Posts Tagged ‘David Byrne’

Talking Heads vs. Television :: A BBC Channel 4 Production, 1984

In 1984, Talking Heads performed live at London’s Wembley Arena for a BBC Channel 4 special officially titled “Once In A Lifetime” but more familiarly known as Talking Heads vs Television . The band’s frontman David Byrne is credited as the creative consultant in this 68-minute long production that includes bizarre clips, live concert footage, and interviews

A BBC Channel 4 production from 1984.

Songs performed include:
“Life During Wartime”
“Big Blue Plymouth (Eyes Wide Open)”
“Once in A Lifetime”
“Big Business”
“I Zimbra”
“Slippery People”
“Psycho Killer”
“My Big Hands (Fall Though the Cracks)”
“What A Day That Was”
“Crosseyed And Painless”

Image result for b52's mesopotamia photos

When the B52’s moved from Athens, Ga., to New York City in the late ’70s, one of the first bands that befriended the new wave quintet was David Byrne and Talking Heads. Although the groups had distinct approaches to their music, an alliance made sense, given their shared love of dance music and off-kilter humor. They also shared a manager in Gary Kurfirst (who also worked with the Ramones and Blondie).

The B-52s’ first two albums – 1979’s self-titled debut and 1980’s Wild Planet – used up all of the band’s pre-existing songs. Kurfirst knew the group needed an infusion of new material, although he didn’t expect much to change in regard to the B-52’s nervy, retro-go-go, surf-rock sound.

“I really do feel trapped,” guitarist Ricky Wilson near the end of 1980. “Gary was talking about our next album, and I mentioned that it might not be a dance record, and he was so shocked by that idea. It’s shocking to me that people really do expect that of us now.”

Perhaps seeing a way to soothe Ricky and the band’s frustrations while simultaneously pairing two of his clients together, Kurfirst advocated for Talking Heads frontman David Byrne to produce the next B-52’s album. He wanted Byrne and the B-52’s to begin the project right away, in 1981.

“Actually, we wanted to write more songs,” singer/multi-instrumentalist Kate Pierson recalled . “We weren’t really ready to put out this album, and Gary had suggested working with David Byrne, but we hadn’t written all the songs out. He said, ‘You gotta put another record out!’ He was one of those managers who was, ‘Ya gotta do this! Ya gotta do that!’ So he kind of forced us.”

Although the band – who were looking to do something new – and Byrne – who had become interested in production via Talking Heads’ work with Brian Eno were excited to work together, the situation in ’81 was far from ideal. As Pierson said, the B-52’s barely had enough material to record while the Talking Heads’ singer was working on his soundtrack for Twyla Tharp’s dance project The Catherine Wheel .

Bowing to pressure, each side made compromises. The band hastily readied the new songs and Byrne worked simultaneously on the projects – devoting time to The Catherine Wheel during the day and producing the B-52’s by night (and getting little sleep in the process). The match between these musicians seemed ideal, but the situation was far from it.

“‘Cake’ wasn’t really finished,” Pierson said. “‘Deep Sleep,’ I just kind of stuck that lyric on in the studio in one take. It was just not finished.”

Mesopotamia was the name given to the project, which found Byrne helping the B-52’s to broaden their sound by using a lot of elements familiar to the recent Talking Heads LPs: worldbeat, horn sections and densely layered synthesizers. Whether it was lack of sleep, material or artistic cohesion, the collaboration soon broke down. The sessions stopped, leaving Kurfirst in a difficult spot.

The manager had promised this new release with a high-profile partnership to the B-52’s record labels (Warner Bros. in the U.S., Island in the U.K.) and now might have nothing to show for it. Kurfirst arranged to put out a remix EP – Party Mix – to buy the band some time to assemble something from the Mesopotamia studio sessions.

Eventually, the band agreed that there was enough good material to deliver a 25-minute EP with six songs. Ironically, “Throw That Trash in the Garbage Can” made the final tracklist. Other songs were junked and some were refashioned/re-recorded for 1983’s Whammy.

Mesopotamia came out on January. 27th, 1982, followed by the B-52’s “Meso-American” tour to promote the record, including a guest spot on the daytime soap opera Guiding Light. But the difficulties didn’t end with the EP’s release.

In Island’s haste to get Mesopotamia printed and in stores, the label accidentally included longer rough mixes of “Cake,” “Loveland” and “Throw That Beat”  upping the EP’s running time by more than seven minutes. The error was found and corrected, but the fans who got their hands on an initial version quickly dubbed the demo versions “David Byrne’s original mixes,” due to some funkier touches and denser sounds. Some listeners still prefer the rougher takes to the versions on the approved EP, which earned mostly mixed reviews from fans and critics.

Because of the project’s rushed nature, fizzled collaboration and (partially) botched release, Mesopotamia remains a controversial entry in the B-52’s catalog. Over the decades there have been rumors, and even some blunt talk from singer Fred Schneider, about expanding the EP into a fully realized album.

“We sometimes think, ‘Wow, if only we could go back and finish Mesopotamia’,” Pierson said.


How Music Works
Author: David Byrne

This book leapfrogged Talking Heads as David Byrne’s most significant contribution to mankind. It is an encyclopedia and bible in one, all written in Byrne’s easygoing, engaging style. His stories swing from hilarious to inspiring, and his knowledge of music theory is actually comprehensible for a non-musician.

The plot, if there is one, is strung together in a semi-autobiographical narrative: Byrne relates his time as a grungy NYC kid and his steady climb up the industry ladder. He also goes in depth with new technologies and possibilities for independent musicians: one of the best chapters in book breaks down the various types of label deals, his experiences with different types of labels and managers, and in a selfless and bold move, lays out exactly how much money he made on each deal.

This is a must-read for any creative, whether or not music is involved.

The People’s Cosign: I thoroughly enjoyed the way David Byrne explores how music is integral to our existence, how music affects us and how we affect music. It is an interesting study of the music industry and his theories on our relationship with music are thought-provoking. He examines how music influences our cultures and our history from present day dating as far back as Ancient Assyria and Sumer! I am not a musician and I would recommend this book as a must read for anyone who has a passion for music. I have a whole new perspective thanks to David Byrne


Every year, Knitting Factory/City Winery founder Michael Dorf hosts a tribute concert at Carnegie Hall benefiting music-education programs. And the honoree of this year’s 11th annual show was a true New York music legend: David Byrne. Featuring performances from the likes of CeeLo Green, Amanda Palmer, and Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, it was a night of yelpy singing, jittery dancing, and at least one comically oversize suit. Here’s a rundown of the night’s highs (high high high high hiiiiighs )

David Byrne also crashed his own tribute concert, leading a marching band down the aisle at Carnegie Hall and, eventually, to an onstage dance party to the tune of “Uptown Funk.” Showing up at the end of an annual tribute that benefits music education, an unusual sight since past musicians whose work was celebrated — like Paul Simon and Prince  did not perform. David Byrne’s entrance came after CeeLo Green brought the tribute to a close by singing “Take Me to the River.”

The former Talking Heads frontman, dressed in a white shirt with black bracers and black bow tie, sang “God’s Army” with the brass-and-drum Brooklyn United Marching Band, singing to the audience that “everything I did, I did for you.”

The band, joined by red-suited dancers, belted out “Uptown Funk” while most of the artists who performed Byrnes’ work joined them onstage.

The artists led a highly danceable romp through Byrne’s eclectic catalog as a solo artist and bandleader. Soul singer Sharon Jones brought the audience to its feet with the first notes of “Psycho Killer” and kept them there.

In an unusual mash-up of 1980s culture, ZZ Top guitarist Billy F. Gibbons spoke-sang Talking Heads’ Afro-funk “Houses in Motion.” Gibbons easily beat singer Steve Earle, who performed the Byrne solo song “A Million Miles Away,” in the longest beard competition.  Other highlights included “Once” singer Glen Hansard dueting with Jherek Bischoff on “Girlfriend is Better,” with a piercing fiddle. Joseph Arthur painted a portrait in the midst of his eerie version of “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody).” The Roots were joined by singer Donn T for “Born Under Punches.” Santigold brought fire — and some synchronized dancers — for “Burning Down the House.”

Appropriately enough, the benefit was opened by a group of school-aged youngsters performing “Stay Up Late.” Then, presumably, they went to bed.

Performer: Cibo Matto featuring Nels Cline Song: “I Zimbra”

Well, this was wonderful: a perfect pairing of performers and song. Clad in all-white everything, the recently reunited Japan-by-way-of-NYC food-pop duo Cibo Matto expertly walked that very Byrne-ian tightrope between artful self-seriousness and goofy, unadulterated joy. During the instrumental part, they did a series of synchronized dance moves that recalled a cross between air-traffic controllers and the backup singers from Stop Making Sense, while Wilco guitarist Nels Cline provided some of his signature avant-noodling. Mostly this performance served as evidence that Miho Hatori is still one of the most stylish people on the planet. Perched on Cibo Matto‘s keyboard was a drawing of a bicycle with a big basket — Byrne’s usual mode of transportation around the city he calls home.

Performer: Jade from (or formerly from?) Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros  Song: “Here Lies Love” (from the Byrne/Fatboy Slim musical Here Lies Love) Jade — best known as the female singer in that one Edward Sharpe song that everyone knows — has a pleasant voice, but her stage presence last night was a little awkward. Dressed as a Disney princess who was loosely based on Janis Joplin, she spent most of the song twirling, swaying, and generally looking deeply uncomfortable as a front person.

Performer: Alexis Krauss from Sleigh Bells  Song: “Life During Wartime” Before she came to front the demolition derby/pep rally that is bubblegum-punk duo Sleigh Bells, Alexis Krauss used to be a New York public schoolteacher, in a school so underfunded that it didn’t have a music program. In a touching speech before her song, she told us that she and her father used to provide free after-school music lessons for her “scholars” (that was cute), and she sweetly brought her dad out to sing backup. And then she straight-up ripped the fucking roof off Carnegie Hall. I was not a huge fan of the last Sleigh Bells album, but after Krauss’s exhilarating and overwhelmingly charismatic performance (she even did the rubber-arms dance from Stop Making Sense!), I am anxiously awaiting an inevitable Alexis Krauss solo album. The crowd, rightfully, went nuts for this one. RememberMarch 23rd, 2015 is the day a member of Sleigh Bells got a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall.

Performer: Pete Molinari  Song: “Heaven” , The British folk singer Pete Molinari is a human-size Kewpie doll they dressed to look like Bob Dylan. He was the only performer of the night who played without a backing band, and let’s just say this minimalism did not exactly serve him. Molinari “reworked” the melody to “Heaven,”

Performer: Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top  The song: “Houses in Motion”  Legendary beardo Billy F. Gibbons began by telling us how much he has always admired Talking Heads press photos, because Byrne was always looking off into space instead of at the camera. What was he looking at? Billy wanted to know. None of us could say. “Well,” said Billy, with a gruff pause, “Here’s looking at you, David.” There are maybe three people in the world who can get away with this sort of stage banter, and God bless them, they were all once in ZZ Top. While I will forever dream of what a Billy Gibbons cover of “Swamp” might have sounded like, this really was a perfect song choice, with the enchilada-bluesman finding the southern funk in this gem from Remain in Light’s weird(er) side. His spoken-word delivery was on-point, and (bonus points) he was very nice to the fan I saw ask him for a selfie on the street after the show. .

Performer: Amanda Palmer  Song: “Once in a Lifetime” Not liking Amanda Palmer is so easy that it seems villainously lazy, like taking candy from a baby. But then sometimes that baby comes out ahead of her cue on what was otherwise an exceptionally well-oiled show and impatiently demands into the void, “Can I get a spotlight on me?” and then you’re like, “Oh, yeah. That’s why.” So I am really looking deep inside of myself here when I tell you that this performance was not terrible.

I guess it is hard to fuck up one of the most cherished entries in the Great Human Songbook, its strange for a visibly pregnant woman singing a song about existential confusion. The circle of life, am I right?! Her goth-cabaret delivery of the chorus, but I cannot deny she was channeling it from somewhere else during the verse about the water at the bottom of the ocean. We’re cool for now, Palmer.

Performer: O.A.R.  Song: “And She Was”   This was the most faithful cover of the night, basically a note-for-note rendition by a very good bar band. I am giving them an extra point because even though there was a bongo left onstage from a previous performance, no one from O.A.R. even touched it.

Performer: Sharon Jones  Song: “Psycho Killer” The first performance of the night that got everybody on their feet. I mean, this one speaks for itself: Sharon Jones, in sequins, singing the shit out of “Psycho Killer.” Pete Molinari lied! This was Heaven!

Performer: CeeLo Green  Song: “Take Me to the River”  the entertainer, and pop culture & fashion icon, and professional ladykiller” in his bio?.  Fashion icon CeeLo Green was dressed in black slouchy Hammer pants and a shirt inspired by black slouchy Hammer pants, making him look like an evil genie who would fail to read you the fine print about your wishes or something. His performance was fine, but I can think of a thousand singers who would have done this song just as well or better.

Performer: David Byrne and an entire  Brooklyn  United Marching band  Song: “Uptown Funk”?

Yes, for real. The finale of this glorious night was the man of the hour Mr David Byrne — clad in a crisp dress shirt, bow tie, and black bracers walking through the aisle of Carnegie Hall with the Brooklyn United Marching Band behind him. First they played a jaunty version of “God’s Love,” and then, just when it seemed like they might end with one of Byrne’s more well-known hits, the marching band instead launched into … “Uptown Funk.” Byrne did not sing (sadly) but instead danced around angularly and hugged everyone onstage.  Which means it was the ultimate David Byrne performance.


Carnegie Hall will host “The Music of David Byrne & Talking Heads” on March 23rd. The performing artists will be announced at a later date. The show will serve as a benefit for music education programs serving underprivileged youth put on by Michael Dorf. Past tribute shows have included the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, R.E.M., Paul Simon and Prince.

Each year, impresario Michael Dorf puts together an eclectic and well-rounded lineup of performers to pay tribute to a legend at New York City’s historic Carnegie Hall. We’re very excited to see that Carnegie Hall has announced the 2015 installment will pay tribute to The Music Of David Byrne & Talking Heads. If past announcements are any guide look for the initial list of performers to drop early in January. Proceeds will benefit music education programs serving underprivileged youth.

There are so many possibilities for this concert. We’d love to see The Roots tackle “Life During Wartime,” Phish welcomed to switch it up by covering “Burning Down The House” (last played at Vernon Downs in 1998), The Wood Brothers perform “Heaven,” Aaron Neville on “Take Me To The River,” Felice Brothers shake up “Girlfriend Is Better” or Patti Smith sing “Heaven.” We can’t wait to see what Dorf has in store.

From the dvd “Chronology” a rare live presentation in New York on 1976. Taken from the album “More Songs About Buildings and Food” is the second studio album by the American indie rock band Talking Heads, released in July 1978 and the first of a string of three co-produced by Brian Eno. The album was significantly more popular than their first, Talking Heads: 77. The band’s blend of funky basslines,and mixtures of influences, along with David Byrne‘s unique voice, established the group as a critical success known for their live shows, but still to start with disappointing album sales.

The video footage of David Byrne joining Arcade Fire on stage to a cover of the duo Suicide and the song “DREAM BABY DREAM” recorded at Barclay’s 24/08/2014.


Anna releases a five track Ep this month with a few nice covers titled “Strange Weather”  the track here is a cover of Connan Mockasin I’m the Man That Will Find You” there is also a cover of a Suicide track “Ghost Rider”