Deep Dive: Talk Talk, THE PARTY'S OVER

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The late Mark Hollis and band Talk Talk have been long revered by music fans and critics alike for deep and enduring classic LPs including The Colour of Spring (1986) and Spirit of Eden (1988). In America, the group is best known for the single, "It's My Life," which peaked at #31 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1984. The song's power and longevity was proven in early 2004, when band No Doubt's cover version of "It's My Life" climbed all the way to #10 on the Hot 100.

Years before building their legacy as a post-rock pioneers, however, Talk Talk debuted with a radically different sound in 1982 with the band's first album, The Party's Over. Produced by former David Bowie engineer Colin Thurston, who'd just come off producing the first two Duran Duran albums. Given the group's choice of producer, proliferation of lush synthesizers, and a name featuring the same word repeated twice, UK critics were quick to label Talk Talk as a lesser derivative of Duran Duran. Talk Talk even accompanied Simon Le Bon and company on a tour after only six live shows.

"They're a might too close to Duran Duran for comfort," sniffed Smash Hits at the arrival of Talk Talk's second single, "Talk Talk," in April 1982. "They share the same label and the same producer (Colin Thurston) who has given them a similarly smooth and well-spring sound. Try again boys, try again boys."

“It gets tiring to listen to the Duran comparisons,” Mark Hollis told Betty Page in 1982. “I can’t hear it myself. We purposely had a low-key approach, but we missed out ‘cos everything seems so geared to hyping. I get depressed about the whole thing--kids ought to know about music, not image. When people hear the LP, they’ll have more of a total idea about us."

Upon closer listen, the high-energy rush of "Talk Talk" is indeed much more than a Duran Duran Xerox. Ominous, church-like organs float over a rolling drum beat, while Hollis spits the song's angst-ridden lyrics through clenched teeth. It's also the only song in the Talk Talk catalog that features a writing credit for Ed Hollis, Mark Hollis' brother, as the song began when the pair worked on a band called The Reaction, featuring Mark on vocals and Ed as the producer. While the song made a modest chart run in America, peaking at #75 on the Hot 100, "Talk Talk" climbed as high as #23 in the band's native UK. In 1983, the tune rocketed all the way to #1 in South Africa.

"Our songs are about tragedy... human tragedy," Mark Hollis told Record Mirror in May 1982. “Like the title track, 'The Party’s Over,' that’s about someone who’s past their prime and won’t actually acknowledge the fact. They’re striving for what they used to be and looking ridiculous. It’s just the conflict between trying to attain something more than you are, which is a good things, and the parody of actually doing it. It’s just an observation. Tragedy’s what I feel most at home with. No, my life hasn’t been tragic, not in the least."

Third The Party's Over single, "Today," was an even bigger hit for Talk Talk, hitting a chart peak of #14 in the UK.

Released July 12, 1982, Talk Talk's The Party's Over was a resounding success, reaching a UK chart peak of #23, and even impacting the Hot 100 in America with a #132 showing on the Billboard 200 for the week of November 20, 1982. The #1 album in the U.S. that week: Men at Work's Business as Usual. Over the summer of 1982, Talk Talk toured American amphitheaters as the opening act for Elvis Costello & the Attractions, who was on the road supporting the Imperial Bedroom album.