Talk Talk – It’s My Life
Probably the life of the pop star in the 80s would have been great for a lot of teenagers of the time – certainly including myself, also because I probably could have met many unreachable stars. Still, there was someone for whom this was not the perfect life. And ironically, of course this person was a pop star. And also of a very famous group, although probably still underestimated. We are talking about the great Mark Hollis, voice and frontman of Talk Talk, a great artist and performer who has never accepted to overshadow his identity and his personality.
The history of Talk Talk began in 1981 in London; Mark came from another experience together with his brother Ed, who after a short time left the group. Within a year, Talk Talk got a contract with EMI, who also sent them as supporters in tour with another quite famous English group: Duran Duran, at the time of the Rio tour. Both Talk Talk and Duran Duran in fact used electronic sounds that came from their beginnings in the new wave field, but otherwise they were quite different groups.
Probably any other debuting pop star could not have asked for better, but Mark Hollis began to feel uncomfortable: it is said that he hated the interviews he had to do under contract, and that in general he poorly tolerated the requests and obligations that came from the record label. In that period
Talk Talk managed at that time to release an album, entitled The Party’s Over, and to get a career off the ground. They knew how to make themselves recognizable and original, and be appreciated, and so they arrived at the beginning of 1984 ready to launch their second album, which would have the same title as the song chosen to drive its sales.
The song, It’s My Life, was musically an irresistible masterpiece, but at the same time it was also a declaration of independence that Mark himself wrote, expressing his feelings and beliefs through text and video at his best. The video, above all, is very special. Since the song is about life, the video depicts life scenes of exotic animals, many of them free in their natural environments. Some scenes, however, shoot animals in a zoo (which was located in London, in Regent’s Park), and in these scenes Mark Hollis is also portrayed (while the other members of Talk Talk do not appear).
Mark Hollis never sings in the video though. He almost seems to mean that he himself feels like a caged animal, one of the many animals in the zoo. Then there is a further detail: in different moments of the video an electronic processing appears, a kind of black scribble that takes different forms. This processing almost always ends up overlapping Mark’s mouth. This could hide the fact that he’s singing or lip-syncing, but actually this makes it impossible to understand what he’s really saying, in a sort of electronic censorship. In all probability this is the first video in which the singer never sings.
The director of this video was Tim Pope, historical director of The Cure videos, who up to that moment had already directed many videos, including for example Tainted Love by Marc Almond’s Soft Cell, and Young Guns (Go for It) by Wham! In fact, during the 80’s Tim will work with many other important artists, such as David Bowie, the Style Council, Brian Ferry and others, and will direct videos like Wendy and Lisa’s Waterfall or Bangles’ Eternal Flame.
A second version of this video was released shortly after. The original images were now projected in the background, but in the foreground we see Mark singing and in several scenes we also see the other Talk Talk members playing. Here, too, the contrast is absolutely evident, between the Mark that never opens his mouth in the first video, and the Mark that never keeps it closed in the second. Personally, however, I prefer the first version of the video.
But let’s go back to the life of Mark Hollis: at the top of his success, Mark still had the clarity to understand that this life was not for him: his goal was to have and enjoy a family, but the life of the pop star kept him too far from family affections, and so, in 1986, Mark had the strength and the courage to say it was enough, and to devote himself to family life. Mark Hollis will remain faithful to his choice even at the cost of giving up very attractive offers and contracts. Mark returned a few times on the stage and in the recording studio, but always for very particular projects or collaborations, but they were exceptions, after all.
An Italian author, Caparezza, created a song about two musicians who made opposite choices: Beethoven left his love to pursue his career and music, and Mark Hollis left his music and his career to go back to his family and beloved ones.
The great Mark Hollis unfortunately left us in 2019, at only sixty-four years old. His fame and the affection of the fans for Talk Talk did not actually disappear with his retirement from the scene, and indeed the group had another moment of enormous notoriety in 2003 thanks to the beautiful version of It’s My Life created by No Doubt of Gwen Stefani. Mark Hollis was certainly a brilliant artist, a very original singer, but above all a man of solid principles and incredible coherence and courage.
Talk Talk on Wikipedia