Favorites: Talking Heads (1984-1987)

1983, SPAC

talking-heads
Frantz, Weymouth, Harrison, Byrne
More of my J. Eric Smith-inspired Favorite Songs by Favorite Bands, an impossible task I’m doing anyway.

I saw Talking Heads on their stop at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, north of Albany, NY in 1983. It was of the two or three best concerts I’ve seen in my lifetime. Oddly, I have never seen, in its entirety, the well-regarded Stop Making Sense movie made from that tour.

The then-current album in 1983 was Speaking in Tongues. It’s the only album of theirs I have on both vinyl and compact disc. Interestingly, the tracks have different running times, with the cuts on the CD going longer. It was one of those gimmicks that record companies were using at the time to get people to buy into the new CD technology. It remains my favorite album by the group.

Eventually, I acquired all of the studio albums on vinyl. My only CD, besides SiT, is the 1992 compilation Sand in the Vaseline. Here’s a quiz I did some years ago, based on their songs.

Tunes

Mu: Wild Wild Life.
Lambda: Slippery People. “How do you do?”
Kappa: City of Dreams.
Iota: Blind.
Theta: This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody). “I guess I must be having fun.” This is a song that takes me back to a specific time and place in upstate New York.
Eta: Psycho Killer Qu’est-ce que c’est

Zeta: Take Me to the River . If I were ever to sing Karaoke, it might be this version of the Al Green classic.
Epsilon: Crosseyed and Painless. The album Remain in Light is an aural canvas, and picking a “favorite song” is difficult.
Delta: Making Flippy Floppy. “Nothing is complete.” I love saying the repeated FL sound.
Gamma: Burning Down the House . “I’m…an…or..din.ar..y..guy.” Yeah, right. The first single from SiT.
Beta: Road to Nowhere. ‘Give us time to work it out.” “I wanted to write a song that presented a resigned, even joyful look at doom,” recalls David Byrne.
Alpha: Once in a Lifetime. “My God, what have I done?!” The lead single from Talking Heads’ fourth studio album, Remain in Light. The inspiration from Afrobeat is apparent.

Music, September 1971: widely un-bought

Stax had to “promote a white rock record through a black promotion and distribution system.”

“Not all the fresh music made in 1971 made an impact in that year. Some of it didn’t come out until years later the people who made it had made it had moved on, had become different people, or died.” That’s the first sentence in the September chapter of Never A Dull Moment by David Hepworth.

The Modern Lovers included future Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison and leader Jonathan Richman, who is considered by some to be the ‘godfather of punk rock.”

Roxy Music was primarily wanted to be perceived as an art project, as most of the members, including Bryan Ferry, were students. Likewise, David Byrne was meeting up with Chris Frantz at the Phode Island School of Design and thinking about a band called the Artistics; Byrne and Franz would, of course, also help create Talking Heads.

Kraftwerk was formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1969. Their second album had “more in common with the workshopping approach to improvised theater than the performance-oriented approach of traditional rock.”

When the critics suggest who ought to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they often mention this band, certainly not for its commercial success, but its influence. The Wikipedia notes: “Kraftwerk’s musical style and image can be heard and seen in 1980s synthpop groups such as Gary Numan, Ultravox, John Foxx, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Human League, Depeche Mode, Visage, and Soft Cell.”

Alex Chilton had experience some success with a band called the Box Tops, but the experience left him drained. He and some mates ended up starting a band called Big Star. Their album, #1 Record, released in 1972, did nothing, maybe because it was released on the soul label Stax, which had just bought itself out “of a distribution deal with Columbia” [Records] and therefore had to “promote a white rock record through a black promotion and distribution system.”

The records of the Velvet Underground and Big Star, “like those of of the Stooges, MC5 and Nick Drake, were widely available and widely un-bought.” But those artists inspired music that eventually topped the charts.

Listen to

George Jackson – Bob Dylan here or here

Motel Blues – Loudon Wainwright III here or here

Hospital – Modern Lovers here or here

Andy Warhol – David Bowie here or here

Life Is a Carnival – the Band here or here

The first e-mail I ever wrote

I sent some e-mail to a few people, including my colleague who was sitting in his desk perhaps three meters away. The adviser thought this was daft.

email-1005x1024Something I had forgotten:

When our work office was first going to get electronic mail, sometime c. 1995, it was all a bit mysterious as to what we would use it for. We all went to some computer lab, where it was explained what it was and how to send it. We were instructed to create messages. One of my colleagues wrote to me Continue reading “The first e-mail I ever wrote”

T is for Talking Heads

The album Speaking in Tongues had come out only a couple months before the SPAC concert, featuring their only American Top 10 hit, Burning Down the House.

Frantz, Weymouth, Harrison, Byrne
Frantz, Weymouth, Harrison, Byrne
One of the two greatest concerts I ever saw was the August 1983 performance of Talking Heads at the Saratoga Performance Arts Center, which someone put online; actually, here’s another recording. It starts with David Byrne by himself on guitar and percussion. He’s joined by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, who were married in 1977, on drums and bass, respectively, for a song or two, before Jerry Harrison joins on guitar. That was the core band, but then the additional players are added in; the process was so organic.

This is the same tour from which the classic Jonathan Demme film Stop Making Sense was taken Continue reading “T is for Talking Heads”

Rock ‘n’ Roll Fridays: Talking Heads

I mean there are so many types of love.


“Welcome to Rock ‘n Roll Fridays. We are like other memes in that we will ask you thirteen questions each and every Friday. But our little ‘twist’ is that each week we will pick a singer, band, era or category and pick thirteen of their songs. Each of our questions will be based on the lyrics… Today we picked Talking Heads.”

1. Psycho Killer “I can’t seem to face up to the facts, I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax. I can’t sleep cuz my bed’s on fire. Don’t touch me I’m a real live wire…”
What has kept you from a restful night’s sleep recently?

Actually, the Daughter has had a few nightmares recently. The first time, she and I were awake from 3 a.m. trough the school/work day. Another time, she woke me from an especially sound sleep.

2. Life During Wartime “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco…this ain’t no foolin around. No time for dancing or lovey dovey. I ain’t got time for that now…”
Where was the last nightclub or disco you went to?

It’s been years. I think it was in Schenectady in the early 1980s. I remember with whom I went.

3. Take Me To The River “Take me to the river. Dip me in the ocean. Take me to the river washing me down…”
When was the last time you took a dip in the water?
Continue reading “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fridays: Talking Heads”