2000 - A Club with a Growing Membership Print

'It's good in the car and it's good in bed!" Tina Weymouth is forthright in extolling the virtues of the latest Tom Tom Club album, The Good The Bad and the Funky, the outfit's first offering for eight years. Characteristically, it's an intoxicating mix of soul, reggae, ska and hip-hop influences, topped off with the band's trademark tight 'n' choppy guitar sounds.

For the uninitiated, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz began their musical careers as the rhythm section of legendary New York 'new wavers' Talking Heads. Initially a side project, the Tom Tom Club are probably best remembered for their classic singles "Wordy Rappinghood" and "Genius of Love," the latter of which has been sampled by a host of artists as diverse as Mariah Carey and Grandmaster Flash. The rancorous demise of Talking Heads in the early '90s left the couple free to resurrect their beloved Tom Tom Club project.

Chatting at their London hotel, the couple is full of energy and enthusiasm for The Good the Bad and the Funky, an album that was two-and-a-half years in the making. "I think it's the kind of record that will transport you into a sort of vacation type of head," says Chris, while Tina explains that the record almost never happened at all. "We were working on a retrospective, like a greatest hits because so much of our stuff was out of print. That got killed - legal business - and we'd done these two songs that were originally written for, of all people, Bette Midler. She just didn't have the time, so we said 'OK, we're going to finish them up for ourselves.'"

A new addition to the Tom Tom Club sound is the soulful vocals of Charles Pettigrew - formerly of Charles and Eddie. "We went to the opening of a club in New York City," says Chris, "and the guy who owned it got Charles and Eddie to reform just for one night. Afterwards we asked Charles if he'd be interested in writing some songs and recording with us. Since then we've recorded three songs with him and we've done a number of live shows too. He's totally smooth, he's like up there with Marvin Gaye, I think."

Frustrations with large record companies led to Chris and Tina forming their own label, Tip Top Records, for the release of the album. As Tina explains "We did three tracks with Charles that we took to different labels and said 'Is this what you're looking for?' Finally we said 'OK forget it, these people are looking in a different direction and so let's just form our own label and cut out all the bullshit.' It was really driving us mad with the way they were thinking."

Despite the experience, the pair remains philosophical about artistic integrity and the concept of selling out. Tina takes up the subject; "I don't see how you can sell out. Selling out to us was when you started to use your material, which was made in a much more spiritual head, to sell things like cigarettes or beer. People don't seem to draw those same sort of distinctions that they did 20 or 30 years ago." Chris chips in, "Now, of course, everybody's doing it but there was a time when it wasn't cool, it was considered to be ... just not cool!" Tina continues his theme, "Also you see, you don't have to just be a consumer with your money. That's really repulsive, I mean just buying more houses with swimming pools and whatnot. Do something nice with your money, build a hospital, build a school, unfortunately nowadays the rich don't do that. There are just so many things that are wrong, selling out is like the least issue."

The band will be going on tour in the US to support the release of the album, followed by international dates next year. "We have a really fun band," Tina smiles, "I believe that the reason we're attracting these really great people is because we don't make them replicate the record, there's just no sense in it to us. I mean there's certain things of course where you might say you've gotta play that lick because that's the main part of the song, but in every other aspect what we say is 'we love what you do.' I think that's a blessing for us, that we bring them in and we give them a lot of room to move around and express themselves and be who they are, so they're all stars, they get up on the stage and each one shines."

- Dawn Coates 09.12.00