It was a creative peak for David Byrne. Talking Heads were coming off their hugely successful “Remain In Light” album and expanded band tour. Byrne had been collaborating more and more with Brian Eno, much to the chagrin of the rest of the band. By 1981, Byrne and Eno released their experimental “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” album that mixed samples of found recordings with funk backing tracks. Their landmark use of sampling predated its use in rap and hip hop music. It was within this atmosphere in 1981 that choreographer Twyla Tharpe commissioned David Byrne to compose a score for her dance piece called “The Catherine Wheel.” Byrne composed a 70-minute score that was released in its entirety on CD and cassette, while the vinyl version only featured about 40 minutes of music. For the recording of this project, Byrne gathered many of the musicians who worked with him in the expanded Talking Heads, including Heads member Jerry Harrison on keyboards, Adrian Belew on guitar, Brian Eno on numerous instruments, Yogi Horton on drums, Dolette McDonald on vocals, Steve Scales on percussion and Bernie Worrell, also on keyboards. With the exception of “Eggs In A Briar Patch,” today’s Song Of The Day focuses on some of the incredibly inventive instrumental pieces Byrne composed for the dance. “The Catherine Wheel” opened on September 22, 1981 at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City. Several of the tracks including “Big Blue Plymouth Eyes,” “My Big Hands (Fall Through The Cracks),” “Big Business” and “What A Day That Was” found their way into the Talking Heads’ repertoire and were performed extensively on the band’s 1982-1983 “Stop Making Sense” tour.
Former art school students have a funny way of expressing themselves. Like naming an album “Fear Of Music” and including a song like this one that conjures deep seated feelings of dread and ill will. But it doesn’t end there…Byrne numbly mumbles throughout this record asking himself questions like “What is happening to my skin? Where is that protection that I needed?” in another song. “This ain’t no party…this ain’t no disco…this ain’t no fooling around” is another rally cry that adds to the grim picture on Talking Heads’ third aptly titled 1979 platter. It’s a record where “Heaven is a place, a place where nothing ever happens”…albeit, the Heaven in question here is not a final resting place, but a club. Producer, Brian Eno was once again invited to this party and the growth between this album and the one that came before it felt on all levels. The Heads’ palate expanded to include African rhythms and straight-ahead funk and disco. While this was the last album to be created by the core quartet, the song “I Zimbra” pointed towards the future with an expanded lineup that featured numerous percussionists and Robert Fripp on guitar. In other places we’re treated to songs with titles like “Drugs,” “Mind,” “Paper” and “Electric Guitar.” Oh and there were hits too…”Life During Wartime” and “Cities” that filled dance floors around the world.
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Electricity (Drugs)” by Talking Heads
One of the musical highlights of our 16 hour car trip from The Outer Banks of North Carolina back home to Chicago was listening Talking Heads’ live double album entitled The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads. The second half of the album features recordings from the 1980-81 Remain In Light tour when Talking Heads expanded from a quartet of David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz to a 10-piece band adding Adrian Belew on guitars, Busta Cherry on bass, Bernie Worrell on keyboards, Joe Rossy on percussion and Dolette McDonald and Nona Hendryx on vocals.
By 1979, Brian Eno’s influence was felt all over the Heads’ music, especially on more atmospheric songs like today’s Song Of The Day originally from their Fear Of Music album. Eno’s input was beginning to create a chasm within the band because the rest of the group felt that he was monopolizing David Byrne’s attention. Today’s song’s title was changed from “Drugs” to “Electricity” by the time it was released on the album in 1979. Whatever tension Eno’s presence created also resulted in the band taking off in a far more interesting direction with a brand-new funkified line-up. The video portion of today’s posting shows the expanded Heads in action (particularly Belew) from a show broadcasted on TV from Rome in 1980. (Today’s Song of The Day begins at 20:00 into the 64-minute clip. Having seen this version of Talking Heads several times in concert, it is well worth watching if you have the time.)
By the time we got around to hearing the The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads album at the tail end of our trip it was as a follow-up to a most-enjoyable spin of XTC’s Black Sea. And it was just the tonic we needed to wield our way through Saturday night Chicago city traffic and back up to the northern suburbs. Home Sweet Home!
The inspiration came from my good friend Otis Jones who sent out an email to our group of music-loving friends from North Carolina (and now VA, OR, AZ, and me up in Illinois.)
He implored the group to add to his list of three stellar albums in a row by rock artists. Live albums and compilations not included.
He led off with:
Beatles: Rubber Soul/Revolver/Sgt. Pepper
Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet/Let It Bleed/Sticky Fingers
Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced/Axis: Bold As Love/Electric Ladyland
Neil Young: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere/After The Goldrush/Harvest
Led Zeppelin: Zoso/Houses of the Holy/Physical Graffiti
CCR: Green River/Willie and the Poorboys/Cosmos Factory
So you get the picture.
I chose one deeper cut (not really possible with Zep IV) and played them on air. Included is my Spotify playlist. Note that they don’t have the Beatles in their catalog, so my leadoff tracks of “I’m Looking Through You,” “She Said She Said,” and “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” are not included.
This is part one. Another installment airs next Wednesday.
Tune in most Wednesday 9 – 11 AM ET on wmxm.org or 88.9 FM in the northern Chicago suburbs.
Here is today’s broadcast. The show featured bands Pink Floyd, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Clash, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Jefferson Airplane, The Smiths and more.
1967, The Rolling Stones’ Between the Buttons enters the U.K. chart at No. 3.
1968, Billed as ‘Tour 60 cities in 66 Days’ The Jimi Hendrix Experience appeared at the Winterland in San Francisco.
1968, Working at Abbey Road studios, London, The Beatles recorded ‘Across the Universe.’ John and Paul decided the song needed some falsetto harmonies so they invited two girl fans into the studio to sing on the song. The two were Lizzie Bravo, a 16-year-old Brazilian living near Abbey Road and 17-year-old Londoner Gayleen Pease.
1970, John Lennon and Yoko Ono donated their hair for an auction in aid of the Black Power movement.
1972, In a memo to Attorney General John Mitchell, South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond suggests that John Lennon be deported.
1978, Talking Heads plus special guests Dire Straits appeared at the Oasis, Swindon, England.
1978, The Bee Gees started a four week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with ‘Staying Alive’. From the film soundtrack Saturday Night Fever, it gave the brothers their fifth US No.1, also No.1 in the UK.
Link for more history and birthdays at Yeah Baby Tunes