WHEN I was an impressionable teenager, I used to skip school dinners and save the money for music purchases.
I’m sure my grandparents would have had a fit, but when you could buy a single for under a quid, the money I saved on a diet of chip butties in Blue Coat School canteen went someway to bolstering my record collection.
Seven inch singles, 12 inchers for the best mixes and cassettes for the long players. All on primitive players in my bedroom. A place of sanctuary, where music and lyrics spoke to me like nothing else.
I recall this as news filters through that Talk Talk frontman Mark Hollis has died.
I heard the single, Talk Talk, on the radio. I loved it. One day after school I walked up to the old HMV store in Coventry, next to the Dog and Trumpet, to find it. The record store was a little bit dingier than they are today, darker lighting and an atmosphere second to none. A land of magic where the wide-eyed romantic could be lost in titles, album art, chords and notes and words.
It must be old age when I say music was better back than, in the early 1980s. Certainly more varied. The heavy rock brigade was putting Britain back on the music map, the synth slickers were bringing ever new and wondrous sounds to life, and pop was exciting – forgiving the sins of the Birdie Song, Shaddap A Your Face and Agadoo.
Talk Talk exploded onto the scene and I bought the first couple of singles, then the cassette album, Party’s Over. Then came new, or rather older music, as I borrowed LP upon LP from Coventry Library and the group went on the backburner.
Until the It’s My Life LP came out a couple of years later. I was older, certainly not so much wiser, but that album, and the follow up, Colour Of Spring, were amazing.
Hollis’s death brought home the realisation that we are losing our music heroes at a rate of knot. And it’s only going to get worse in the coming years.
The list of A-listers, people who changed the course of music history, who are filling out heaven’s house band is amazing. Days before Hollis, Pete Tork, of The Monkees, passed away. This year alone we’ve lost Daryl Drake, the Captain of Captain And Tennille, Ted McKenna, a powerhouse drummer with the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Rory Gallagher, among others, and James Ingram, the American singer.
Last year, it was Pete Shelley, Aretha Franklin, Jon Hiseman, Vinnie Paul, Jabo Starks, Dolores O’ Riordan, Dennis Edwards, ‘Fast Eddie’ Clarke, who were among a stellar list of musical heroes and heroines of mine.
The oft-abused phrase, Soundtrack of My Life, is unravelleing in the worst way possible.
True, some attained greatness early on and failed to build on it. Yet others have continued to impress and inspire long into old age.
10cc wrote a song back in their heyday of their own Fab Four – Godley, Creme, Stewart and Gouldman – called Old Wild Men. The musicians of yore – ‘broken men who lie low, waiting for miracles…still gonna play guitars, On dead strings, and old drums, They’ll play and play to pass the time…The old wild men’.
When music was all about youth, about reinvention rather than longevity. When The Shadows, ground-breaking rockers became establishment favourites, the rebellion of The Beatles, family favourites, the anthems of rock and roll still cherished.
How long until the original Fab Four are reunited?
And why is it in death that rockstars, unappreciated and mocked by newer generations, have a glowing reappraisal beyond the grave?
Mark Hollis was an unlikely pop star. A genius who gave the music business up for real life, to be with his family, to be a dad. I can only marvel at his musical genius.
And mourn the passing of one more stranger who had such a positive impact on my life.