Post Pistols there was a deluge of new bands starting up across the land. Not since the beat boom and so many young men, and women , been motivated to pick up a guitar and show off in front of their friends.
Invariably preceded by the definite article we had such no hit wonders as the ArtAttacks, the Drones, the Zeros and the Exile by 1978 we were drowning in a sea of cheaply produced vinyl singles. One such band were the Reaction who appeared on ‘Streets’ a compilation featuring the aforementioned bands.
The Reaction were the first band of Mark Hollis who has just passed away. Thanks to his later work with Talk Talk we tend to think of Hollis as a master of the minimalist soundscape. Spirit of Eden is now regarded as something of a masterpiece, Hollis was moving into an area where texture and mood were more important than content, if he had continued recording he’d probably be putting out records of windchimes and wordless vocal.
But in 1977 Hollis was a London Geezer. His brother Ed was the manager of Eddie and the Hot Rods. The Reaction is yet another and that probably needed punk to happen. Listening today they seem pitched somewhere between the Jam and the Count Five and their only single ‘Talk Talk’ actually sounds pretty bloody good
‘Oh yeah,I told you before I was up
Society was bringing me down
Twisting round and make you think
They’re straight down the line’
Hollis’s voice here is unrecognisable from his Talk Talk era, it’s like a different person.
In way it was, music was moving very fast, a couple of years previously he might have formed a country rock band, a couple of years into the future his new band was identified with the new romantics, so much did this irk Hollis that apparently, he sacked the synth player. By the ‘Colour of Spring’ in 1986 he had the crisp 80’s pop production and although I rather like the album he wasn’t a million mile from Stevie WInwood or even Phil Collins.
I’ve frequently/tediously pushed the idea that ‘making it’ in rock is about so much more than talent and it’s in that area that Hollis was lacking. Realising that the life of a touring musician was at odds with that of an involved parent he chose fatherhood, which on a personal scale is a far bigger achievement than being seen at the Brit awards .
Mark Hollis, talented bloke with his head screwed on right has left us at the age of 64. In 1978 blokes of that age smoked pipes and wore flat caps. They would have been looking forward to a couple of years of retirement before dropping dead.
I could probably run this blog by just doing obituaries in which case the title would be quite apt. Peter Tork has also left us. Tork was a different musical generation but thanks to the BBC always being up for a cheap repeat the Monkees were very much part of my childhood and teenage years. I found the series a bit tedious, we were so saturated with American imports I probably knew more about life in LA than Manchester, but I always enjoyed the music. Tork always seemed the hippest member of the group although compared with Davey Jones that’s not saying a lot. It was Tork , mate of Stephen Stills, who first left the group for a bit a credibility although he was pretty happy to participate in subsequent reunions. Unlike Hollis he was active to the end playing low key gigs solo or with his band who were called something like Suede Shoe Blues with a combination of credible musicality and warm good humour.
Stay tuned for more celebrity deaths, I’m sure there’s some in the pipeline