Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

  1. You have chosen to ignore posts from MattyScornD. Show MattyScornD's posts

    Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    OK, so my art school bias is showing, but in terms of artistry, of pushing the envelope of pop music, of exercising their creativities and utilizing their not-insignificant individual and collective talents, they are one of my all-time favorite bands.

    One reason may be their difficulty to even categorize: art punk, new wave, pop-funk, avant garde, etc., they found an audience among the true punks in new york in the 70s.  They were close heirs to the gallery crowds and hipster fans of the Velvet Underground and New York Dolls and yet managed crossover appeal with hits in "Psycho Killer", "Life During Wartime", and a killer rendition of Al Green's "Take Me To The River."

    They found a kindred spirit in Brian Eno (Bowie, Roxy Music), who collaborated with them on several albums and introduced them to african world beats and hugely influential Fela Kuti.  Their singular mutual achievement was the heavily-afro-pop-influenced "Remain In Light" - one of the most progressive pop albums ever recorded.  They foreshadowed genres of new wave, dance, industrial, alt-pop and world music.

    From an artistic perspective, much of what they did was a conceptual approach - the music as well as videos, film, concerts - that touched on many different styles and genres but never stayed in one place for very long.  In Eno, they had a technician who could deliver, and in David Byrne, an artist (in every sense of the word) who was unafraid to try anything.  They also collaborated heavily over the years with musicians like Adrian Belew (King Crimson), Bernie Worrell & Steve Scales (Parliament) and numerous percussionists.  Meanwhile, the Heads: Jerry Harrison (Modern Lovers), Tina Weymouth & Chris Frantz were all solid musicians in their own right.

    "Stop Making Sense" represents their defining document to me - a nearly flawless expression of sound and vision and one of the very best concert films ever made (directed by Jonathan Demme).  From a bare stage with a single person with a guitar gradually morphing into a multi-media, big band extravaganza that touches on their whole career to that point and delivers all the highs and lows of a great concert experience.  By no coincidence, they stopped touring after that.

    From the early records, to the Tom Tom Club, to their 80's videos and singles, to the later-80s continuation of world beat exploration, they stand out as one of the best art rock bands ever.  Their influence is felt in modern progressive bands like Camper Van Beethoven, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead (named after the song on True Stories), Phish, Primus and more pop- bands like Guster and MGMT.  Although their breakup was quite bitter, David Byrne has since gone on to be a world-renowned visual artist in his own right, the Tom Tom Club has soldiered on admirably, and Jerry Harrison has produced countless records for other artists over the years.
     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    I really got into the Talking Heads with the Remain in Light album and stayed a fan for years after that.  I think the Stop Making Sense concert is a great piece of work.

    One thing that always appealed to me about The Heads was their playful, somewhat mischievous spirit.  They always seemed to me to be a bunch of merry pranksters having fun and making some interesting tunes in the process. 
     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    "Remain In Light" is indeed a great record from start to finish - genuinely rewarding with each listen and, conceptually, a cohesive musical statement that still sounds fresh today.  It's hard to pin down anything else quite like it before or since.  [Belew's work on it is an nice feature (as was Robert Fripp's on "Fear Of Music").]
     
  4. You have chosen to ignore posts from ZILLAGOD. Show ZILLAGOD's posts

    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    I am a huge fan. The first LP real hooked me, especially songs like "Pulled Up" , which was a new twist to Rock songs , a song that actually praised parents.

    I will always think of them as a unique band. Not many rock bands have their only female member as the bass player. No other band that I know of would title a song "Don't Worry About the Government."No other band would have a plain red album cover with only the title on the front for their debut album.

    Surely they were a model for many of the alternative bands that formed many years later, Cracker, Dinosaur Jr., etc.

     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    i love them. byrne is a genius. even today. look up "like humans do," a track that was pre-loaded onto my work computer's version of windows. very catchy, very good. i've had it stuck in my head for about two years now.

     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    I knew I should not have brought this up.  The introduction to your doctoral thesis is quite good.  Seriously!

    In describing the "family tree" as well as you did, yes, they certainly have a pedigree that's very impressive.  I love(d) Roxy Music and could see the cross-over, but that's it.  Maybe I am too linear about my likes and dislikes, but I think it's just more a matter of what appeals to me.  I never felt the love. 

    So while never discrediting them for what they had going for them, the appeal just escaped me. 

    Sometimes there is just something more primal and visceral that takes over in your own personal taste in music.  I am sure you agree with that.  So all I can say is that the Talking Heads just never "spoke" to me either in what they were saying, or what I was hearing in plain old rock and roll terms.

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your accolade, and I also enjoy getting a little rock history any time. 
     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    In Response to Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads:
    I knew I should not have brought this up.  The introduction to your doctoral thesis is quite good.  Seriously! In describing the "family tree" as well as you did, yes, they certainly have a pedigree that's very impressive.  I love(d) Roxy Music and could see the cross-over, but that's it.  Maybe I am too linear about my likes and dislikes, but I think it's just more a matter of what appeals to me.  I never felt the love.  So while never discrediting them for what they had going for them, the appeal just escaped me.  Sometimes there is just something more primal and visceral that takes over in your own personal taste in music.  I am sure you agree with that.  So all I can say is that the Talking Heads just never "spoke" to be either in what they were saying, or what I was hearing in plain old rock and roll terms. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your accolade, and I also enjoy getting a little rock history any time. 
    Posted by yogafriend


    I agree with you, although I respect the talent and the influence they had. Something about the sound left me kind of empty. I don't recall rushing out to buy any of there music. 

    Not enough edge to there sound for my liking. But you must say there timing was perfect, IMO only the early to mid eighties could have made them what they were. Timing is everything!!!
     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    No worries, yoga...you won't hurt my feelings.  They are an admittedly acquired taste.  And thanks for noting in the nicest possible way my tendency to ramble on pedantically.  ;) 

    For the sake of argument and fwiw, I still highly recommend the "SMS" concert film.  I once did a critique on it for a seminar covering experimental and multi-media exhibitions (i.e. Laurie Anderson), so again my bias is showing.
     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    Yoga explains it well. The fact is that I their music basically made my ears bleed. Their music did not make by blood boil. Now I will admit that I find David Byrne to be the most obnoxious sh*t in music.  So this may have something to do with my disdain for the band. And I have enjoyed his solo failures. I preferred the Tom Tom Club. I was completely taken by Psycho Killer, but that was it. Another reason that I don't like them is because I thought their live shows back in the ealry days at CBGB's were boring. But that might just be me.
     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    while I've never posted in response to what is the popular topic of word-music association on this forum, check out the coffee table book "What the Songs Look Like". I got this when it came out, and knew I was onto to something.
     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    In Response to Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads:
    Yoga explains it well. The fact is that I their music basically made my ears bleed. Their music did not make by blood boil. Now I will admit that I find David Byrne to be the most obnoxious sh*t in music.  So this may have something to do with my disdain for the band. And I have enjoyed his solo failures. I preferred the Tom Tom Club. I was completely taken by Psycho Killer, but that was it. Another reason that I don't like them is because I thought their live shows back in the ealry days at CBGB's were boring. But that might just be me.
    Posted by jesseyeric


    Gee, tell us how you really feel, jessey....

    Seriously though, I'm just not buying your rebuttal, and as you are a musician, I was hoping you would be able to speak in more esoteric terms about why you seem to dislike them (and Byrne) so passionately.

    I'm genuinely curious as someone who has a foot firmly planted in the art world and who hears all the time from people who are unable to speak to art and music coherently.  I'm also familiar with a lot of progressive rock which can be similarly pretentious and full of itself; without naming names, some of it comes off to me as incredibly boorish and pompous even as I respect their overall vision.

    Don't get me wrong - art and music can create all kinds of visceral reactions that are hard to enunciate.  That's fine.  I understand and have even written about it over the years.  The avant garde, in particular, has a way of polarizing viewers (and listeners) into love it or hate it camps, but I'm still very interested in the conclusions drawn and to how people get there.
     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    I loved listening to The Talking Heads.  Songs like: Once In A Lifetime, What A Day That Was and Take Me To The River.
     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    In Response to Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads:
    I loved listening to The Talking Heads.  Songs like: Once In A Lifetime, What A Day That Was and Take Me To The River.
    Posted by cavaliersfan


    "Take Me To The River" is great song. One of the few covers that the Talking Heads recorded. The original is by Al Green, there are two covers that I am familiar with, the Talking Heads version and the Foghat version. Foghat did it with a more uptempo driving beat, while the Talking Heads slowed it down to a crawl , almost like the old Vanilla Fudge version of "Keep Me Hanging On"....Although I am a big fan of Foghat , I think the Talking Heads version is my favorite.

    I've always been accused of liking quirky, offbeat stuff. The Talking Heads , to me, were 180 degrees away from alot of the "accepted" music that was played on mainstream style radio back in the early to mid seventies ( "Billy, don't Be a Hero", "Chevy Van", "The Night The Lights Went out in Georgia") ...all that putrid junk that made me want to vomit. I suppose that is why I embraced this band and many other bands of that time period,Iggy Pop, Ramones ,Graham Parker and the Rumour, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, B-52's , etc.
     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    In Response to Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads:
    In Response to Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads : "Take Me To The River" is great song. One of the few covers that the Talking Heads recorded. The original is by Al Green, there are two covers that I am familiar with, the Talking Heads version and the Foghat version. Foghat did it with a more uptempo driving beat, while the Talking Heads slowed it down to a crawl , almost like the old Vanilla Fudge version of "Keep Me Hanging On"....Although I am a big fan of Foghat , I think the Talking Heads version is my favorite. I've always been accused of liking quirky, offbeat stuff. The Talking Heads , to me, were 180 degrees away from alot of the "accepted" music that was played on mainstream style radio back in the early to mid seventies ( "Billy, don't Be a Hero", "Chevy Van", "The Night The Lights Went out in Georgia") ...all that putrid junk that made me want to vomit. I suppose that is why I embraced this band and many other bands of that time period,Iggy Pop, Ramones ,Graham Parker and the Rumour, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, B-52's , etc.
    Posted by ZILLAGOD

    Great stuff!  LOL! man, LOL!  I liked your material about having a taste for offbeat music, disliking putrid junk and I also thought the pizza/police quote was pretty darn funny.  
     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    In Response to Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads:
    Yoga explains it well. The fact is that I their music basically made my ears bleed. Their music did not make by blood boil. Now I will admit that I find David Byrne to be the most obnoxious sh*t in music.  So this may have something to do with my disdain for the band. And I have enjoyed his solo failures. I preferred the Tom Tom Club. I was completely taken by Psycho Killer, but that was it. Another reason that I don't like them is because I thought their live shows back in the ealry days at CBGB's were boring. But that might just be me.
    Posted by jesseyeric

    David Byrne has singing ability but he does not have the really good tone. I think there is a lot of styles he would not sing especially well. His singing tone is good for non-comfomist rock. 
     
  16. You have chosen to ignore posts from ZILLAGOD. Show ZILLAGOD's posts

    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    In Response to Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads:
    In Response to Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads : David Byrne has singing ability but he does not have the really good tone. I think there is a lot of styles he would not sing especially well. His singing tone is good for non-comfomist rock. 
    Posted by cavaliersfan


    Yes, this is a point I often make with people who don't quite "get" what rock music really is all about.

    If it was all beautiful voices and silky smooth crooning it would be opera or the Frank Sinatra style pop of the 40's. It would not be rock.

    This is why rock has people like Ozzy Osbourne, Johnny "Rotten" Lydon, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell ...people who do not have "lovely" singing voices.

    Rock is about many things, mostly about anger, resentment, revolution, protest, social comment, anti-establishment rhetoric, etc....and sometimes about boy/girl love ( it sometimes can be about boy/boy love , too or girl/girl but that strays from my point).

    A music that mostly comes from restless souls singing about their discontent with life sounds more "honest" and "real" when it is not sung by someone like Pavarotti. Although, some singers with beautiful voices have pulled it off. Pat Benatar , for example.

    I can't imagine Barbara Streisand covering any of the Talking Heads material. On the other hand, David Byrne would seem downright silly singing "Evergreen."
     
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    Re: Artist of the Day: Talking Heads

    The real power of the band was not so much Byrne's voice or what he had to say. It was that he really meant what he was saying.  Songs like "Love-Building on Fire" exemplifies this.  When Byrne sings "tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet like little birds" he isn't saying anything that's world changing, but he meant every word he was saying.  I found it infectious. I always felt that they were spokesmen for a generation that didn't have anything to say.  Their music was born of punk and yet led the forefront of new wave.  They basically invented the genre.  You can here CBGB dripping from their work, you just have to strip away the production and listen the the rhythm.  They were innovative,  listen to the descending rhythm of "Warning Sign", very strange, new and interesting. (And you could dance to it). The best work they did never made to the radio.  Songs like "Cities", "Air", or "Drugs" off Fear of Music are amazing yet never got the airplay of "Road To Nowhere" or "Burning Down The House".  A cross between Laurie Anderson and The Ramones, art school meets punk.  It worked perfectly. 
     
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