Talk Talk began as a quartet consisting of Mark Hollis (vocals), Simon Brenner (keyboards), Lee Harris (drums) and Paul Webb (bass). They were generally associated with the New Wave movement; more specifically, in their early years, they were often compared with Duran Duran, as both bands not only featured a double-barrelled name and a Roxy Music-inspired musical direction, but also shared the same record label (EMI) and producer (Colin Thurston).
Talk Talk's first line-up released a self-titled debut EP in 1982 which was quickly expanded into a full-length album entitled The Party's Over, typical for what Allmusic called a "slavishly derivative, Duran Duran-styled, new romantic synthpop band." The band charted in the UK Top 40 with the singles "Talk Talk" and "Today", both produced by Thurston (whose other production credits include The Human League, Duran Duran and Kajagoogoo).
Brenner left after the 1983 non-LP single "My Foolish Friend", which was produced by frequent Roxy Music collaborator Rhett Davies. At this point, the band added unofficial fourth member Tim Friese-Greene, who became Talk Talk's keyboard player, producer, and Hollis' frequent writing partner. Although a major contributor to the band's studio output, Friese-Greene did not generally play with the band during live shows or appear in publicity material.
Talk Talk achieved considerable international success in 1984/85 (particularly in continental Europe) with the album It's My Life, which All Music Guide reviewed as a "cohesive album" which showed improved songwriting. The accompanying single "Such a Shame" (a song inspired by the book The Dice Man) became a number one hit in Italy and Switzerland during this period. The title track of the album was also a top 10 hit in Italy, and made the U.S. and Canadian Top 40, though the album and its singles were largely ignored in their native UK.
The artist James Marsh designed the first cover image for It's My Life based on the band's name. He followed the theme for subsequent singles, remaining the band's artistic frontman and creating all their covers and posters throughout their career.
They eventually abandoned the New Wave style completely with The Colour of Spring in 1986. This became their biggest studio album success in the UK, making the Top 10, in part due to the Top 20 single "Life's What You Make It". The album was also a hit in Europe, featuring another international Top 40 single, "Living in Another World". By this time, all Talk Talk songs were being written by Hollis and Friese-Greene. Guests on the album included Steve Winwood.
The extended line-up for the 1986 tour consisted of Hollis, Webb and Harris plus John Turnbull (guitars), Rupert Black and Ian Curnow (keyboards), Phil Reis and Leroy Williams (percussion) and Mark Feltham (harmonica). Most notable among these concerts was the Montreux Jazz Festival, released on DVD in 2008 as Live at Montreux 1986.
The success of The Colour of Spring afforded the band a bigger budget and schedule for the recording of their next album. About a year in the making, and featuring contributions from many outside musicians, Spirit of Eden was released in 1988, on EMI's Parlophone label. The album was assembled from many hours of improvised instrumentation that Hollis and Friese-Greene had edited and arranged using digital equipment. The result was a mix of rock, jazz, classical, and ambient music. While critically praised, the album was not as commercially viable as its predecessors, and the band declared they would not tour in support of it.
During the making of Spirit of Eden, Talk Talk manager Keith Aspden had attempted to free the band from their recording contract with EMI. "I knew by that time that EMI was not the company this band should be with", Aspden said. "I was fearful that the money wouldn't be there to record another album." EMI, however, wished to keep the band on their roster. After many months of litigation, the band ultimately succeeded in extracting themselves from the contract. EMI then sued the band, claiming that Spirit of Eden was not "commercially satisfactory", but the case was thrown out of court.
With the band now released from EMI, the label released the retrospective compilation Natural History in 1990. It went on to sell over one million copies in Britain alone and rose to number 3 on the UK album chart. The 1984 single "It's My Life" was also re-released, and this time became the band's highest charting single in their native country, reaching number 13 on the UK Singles Chart. A re-release of the single "Life's What You Make It" also reached the Top 30. Following up on this renewed popular interest in the band, the label then released History Revisited in 1991, a compilation of 12 inch singles and alternative versions which made the Top 40. The band sued EMI for remixing their material without permission.
In 1990, Talk Talk signed a two-album contract with Polydor Records. They released Laughing Stock on Polydor's Verve Records imprint in 1991. By this time, Webb had left the group and Talk Talk had morphed into what was essentially a brand name for the studio recordings of Hollis and Friese-Greene, along with a bevy of session studio players (including long-term Talk Talk drummer Harris). Laughing Stock crystallised the experimental sound the band started with Spirit of Eden (which has been retroactively categorised as "post-rock" by some critics). Laughing Stock adopted an even more minimalist style than its predecessor, and peaked at #26 in the UK Albums Chart.
Breakup and aftermath
After Laughing Stock, Talk Talk disbanded. Paul Webb rejoined Lee Harris, and the two went on to form the band .O.rang, while Tim Friese-Greene started recording under the name Heligoland. In 1998, Mark Hollis released his self-titled solo début Mark Hollis, which was very much in keeping with the minimalist post-rock sound of Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock. Hollis retired from the music industry shortly afterwards.
Biography from Wikipedia