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 Home is where I want to be
Home is where I want to be
1979 - More Songs About Typing and Vacuuming PDF Print E-mail
Written by Barbara Charone   

From:  Creem, 10/79

Blame the Australians for putting them at the top of the
charts. Hold all of New Zealand responsible for making
More Songs About Buildings and Food an unqualified platinum
success. Let America take credit for establishing the
Talking Heads as a bona fide singles band with "Take Me
To The River." Blame the trendy jet set of Paris for a
causing a near riot at the ultra chic Palace Theatre tonight.

"We broke the ice for a lot of bands," drummer Chris Frantz
commented in a Paris hotel room the day after. "We were the
first of the new wave bands to make the charts. It meant we
had a bigger hit single than even Elvis Costello!"

Across the room his wife of two years was packing bulging
suitcases for the next day's jaunt to Japan for a ten-day
tour. She's Tina Weymouth, bassist with Talking Heads
and a certified teen dream for infinite adolescent boys.
Right now she looked more like a waif than a rock star,
wearing a white T-shirt appropriately decorated with a
world map, and tight black pants.

"Some kids really like the media concept of us as
clones, as if we were gymnasts on parallel bars,"
she laughed. "We were playing a club in Boston which
was sold out. A kid standing at the door when Chris'
mother arrived demanded to know why she could get in.

"‘But I'm the drummer's mother,' Mom explained. And
the kid said, ‘Why shit--they have parents? I thought
they were clones.' They like that image even though
some of them believe we are human. They find a
conflict between the real and the unreal."

Chris and Tina, while very much human, have been
experiencing similar conflicts largely due to
overseas travel, jet lag and continual time changes.
After returning to London from a 26-hour Australian
flight, they went directly to a Dire Straits gig
and jammed on an encore of "Gloria." The next
night they were found enjoying the delights of
Peter Tosh and band. Seemingly tireless, the
dynamic duo bristled over with a musical confidence
and enthusiasm.

Not only their ever-increasing audience has trouble
with their bizarre yet attractive blend of repeated
rhythms, disoriented vocals and whirling synthesized
effects. Recently an L.A. accountant friend of their
manager joined the band for several concerts. He
too had difficulty dealing with preconceived images
and the music.

"Every time we'd play something like ‘Electric Guitar,'
he'd run out of the club," Tina giggled. "He told us
the problem was he was beginning to understand us.
He'd made a list of bands called Wavestock rather
than Woodstock. He put innovative bands on one side
and bands businessmen promote a new wave on the other
side. We were in a category all our own."

Although they admit to feeling pressure while making
their third album, Fear Of Music, with wizard Eno at
the control board, they insist they have always been
an album band rather than a singles machine. With
the recent success of groups like Police, The Cars,
and Cheap Trick, several record company and music
business individuals have suggested Talking Heads
follow the same path.

"Sometimes people from radio stations tell us we
should sound more like the Cars," Chris laughed.
"These dumb FM radio people say, ‘You guys are
great, but you should get smart like the Cars and
use Roy Thomas Baker.' At that point we get up
and leave."

Although Fear Of Music kicks off with an African-
influenced disco sound, the band insists disco
rhythms were more prominent on More Songs About
Buildings and Food albeit subtly disguised.

"It would be too easy for us to do something like
‘Do Ya Think I'm Sexy,'" Tina declared. "If the
material doesn't sustain our interest, it's no
good. We have no choice. It's hard for us because
we consistently try to be better."

They've succeeded admirably on their third album.
Despite continued innovations, all the music is
listenable, some even commercially digestible as
they incorporate everything from disco to surreal
cinema music to hardcore rock'n'roll. Things
weren't always that easy.

"We started at grass roots level and never set
our expectations too high," Tina recalled. "We
were quite naive. We used to do interviews and
say, ‘We want to be commercial like the Carpenters!'
So people thought we'd become that; but we don't
delude anybody anymore. When they ask about the
new album we tell them, ‘Don't worry, it's less
commercial than the others.'"

One major instigator in the Talking Heads fight
against commercialism is chief songwriter, singer
and guitarist David Byrne. Responsible for the
majority of Heads classics like "Big Country" and
"Psycho Killer," Byrne possesses an unorthodox
sense of rhythm which, despite the novelty, remains
extremely attractive.

"Eno is the only person who understands David's
guitar playing," Tina said. "David's sense of
rhythm is insane but fantastic. A song will start
off a mess but become like a baby kahula bear.
It's difficult to turn a really stupid idea into
something brilliant. David turns a sketch into
a painting. He's great at convincing us that a
crazy idea will end up brilliantly."

Talking Heads is the only band Eno will produce
and they take great pride in this. They're equally
thrilled that Bowie counts them among his very
select favorites. Yet despite the acclaim, success
and foreign glamour, the Talking Heads remain
refreshingly pure in their approach to music.
Who else would call an album Fear Of Music except
perhaps David Bowie?

"When we were making this album I remembered this
stupid discussion we had about titles for the last
album," Tina smirked. "At that time I said, ‘What
are we gonna call an album that's just about
buildings and food?' And Chris said, ‘You call
it more songs about buildings and food.' Jerry
suggested Fear Of Music. Everyone laughed
hilariously and forgot about it. Although it
was a ludicrous title, it seemed to fit this
album.

"We were under a lot of stress and pressure so
Fear Of Music seemed perfect," Tina continued,
amused at the irony. "It goes along with fear
of everything. It's funny too, because the music
business is so hype-oriented. To call an album
fear is completely superficial. It's absurd because
record companies go to their conventions proclaiming
they've sold more records than anybody, despite the
recession! I like the title because everyone has a
fear of the record industry. It's just like what
Thomas Jefferson said about the revolution: You
just change power from one pair of hands to
another."

One pair of hands that have tremendously aided
Talking Heads in their never-ending search for
the territory which lies beyond the clone zone
are those belonging to Brian Eno. He has been
instrumental in helping the band shape their
slightly complicated sound and paint their many
colored musical abstract designs.

"What makes Eno a great leader is that he's
willing to share everything he knows. Eno
thinks our albums are hoovering music, which
was suggested by David's manner of moving around
in the studio," Tina said, imitating quirky
gestures. "David moves around the studio as if
he were a janitor cleaning up and vacuuming while
whistling an idiotic tune. His second description
of our music is ‘music to do your housework by.'

"Even though we had confidence in ourselves, Eno
knows how to make people do things they would
think impossible. He's very disciplined.

"On the last album he turned us from complete
novices to naturals in the studio. He had all the
black bohemian receptionists and typing people in
the studio 'cause he had a crush on one. David
said we should call the album Tina And The Typing
Pool!"

Talking Heads have always used less than normally
established studio techniques. One song on Fear Of
Music features Tina's two sisters, the band
alternatively called the Sweet Breaths or the Sweet
Breads. They even acquired the services of a female
tape operator to back David Byrne on one song.

As the band's popularity accelerates, Tina Weymouth
finds more and more young men's heads bowed in tribute
at the foot of the stage, screaming her name out in
tones of romantic euphoria. Husband Chris finds this
amusing, while Tina finds it complimentary but
slightly ridiculous.

"If people thought of me like David Bowie, that would
be fantastic," she said, dropping her sophisticated
demeanor for that of a pop fan. "However, I don't
want to go beyond what I do well, which is play music.
I haven't exploited being female 'cause it's better to
save those things.

"In the French advertisements for bras they say,
‘Hide it subtly 'cause a man doesn't like to discover
something on the outside.' It's sexier not to reveal
everything, to add a degree of discovery."

Sometimes Tina doesn't hide enough. One night after
playing in Washington, D.C., she and Chris couldn't
get a taxi, so they decided to hitchhike. Although
the men in the cars were keen to give the couple a ride,
their girlfriends nixed the idea. Ever since then Tina
has been in love with a pair of tight black pants with
a tag which says "BJs" which she believes stands for
blow jobs.

One night at Hurrah's, Tina was proudly flaunting her
BJs, standing next to Debbie Harry, dressed in a chic
wool knit outfit. Friendly but firm, Debbie advised
Tina to change immediately because the BJs didn't
suit her image.

"As if I had to be protected," Tina sighed. It's crazy;
people form an idea in their heads of what they think
you are. Once this 18-year-old boy in England who was q
uite beautiful came up to me after the show and said,
‘Forgive me, this isn't meant to be an insult, but
throughout the entire show I thought you were a 12-year-
old boy. It's only now I've discovered you're a girl.'
So I don't know what to think!"

Unsure of what stage apparel or image to adopt, Tina
bought an attractive pink blouse for the recent Paris
concert. Despite good intentions, this too involved a
Catch-22.

"I don't want to bore the audience by constantly wearing
the same clothes onstage but I don't want to distract
the music with designer clothes," she said. "This pink
top covers everything without showing too much. It's the
female Steven Tyler look; strings hanging down. But it
was so hot at the gig that suddenly I was drenched in
sweat, completely soaking wet. Little by little the shirt
got wet and started to stretch out, peeling off like a
layer of skin," she laughed hysterically. "What a sideshow!
What an encore!"

Talking Heads continue to learn from their own mistakes in
addition to the many traps and pitfalls which plague other
bands. Tina now knows never to wear the pink blouse on hot
occasions, while the band has an inherent sense of what
they should and shouldn't do musically.

"We learn a lot by other people's failures as well as our
own," Tina admitted. "We learned a lot by touring with
the Ramones very early on. Dee Dee would have all these
great ideas and he'd get Joey all excited with them. But
then Johnny would say, ‘That's not a Ramones thing to do.'
Eventually that happened to Devo as well. I hope that never
happens to us because it's so limiting."

After spending the summer months touring Europe, Australia,
New Zealand, Japan and Hawaii, Talking Heads return home
to America to spread Fear Of Music throughout auditoriums
everywhere. Forget your paranoia and indulge yourself.
Talking Heads are not dangerous to your health, but they
are addicting.

"We always hoped it would happen," Tina Weymouth said of
their worldwide success as she attempted to close a
tightly packed suitcase for the journey to Japan.
"Too many people are waiting for us to get big-headed
as if we're a little bacteria under a microscope. Who
knows if we'll change? Something could snap; it's
like air traffic controllers. We could just flip out

from the responsibility of it all!" 

 

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