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

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


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 a stark and barren world.

Where the first verse is reverent, the second is almost playful, with its 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”

Interestingly, from a sonic perspective, “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 its 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 its 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.

This piece was originally published on 5th April, 2015. It is being republished on 5th April, 2019 to quietly acknowledge Mark Hollis’ recent passing. Our sincerest condolences to the Hollis family at this time.

All Talk Talk Artwork copyright of James Marsh


Songs of Swerve – Part 1 ……..Well, The Quietus didn’t bother to ask!!


Music makes the world go ’round.  It gladdens hearts, brings forth tears and nudges even the most inhibited out of the shelter of their shy Mary-Ellen tortoise shells, particularly on occasions when it’s muddled with a heady brew of alcohol, and spurred on by that small trusted cohort of dudes and dudettes, otherwise fondly known as ‘the lads’!!

Most of us have songs that mark moments and significant events, spark memories, or, were “oh so special” to us for ‘REASONS’, usually hormonal and accompanied by angst, oozy sarcasm, doe eyes, or, MORE TEARS (you can take that look off your faces lads, us girls know the truth! nah!!). 

Sometimes though, songs are significant only for the genuine affection we have for them.  There doesn’t have to be a big back story.  We heard, we loved, we sang.  The reason can be as true and as simple as that.

Temporarily disenchanted with writing about everyone else’s nonsense, I decided to look inwards and write about my own.  A written #selfie of my own musical milestones: my thoughts, on my choices – music my way……..

Kicking off this mini-series of personal music blogs, featuring 20 swerve-songs covering the years from kid to bigger kid, are the first five musical landmarks of the McSwerve life journey.

WOO! Cue Drum-Roll, flapping excitement, & co

Author’s note: “I am actually cheating by starting here – I should actually be starting with “I tawt I taw a puddy tat” but, I thought those of you of a nervous disposition might crack under the strain, and like poor old H. Dumpty, be beyond getting back together again…..”!

1.  Abba – The Name of the Game

I don’t know what age I was when I discovered Abba, but I was small enough to be able to use my mother’s dressing table as a modelling ramp-cum-stage, jigging my legs up and down like a frog, whilst singing into my mother’s hairbrush (yeah, yeah, who hasn’t blah blah, etc!).

I probably started on something simple like Twinkle, Twinkle , up-scaling with age to such 70s greats as Donna Summer and the Jackson Five.  But, it was with ABBA, the Kings n Queens of Scanda-pop, that I had my first musical dalliance, a relationship which subsequently blossomed into a full blown love affair with all things Nordic!  Oddly enough, whilst other kids were squawking to Dancing Queen, I developed an obsession with The Name of the Game.  In all probability, the only words I could have remembered, were “do dooh”, but seemingly I gave it welly (or so my mother mockingly informed me!).

The Name of the Game is THE perfect pop song.  Great hook, superb melody, gorgeous harmonies, strong multi instrumental sounds; all neatly finished off with super slick production.  No-one has ever touched ABBA’s ability to create such pop perfection, rivalled their impossibly good song-writing, or equalled the flawless “dawn to dusk” light n shade of Agnetha and Freda’s vocals. #unparalleledlines

2. Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights

There is no underestimating the impact this song has had on my life.  It is my all time favourite song – nothing will ever remove it from that top spot.

Wuthering Heights is a song to which I return again and again; for comfort, for inspiration, for release.  It is one of the greatest songs of all time, penned by one of the greatest ingénue debutantes, sung with a vocal reach that conveyed emotional punch and frailty in equal proportion, which, over the years, many have tried and failed, very badly, to emulate.

I had no idea who Heathcliff was, or where Wuthering Heights was, or indeed that it was the title of a book by an author (Emily Bronte), who in time, I would come to adore.  I can clearly recall the first time Kate Bush performed this on Top of the Pops.  Transfixed, I sat staring at this beautiful young willow the wisp, all misty and floaty, waving her arms around like an Indian goddess. I remember walking around shrieking “Heathcliff” and little else, wildly swinging my hair from side to side, whilst whirling like a dervish around the living room floor.  Ah those were the days!

This song was the start of my love for all thing ‘superlative’; dramatically romantic and romantically dramatic! Wuthering Heights, both song and book, remain my all time favourites, and the gorgeous Kate, forever has, a special place in my heart. #WOW

3. The Police – Bring On The Night

When Punk came along, I was still playing hopscotch. I didn’t understand it.  It was loud and rude, full of safety pins, angry looking young men, Syd Snot and some looney looking mad woman flashing her boobs (Vivienne Westwood).  On the positive side, Punk DID spawn a more refined version of it’s original self, in the form of New Wave, and with it, came a slew of more radio friendly ‘young radicals’, one group of which were, The Police.  Back in the day, Ireland was an age or three behind the UK vis release dates, so when my mother announced we were going to London on holiday, cue excited screaming and jumping up and down, in anticipation of being able to finally buy ‘Regatta de Blanc’ (this was 1981, and it had been and gone from the UK charts for such a time that my older English cousins took the major Michael out of me no end).

Message in a Bottle had been the draw, but after the vinyl hit the turntable, the most glorious sound emanated from the speakers, in the form of Bring On The Night.  I played it, until, like tyres, the grooves were nearly worn away. Never the biggest Andy Summers fan, I have to doff my hat to him on this one; the guitar playing is sublime, and when the track hits 2.12 and Summers starts milking that chord, oh man, killer on the loose.  Bring on the Night was my first introduction to a more sophisticated sound, and it’s jazz-reggae orientation opened me up to a different world of musical genres.

Ce fut ma petite mort musicale – 4.15 minutes of sonic sex. And for the record… #StewartCopelandwasmyfirstpinup

4. The Stranglers – Golden Brown

Jean Jacques Burnel
Jean Jacques Burnel

One of my favourite songs of all time……period.

Utterly gorgeous!  Melodic, early 80s dream pop, by a PUNK band, I adored Golden Brown the first time I heard it, and, have continued to do so ever since.  It charms me now, just as much as it did then.

Yup, s’right.  Up to this point, The Stranglers had been all “No More Heroes” and “Meninblack”, et Jean-Jacques, avec sa basse lancinante, dans le style du francais.  Then, apropos of nothing, wumpf, up pops Jean-Jacques in the box, with this piece of waltzing Cornwell.  ‘Golden Brown’ is a modern day minuet: all flat b-minor harpsichord intro, even flatter e-minor body, with quickstep percussion and a lazy bastard “are you lookin’ at me dude, cause I don’t really care, right back at ya” (double) bass.  Cornwell, he of the heretofore in-yer-face shout-sing, goes all cavalier baritone, with his just ye know, throwin’ it out there vocal.  Needless to point out, this slick little jazz-pop number was The Stranglers biggest hit.

This was probably my first experience of an intricately produced song outside of the norm of “pop”.  It brought me into contact with unconventional, left of centre chords, not to mention interchanging overlaid tempos 3/4 (the main body), 6/8 and 4/4. It is an extremely unique, imaginative and delicious creation.

Ah, the memories…..there was a lot of in-house waltzing to this baby…one two three, two two three,  ‘with my rancheros’ – I’ll leave you to work that out!

5. Paul Young – Wherever I lay my hat

Where were you in July 1983?

Well, you hardly thought I went through the 80s and didn’t succumb to the charms of this crooner?

Paul Young, the white mans soul singer from Luton, whose singing voice belied his origin.  Successful beyond his wildest dreams, Young was top of the 80s musical food chain for about two, maybe three years, and then, plup, he disappeared like a pebble in a pond.  The last song I vividly recall him singing on TV was Tomb of Memories, after that it’s a pretty blank test screen.

Young was my first serious encounter with “blue eyed soul”.  Modern sultry soul in a shiny suit, he was a crooner with pzazz, who could belt out heartfelt tunes better than most. ‘Wherever I lay my hat’ made all the girls sigh.  It was the too cool for school tune that hit the romantic spot for those us knocking on the door of the age of enlightenment.

Need I say any more?

Ladies and Gentlemen, “Let’s Parlez” with fox vox, Paul Young xxx smooch emoji

Tweetie Pie
Tweetie Pie

Bonus Track … Go on, Go on, Go on!

That’s All Folks!

“There my promise is” … a reflection on ‘Westward Bound’ by Mark Hollis

Fiddling with his fingers

Normally, we would position the lyrics of our chosen song at the tail-end of the blog, but today, we’re turning that MO around by making them the entrée and focus of this piece.

“Westward Bound” is the sixth song out of the 9-track offering that is Mark Hollis’ 1998 eponymous, and alas, only solo album.  Often overlooked in favour of the quirkier, more challenging wood & brass arrangement of “A Life” or the pianissimo perfection of “The colour of spring”, this is a piece of quiet sublimity, an exercise in space and tonality.  It is an Hollis master class in hitting the vocal at just the right moment against the under-stated musical backdrop of Dominic Miller’s exquisite guitar playing.


“WESTWARD BOUND”  – (from the album “MARK HOLLIS”, FEB 1998, POLYDOR)

“Opaline through her hair
Born on an April tide
Glowing in the wonder of our first child

There my promise is

A spur
A rein

The world upon my back
The pressure upon this earth

Drought’s heir

Sown my money
Sold my shirt
Sown my money

Job on the threshing line
Mute I walk
Idle ground
Westward bound”


Lyrics: Mark David Hollis.
The song opens with the madonna like image of a young woman, flush with maternal awe, cradling her infant, combs of milk-glass decorating her hair.  The moon-white gems add to the image of birth, purity and innocence.
“Born on an April tide” – a nod to his wife, born in April, who has been alluded to in previous Hollis compositions.  What would be interesting to know is when exactly this song was written??  Hollis’ first child was born in 1987, so was this song penned when the couple were fresh in the after-glow of birth, or was it written retrospectively, drawing from past first hand experiences.
“There my promise is”
His promise as a husband, his promise as a father; to protect, to nourish, to provide for…..is both “a spur” to push him on, and “a rein” keeping him in check; both motivator and deterrent.  He has committed to his family, now he must honour and fulfil.
“The world upon my back
The pressure upon this earth

Drought’s heir

Sown my money
Sold my shirt
Sown my money”

The weight of this burden lies heavily on him, and, on the land, which must bear the fruit of his labour so as to provide for his family.  He sold the shirt off his back so to speak, to raise enough money to buy seed to plant, but the crop has failed to yield, due to drought.
Crops failed, money gone, what choice is there for this man? …

Job on the threshing line
Mute I walk
Idle ground
Westward bound”.

… Little choice but to leave his family and the ‘idle ground’ behind.  To go away to find work ‘on the threshing line’ – hard labour, and, a world away from the homely image of the farmer working his small holding.  He walks in silence, “Westward bound” leaving behind what he loves.  It is at once a sad and lonely image, but yet one which shows strength, determination, and courage.  This man’s actions underline his commitment to honour the promise he made, but are above all, a confirmation of the depth of his devotion and love, as both a husband and a father.
” … at times, the voice is little more than a thin parting of the air in the studio; the words are stretched out, torn apart, boiled down to consonant acoustics.” ***
Hollis on piano
The “Mark Hollis” album is another stage (I am loathe to use the word final) in the musical development of this lyrical and musical genius.  Everything about the process of recording the album underpins Hollis’ desire to create as natural a sound as possible.  There is no sound for sound’s sake.  If anything, it is the opposite.  Music filled with deliberately long voids, allowing the chords to breathe, the notes to slowly exhale, sustaining the sound of the key, squeezing the last out of the vibration.
The first sound you hear on this track is not music, it is of Mark Hollis breathing – a long, deep, inhale, exhale.

” … the thing about that is … everything’s just recorded off this pair of mics at the front, vocally as well … you’ve got the whole geography of sound within which all the instruments exist … If you listen hard enough, you can actually hear where my head’s moving in position as I’m singing. Because it does exist in a real room space.” ***


This is exactly what Hollis wanted – unadulterated, raw sound.  The feeling that the musician is so close to you, he could almost be in the room beside you.  You can hear him move, hear him breathe, but yet the vocal, so quiet, so frangible, so fragile.

“… it is extremely quietly recorded ..(it) is without doubt the quietest I’ve ever done a vocal. I could barely even get a sound to come out. I really like instruments hit at low level, and like I say, given the point that everything is playing at that level, you’ve got to be in sympathy with it.” ***  And, the instrumental sound must be in sympathy with the delicate vocal, which could only be achieved by using acoustic instruments.  Anything electronic would have overpowered the vocal timbre and sentiment, although the choice of acoustic was not just down to sonic suitability, there was also the desire to create music that couldn’t be dated, that wouldn’t age.


 “The minute you work with just acoustic instruments, by virtue of the fact that they’ve already existed for hundreds of years, they can’t date.” ***


Wimb Common


Hollis held firm to the sentiments and values he had established and maintained during the processes of recording “Spirit of Eden” and “Laughing Stock” – attitude over aptitude, personality over persona.  Work with a group of independent musicians, give them the freedom to be creative, to play as comes naturally to them, and then like a patchwork quilt, stitch all the pieces together, to form a coherently produced piece of lovingly crafted individual elements.

“The idea was to have carefully worked-out structures, within which the musicians would have a lot of freedom. I’d just say to them, okay, we’re here , we want to get there – now let’s play. And I wanted there to be no more than four or five things happening at any one time. Over the course of the record, there are probably 20 musicians involved, but I wanted it to feel like a small combo from start to finish.”


Such deeply thought out processes often yield the most effortless, natural-sounding, results, complex in their simplicity.


We will leave you now with the words of Mark Hollis
“There are ways of listening rather than just hearing, if you’re prepared to make the effort.” 
And now, please DO make the effort to listen to, rather than hear, this achingly beautiful song.


Composed & Arranged by: Mark Hollis and Dominic Miller

*** Excerpts taken from a 1998 interview with Mark Hollis, by Rob Young for The Wire magazine.

Closing the Door…Lone Wolf on Life & “Lodge”


“And that’s the choice I make, for Christ’s sake”

Paul Marshall has just released “Lodge”, his third album under the ‘Lone Wolf’ moniker.  Spurred into action by the news that “The Lodge”, a recording studio run by his friend and former musician colleague, James Kenosha , was set to close, he pitched up, locked himself away with predominantly acoustic instruments for a week and this wondrous piece of musical beauty is the result.

Paul was gracious enough to do an in-depth interview about “Lodge” and the reasoning behind it, but before we kick into that, let’s set the tone with this short but powerful invocation of an opening track from the Marshall/Kenosha joint production, featuring David Warmegard on trumpet. “Wilderness”.

 “Will the wilderness fall asleep, if I speak?  I’ve been waiting for you to come, and hold me, in your leafy arms, but I’m frightened by your love”

That’s it…no more, no less.  It is electrifying in it’s complex simplicity – complex of feeling, simple of language, full of space, sparse of sound and yet not.  It is an intriguing start to the journey of “Lodge”.

Q: I notice on your Twitter blurb – Not a ‘singer-songwriter’.

You sing and you write your own songs, so why do you feel that you are not a “singer-songwriter”?  Is that a push against being labelled / boxed in?

PM: “Well yes.  I feel like just because the first album I ever made was acoustic, I have then forever been carrying the ‘folk’ pigeonhole on my back, and I do not feel that is an accurate representation of who I am, especially if you listen to ‘The Lovers’ for example.  I am indeed a singer-songwriter in the most obvious sense, however I feel like there is a grey area in which ‘singer-songwriter’ translates to ‘folk’ very easily.  I’d just rather be known as Paul Marshall, and each work be described as what it is, rather than try to nail me to a genre/stereotype.”

Q: You dropped the Lone Wolf moniker/project, but then returned to help stop the sale & subsequent conversion of The Lodge! Were you intending to drop out of music permanently or were you walking away from that musical persona??

PM: “Largely, I had had enough of being a part of ‘the wheel’.  I used to be a guy who wrote music, went out and played it for a few people, really enjoyed it, then I’d make more music etc.  All of a sudden after I got signed, I found I wasn’t really very comfortable making music within some kind of binding of ‘I really hope so and so likes it’ or forever asking myself ‘is this going to sell?’ ‘will people like this?’ etc.  I never used to make music that way, so why did I suddenly feel like my music had to be fulfilling a job description all of a sudden?  So changing my name to ‘Lone Wolf’ started as a way to try and make something more ambiguous than just Paul Marshall, but it ended up being like a demon I had to please.

So really, I was just trying to go back to who I was before.”

Q: You have just released a new album – “Lodge” – its reception has been comprehensively favourable.  How important is it for you for your work to be critically well received?

PM: “Great reviews can be just as harmful as bad ones.  One can inflate your ego and turn you into an smug arse, the other can take you down a dark path to depression.  The key for me this time round was to be entirely happy with the record I’d made no matter what.  For the first time, I can honestly say I would not change a note on this record.  So if that is the case, it really shouldn’t matter either way whether people like it or not.  All I ask is that if you are going to write about it, at least listen to it properly first, and that is the one thing I am most happy about with regards to reviews.  For the first time it feels like people have attempted to get inside my head an join me on this journey.  For that I’m eternally grateful.”

“Still, I say, I wouldn’t have it any other way”

Astonishingly, as well as writing all the songs, and laying down all the vocals, Paul played all the instruments on this album, bar the trumpet, himself: piano, bass, drums and synth!  It’s not everyone has the ability of interest to be able to master instruments across strings, keyboard and percussion, so naturally the question had to be asked!

Q: You play all the instruments on your new album “Lodge” – how did you manage to become so accomplished across a variety of instruments?  Are you trained, classically or otherwise, or self-taught?

PM: “I had lessons on the keyboard when I was young, and I got up to grade 4, but I always messed up my sight reading.  I realised that bizarrely throughout the whole time I had been learning, I had been kind of skim reading the music, and then playing it purely by ear/muscle memory.  So I can’t read music at all anymore and I just do everything by ear and I generally have no idea what I am playing.  I have no idea how I was built that way, but I’m one of those people who cannot really play one instrument that well, but I can usually knock out a tune on whatever I pick up after a bit of practice.  This was my first record where I played the drums and that shows! ha ha.”

Q: The first thing that hits me when I start playing the opener, “Wilderness” is “The Rainbow” (SoE), the whole Miles Davis trumpet thing (it’s there again on “Alligator”).  Is that deliberate or just purely coincidental?  This song is full of pauses or spaces – do you feel it’s necessary to have voids within the sound and why?

PM: “I have always said that musically I didn’t really want to make it sound like Talk Talk – it was never my intention, however I wanted the ethos to be the same.  I wanted to have the balls to stop worrying about whether the listener will get bored in these spaces or if they will skip.  For me the silence is a beautiful instrument within itself.  It provokes unease and that is very much the theme of the record in general.  Same goes for two other big influences (ethos wise) with ‘Tilt’ by Scott Walker and ‘Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go’ by Jason Molina.”

Both breathtakingly beautiful and painful, this searingly honest track, is the most gorgeous of the album. And that Falsetto! Goodness. #Goosebumps.

Q: “Alligator” is a very beautiful song, like a musical reverie.  What was the inspiration for this song and for the album in general?? Is there a common theme or various (maybe linked) themes throughout?

PM: “Well I’ve made no secret about the fact that I’ve needed to talk openly in my lyrics about the anxiety I have been suffering with over the past couple of years.  After I lost my record deal I started to feel like a complete failure, and I had a very hard time convincing myself otherwise.  This was a dark spiral downwards.  So I needed to write about the deeper feelings I have been struggling with and hope that maybe some people out there would perhaps allow me to do so by listening.”

“Eyes above water, body out of sight”

Q: How do you see this album in terms of your own musical development in comparison with the last album “The Lovers”? Are you following a journey, or is each album independent, a reflection of where you are, in that moment in time, almost like musical snapshots?

PM: “I very much have to allow my brain to do what it wants to do and when.  The only rule I set myself is that I won’t repeat myself musically.  I like to think that I have created something that is an individual entity and then I wait for a while until something inspires me to come up with an idea of where to go next.  Bizarrely if you listen to all of my records, they have gotten simpler and simpler as they have gone along.  The Devil and I was about 100+ tracks per song, and now on ‘Lodge’ we are down to 5 or 6.  I guess that means that my journey has lead me to realise that just because you have the option of throwing the kitchen sink at a record, you actually do not have to.”

Q: How do you write your songs…words first, music first, bits of both, randomly or methodically? What inspires a sound, a choice of chord, major/minor?  Where do you start?  How does the music come to you?

PM: “Usually for me it is something that just kind of happens.  A lyric will pop up, my hands will just happen to fall onto a chord sequence that pushes my buttons etc.  I don’t really have a process as such.  I know what mood I’m after and sometimes that is enough.”

“I’m taking steps just to be someone”

‘Taking Steps’ is a dark, stark song, haunted, and, hauntingly honest.  The music is taught, tense, almost rigid in form – the static single metallic percussive beat, the low, reluctant strum of the bass, the staccato choppiness of the piano, the hesitant vocal.  Sonic opposites juxtaposed but discernibly separated replicating the desperate and frantic isolation of the lyric.  This is one brilliantly clever track, possibly one of the strongest, definitely the most intriguing of the album.


Q: In your Feb 2013 interview with Best Fit you said

“I’d write about everything like two lovers – the brain and the heart. I personified the feelings so it was like a couple arguing in their home. Not necessarily a concept album, but it definitely has a theme – every song is a fight.”

Did you find writing down and personifying your feelings, and musically acting out the fight cathartic?  Is the fight over??

PM: “The fight has definitely been pacified to some degree.  I will always struggle with anxiety because that’s just how I am built, however saying everything that I have on this record, and just knowing it is out there is a huge weight off my shoulders.  I can actually listen to it myself and it’s like I’m giving myself a good talking to.”

Q: Quoting from the same source

“Marshall is resolute in wanting change, never sticking to the same thing and never repeating himself.”

How heavily were you influenced by artists from the past and are you influenced by any from the present??  How difficult, if at all, do you find it to keep changing, reinventing your songs, the sounds, and themes?  Do you see the road as endless, or do you feel that you too will ultimately come to a silent pause, if not end?

PM: “As I mentioned before, I am more inspired by the mood/ethos of a record than the music on it.  That I just generally choose to enjoy for what it is. There are many other artists such as Jason Molina, Robert Wyatt, Syd Barrett, Beak, Scott Walker etc that all left a mark on me to make me make this record.

I don’t find it too difficult to change because all I do is ensure I do not repeat myself.  I do not need to rush these things.  I have said now that after this record, it could be another 10 years before I make another.  If that’s how long it takes for me to find inspiration, then so be it.  I’m willing to wait if it means the best record possible will come out of it.

I actually certainly do not think the road is endless.  That is why Lone Wolf has to stop here.  I’m aware that there is no music that Lone Wolf as a guise can make after this record.  I’ve revealed far too much about who I am.  There’s no enigma, no mystery.  There’s actually just a human being underneath, so why not just make music as that human being and see how long that lasts.”

Q: When you finish an album do you carry it around inside you, still critiquing, checking back (in a ”I should have done that differently” way), and so on, or do you file it away under completed, job done, move on?

PM: “It’s always hard to draw a line underneath a project and say, right, thats it.  But with this one, I had such a strong, vivid idea of what it was going to sound like at the end, and so I just had to keep within the confines of that endgame.  I only had 6 days to make it, and so I didn’t really have time to let myself go off on a tangent.  So for this one it was definitely, job done.  ‘The Devil and I’ however took 6 months!  I have no idea why.  Bloody stupid really.”

“Over there….there’s your way out…..over there”

‘Crimes’ is a musical screaming match – all the elements are at odds with each other – it shouldn’t work, the sounds are inverted, flat, heavy, lugubrious.  With slack percussion, a manic synth based siren sound running through it like a knife ripping it’s heart, the stab, stab, stab of the bass piano; it is a muddle of musical nightmares glued together by the powerful magnetism of the vocal – at times soft, at times forceful, but always controlled – and lifted by airier treble piano chords. It is wrong but so very right.  A stroke of genius.

Q: How did you end up involved with the ‘Spirit of Talk Talk’ project and why did you pick the song ‘Wealth’ to cover?

PM: “Toby the chap who organised it just approached me out of the blue and asked if I’d be up for it.  As far as ‘Wealth’ was concerned, it was a challenge, but I was clearly already having inklings that I might start playing with space more on my own recordings, so therefore, I thought i’d give it a go.”

Q: Following on from that, what gave you the idea for the video for “Wealth”?  Why a beach, on an obviously very cold day and why shoot in B&W?  Was that a deliberate choice for a more pared back, more basic, (less #wealthy) look??

PM: “That was actually the idea of my friend and photographer Danny North.  He deserves all of the credit for that video.  Apart from my performance, which actually came out of me nearly dying of hypothermia!  True story.  A huge rainstorm came in as we were about to shoot and Danny made me do the whole take in it.  I was freezing cold and turning purple by the end and I could barely stand up after the shoot.  Thank god it was in black and white!”


Q: You scored Nejib Belkadhi’s film, ‘Bastardo’.  Any other film or tv score projects in the pipeline?  Is this something you’d like to continue to pursue in between albums (presuming there will be another album!)

PM: “I’m for hire on that front.  Genuinely.  ‘Bastardo’ was the most fun I’ve ever had.  I’d love to score another film.”

‘Lodge” is a mature approach to letting go, a lyrical expunging of the fears, anxieties, blackness that have been a part of Paul Marshall’s life.  It is truthful, honest, reflective, angry, sad and hopeful.  It is both inward and outward looking and seeking.  Reflective but not to the point of self-indulgence.  Lone Wolf has been unmasked, and what remains is the man, Paul Marshall.  He has told us about himself through song, and it is up to us to choose to listen.  This is one story well worth hearing, and I for one, am glad I’ve done so.

Q: When the promo is over and the tour is done, what’s next on the agenda??

PM: “Paul Marshall needs to start making music again.  Lone Wolf is becoming a guise of the past.”

With “Lodge” Paul Marshall has closed the door on his long standing other self in “Lone Wolf” but in doing so he has opened the door to a fresh, new future.  We wish him well.

‘Lodge’ is available via Amazon on


Paul Marshall // Lone Wolf tour dates via website – http://iamlonewolf.com/

Twitter @iamlonewolf

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lonewolfofficial?fref=ts

*Note – I’d like to extend a huge thanks to Paul Marshall for taking the time out of his super busy schedule, and, putting so much effort & enthusiasm into doing this interview.  Very much appreciated!

Richard Skinner Interview with Mark Hollis on “Spirit of Eden”, October 1988 (full transcript)

Interview 88

We shall get to a more in-depth proper blog on this in the future, but for now, as requested by some fans, here is a full written transcript of the 1988 BBC1 Richard Skinner interview with Mark Hollis discussing the then just released Talk Talk album “Spirit of Eden”.

Also, included here are audio of the full album and the actual audio recording of the interview.  Why not listen to the album whilst reading the interview, or, listen to the audio interview and then listen to the album in light of what Mark has said about it.


(PS – I absolutely love the ending of this interview – he’s so refreshingly honest & disarmingly self-deprecating!!).


* * *

Richard Skinner

* * *

* * *

October 1998 Interview to promote “Spirit of Eden” with Richard Skinner, BBC1

RS – Richard Skinner

MH – Mark Hollis

The tape cuts in here with Richard Skinner “….to Mark Hollis the lead singer of Talk Talk” …

RS: “Our guest today is Mark Hollis of Talk Talk, and I guess first of all we have to say, the new album has been a long time coming”.

MH: “Sure”.

RS: “Exactly how long did it take to record?”

MH: “About 14 months I think something like that.  Just really because of the principle of recording it which there were sort of two main ethics with this album.  One was sort of to still work in terms of this sort of, you know, Gil Evans approach to construction but the other thing was that the most important aspect of this record should be its attitude.  And you know, music at its best I think is music when it first emerges and music when it is at its most spontaneous.  So why it took so long was because apart from like a basic guideline to this record virtually everything that is played within it is actually spontaneously played and then later assembled, so that it meant for example you know, you might be working with someone say for ten hours and get sort of ten seconds of music from them.  But it was the only approach I could see that would actually give us an end result of this type.”

RS: “it actually opens with a trumpet note which is perhaps reminiscent of Miles Davis (at the same time MH: “Miles Davis”), which is a …”

MH: “Miles Davis, absolutely, yeah, definitely.”

RS: “Is this one of many references that we could find if we were to reflect?”

MH: “Yeah I would say it is, I would definitely say that.  I mean there are a lot of references within this album to different things.  And sure, that “Sketches of Spain” is definitely one important thing.

RS:“ You’ve described your music actually as a reaction against what’s going on in other people’s music at the moment.  What is wrong, do you think, with other people’s music today?.”

MH: “Well I, all it is, as a generalisation, I think the trend is far too much towards singles, and far too much towards the sort of technicality of music, rather than the actual spirit of music, you know, like I say, the most important thing of this album above everything to me, is just that is has feeling within it.  It’s sort of like you know, maybe like say the first thing that I ever learned when I started making records was that if you went in and you made a demo of a song it would inevitably be better than the finished recording regardless of the cost.  So, all this album really is about, is just trying to catch these moments from people as they first emerge, rather than them being sort of dictated parts.”

RS: “It must have been a nightmare having to assemble it afterwards then.”

MH: “Yeah.  Well, I mean, the assembling just went you know, as you were working each day, but at times it was a nightmare listening to, you know, vast amounts of someone playing and then sort of giving it the red button, you know. Yeah”

RS: ”Yes, because judgements can change.  The perfect take for today, can be the one that you’d throw away tomorrow, sometimes.”

MH: “Well I mean you see, in terms of the take, you see, the only way that a sort of take situation occurred, was just in the very basic laying down of the track where sort of like, you know, maybe three of us would just put the basis down.  From that point onward, you know, there is no take.  You see, this is the one reason why I don’t think an album, the way this is made, could have existed in an earlier time, because it is only because of the advent of this sort of digital recording technology, that you can get away with the way this album has been constructed, which is just that thing of giving people absolute freedom, being able to take the smallest amount of what they play, but not even necessarily using it where they did play it, you know, putting it elsewhere in the album and then you know, being able to make this very careful construction of arrangement but absolutely everything that is played is fresh and from that person.

You know, it’s sort of like, with this album, I think, what Talk Talk is on this album really, is like a kind of co-operative of musicians, and with the exception of maybe say like four people on this album who have dictated parts, everyone who played on this album, it is as much their album as it is anybody else’s album, because it has come from them, not from, you know, not from me.”

Fiddling with his fingers

RS: “Yeah, we’re talking some 16 musicians, plus the choir of Chelmsford Cathedral.”

MH:” Yes right, but I mean, you know, we had, I mean we must have had like easily 50 musicians in that tried for a place on this album.  But you know, it’s really not a question of technique, this is the really important thing about the attitude of this album, it is just purely like a question of understanding the feel of this album, not a thing of technique at all.  I really do think you could have a 5 year old child could easily have got on this album, providing, you know, he understood it.  This album, you know, is just purely, I really think for people listening to this album, they will understand it or they won’t understand it.  There is no way I can convince anyone to like this album.  I don’t wish to.  I just think you know, you either go with what it is about, or you will never know.”

RS: “In America, they tend to group you in this awful tag of New Age, or ambient music.  What’s your thought on that?”

MH: ”Right, right”. “The thing of like ambient music, I don’t know what it is, but in terms of its definition, I mean, ambience is something that I love very much.  The whole way that, you know, that this album has been recorded, is with a regard to natural ambience that’s sort of virtually everything would be miked at the distance to allow you the amount of echo you want rather than adding it you know, from a desk.  So that sort of organic thing is a very important aspect of what this album is.”

RS: “We’re talking to Mark Hollis of the band.  Who plays the blues harp?”

MH: “Oh, Mark Feltham.  Mark Feltham, the same person that played on our last album.  A great player.  You know, again, there are so few people that I come across with who really absolutely have a feeling for music and he really does, you know.”

RS: ”There’s a real sort of contradiction in sound between that church piano, the organ sounds, and then there’s the harp, and the guitar, the heavy guitar. You trying to shock us here?”

MH: “Sure”. “Well, I just think, you know, I’ve always liked the idea that things that oppose each other can co-exist, that’s all it is”.

RS: “Um, it’ll shock your listeners.  Do you know who your listeners are? Do you have an idea?”

MH: “No I don’t.  I would think you know, there is a core of people who have stayed with us throughout our career, if you like.  And I would think you know, because of the way our albums change, other people have sort of come and gone.”

RS: “Yeah changed dramatically too, over the 6 years.

MH: “Yeah, I would think so. Yeah.  I mean I just think that is the most important aspect to making a record, I think unless it actually shows some form of development or change, I cannot understand the reason for making a record otherwise.”

RS: “Mm, so why did you choose the Eden concept? What is the “Spirit of Eden”? What was that about?”

MH: “Well all “Spirit of Eden” means to me, is it means two things within that same title.  It means what is created and then, what has been destroyed.  That’s all it means. Again it is this thing of two opposites co-existing.  That’s why I like the title”.

RS: “Is it then an allegory, the whole thing, perhaps for our times?  I don’t want to get too serious about it.”

MH: ”Yeah”. “Maybe it is yeah, maybe.  Yeah, I mean lyrics and things aren’t something I sort of really like to talk about, you know.  These aren’t sort of you know.  These do mean a lot to me these lyrics and I don’t think they are sort of too inaccessible as long as you spend a lot of time with them, you know, I think if you do actually spend enough time with them, they will become very apparent as to what they mean.  But, I just sort of think, in the same way with the musical side of the album, it’s something that should unfold itself over a period of time.  I think the same should be true with the lyrics, so I’d be loathe to …”


RS: “Alright, rather than talk about the lyrics then, what do you think about the way we are nowadays. I mean modern society we seem to be grabbing more and more, while at the same time, losing more basic values perhaps.”

MH: “Yes” “Yeah. Yeah. Maybe.  Maybe.  I mean my biggest worry is just sort of where communities become lost, that’s my biggest worry.”

RS: “You mean in inner cities, or in countries, or what?”

MH: “I just mean you know, as people sort of get more insular from each other, that’s my biggest worry. You know, and also, in terms of things like the radio and in things of like television, to a large extent there’s a tendency to treat them as a background noise and just let them go on regardless of whether there’s something that you actually pay attention to.  I think silence is an extremely important thing, and I think you know, it isn’t something that should be abused, and that’s my biggest worry, is because of with the whole sort of way communications have developed and everything that there is a tendency just to sort of, allow this, allow this sort of, you know, this background noise all the time rather than actually just thinking about what is important.”

RS: “That’s fair. Very fair.  I’ve been listening to it, on a CD, this album.  It seems to me that you’ve actually made it with the compact disc in mind.”

MH:  “Right.” “Yeah, absolutely.  Absolutely.  I mean this album does…  You know, I would never make something for, you know, I would never sort of put more tracks on a compact disc than I would on an album, because I hate the idea that what you’re doing is you’re sort of working to like an elitist market and you’re saying you know because you can afford a compact disc player then I will give you more of our repertoire than if you can’t.  But, the, you know, this is made with absolute extremes of dynamic and it is just a fact that the compact disc can handle that better than an album can, or a tape can.”

RS: “The dynamic range is very wide, I turned it on, pretty loud, I didn’t realise, didn’t  know the opening section with the wildlife noises, the music came and I was nearly out the door.  It blasted me out.  Did you use any special recording techniques to ensure the high quality of the sound.  I mean digital you’ve mentioned already.”

MH: “Yeah that’s right. Sure, yeah sure. Yeah, that’s right.” “Yeah sure, and like I say, the other thing is just with using ambience and the fact that you know, to me you see it’s that technically the sounds aren’t important, what is important is just the actual feeling in the sound.  So the sound doesn’t have to be this enormous thing, it is just the feeling that’s important.  And then, it was just a question of working with an engineer who actually had a really good understanding of recording.   I mean you know, the bloke that we’ve used on this album, Phill Brown, I mean where his career actually dates from is like Electric Ladyland, you know, we’ve had someone who’s been sort of like you know in engineering twenty years now.  So, he’s worked with such an array of things, has such a good understanding, you know that was an important, an important aspect when we went in to make this album.”

RS: “So once again, it’s all very natural.  You’re not getting into a contrived deal you know.”

MH: “Absolutely, absolutely. You see the most important thing to know at the point when went in to make this album was just the attitude that the album should have.  That what the album would end up sounding like, there was no way of knowing that.  But it was an important thing because as long as everything was recorded with the correct feel you could never go wrong.”


RS: ”Thinking of the music for a second, there are a series of these slow build ups, using drums and bass and guitar.  You always sort of leave tension though, don’t you, as it happens.  And then it sort of resolves and disappears.  Now was this a deliberate idea that you decided to repeat through the album, or did it happen by accident.”

MH: “Yeah sure, sure.” “Yeah”. “Yeah absolutely.” “Well I mean all of this thing, it’s like the construction of this first side, it’s like you know, there are so many sort of areas of music that you know, not only myself but Friese-Green like, that work in a longer format than just sort of like 5 minutes.  I mean so much of that sort of Impressionist period of music, I think is very important upon the way that this album works.  And that was why it was important to make this first side over that length so that, you know, the dynamic could be something that was arrived at very leisurely and very carefully, and the moments of silence could sort of really, you know, spill out.”

RS: “Mark, you’ve used all real instruments on this album.  In the past I know you’ve used computer enhanced type instruments, synthesisers, why the change?”

MH: ”Yeah, absolutely”. “Sure, sure”. “Well, in the past that was just purely a thing of economic necessity.  I mean at the time of “It’s my Life”, you know, the textural approach to the album was still there, but it was just purely an economic thing.  There was no way we could afford to do it any other way.  I mean, with this album, you know, like I say, it’s sort of you know.  It’s what we find ourselves being able to do now.”

RS: “And it wasn’t cheap”.

MH: ”No, no. No, I think it cost more than thirty quid. Yeah.”

RS: “I think it did too!  Who would you say are your musical heroes?  Maybe ones who are, in a sense, represented in this work.”

MH: “Well my three main areas of music that I’d think are most important to this you know, I would say is definitely that late 50’s early 60s Jazz scene, the early 50’s Blues scene and then the turn of the century Impressionist stuff.  I would say absolutely that would cover the main elements of this album.”

RS: “Been listening to the words, or trying to listen to the words.  You seem when the band is really kind of going hell for leather you almost lose the record. Almost.”

MH: “Yeah, sure, sure. Well I mean you know, they should just be a part of you know, the sort of scenario as much everything else.  I don’t sort of think of writing these things that everything is subservient to a vocal.  I think you know, in order to, well certainly in terms of the way we’ve wanted this album to sound, it’s really important the positioning of where this vocal sits and the minute it becomes too loud it just assumes you know an overriding importance that is shouldn’t take.”

RS:”I think one thing that happens with the way you’ve mixed the vocals, they almost add to the dark side to the album, you know, that sort of mood.”

MH: ”Yeah, Sure, sure. Yeah, yeah, I would say that.”

RS: “Does the way the music has been mixed, in terms of having these violent contrasts in style and volume, is this all part of the message do you think?”

MH: “Right. Sure.”  “Well I just think it’s part of the way a record should be put together, that’s all I think it is, you know.”

RS: “That’s a very simple answer to a complicated question!  Here’s ‘Inheritance.’”

MH: “Yes, mainly ‘cos I didn’t understand the question.”

Coping with John … A Perspective on a Talk Talk B-side by a fan

Cope Disc John Cope
This time, we are doing a blog with a twist.  Instead of a straight review, discussion of the facts, we are delighted to welcome long-time Talk Talk fan, Thomas Lohuis, who has very kindly agreed to give us his perspective on this firm fan favourite.  We’ll be handing over the reins to Thom shortly, but first, some facts.
“Beggar sits to plead
Some kind of giving”
‘John Cope’ was originally released on the Parlophone label, in September 1988, as the B-side to ‘I Believe in You’ from the album “Spirit of Eden”.  It was subsequently included on the 1998 compilation album, “Asides Besides”.
Demoed in 1985, (seemingly a home recording made by Hollis exists somewhere in the multiverse) it was destined for the “Colour of Spring” portfolio, but didn’t make the final cut.  It was held over for inclusion on the next album, “Spirit of Eden” but yet again, failed to make it into the final track-list.  Instead, the band selected it as the B-side to the only single release from SoE.
John Cope 3
Sad, deep, delicate, beautiful, mournful.  It is overwhelming in it’s understatement.  Part blues, part jazz, the vocal is simple, the guitar riffs raw and damning, the organ playing twists in gloriousness. (I hear a touch of Ray Manzarek/Doors in there).
As Steve Winwood played organ on the “CoS” album, I am tempted to think that he may have contributed to ‘John Cope’, though in all probability it is more likely to be Tim Friese-Greene flexing the keyboard muscle. Piano, keyboard, and organ are all sampled throughout, propped up as usual by Lee Harris’ subtle percussion.
“Weapons at my feet
Some kind of living”
Who was John Cope?  The choice would seem to be between an American Sound Engineer of the 30’s/40’s, or, a British MP and Army General who fought, and lost, in the Jacobite Uprising of 1745. What we do know for certain, is that Mark Hollis used this pseudonym to work on both solo and collaborative projects, such as the Allinson Brown ’98 AV1 production.
John Cope Soldier
 Now we hand over the reins to Thom – I hope you enjoy his wonderfully insightful perspective on this much loved track.
Hi Thom,
When did you first hear of Talk Talk and how did you come across them?
What was it about them that you liked, or were particularly drawn to?
++The first time I heard them and the thing that got me interested, was a game called GTA:Vice City from 2002.
On the whole (amazing 80’s) soundtrack, one song really caught my attention. ‘Life’s what you make it’. The subject of the lyrics and the ‘missing’ bass were what first drew me to the song and the more I listened to it, the more brilliant I thought it was. I just had to know more about the band, and that’s when I found out that great songs like ‘Such a Shame’ and ‘It’s my Life’ were also theirs (big hits in Holland).
I started to try to find out more about them. I had no internet at the time, but my brother-in-law did. So he got me a usb stick with a few songs he could find on eMule. Three songs stood out and got me so hooked I never let go. ‘Myrrhman’, ‘Taphead’ and ‘After the Flood’. I saved up and bought every Talk Talk CD I could find, which were the the first four albums (1997 remasters) and ‘The Collection’.
John Cope Aside Besides
Why is “John Cope” your favourite TT song?
++First off, I can just listen to it endlessly.  It never bores me, I just really like the whole of the instrumentation. I like the build up. I love the sound of the guitars and the ‘raw’ drums and those wind instruments. And I just love the overall ‘feel’ the song gives. The the ‘less is more’ feel in the song is just pure brilliance. Somehow the drumroll at 3.37 always gets me. Goosebumps and a lump in my throat …
Are you aware of the notion that it was originally intended for “Colour of Spring”?
Do you think it would have been a better fit with the CoS sound? or do you think it works well with the SoE sound (b-side I Believe in You)?
++No, I didn’t know that. I always thought it was a contender for ‘Spirit’. But either way I think the band made the right decision excluding it from both records. I think it wouldn’t fit on either. I always feel there is a ‘missing’ album/link between ‘The Colour of Spring’ and ‘Spirit of Eden’. I think ‘John Cope’, ‘It’s Getting Late in the Evening’, ‘For what it’s Worth’ and ‘I Believe in You’ are perfect for the transition between the two albums. I think ‘Pictures of Bernadette’ would have been great on ‘The Colour..’
So – John Cope – who is he – American Sound engineer, Soldier, or none of the above?
++I thought he was some classical composer from hundreds of years ago. But I think I got that mixed up with John Cage, someone Mark admired.  I do know Mark used it as a pseudonym for himself on a few occasions. I really have no idea who it is. Neither do i know who Jimmy Finn is (mentioned in ‘The Rainbow’).
Mark Hollis John Cope
4.39 mins but only two verses made up of 4 sentences? Does this work?  What do you think of the extended instrumental??
++The sparse lyrics are just brilliance to me. In a few words he conveys a lot of meaning/emotion. I’m not totally sure what he means though. Maybe some sort of ‘..look what we, as humanity, have become…’
The instrumentation is also pure genius.
The instrumental and vocal pieces in Talk Talk songs are, especially on “Colour of Spring” and ‘Spirit of Eden”, always perfectly balance out. That’s just another thing that makes Talk Talk so brilliant, they completely compliment each other.
Do you think that Hollis was already beginning to scale back on the role of the vocal, and, taking a more simplistic approach to lyric writing?
++Yes, I think he was. I think he was focussing more and more on the musical side. The lyrics became more ambiguous as to their meaning, so much so that it could mean one thing to one person, and something else to another. But then again, I think that was always a standpoint of the band and Mark in particular. That ‘less is more’. And I love that. To quote a brilliant musician who did the same with his music, Before you play two notes learn how to play one note – and don’t play one note unless you’ve got a reason to play it’. OK, OK, it was Mark who said that. 🙂
Describe this song in one word.


++I think we all know which word that is going to be … exactly …’Brilliance’.

Well, actually ‘Pure brilliance’ and ‘Emotionand ‘Inspirational’ and ‘ amazing’ and powerfull’ and ‘ Legendary’ and ‘………..


How clever is Thom….?  Don’t you just love the subtlety of what he did just there with the last response, following the Hollis journey into silence.

There you have it – a perspective on ‘John Cope’, nobody’s child, but much loved and never forgotten.  We’ll draw the story to a close with the song (unfortunately no live recording exists) and as always the lyrics.






Talk Talk – “John Cope” (B-Side “I Believe in You”, 1988).

Weapons at my feet
Some kind of living
Weapons at my feet
Some kind of living

Beggar sits to plead
Some kind of giving
Beggar sits to plead
Some kind of giving


Published by
Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.



Hey Mr Mirror Man, “Does Caroline Know?”


“Maybe when the heat’s away you’re fine
To put another drink away is out of line, out of line”

When Talk Talk went into studio to record their second album, they did so in the knowledge that they would inevitably garner the same damning feedback which they so stoically received for their first affair, “The Party’s Over”. 

“On pain of being a member of Talk Talk!  The starched shirts, the meaningful expressions, the dry ice, the anguish, the adenoids, not to mention the snide reviews!” [Smash Hits, 17th March, 1983]

Originally given the title “The Chameleon Hour”, “It’s my Life”, recorded over the course of 1983, and, released by EMI in 1984, benefitted from several changes:- in personnel, instrumentation and musical direction.  Keyboard player Simon Brenner was despatched, duties being transferred to the now legendary Phil Ramacon (songwriter//producer); guitars & acoustic piano were in, and so was funk ‘n jazz.

“We’re introducing a lot of different things … (we) put on a bit of guitar today … although it’s only feedback.  The first album was 90% synth, but now we’re covering a lot of new ground – lots of acoustic piano, fretless bass, using the jazz side of more openly.  In a lot of ways it’s as simple as the early stuff was, but there’s just a bit more variation happening, you can hear what all the instruments are trying to do, instead of having a wall of sound”. “What we are doing on the new album is not to use chords to block things, but instead give everything a lot more room to develop”.[Mark Hollis]


“So easy with a thief to blame, for breaking every pledge I’ve made
Does it matter if I can’t say, Caroline knows”

Track 8 on “It’s my Life” EMI 1984, is the song “Does Caroline Know”.

Fluid, slick and sophisticated, it is a far remove from their “post-punk” sound of 1982.  More resonant of Otis Redding, a huge Hollis musical influence, the soulful dynamic is clearly evident between the sad overtones of Hollis voice and Webb’s  multifaceted, exquisite basslines. It is the percussion driven rhythm section that is fundamental to this song’s success. Intricate, clever percussion underpins the sound, which is overlaid with sweeping, twisting, melodic synth of Tim Friese-Greene, a new addition to the Talk Talk studio line up, who was to become Hollis’ song-writing collaborator and a significant contributor to the future development of the band’s musical style.

Sample 1 – “Does Caroline Know”Taken from Talk Talk Live in Montreux, July 1984.

“Out in the street today
We’re parading around
We’re the height of the fashion
And she laughs ‘cos we look the same
And follow all of the rule”

The above sample opened with this  snippet from another Talk Talk song – “Mirror Man”, which leads us nicely into this review by the Record Mirror, written by someone purporting to be a music journalist.

Record Mirror: 25th February 1984 (Unaccredited)

“Talk Talk are probably really nice geezers. Like a drink, good to their mums, maybe even go to football. Good blokes. EMI like ‘em too. Because they can play their instruments and they comb their hair and they write songs with a smattering of tune and they write words that say precisely nothing. EMI must like ‘em – look, they’ve let ‘em make another record. Another record to go with the Private Lives records and the Re-Flex records that EMI seems to bloody adept at excreting on Mr Pop Punter.

But that’s not to say Talk Talk are rubbish. Talk Talk aren’t rubbish. Talk Talk are just crushingly, excruciatingly average. There is absolutely nothing to distinguish them. No edge. No identity. Talk Talk are Duran without the lust for success, Roxy without the sloe-eyed style, Tears for Fears without the suicidal touch. But gloomy they are! ‘It’s my Life’ is just one long negative river of regret, a gluttony of guilt, a tribute to torpor. When Mark Hollis gets emphatic, as on the title track or broody in ‘Such as Shame’ or kooky in ‘Call in the Night Boy’ the reaction is always the same. Shuddup bore! I’ll never listen to It’s my Life again.”

Its my life

The difficulty I have with the above review is that the reviewer (who was reviewing the full album) is clearly incorrectly comparing Talk Talk with bands with whom they have absolutely nothing in common.  Too often have they been inaccurately considered in the same breath as Duran Duran – different sound, different image, different MO, and, likened to Roxy – all down to Hollis’ similar posturing on stage (there are a raft of other comparisons including Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Soft Cell, Fergal Sharkey, the list is endless!).

Alluring alliteration I think not.  Cynically smug, morelike.  The reviewer misses the point of “Such a Shame”, the excellence of “Tomorrow Started” and chooses to completely ignore the shift in musical gear which the album takes, and the move towards musical maturity of which it is indicative.

Sample 2- “Does Caroline Know”Taken from Rotterdam Live September 1984.

“Every little accident takes time
Forget about mistakes I’ve made they’re left behind, left behind”

The live performances of “Does Caroline Know” have these long piano driven, orchestral-like, instrumental sections, which the studio version doesn’t have (the original is 4.31, the live performances are averaging over 8 minutes).

In fact, the studio version doesn’t contain any acoustic piano – it’s all whining synth playing over a light-touch percussive backbeat and funked up,looping bassline.  It is a much simpler, less melodramatic affair than it’s live counterparts; much more electronic in sound than the elaborate, high level arrangements of the lives.  Doffing of hat to Ian Curnow for conceiving of an amazing synth produced ‘electric guitar’ solo.  “Rockin'” .  Who said Talk Talk didn’t have an edge?

It is with the studio version, that this musical journey comes to an end.   Lyrics below, as always.

And as for Caroline, who is she and what does she know?  Well, you’re going to have to ask the elusive Mr Hollis that one  Good luck with that then!!

“So easy with a thief to blame, for breaking every pledge I’ve made
Does it matter if I can’t say, Caroline knows, Caroline knows”

TALK TALK – “DOES CAROLINE KNOW”  1984  (from the album “It’s my Life”, not released as a single).

Maybe when the heat’s away you’re fine
To put another drink away is out of line, out of line

So easy with a thief to blame, for breaking every pledge I’ve made
Does it matter if I can’t say, Caroline knows

Every little accident takes time
Forget about mistakes I’ve made they’re left behind, left behind

So easy with a thief to blame, for breaking every pledge I’ve made
Does it matter if I can’t say, Caroline knows, Caroline knows

So easy with a thief to blame, for breaking every pledge I’ve made
Does it matter if I can’t say, does it matter if I can’t say, Caroline knows


Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group


“All you do to me is Talk Talk”, but it’s a moot point.

1982 Zig Zag

Retrospectively speaking …

If often amazes me when I read reviews of bands/artists/musicians from back in the day.  I read the content and wonder if the review has been mistitled?  Am I actually reading about this and that band/singer??  Well, yes.  More often than not, the title is correct, and the anti-sentiments ARE indeed directed at the artist(s) in question.  I use the term “anti-sentiment” predominantly because I feel that a lot of these subjective commentaries are made as a result of some gagging, heaving reflex that some journalists have when a new talent comes on the scene, especially those who appear to be the apple of the record labels eye – something which befell Talk Talk after they signed to EMI and were heavily promoted as being the next big thing.

It was unfortunate for the group that they were stable mates of New Romantic royalty Duran Duran; it was even more regrettable that lead singer, Mark Hollis, had adopted a closed-eyed, head shaking stage persona, whose mannerisms were hugely resonant of Bryan Ferry, something for which he was continuously ridiculed (but who is parodying the parody?).

Spewing out casual under par verbal vitriol seemed to be par for course.  It’s a lot easier to make a sweeping criticism than actually take the time to pen a musically intelligent review – maybe that was part of the problem, maybe some of these folks were lacking in musical intelligence.   Or maybe, it was more hip to be a bit “outré”, a bit anti-establishment; man and his weapon of mass destruction – a manual Remington.

In light of their success (and let’s face it, Talk Talk were successful enough to allow Hollis to effectively retire in 1998 at the age of 43),  I’m fascinated to know if the opinions of these wunderkinds of music media have changed over the years?

How did these music journalists feel when their words proved wholly inaccurate, when their predictions fell flatter than the tone in which they were written?  Hmmm….

Let’s mix up some commentaries made about Talk Talk over the years and see how they panned out!  Fancy some music, while you’re mulling over these words of wisdom?  Sure thing 🙂

Examples A

Anonymous from the “Record Mirror” 17th April, 1982.

“Watery reflections of Duran Duran and Simple Minds, a contrived looking image of pretty boys all in white – gee, is virginity making a comeback? – and that’s about the size of it. The next big what? Don’t make me laugh”.

All in White

Mike Nicholls “Record Mirror” 17th July, 1982. 

“Nothing to Say”   Talk Talk :”The Party’s Over”

“The Party’s what!!??? Hang on, I can see their point. Meticulously packaged as EMI’s brightest new pop-age futurists yet with two non-hits behind them, Talk Talk must be wondering if they haven t already shot their gleaming poisoned arrow.  Except there’s no poison, just the bland leading the bland down a foggy thoroughfare of synthesized nothingness. Okay, so they’re young and singer-songwriter Mark Hollis should get over his Ferry fixation and adolescent lyrics.

Rather than regarding themselves as pretty boys – which is just as well – Talk Talk adopt the pose of serious artists but just end up making complete bozos of themselves … if they are to get any farther these guys should seriously contemplate their roles in the universe as we know it.”

Jim Reid “Record Mirror” 13th November, 1982.

I say…I say

Loquacious Talk Talk meet garrulous Jim Reid.

“Mark Hollis is very earnest about his music.  Though his band have often been written off as shallow and plastic, there is a seriousness and honesty about Talk Talk’s approach that will help them to outlast their more lauded rivals.  Simply, Talk Talk put their music first and worry about the trimming later.  Mark stands in contrast to the other, younger, members of the band, having a more restrained, reflective attitude to life.”

Stand up that man, Jim Reid – the only one of three (out of several) writers for “Record Mirror” to get it!  And let’s face it, Mike Nicholls was just plain rude.  There was no relevant context to the piece – it was just a negative rant about nothing.  And as for anonymous, well, the anonymity says it all really.  I totally dig the fact the JR gets that it was all about the music, and moreso that he “got” where Hollis was coming from.  Back in 1982, all shiny and new Rom electronic noise, “restrained, reflective” weren’t really done!  So respect for getting that and the 10/10 for the prediction: “Talk Talk’s approach that will help them to outlast their more lauded rivals”

Fast forward –

Photo 3

And here we go again……….Would you like some more noise?  Course ya would!

Examples B

Anonymous from the “Melody Maker” 11th January, 1986.

Talk Talk’s “Life’s What You Make It”

“Talk Talk (to the best of my recollection) used to be a poxy synth band with grandiose ambitions and though this, their first record for ages, is choked in a stranglehold of production intricacy, the underlying song seems better than their burbling twaddle of old.

Sophisticated but not too clever-dick, the song doesn’t boast a great deal of personality, but it’s one of those that insinuates its way onto the airwaves and makes if perpetrators very rich indeed.

Probably worth keeping an eye on.”

Gavin Martin, “NME”, 22nd February, 1986.

“Hark! First Cuckoo” Talk Talk: The Colour of Spring (EMI)

NME: 22nd February 1986

Talk Talk music moves so warily, so slow, sombre, and stilted that they seem to actively decry any drive or warmth. Bestriding the huge empty husk of progressive rock they attempt to piece together a sparkling, meaningful sound picture, but are trapped by the dreary Hollis poetry (all there on the sleeve in scrawny schoolboyish handwriting) and the way they make everything sound like a long, gruelling journey through Hades.

Still, they have the straining despair and moribund conventional approach that passes for rigorous intellect and challenging pop in some quarters. A sad reflection on the dumb, dull mega-market but Talk Talk could become this year’s Tears For Fears.

Anonymous from the “Melody Maker” 10th May, 1986.

Talk Talk’s “Give it Up”

“Secretly, I’ve spent many a quiet hour with the ravishing Talk Talk album, one of those really great records that sneaks up on you unawares to become a family favourite. This band are so clever and so understated, full and rich with textural style that is never loud or jarring but relies on intricacy and sensuality to convey its delicate flavours. It’s my humble opinion that Talk Talk are a pocket of unsung genius in this often uninspired realm of pop. Let the single swirl around you as a taster of their infinite variety.”


Anonymous 1 is hedging his bets. He is staying with the negative grain ( he reminds me of a resentful Communist – oh those Capitalists making money, oh poor me!) whilst admitting in a rather oblique way that the song has potential.


Gavin Martin – really? Is this the best you can come up with?? “scrawny schoolboyish handwriting” – how childish are you?? Is this a music review or playground nah-na-nahs!

And oh – “A sad reflection on the dumb, dull mega-market” – who are you insulting there dude?? The sad market that bought the NME and now no longer does, methinks and wonders why!

Anonymous 2 – well, thank you.  You listened to the music and you appreciated it.  And beyond that, you actually commented on it! Not on the look, the attitude, the record company, the facial expression, the sales or otherwise.  Just about the music.

Like Talk Talk always were….about the music.

Where are you now?  And what do you feel/think/opine…..answers on a postcard to Anonymous@wordpress !!!

Uber Cool Colour of Spring Photo

I’ll leave you with this piece of musical wondrousness……only you can make up your own mind whether these dudes of the day, were wrong or right.  I know where I stand.

Mark Hollis – On Music 1998 ( A Transcript)

“Some Important Lessons On Music”, by Mark Hollis – taken from an interview with Danish TV, 22nd February 1998.

Mark during interview

When Mark Hollis brought out his only solo album (to-date), he gave this interview with a Danish TV station.  It was interspersed with Talk Talk//Hollis songs, which were subsequently removed, to reduce the viewing time of the “actual” interview.  I have transcribed the text of the interview here.  I’ve followed this with the abridged interview itself.  And finally, I’ve included video/audio for the tracks that were originally included in the TV programme.

My suggestion is that you listen to the tracks in between the various silos of the interview – musical ad breaks as it were!

1. Playing the Right Note.

“Before you play two notes, learn how to play one note, y’know. And that, it’s as simple as that really.  And don’t play one note unless you’ve got a reason to play it.”

2. Love of Music.

“The reason you’re doing it is for the love of music.  It’s not, to like, try and get some kind of commerciality.”

3. On “Spirit of Eden”.

” “Spirit of Eden”, I kind of think that was very much like, in a way where all those earlier albums were trying to get to.  And then having got there, I then think the important thing is that, y’know, you either, you either just stop making records at that point because you’ve kind of reached what you were trying to get, or from that point, you seriously redress, y’know, these other areas that you, that you go for.”

4. The Magic of the First Take.

“When you improvise, and you play something for the first time, you kind of play it at it’s peak.  And if you kind of like play something and then you think “oh I like that” and then you replay it, you never quite get it.  It’s like the thing of demoing, y’know if you demo a track, no matter how badly you try to demo it, there will always be a quality within it that you  subsequently would try to recreate, which you shouldn’t do.”

5. The Voice is an Instrument.

“The thing with the vocal is just y’know to, like you’re saying, treat it like an instrument.  It’s not there to dominate.  It’s just there to sit in the kind of landscape along with everything else, y’know, and it’s kind of like, start from a melodic point of view,  then, think about the kind of y’know, the kind of inflections that it should have soundwise, and similar if you’re looking at a clarinet, at certain notes, there might be a certain kind of way you want to hear that note, that note, y’know sound, so that when you write the lyric you have that as an actual, y’know, block that you must write to.  You must write this lyric phonetically in order for it to sing, with a certain way.  And then you must write the lyric in a way that, when you sing it, you’re going to have belief in it.”

6. On “Laughing Stock”.

“You take like the first track on that album, ah, “Myrrhman”, and it was kind of like “Ok, Let’s, let’s write a track here where no part of it ever gets repeated”.  Y’know, it’s just totally a movement like this (points hands moving forward in a straight line), rather than any recognisable song form.  And then you move into like, “Ascension Day”, and it would be like, ok on this one, across these three verses, verse one will be a ten bar verse, verse two will be a nine bar verse, verse three will be an eight bar, and, but, that what you do as this thing is shortening up on you, vocally you’ve still got to hold it, but that what you do is you turn the on-beat onto the off-beat, and you have one person understanding the down-beat as being in this place in the bar and the person playing next to him not even realising that’s the down-beat at all but seeing it as the up-beat.  So that was, that was the main premise to that album and again we continued with this free improvised form to it.”

7. Using Film.

“The one thing that I did wonder about doing for this album was to get together with ah, y’know somebody and make a film for this album. And that, that would interest me, but I don’t think, it would be much more a film along the kind of lines of, y’know, if you were sitting in a room and you were sort of like, just looking at an open fire, and you just have like this area of movement.  I quite like things, y’know like, I like water as a form of movement.  I think water’s got great shape and motion to.”

Water Image

8. Make it Timeless.

“The ideal is that the album won’t be recognisable as having come from any time, having been recorded in any particular year.  And the fact you’re working with acoustics, helps, means, you can’t date.”

9. Listening.

“Ideally, the way to listen to it is alone, extremely quietly.  I don’t think you should ever push the volume level beyond the natural volume that the instruments would have been in the room.”

10. Silence.

“I like silence.  I get on great with silence, you know. I don’t have a problem with it.  It’s just silent, y’know.  So it’s kind of like well if you’re going to break into it, just try and have a reason for doing it.”

11. Performing.

“I can’t imagine not playing music, but I don’t feel any need to perform music and, I don’t feel any need to record music.  I’m really quite happy just to play one note, and just to hit it at different volume levels.  And just, y’know, see how long it will resonate for, before it stops.”

Tracks featured during the Interview:

1. Such a Shame – from the album “It’s my Life” 1984

2. Dum Dum Girl – from the album “It’s My Life” 1984

3. Life’s What You Make It – from the album “Colour of Spring” 1986

4. I Believe in You – from the album “Spirit of Eden” 1988

5. Myrrhman – from the album “Laughing Stock” 1991

5. Inside Looking Out – from the album “Mark Hollis” 1998

“Name the Crime I’m Guilty of”

In 1982, Talk Talk were a four-piece made up of Lee Harris (Drums), Paul Webb (Bass Guitar), Simon Brenner (Keyboards) and Mark Hollis (Vocals).  Hollis was the band’s lyricist, also composing the bulk of the melodies for the album’s songs.  However, in a rare “share”, the music for particular track is accredited to all four members, whilst the lyrics are singularly attributed to Hollis.

Talk Talk debuted their first album, “The Party’s Over” in July, 1982; here, we focus on the title track.

The Party's Over

The album was produced by Colin Thurston, who had previously worked with David Bowie and Duran Duran: because of the connection with the latter, and, added to the fact that the bands were stable mates, not to mind the Double Double name, Talk Talk were auto-labelled as the new “Duran” when they initially hit the music mainstream, something which greatly rattled Hollis.

The first album was (Hollis) “y’know moderately successful, but nothing more than that. All I’ve ever wanted from this thing is to make good records and they’re (EMI) allowing us to do that.” . It peaked in the UK album charts at 21.  Four singles were released from the album, the title track was not one of them.

“The party’s over
Much older than you’d say
This friend of no one
Time, creases on your face”

Paul Webb was quoted by “Electronic Soundmaker & Computer Music” in July 1984 as saying of the album: “We’d barely been in a studio…it was the first serious recording we’d ever done. Looking back on it, it feels a bit dated but it had the energy and that’s what Talk Talk was all about at the time.”  And energy is what you get in the performance of this song.

A little bit 80’s, (well  A LOT), “The Party’s Over” is very synth driven – across the verse it takes on a very poppy double four time tempo, however, the melodic bass line hook props it up, giving it some credibility; two overlapping dark and light loops, like under and over train tracks.  BUT, all the drama is saved for the chorus and it is here the strength of Hollis’ vocal ability takes things up a notch, underpinned by Harris’ noisy, bish-bash-bosh drumming with some background electric guitar riffing adding edge.

This is a song that progressively ramps up; Hollis’ vocal becomes more determinedly accusatory, and, the instrumental goes up some decibels, until it becomes more about the guitar and percussion.  Then in the finale, it is a noise-fest of guitar/drum/piano/keyboard and vocal – a grand hurrah and a very opposite of what Talk Talk were to become musically in less than two years.


I’m posting two live recordings of this song – the first a live video recording from Florence 1984, whilst the second is audio only, from the much talked about 1984 Utrecht concert, sound-wise, this is a far superior recording (hard core fans rave about the sound quality of the gig, not to mention the performance!!).  There is quite the difference between the two vocal & musical performances.

As usual, I’m also including the lyrics.

Just remember, the party’s not over yet……….there’s way more to come!!

Talk Talk “The Party’s Over” (1982)

The party’s over
I never thought you’d stay
The love of laughter
My truth’s no longer sane

The party’s over
Much older than you’d say
This friend of no one
Time, creases on your face

Take a look at the kids
I’ve been losing track
This crime of being uncertain
Of your love is all I’m guilty of

The party’s over
I never thought you’d stay
A style of reason
This life of masquerade

Take a look at the kids
I’ve been losing track
This crime of being uncertain
Of your love is all I’m guilty of

Take this punishment away Lord
Name the crime I’m guilty of
Too much hope I’ve seen as virtue
Name the crime I’m guilty of



Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group