“Candy when I tried to turn away
To feel new again
My emotion cost me pain”
“Candy” is the final song on the tracklist of Talk Talk’s debut album, “The Party’s Over” and despite the internets best efforts to accredit the song to Burt Bacharach (more of which later), it was in fact written by Mark Hollis, lock, stock and shooting match. Originally demoed in June 1981, it was initially produced by Jimmy Miller and published by Island Music (one of a batch which were originally put together to secure a publishing deal).
Mark ” he (Mark’s brother Ed) took some tapes I’d done to Island Music, looking towards a publishing deal, and that’s when he got Lee and Paul to come in and work with me. Simon came in by another means, and in that first week of rehearsing and demoing we actually started writing stuff together as a band.”
Here is a copy of the Demo track laid down in ’81.
“And I hope that I’ve kept you amused
To wipe that spit right off my boots”
“Ah yes, (this week’s) Next Big Thing. Wimpy synthesizers music with suitably ‘emotional’ (ie whingeing) writhing listlessly atop it. EMI would find it easier, methinks, to set the world alight with a damp boX of Swan Vestas”(Unaccredited, Record Mirror, ’82)
I think it’s interesting to read the above comment from the RM in 82 and compare it with some retrospective commentary by David Stubbs for “Uncut” in 2000:-
“… EMI signed them up and divined in their smart, smooth poptones the ideal undercard to Duran Duran, then the leading lights of New Romantic. With the release of an eponymous single, a shiny, synth-pop replication of the Duran sound, few imagined that this lot would be around for long, pre-destined to be ‘80s, one-off curios a la Living In A Box.
Yet few reckoned with Hollis’ revulsion with the trappings of pop and his undeflected search for a “purity” in the practice and making of music. This last quality would ensure that Talk Talk outlasted the Durannies, Toyahs, Kajagoogoos and similar flossy pop flunkies. By the mid-‘80s; they’d amassed a solid international following, outranking the likes of Spandau Ballet on European bills. This, in spite of Hollis’ insistence that no photos of the band appear on their cover sleeves; only illustrations, so as to disconnect “image” from the music.”
The afore-mentioned illustrations were done by James Marsh (earlier art concepts had been attributed to Peter Saville). It was suggested by the band in January 82 that Saville was already working on the artwork for the cover sleeve: fortuitously though, a friendship between the band’s manager Keith Aspden and Marsh saw him being commissioned, and, such was the success of that collaboration, Marsh retained the commission for the duration of the band’s productive existence.
“It’s meriting of an additional if not too further bruising a note, to add that Hollis’s lyrics reflect a general half-heartedness in Talk Talk’s debut debacle. They are just not up to scratch for summer ’82, and I have to close by contradicting the pleasingly crass EMI handout and saying…this ain’t worth much, um, Talk Talk (groan groan)…” (Dave McCullough, Sounds, ’82).
It is interesting to read these words and juxtapose them with the comments Hollis made in answer to being questioned on how seriously he took his lyric-writing:-
Mark “I don’t think of songwriting as pure inspiration, just something that comes to you in a blinding flash. But it isn’t. 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.”
This is the man who has continuously cited Burt Bacharach and William Burroughs as his lyrical/literary influences. Again, and again in interviews, Hollis repeatedly reaffirms his admiration for the man who wrote “Anyone who had a heart” “The look of love” and “Only love can break your heart”. Of all the songs on the Talk Talk debut album, “Candy” is probably the closest in touching off that Bacharach influence.
“Instead of being preoccupied by synths, haircuts and cocaine, he (Hollis) told everyone who listened that his favourite singer was Otis Redding, his favourite songwriter Burt Bacharach and his favourite band Can. Hollis immediately got a reputation as a misery guts, but didn’t care. He was entirely focused on the music.”
Emotive, sad, bitter, strangled. There is no way forward and no way back; no escape from this emotional entrapment. He knows he should move on, shed skin, but instead taps into ready made excuses to keep himself attached to the source of this pain. The vocal of this song is the key to it’s success; the power of Hollis’ inflections and intonations – where he stresses the words that he wants you to pick up on – is fundamental to conveying that depth of pained emotion. Underpinning this is the subtlety of the music – spacious bass, melancholic keyboard, looping electronic drum & synth, music with gaps (a nod to what was to come down the line).
However, there is a quite surprising shift at 2.30 when we are suddenly thrown a marching drum segment normally not out of place in a piece of prog rock! Credit has to be given to Lee Harris here for spot on percussive interpretation. This unexpected sequence heightens the sense of frustration and strangulation. There’s almost a sense that the singer has found “his voice” but then, everything slips back into “the dark”. The song ends with trademark Webb bass and a final percussive flourish. It may be last in the line up, but it is certainly not least in quality or craftsmanship – both vocally and instrumentally.
As we have already mentioned, the demo was produced by Jimmy Miller – however, EMI in all their wisdom brought in stable-mate Duran Duran producer Colin Thurston to produce “The Party’s Over”. A corporate error of judgement and another Duran connotation. It didn’t work, and had more negative consequences image-wise for a band as yet uncertain of their own true identity.
Mark “I thought to work with someone that’d been involved in Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ had got to be good” said Mark, “it had great sound, great presence, great vocal, all that – but he tried to lay back our sound. I wanted to combine the clarity of American music with real power, so we got Mike Robinson in to remix it. On the next album we’d like to use either Rhett Davies or Chris Thomas so we can get as close as we can in terms of clarity and quality of vocal but keeping the rhythm section hard and driving. That’s something I think a lot of bands are lacking”.
“Talk Talk’s music is built around stirring, insistent melodies and the sharp songwriting talents of vocalist Mark Hollis. It’s a lush sound, saturated with sweetness and emotion; evocative, ethereal, yet still anchored by a winning pop sensibility” (Jim Reid, Record Mirror, ’82).
In early ’82, it was mooted that “Candy” would potentially be the debut single from the album, but that idea was shelved and the song never released. Between the two versions, the Demo is perhaps slightly more “emphatic” than the final album version. That in itself gives weight to Hollis’ constant argument that “the first time something is played it is at its finest, and then the minute you try to recreate that, it becomes an imitation of something that was originally better”. That is not to take away from the album version, which is a lot more sophisticated in it’s production. But what it has gained in slickness, it has somewhat lost in rawness. My preference is for the demo version, but you can make your own mind up. Here is the album version, as usual with those Hollis (not Bacharach as the web would have you believe) lyrics. Enjoy.
“Candy” – Talk Talk (from the album, “The Party’s Over”, 1982).
This sure is some kind of party
It’s so useful
Surrounds my life with excuses
For what I choose to lose
And my name
Doesn’t look the same to me
Don’t you know I feel so bad
Candy when I tried to turn away
To feel new again
My emotion cost me pain
Did I look the same
When I think about the times
That I laughed away the idea you’d cheat me?
But look again, what do you say that’s my name
And I hope that I’ve kept you amused
To wipe that spit right off my boots
And when I’m home and thinking in the dark
I hope that none of this has had to go too far
When it gets too late
To see me any other way
And it gets so hard to hold on
To everything that I want so bad
HOLLIS, MARK DAVID