April 5 Sunflower 2

“Come gentle spring
Come at winter’s end
Gone is the pallour from a promise that’s nature’s gift”

It is no small coincidence that today we are playing “April 5th”, track 4 on Talk Talk’s beautifully crafted 3rd studio album, “The Colour of Spring”.

April 5th, 1956, was the birth date of one Felicity Mary Costello, the woman about whom Mark Hollis wrote this truly beautiful song, during the year in which they were married, 1985.  An ode to Spring and an ode to the woman he loved, it is an exceptionally luscious 5.51 minutes of timeless, muted, jazz-classical music. Full of wonder, awe and admiration, bursting with love and optimism, are the lyrics of this gorgeous poem ( printed below), but before we delve any further, let’s have a listen …

“APRIL 5TH” (1986, from the album ” The Colour of Spring”)

Here she comes
Silent in her sound
Here she comes
Fresh upon the ground

Come gentle spring
Come at winter’s end
Gone is the pallour from a promise that’s nature’s gift

Waiting for the colour of spring

Let me breathe
Let me breathe the colour of spring

Here she comes
Laughter in her kiss
Here she comes
Shame upon her lips

Come wanton spring, come

For birth you live
Youth takes its bow before the summer the seasons bring

Waiting for the colour of spring

Let me, let me breathe

Let me breathe
Let me breathe
Let me breathe

Songwriters
HOLLIS, MARK DAVID / FRIESE-GREENE, TIMOTHY ALAN

April 5 Sunflower 1

 “Here she comes
Laughter in her kiss”

“April 5th” is a song written by a man very much in love with both a woman, whom he clearly adores, and nature, with which he seems to have a very strong affinity (this isn’t the only time Hollis refers to the Colour of Spring in his lyrics).  Spring silently creeps up on Winter over which she gently lays down her veil, shamelessly kissing new life and hue, into what was a stark and barren world.

Where the first verse is reverent, the second is almost playful, with it’s sensual nuances.

“Come wanton spring, come”

In Hollis’ own words, on the diverseness of “TCOS” in general and on “April 5th” specifically:-

“There is indeed no such thing as a central theme (running through “TCOS”) …(it) is about religion and war, 1945 Government propaganda films, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, (and) the last song of the first side is about April as a season” … April 5th is “the day that my wife was born, a song about spring and season. Birth and rebirth. Actually, all those thing are on the record.”

Colour Spring Imagery

“Youth takes its bow before the summer, the seasons bring”

From a sonic perspective, interestingly, “April 5th” is one of only two tracks on the album “TCOS” on which the other members of Talk Talk do not feature (the other is “Chameleon Day”).  The personnel who featured on this track were:-

Robbie McIntosh                Dobro

Tim Friese – Green            Variophon

Mark Hollis                           Vocal, Variophon, Piano, Organ

David Roach                        Soprano Saxophone

The instruments used in the recording of this musical ode are far removed from what we would expect of contemporary music creation – no standard electric guitars, no synths, no drums.

Instead we have a Dobro, an organ (not a usual mid 80’s staple) and, a Variophon,

Dobro Variophon

A Dobro (now owned by Gibson) is a wood bodied resonator guitar, identified by it’s single inverted cone – see photo left, whilst a Variophon (pictured right), is an electronic wind instrument, originally invented in Germany in 1975, used to synthesize sound in the same way as brass instruments, “creating sounds based on the vibration of the player’s lips and breath and the resonance in a particular body”.  It is played using a “pipe-controller”, but the pitch is controlled by the addition of an external keyboard.

The hub of “April 5th” though, is the acoustic piano, around which everything else revolves.  The opening stark melancholic mood of the music, moves away from the warm sentiment of the lyric, but then, glides seamlessly, into the breathtakingly dreamlike.  At all times it has a deliciously rich, smooth but always subtle, textural style,

Intricately woven music and sensual lyricism convey the delicateness of feeling.

April 5th

What were the influences?  Back to the man himself,

“This year I’ve listened to a lot of impressionistic music … Delius…with ‘The First Cuckoo of Spring’ on it, and ‘In The Summer Garden’ … All I’ve listened to in the last year is that impressionist area of music. Back to composers such as Satie, Debussy, Milhaud and above all, Bartok. His string quartets … I’d never imagined something so beautiful existed. Something works irrevocably. As Renée on It’s My Life, was inspired by the Gil Evans arrangements for the Miles Davis album Sketches of Spain, so Bartok has an impact on the arrangements on The Colour of Spring.”

(Didn’t have this piece by Delius in the original blog, but as it’s short, and so, so, very lovely, decided to include so you have an idea of what Mark Hollis was listening to prior to the making of the album)

When I listen to “April 5th”, especially at this Easter-tide, it brings to mind the words of Gerard Manley-Hopkins, another lover of Spring and nature, another lyrical innovator whose use of imagery established him (albeit posthumously) as one of the greatest poets of his day, (something which can also be said of Hollis).

“Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.

Taken from “Easter” Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, Written in 1866.

We’ll leave you on this glorious April 5th, with a re-mastered edit of our featured song “April 5th”. We wish you and yours a Happy Easter, and we wish Felicity Hollis a very Happy Birthday.

All Talk Talk Artwork copyright of James Marsh

http://www.jamesmarsh.com/

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2 thoughts on “April 5th “Earth throws Winter’s robes away … Waiting for the Colour of Spring”

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