Teaching Defoe’s Plague Year this week has me humming both these songs. Talking Heads, “Air” & “Cities,” live, 1979.
When [Talking Heads] started out, they were just a trio and they were looking for a fourth member. We became friends but I ended up not joining the band. They were all from art school and into looking severe and cool. I was never into that… I think I maybe had a strong influence on one Talking Heads song — ‘I Zimbra’ on Life During Wartime. On that same album there’s a line, ‘This ain’t no disco,’ which, at the time, I took as David saying, ‘Disco sucks.’ I took that very personally.
Brian Eno: Musician, Composer & Producer - Complete Chronological Collection
Can’t get enough of My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts! The dude who shared it says: “It is a pre-release version … which was given [to] me by David, when I stayed at his place in Alphabet City, in 1981. I distinctly remember that there were two Ukrainian funeral homes in the street…” Hmm! Thanks to the Wall of Tapes for uploading! PS - You’re going to want to dig around more on that particular blog, seriously.
Something To Change Your Mind
★★★★☆ Fear of Music, Talking Heads’ third album, is like the overlooked middle child in the band’s classic four albums, and as the immediate predecessor to the band’s worldbeat masterpiece, 1980’s Remain In Light, FoM is easily reduced to the status as the band’s “transitional” album, an awkward vestigial organ in the band’s evolution. Lethem’s book fortunately debunks this version of history and rescues the album from the shadows. In this respect, the book is a necessity. Lethem’s prose is heavy on impressionistic images and light on history or investigation—rather the author acknowledges the conventional wisdom and dismantles it by dissecting the album track by track and tracing out the thematic threads throughout the album. What we see is that this is a very rich and textured album. Some sample observations: the single-word titles are like a table of contents or an inventory of elements for analysis, “Cities” and “Life During Wartime” are rival siblings, and “Paper” is a snotty counterpoint to the reverential “The Book I Read”. I wish there were a little more context and trivia about the album contained in the book, but Lethem prefers to eschew the nerdy details during his interrogation of the album. Fortunately, this podcast interview between Lethem and Andy Zax features clips of rare Talking Heads material and includes clips of David Bowie, Brian Eno and James Brown for points of reference. Actually, start with that interview, and if it piques your interest, read the book.
A paragraph from the chapter on “Paper” in Jonathan Lethem’s Fear of Music book. One of the arguments advanced in the book is that the nominal song titles on Fear of Music function as an inventory, or as a list of topics for discussion: Mind, Paper, Air, Drugs, Cities, Heaven, Electric Guitar, Animals. There’s a lot you can read into and unpack from those titles, and Lethem relishes in the opportunity. In particular, I think this thread tying “Paper” to “The Book I Read” is pretty astute.
Required listening for your Monday morning — the great Jonathan Lethem interviewed by the similarly great Andy Zax about Lethem’s new Fear of Music tome (for the ever-great Los Angeles Review of Books). The above-linked radio ad (sadly just an excerpt) is, I believe, the very same one discussed at length at the start of the book. Anyone have the complete version of the ad? I’m sure Andy does.
“Once In A Lifetime”
From Stop Making Sense
I’ve been thinking a lot about Stop Making Sense this week, and the ways David Byrne and Jonathan Demme rebelled against the conventions of depicting live music in film and ended up coming up with results that were far more cinematic and better framed the interesting visual aspects of live music. This performance of “Once In A Lifetime” is presented mainly a long, uncut still shot of Byrne in stark chiaroscuro lighting, with the emphasis placed on his physicality and the way he inhabits the uptight, confused character in the song. When the camera finally pulls back for the climax, he’s still boxed in by the frame, but he’s no longer the entire focus, and his body language shifts - he looks both exhausted and relieved.