Mark Hollis, lead vocalist of the band Talk Talk, died February 25, 2019.
Commercially, Talk Talk were most known for their hit “It’s My Life,” which was released in January, 1984. The song’s popularity was revived in 2003 when No Doubt covered the track.
While Talk Talk had chart hits, their career often skirted the fringes of mainstream of appeal. And it seemed that was how they wanted it – especially when it came to frontman Mark Hollis, who also co-founded the band and was a principal songwriter.
Formed in 1981, Talk Talk emerged in the post-punk and new wave eras. You can hear the sounds of the times in their debut and sophomore records, The Party’s Over and It’s My Life.
While Wikipedia states that Talk Talk were “often compared with Duran Duran” in their early years, the two bands are quite different in sound, aesthetic, and aim.
Where some of Talk Talk’s ‘80s contemporaries focused on commercial stardom and shiny pop sounds (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things), Talk Talk held an appeal to the music fans who weren’t chasing pop idols or dancefloor hits.
As Hollis so famously said: “You should never listen to music as background music.”
This quote is so telling of an artist who refused to compromise for mainstream tastes. Arguably, “It’s My Life” could have been a much bigger hit than it was. The song is catchy, memorable, and came into the world at a time when music videos could make or break a band.
Yet Hollis showed disdain for translating music into visuals, demonstrated by a refusal to lipsynch in the “It’s My Life” video.
Outside of Talk Talk’s debut album, which had the band neatly packaged in white suits, there was no emphasis on image, no focus on fashion. Everything was about the music, and remained so throughout Talk Talk’s career.
If you’re familiar with the band’s sound, you know there’s no need to dress it up. Hollis’ voice and vision were transcendent; listening to Talk Talk is an experience. It is music that you feel as much as you hear.
Hollis’ singing was often melancholic, contemplative, the lyrics cerebral and narrative-driven. “Such a Shame,” a single off of 1984’s It’s My Life, was based off a subversive novel called The Dice Man about someone who makes decisions by rolling dice.
Other songs, like “Renée” and “I Don’t Believe In You” are so poetic, palpable. Stories unfold within them as Hollis sings us into secret glimpses of other people’s lives.
But when artists with such compelling work as Mark Hollis and Talk Talk deliberately eschew the spotlight, it leaves you wanting more. Which is what drove me to dig into Hollis’ natal chart to get an understanding of this man’s creative drive and vision.
I don’t have a birth time, so the chart is set for 12noon, January 4, 1955, Tottenham, London, England.
We can’t be sure of the Taurus ascendant, but the Moon was in Taurus through to the morning of January 5, 1955.
Here, the Moon is in a tight square to Saturn in Scorpio, which can suggest personal difficulties early on in life. Some interpretations may point to a struggle to realize creative expression, yet if that was ever the case, we know that it was overcome by Hollis’ impressive musical career.
Hollis was consistently enigmatic in interviews. Reluctant self-promoters are often secretive about their pasts, and I don’t want to speculate on what this square may speak to in terms of Hollis’ personal life.
But we can look at Moon square Saturn in terms of how it may have manifested in other decisions Hollis made. There can be sense of duty towards serving others here, a responsibility to support someone else. Before Talk Talk, Hollis had studied child psychology, though he didn’t complete the course.
Later in his career, he would retire in order to focus on his family.
Taurus is ruled by Venus, who is over in the 7th house in Scorpio. So is Saturn, ruler of Hollis’ Capricorn Sun. While we can’t be sure of the house rulers without a birth time, this Scorpio influence echoes through Hollis’ legacy.
Scorpio can ask us to look at the things we don’t want to. It highlights the uncomfortable truths in life, which is what Hollis often sang about.
Venus in Scorpio creates from darker places. Here, the muse is in the underworld, and in Hollis’ chart she’s in the 7th house of relationships.
Many Talk Talk lyrics were suggestive of themes of heartache and infidelity:
“Don’t you ever stop to think about me / I’m not that blind to see that you’ve been cheating on me” he sang in the early single “Talk Talk.”
We can hear another example of Venus in Scorpio in “Living in Another World: “Did I see tenderness where you saw Hell / Did I see angels in the hand I held?”
Hollis’ natal Sun is shining up in the 9th house, along with the north node, MC, Mercury and Chiron, suggesting success beyond Hollis’ place of birth.
Success was hard won for Talk Talk in the UK, where their singles often charted as minor hits compared to some of the band’s contemporaries.
Yet the Sun in Capricorn can also speak to Hollis’s determination to make it on his own terms. Capricorn energy has no issue with ambition, but it doesn’t need to be told what to do or how to do it; it’s a leader in its own right.
And Hollis was a leader. Though Talk Talk may not be quite the household name as it could have been, there’s a long list of successful bands that cite Talk Talk as an influence.
So much Saturnian influence can also lend itself to Hollis’s desire to create music with longevity; he was never out to write quick hits or become a one-hit wonder. Saturn rules time, aging, and maturity, and there’s no question that Talk Talk’s output holds up long after the band called it quits in the early ‘90s.
Aquarius rules the 10th house and here we can also see where some of Hollis’ deliberate vision, and deliberate rebellion, came to be.
This is where path, purpose, and fulfillment culminate. In forward-thinking Aquarius, there is no fulfillment in nostalgia. As Talk Talk’s sound evolved beyond its earlier new wave stylings as the 1980s wore on, Hollis made clear delineations between the past, present, and future.
Tony Wadsworth, a general manager with Capitol and Parlophone records, once said of Talk Talk that, “they’re not so much difficult as not obvious.”
One common trait I have often noticed with creative people who have an Aquarian midheaven, Sun, or Moon is that they all believe their work should stand for itself. They are often happy to be behind the scenes or detach from any image or ego-based novelty that gets wrapped up in art. (Hollis’ only solo album was so stripped down that he seems barely there.)
Aquarius in the 10th house also suggests that Hollis would do something no one else was doing.
Talk Talk relentlessly innovated their sound. There’s often a line that gets repeated with this band that says they alienated or lost most of their audience by not replicating the sounds of their second album, It’s My Life, but this wouldn’t have been possible for Hollis to do.
This was not a band fronted by someone who had much patience for the past. Talk Talk’s later albums, Colour of Spring, Spirit of Eden, and Laughing Stock all received mixed reception because they were so different from what fans had become used to – and from what was popular in rock music at the time.
With Jupiter and Uranus in Cancer conjunct in the 3rd house, there’s an urge to create and communicate from the heart, but not in a dreamy teen-idol kind of way.
Here, we see more of Hollis’s inventiveness. These energies suggest a need to constantly go through new doors and get ideas into the world through styles and sounds that Hollis’s contemporaries may not have been open to yet.
Hollis’ Mars in Pisces in the 11th house of community echoes the emotional and sonic intensity of Hollis’ songwriting. When you listen to Talk Talk live (there are some great concerts up on YouTube), you realize just how much is happening in every song – layers upon layers of sound and lyric.
Mars wants to charge ahead, and Pisces wants to blend, merge, and transcend into some other world.
Which is what Hollis did for so many through his music.
Obviously, an article like this could span thousands more words. We could look at Hollis’ chart for days and explore it against his career as a musician and his retirement afterwards.
This is just a snapshot, a brief glimpse into the natal chart of an amazing artist. If anyone knows his birth time, please get in touch. I will revise this post with any updated information.
Instead of going further, I will instead honour Mark Hollis’s legacy by encouraging you to seek out his music and let him speak to you on his own terms.
Until next time,
If you’re interested in understanding how astrology supports your creativity, learn more here.