Sunday, August 3, 2014

fear of music

Talking Heads changed gears with the panoply of paranoia that informs this paradoxical polyrhythmic post punk party.  They had a breakthrough with their second album 'More Songs About Buildings And Food' and the single 'Take Me To The River' becoming a top thirty hit.   Going into the studio on their own to work on new material, the band was unsatisfied with the results and decided to set up at the loft apartment of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth in Long Island City where they used to rehearse back in the day.  It was there that they wound up recording the basic tracks for 'Fear Of Music' using a mobile recording van from Record Plant with engineers running cables in through the loft window.  Brian Eno returned to co-produce the sessions and did electronic treatments on the tracks that resulted.  Eno revealed at the time:  "What appealed to me initially about their music was its powerful structural discipline.  In the Talking Heads, the rhythm section is like a ship or train--very forceful and certain of where it’s going. On top of that you have this hesitant, doubting quality that dizzily asks, ‘Where are we going?’ That makes for a sense of genuine disorientation, unlike the surface insanity of the more commonplace, expressionist punk groups."

Weymouth waxed:    "I realize that some people think our music isn’t exactly heartfelt.  It’s not that we try to be aloof or oblique; it’s just that the ideas are a little unusual--not your typical love stuff. We’ve been criticized for using metaphors about efficiency and economy, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t real feelings behind them...We feel emotional about our songs.  But maybe other people just want us to explode. I think sometimes we almost do spin out of control--I feel like I’m driving a car very fast on a mountainous road. But some things are just too...embarrassing to do onstage...What we are is a bunch of overachievers."

Franz admitted:   "The only thing we have going for us, besides our eccentricities, is our sound.  Sometimes I imagine our whole purpose is to conceive of a song structure or rhythm that would be a breakthrough in music. Maybe get a little paragraph in some theory book. Sounds real corny, but that’s kind of what I hope this group does."

Jerry Harrison said:   "Every once in a while we’ll meet some artist who says, ‘I think using rock & roll for your art form is brilliant.’ I find that repellent. If anything, rock & roll should fit the proletarian view of art, which is partly what made punk so powerful: it was like a revolt of ugliness, a revolt against the elitism of aesthetic beauty. I think there are some deep differences between rock & roll and art."

David Byrne would reflect:   "It’s a question of semantics...I think people confuse coldness and unfeelingness with the fact that we’re aware of what we’re doing. I know that may suggest arrogance or awkwardness, but I mean it in just the literal sense of being aware of what you’re doing,’ like: ‘Look at the funny place we’re in; we’re in front of people doing this.’ That might seem cold to some; to me, it just seems realistic...What bothers us about art rock is the way other bands, like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, have construed it. They take something from a standard high-art context and try to make it palatable for mass tastes. We don’t see ourselves as trying to simplify highfalutin ideas, then slip them over on our audience...We’re in a funny position: it wouldn’t please us to make music that’s impossible to listen to, but we don’t want to compromise for the sake of popularity. It’s possible to make exciting, respectable stuff than can succeed in the marketplace...I haven’t done many interviews recently, but when I do, I make it a point to mention that I’ve never seen a psychiatrist...I’m not an entirely comfortable person. In fact, I admit to being extremely shy at times. But that isn’t necessarily neurotic. Actually, I find it unfortunate that people use so much psychology jargon when they write about me and my songs. I’m skeptical because so many people view psychoanalysis as a valid interpretation of how people operate. I tend to see my own viewpoints and behavior as sensible reactions to the goofy things around me...In order to play a particular character, you have to make yourself believe in the plausibility of his actions or ideas. I couldn’t write a song that I didn’t think was plausible."

'Fear of Music'
features David Byrne on vocals and guitars;   Jerry Harrison on guitars, keyboards, and backing vocals;  Tina Weymouth on bass guitar and backing vocals;   and Chris Frantz on drums;   with Brian Eno on electronic treatments and backing vocals;  Gene Wilder and Ali playing congas on "I Zimbra" and "Life During Wartime";   Julie Last adding backing vocals on "I Zimbra";  Robert Fripp playing guitar on "I Zimbra";   Hassam Ramzy contributing surdo on "I Zimbra";  Abdou M'Boup playing djembe and talking drum on "I Zimbra";  Assane Thiam adding percussion on "I Zimbra";    and The Sweetbreaths doing backing vocals on "Air".  Overdubs were done at The Hit Factory and Atlantic Studios. 

'Fear of Music' went to thirty-five in Australia, thirty-three in the UK, twenty-seven in Canada, twenty-one in the US, and eleven in New Zealand.  Harrison designed the diamond plate inspired album cover that received a Grammy nomination despite resistance from their record label:  "We'd present an idea to the art direction at Sire, then they'd spend three months finding out you couldn't do it. And then we'd try to find out if you could. The same thing happened with Fear of Music...It's kind of a ubiquitous pattern.  You never noticed it until it was brought out of that utilitarian image by being an album cover."

Life During Wartime

Heard of a van that is loaded with weapons
Packed up and ready to go
Heard of some grave sites, out by the highway
A place where nobody knows

The sound of gunfire, off in the distance
I'm getting used to it now
Lived in a brownstone, I lived in the ghetto
I've lived all over this town

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco
This ain't no fooling around
No time for dancing, or lovey dovey
I ain't got time for that now

Transmit the message, to the receiver
Hope for an answer some day
I got three passports, couple of visas
Don't even know my real name

High on a hillside, trucks are loading
Everything's ready to roll, I,
I sleep in the daytime, I work in the night time
I might not ever get home

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco
This ain't no fooling around
This ain't no mud club, or C. B. G. B.
I ain't got time for that now

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco
This ain't no fooling around
No time for dancing, or lovey dovey
I ain't got time for that now

Heard about Houston? Heard about Detroit?
Heard about Pittsburgh, PA?
You ought to know not to stand by the window
Somebody see you up there

I got some groceries, some peanut butter
To last a couple of days
But I ain't got no speakers
Ain't got no headphones
Ain't got no records to play

Why stay in college? Why go to night school?
Gonna be different this time?
Can't write a letter, can't send a postcard
I can't write nothing at all

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco
This ain't no fooling around
I'd love you hold you, I'd like to kiss you
But I ain't got no time for that now

Trouble in transit, got through the roadblock
We blended in with the crowd
We got computers, we're tapping phone lines
I know that ain't allowed

We dress like students, we dress like housewives
Or in a suit and a tie
I changed my hairstyle so many times now
Don't know what I look like

You make me shiver, I feel so tender
We make a pretty good team
Don't get exhausted, I'll do some driving
You ought to get you some sleep

Burned all my notebooks, what good are notebooks?
They won't help me survive
My chest is aching, and it burns like a furnace
The burning keeps me alive

I Zimbra

Air / Cities

'Fear of Music' 
full album:

Side one
1. "I Zimbra" (David Byrne, Brian Eno, Hugo Ball) 0:00
2. "Mind" 3:08
3. "Paper" 7:22
4. "Cities" 10:06
5. "Life During Wartime" (David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth) 14:11
6. "Memories Can't Wait" (David Byrne, Jerry Harrison) 17:52

Side two
7. "Air" 21:22
8. "Heaven" (David Byrne, Jerry Harrison) 24:57
9. "Animals" 28:58
10. "Electric Guitar" 32:28
11. "Drugs" (David Byrne, Brian Eno) 35:37

Dancing For Money (outtake)

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