Wednesday, September 3, 2014

stop making sense

Talking Heads incorporated experimental theatre into their slippery stage show to burn down the house with the funky fire of this consummate celluloid concert.   While touring to support their album 'Speaking in Tongues', the group worked with director Jonathan Demme to record three shows in Hollywood at the Pantages Theater in December of 1983.  The band raised over 1.2 million for the film themselves.  'Stop Making Sense' was the first film to use entirely digital audio.  The performances featured David Byrne on guitar and vocals;  Chris Frantz on drums and vocals;  Jerry Harrison on guitar, keyboards, and vocals;  and Tina Weymouth on bass, guitar, keyboards, and vocals;   with Bernie Worrell on keyboards;  Alex Weir on guitar and vocals;  Steve Scales on percussion;  and Edna Holt and Lynn Mabry on backing vocals.  

Byrne reveals:  "When I was in high school, there were these British blues-rock-type bands with really good guitar players that would jam on one song for half an hour. And as much as I was amazed by some of those guitar players, seeing them prompted me to make a note that that's not something I could do. [laughs] There were other cover bands I saw around then that did Memphis and Motown songs, and they had stage effects-- there was one part where they turned on UV lights and they all had white gloves on, so you would just see these gloves doing a routine. It sounds very much like a minstrel show and it probably was [laughs], but you go, "Oh, look at that!" when you see something and it's not just the band performing.   "By the time Talking Heads were starting, my feeling was to throw out everything and start from scratch onstage; strip it down to as close to zero as you can get and then you can make it yours."   In college in the early 1970s, I remember seeing an amazing James Brown show, and he had two women dancers, one on each side of the stage. They were kind of like go-go dancers, and that was all they did. I thought, "Wow. That's amazing that it's so important for him to have that element represented on stage that he will pay to have those women be a part of the show even though they're not contributing anything musically." I made a note of that.   And by the time Talking Heads were starting, my feeling was to throw out everything and start from scratch onstage; strip it down to as close to zero as you can get and then you can make it yours. It was a little bit after that that I became aware of more experimental theater, and those things had at least as big of an influence on me as any rock shows that I saw."

 The film begins with Byrne walking out on an empty stage to perform solo with a tape track.  With each successive song, another member joins him on stage, starting with Tina Weymouth, and continuing with Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, and the rest of the band.  As the show continues, stage hands gradually bring more and more equipment.  The film features songs from each of the band's albums up to that point ('Talking Heads '77', 'More Songs About Buildings And Food', 'Fear of Music', 'Remain in Light', and 'Speaking in Tongues') as well as songs from the Tom Tom Club and the Catherine Wheel project; but the soundtrack initially released only included nine of the songs.  For years, fans bemoaned the fact that the entire concert was not available.  It wasn't until September of 1999 that they got what they wanted when a special edition of the show was released in conjunction with the rerelease of the film.  

Byrne considers:   "I'm proud of 'Stop Making Sense', but it's a little bit of an albatross; I can't compete with it, but I can't ignore it either...After a while, it was like the tour had never stopped. The film just kept playing. So many more people saw the film than ever saw the live show. In the film, we're playing in a 2,500-person theater-- we weren't playing arenas or stadiums or anything like that. We weren't raking in the money on the live shows, but we were very successful and we were having a good time. In fact, most people thought there was no live show and that it was all created onstage by [director] Jonathan [Demme]."

 'Stop Making Sense'  became a massive critical and commercial success, with the soundtrack going to forty-one in the US, thirty-three in Canada, twenty-six in Sweden, twenty-four in the UK, thirteen in Switzerland, twelve in Austria, and number two in the Netherlands and New Zealand.

 'Stop Making Sense' 
full album:  

 'Stop Making Sense' 
full movie:

Watch Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense (1984) in Music  |  View More Free Videos Online at

All songs in the film are written by David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth, except where noted:

"Psycho Killer" (Byrne, Frantz, Weymouth)
"Heaven" (Byrne, Harrison)
"Thank You for Sending Me an Angel" (Byrne)
"Found a Job" (Byrne)
"Slippery People"
"Burning Down the House"
"Life During Wartime"
"Making Flippy Floppy"
"What a Day That Was" (Byrne)
"This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)"
"Once in a Lifetime" (Byrne, Brian Eno, Frantz, Harrison, Weymouth)
"Genius of Love" (as Tom Tom Club) (Weymouth, Frantz, Adrian Belew, Steven Stanley)
"Girlfriend Is Better"
"Take Me to the River" (Al Green, Mabon "Teenie" Hodges)
"Crosseyed and Painless" (Byrne, Eno, Frantz, Harrison, Weymouth)

bonus songs

"Cities" (Byrne)

"Big Business" (Byrne, John Chernoff)/"I Zimbra" (Byrne, Eno, Hugo Ball)

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