part of your youth a sensation

Yeah, that’s a change

I never thought I’d end up fooling you

*

Do you hear what they say?

All these people living up in my street

Well they say

“Out of touch, she lives in faded dreams”

*

Renee, Renee, Renee, Renee

Baby, how the weeks fade

Baby, how the streets change

Renee, Renee, Renee, Renee

Baby, how the weeks fade

*

And maybe when the cheat plays

Maybe when the ace falls from his suit

And he tells you “Yeah, that’s the game,

I didn’t want to lose it on the two”

*

You’re playing his way

But the prize that you’ve been losing was youth

And I say,

“Throw the ace and face up to the truth”

*

Renee, Renee, Renee, Renee

Baby, how the weeks fade

Baby, how the streets change

Renee, Renee, Renee, Renee

But baby, how the weeks fade

*

Renee, Renee, Renee, Renee

Baby, how the weeks fade

Baby, how the streets change

Renee, Renee, Renee, Renee

But baby, as the weeks change

*

And we’ve seen quite a few
I don’t know who’s fooling who
I’m fooling you, I’m fooling you
______________________

Writer(s): Mark David Hollis
Copyright: Hollis Songs Ltd.

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5 thoughts on ““I didn’t want to lose it on the two” … ‘Renee’ … Throw that Ace

  1. Did you know that Renée was already written by Mark and recorded by The Reaction?

    And yes, it’s always a puzzle what the lyrics are about. And it only got harder by every album.
    It reminds me of a girl I used to know when I was someting like 16. She was from the other side of town. Very lovely well brought up and a little shy. We met uptown and like each other and she more and more visited me in down town 🙂 Maybe you could say we had a relation.
    But then she learned to know the older boys in my street, who were much older. And we just grown apart.
    She changed. Started drinking, smoking and God knows what with the other guys.
    and yes, the weeks faded, and every time I saw her I felt sad for her. The older boys had much fun with her, and in her eyes I saw her sadness. She stayed with them although it was more than clear that they used her.

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    1. Not til you said yesterday no didn’t know and want to hear that version, wah! I think the story you have described is pretty much the story of the song. I didn’t want to surmise publicly and be off beam but it’s like an extension of The Party’s Over (song). Someone ravaged by time and abuse but who can’t let go of the past or the abuser. And then isn’t that a bit the same as Candy where he can’t move on from the woman he loves but who keeps him dangling, while she makes a mockery of him.

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  2. Untill the point of no return and even getting involved in even more bad guys. She ended up as a junky.
    I just felt sorry for her, and always blamed myself for getting to know her and get her in my street…

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