Talk Talk The Colour of Spring

Great B-sides: Pictures of Bernadette by Talk Talk

The untimely passing of Talk Talk mastermind Mark Hollis this week has sent many fans back to re-examine his masterpieces. Many Talk Talk fans opt for the group’s final two records, the spacious and experimental Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock; records that helped to pioneer post-rock. While both of those records are excellent, I’ve always had a soft spot for the record that preceded the leap into the unknown, 1986’s The Colour of Spring.

The Colour of Spring is a pop album, mostly consisting of songs with simple structures and catchy choruses. But Talk Talk had started to shake off the synth-pop tag that they started recording under, instead mixing the bright vibrant pop production style of the mid 1980s with organic sounds. They utilise organs and woodwinds, and their drums are recorded dry and un-processed. The group’s unofficial fourth member Tim Friese-Green was a key player, helping with production and instrumentation.

The best known song from The Colour Of Spring is ‘Life’s What You Make It’, a song driven by Hollis playing the bass line on piano. He’s backed by Lee Harris’ pounding drums, a warm organ, and flashes of searing guitar. Bass player Paul Webb, who’s made music on his own as Rustin’ Man, is relegated to backing vocals, although he has some terrific bass lines elsewhere on the record.

There was such a plethora of great material that ‘Pictures of Bernadette’ was relegated to the b-side of the third single from The Colour of Spring, ‘Give It Up’. But it’s a great song, showcasing the blend of pop smarts and textural innovation from Talk Talk in this era. The song’s driven by Webb’s bass line, verse melody is supported by some elegant piano, while the guitar solo is distorted, with a surprising pause in the middle of the six-string onslaught. But it’s also a catchy pop song with a huge chorus.

You can find ‘Pictures of Bernadette’, along with a clutch of other great Talk Talk out-takes, on the compilation Asides Besides. It’s a frustrating collection as it’s mostly comprised of inessential dance mixes and synth-pop era tracks, but if you’re a fan you need to hear the astounding tracks at the end of the second disc, also including ‘John Cope’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’.

Thanks for the music Mr Hollis.


  1. Nice tribute! Those b-sides you mention are beautiful. “It’s Getting Late in the Evening” is another from Asides Besides that’s worth highlighting. RIP Mark Hollis

  2. Great tune and it really speaks volume about the quality of the material on the album that it was relegated to a b-side (The Colour Of Spring was actually the album I turned to last week after reading the news).

  3. I’ve never heard of Pictures of Bernadette before but I like it. I really like the production of it also. The sound is clear and sharp. Very good pop song.

      • Not the album no… I’ll give it a try…. I’ve only heard selected songs by them… probably most in the 80s.
        btw I’ve been listening to Genesis Foxtrot at work… I’m really liking it. Suppers Ready is pretty cool… thanks for the recommendation

        • Glad you like Foxtrot. Prog’s like a continuum – some people avoid it altogether, but I find plenty of pop hooks in Genesis (and Yes and Gentle Giant). There’s much tougher stuff like Van Der Graaf Generator,

    • They ditched the synth player after their first album. It’s a pretty stunning transformation – Spirit of Eden from 1988 made it into the UK charts this week.

  4. News to me about Hollis. The song is terrific (I had to listen to ‘Life’s What You Make It’ also) love the guitar. ‘John Cope’ is also terrific. I always forget how much I liked this band. Love the organ work. Again. Like your choices on this one.

  5. An excellent piece, I’m so glad I found it. I didn’t get to hear pictures of Bernadette when Colour of Spring was released as I don’t buy singles so it was some years later when I picked up Asides and Bsides that I came across it for the first time and now it is probably my favourite TalkTalk song, because (its brilliant obviously) it is not one that everyone knows unlike Its my Life which has been [horribly] covered several times, but did highlight Marks brilliance to the wider masses who hadn’t been there since The Party’s over.

    • Thanks for reading! Colour of Spring is one of my favourite records ever – I guess it makes sense they could afford to jettison amazing songs like ‘Bernadette’ and ‘It’s Getting Late in the Evening’. I would love to hear ‘It’s My Life’ with arrangements from the Colour of Spring era – such a big leap forward IMO.

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