Posts Tagged ‘Remain in Light’

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Talking Heads’ 1980 song “Once in a Lifetime” is one of the most durable songs of its era, watch the video and see how it has held up to numerous interpretations — via remixes, covers, mash-ups, samples and live takes.

Released in 1980’s “Remain in Light”, “Once in a Lifetime” shows the growing influence that producer Brian Eno, was having over the group. David Byrne used his downtime to work with Brian Eno (who’d produced the previous two Talking Heads records) Eno had introduced them to the work of Fela Kuti when he first met the band in 1977, and the Afrobeat legend’s polyrhythms first made their way into their sound on 1979’s Fear of Music.

In addition, David Byrne’s speak-singing on the verses was inspired by field recordings of American preachers that Byrne was listening to while working on “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts,” a collaborative album with Eno that he was working on at the same time as “Remain in Light”. Those recordings also factored into the lyrics.

“Most of the words in ‘Once in a Lifetime’ come from evangelists I recorded off the radio while taking notes and picking up phrases I thought were interesting directions,” he said (via Songfacts). “Maybe I’m fascinated with the middle class because it seems so different from my life, so distant from what I do. I can’t imagine living like that.” Meanwhile, Weymouth and Frantz took a long holiday in the Caribbean, where they pondered the group’s future and soaked up musical influences that would set them in good stead. Feeling Byrne had become too controlling, they looked to redress the balance; rather than rely on their frontman bringing material to the group, Weymouth and Franz suggested they emulate the music that was exciting them – early hip-hop, Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat grooves, West African highlife pop – and embark upon jam sessions,

Frantz and Weymouth invited Harrison to their New York loft for informal jams, recorded on Frantz’s boombox. When it became apparent they had the beginnings of some promising tracks, they reached out to Byrne and Eno, both of whom had previously told Frantz they were not interested in making another Talking Heads record. Once the reluctant pair had been separately coaxed over and joined in, things began to get interesting. “By night time we took a break to listen back. You could hear all kinds of interesting parts germinating, mutating and evolving,” Frantz recalled. “There was no denying that Talking Heads still had a great chemistry going on and the beats were good.

One of those jams, a hypnotic and relentless instrumental called Right Start, might very well have been abandoned. Instead, it was worked up to become one of the best Talking Heads songs of all, the transcendent “Once In A Lifetime”.

Byrne expanded on its portrayal of a middle-class suburban man when he spoke with NPR in 2000. “We’re largely unconscious,” he said. “You know, we operate half awake or on autopilot and end up, whatever, with a house and family and job and everything else, and we haven’t really stopped to ask ourselves, ‘How did I get here?'”

Yet for all its fame, the song wasn’t even a hit. Although the original version reach No. 20 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart, it failed to make Billboard’s Hot 100. But its video was frequently shown on MTV in the network’s early days. Five years later, however, the live take from their concert film Stop Making Sense.

 

The 1980 Original Version – Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime” which received a single release on 2nd February 1981, was an obvious high point on the album that emerged from those sessions, 1981’s “Remain In Light”, the song’s video lodged it firmly in the public consciousness. Choregraphed by Toni Basil (of Hey Mickey fame, who also co-directed the promo clip with Byrne), the video featured a suited and bespectacled Byrne dancing like a possessed marionette, his moves inspired by archive footage of “preachers, evangelists, people in trances, African tribes, Japanese religious sects”.

Music Video Set to Scenes From David Bowie’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth”

Once it was picked up by MTV (which launched ten months after Remain In Light’s release), it became hailed as one of the best music videos of all time – a stark visual inseparable from the song.

1980 – Talking Heads Live Version

 

Talking Heads Live Wembley 1982 Once In A Lifetime

Byrne himself has suggested the song implores the listener to take stock of their lives. “We’re largely unconscious. You know, we operate half-awake or on autopilot and end up, whatever, with a house and family and job and everything else. We haven’t really stopped to ask ourselves, ‘How did I get here?’”

Remain In Light (Deluxe Version)

This is not only Talking Heads’ best record, it’s on the shortlist of the most innovative albums ever made. Under the influence of Brian Eno, the group began to weave African music into the dance grooves (years before Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ did the same thing in a less transformative manner). Also, Eno and the members implemented the cutting-edge tactic of crafting loops and samples to form the core of tracks. That was unheard of when it came to rock, so it makes the music on this album a second cousin of hip-hop (another influence on the album in terms of Byrne’s delivery). Few bands have ever been so fearlessly creative as to make an extended tribal groove that is as breakneck as it is epic, then perforate it with a snarling guitar solo from Adrian Belew (“The Great Curve”). “Once in a Lifetime” is so weird, it’s hard to believe it’s become a celebrated staple of our musical past. Such is the power of a dive-bombing bass line, intriguing synthesizer sounds and Byrne’s nervy, nerdy charisma. After running themselves ragged on the earlier parts of the album, Talking Heads slow down and stretch out on the last three tracks, proving that they can be just as interesting after the dance party ends. Droning closer “The Overload” adds layer after layer of texture as it stretches into the void as the occasional squawking loop pays homage to another, great meditative final track: “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Is there a way for such dark thoughts to remain in light? Talking Heads found a way.

“And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” The amazing “Once In A Lifetime” only hinted at the burst of creativity on the Talking Heads album “Remain In Light”. The 1980 Sire Records album finds the quartet incorporating African polyrhythms into its music, as well as making innovative use of loops and samples as instrumental tracks. Brian Eno returns as producer (guitarist Adrian Belew and funk keyboard great Bernie Worrell also contribute to the album), helping strike an appealing balance between danceable grooves (“Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On),” “Crosseyed And Painless”) and more experimental fare (“Houses In Motion,” “The Overload”). The Deluxe Edition of REMAIN IN LIGHT adds four previously unreleased outtakes to the landmark alternative rock album; we’ll give the collection a spin now to wish Heads frontman David Byrne a happy birthday.

Album cover containing a drawing of a mountain range and four mostly red warplanes flying in formation. There is green text on the left hand side and a barcode in the top right corner.

“And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” The amazing “Once In A Lifetime” only hinted at the burst of creativity on Talking Heads’ Remain In Light. The 1980 Sire Records album finds the quartet incorporating African polyrhythms into its music, as well as making innovative use of loops and samples as instrumental tracks. Brian Eno returns as producer (guitarist Adrian Belew and funk keyboard great Bernie Worrell also contribute to the album), helping strike an appealing balance between danceable grooves (“Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On),” “Crosseyed And Painless”) and more experimental fare (“Houses In Motion,” “The Overload”). While outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Pitchfork to Slant have called Remain in Light one of the best albums of the 1980s, it has a thrilling sense of discovery that remains of-the-moment.

Talking Heads

  • David Byrne – lead vocals, guitars, bass guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocal arrangements
  • Jerry Harrison – guitars, bass guitar, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals
  • Tina Weymouth – bass guitar, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals
  • Chris Frantz – drums, percussion, keyboards, backing vocals

remain in light

“Remain in Light” is the fourth studio album by the Talking Heads, In January 1980, the members of Talking Heads returned to New York City after the tours in support of their 1979 critically acclaimed third album, Fear of Music, and decided to take time off to pursue personal interests. Byrne worked with Eno, the record’s producer, on an experimental collaboration named My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Jerry Harrison produced an album for soul singer Nona Hendryx at the Sigma Sound Studios branch in New York City; the singer and the location were later used during the recording of Remain in Light on Harrison’s advice. Husband and wife Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth discussed the possibility of leaving the band after the latter suggested that Byrne’s level of control was excessive. Frantz did not want the ending Talking Heads, and the two decided to take a long vacation in the Caribbean to ponder the state of the band. During the trip, the couple became involved in Haitian Vodou religious ceremonies and practiced with several types of native percussion instruments. In Jamaica, they socialized with the famous reggae rhythm section of Sly and Robbie.

Instead of the band writing music to Byrne’s lyrics, Talking Heads performed instrumental jam sessions without words using the Fear of Music song “I Zimbra” as a starting point.

Talking Heads’ contribution to the avant-punk scene they helped create was their emphasis on rhythm over beat. The Heads’ early songs pulsed, winding their way past jitteriness to achieve the compelling tension that defined a particular moment in rock & roll history such a moment when white rock fans wanted to dance so badly, and yet were so intimidated by the idea, that they started hopping straight up and down for instant relief. By 1978, punk and disco had divided the pop audience. What did Talking Heads do? They recorded Al Green’s “Take Me to the River.”

Despite David Byrne’s vocal restraint and certain puritanical tendencies in his lyrics to value work over pleasure (“Artists Only,” “Don’t Worry about the Government”), Talking Heads never stopped learning from the sensuous music that existed in a world parallel to theirs. On 1979’s Fear of Music, they made a defiant connection with funk and disco in “I Zimbra” and “Life during Wartime,” both of which aid in preparing us for Remain in Light’s startling avant-primitivism.
On Remain in Light, rhythm takes over. Each of the eight compositions adheres to a single guitar-drum riff repeated endlessly, creating what funk musicians commonly refer to as a groove. A series of thin, shifting layers is then added: more jiggly percussion, glancing and contrasting guitar figures, singing by Byrne that represents a sharp and exhilarating break with the neurotic and intentionally wooden vocals that had previously characterized all Talking Heads albums.

Though the tunes take their time (side one has just three cuts), nobody steps out to solo here. There isn’t any elaboration of the initial unifying riff either. Because of this, these songs resemble the African music that the band has taken great pains to acknowledge as Remain in Light’s guiding structure.

In addition to its African influences, Remain in Light also flashes the ecstatic freedom of current American funk, across which any number of complex emotions and topics can roam. In both “Born under Punches (the Heat Goes On)” and “Crosseyed and Painless,” the rhythm lurches about while always moving forward, thrust ahead by the tough, serene beat of the bass and percussion. Throughout, instruments are so tightly meshed that it’s often difficult to pick out what you’re hearing—or even who’s playing. As part of their let’s-rethink-this-music attitude, Talking Heads occasionally play one another’s instruments, and guests as disparate as Robert Palmer and Nona Hendryx are enlisted.  Far from being confusing, however, such density contributes greatly to the mesmerizing power exerted by these elaborate dance tunes.

Though you can follow, to some extent, the story lines of, say, “Listening Wind” (in which an Indian stores up weaponry to launch an assault on plundering Americans) and the spoken fable, “Seen and Not Seen,” Remain in Light’s lyrics are more frequently utilized to describe or embody abstract concepts. Thus, beneath the wild dance patterns of “Crosseyed and Painless,” there lurks a dementedly sober disquisition on the nature of facts that culminates in a hilarious, rapidly recited list of characteristics (“Facts are simple and facts are straight/Facts are lazy and facts are late… “) that could go on forever —and probably does, since the song fades out before the singer can finish reading what’s on the lyric sheet. Elsewhere, strings of words convey meaning only through Byrne’s intonation and emphasis: his throaty, conspiratorial murmur in “Houses in Motion” adds implications you can’t extract from lines as flyaway as “I’m walking a line— I’m thinking about empty motion.”

In all of this lies a solution to a problem that was clearly bothering David Byrne on Fear of Music: how to write rock lyrics that don’t yield to easy analysis and yet aren’t pretentious. Talking Heads’ most radical attempt at an answer was the use of da-daist Hugo Ball’s nonsense words as a mock-African chant in “I Zimbra.” The strategy on Remain in Light is much more complicated and risky. In compositions like “Born under Punches” and “Crosseyed and Painless,” phrases are suggested and measured, repeated and turned inside out, in reaction to the spins and spirals of their organizing riff-melodies.

Once in a while, the experiments backfire on the experimenters. Both “The Great Curve” and “The Overload” are droning drags, full of screeching guitar noise that’s more freaked-out than felt. Usually, however, the gambler’s aesthetic operating within Remain in Light yields scary, funny music to which you can dance and think, think and dance, dance and think .

The album featured the new Talking Heads – a multi-personnel band with added percussionists, backing vocalists and guitarist Adrian Belew, who put the wah-wah pedal to its most tasteful use since Jimi Hendrix. The difference was noticeable immediately. Talking Heads songs had always been monologues in the past, but now there were two or three different vocal sections contrasting perspectives on the same issues.

The music was funkier, with more embellishments than before, and ‘Remain in Light’ represented a completely new approach, rather than an alteration of the old one. The album’s most striking track was ‘Once In A Lifetime’ which – with the help of a dramatically simple and effective video – became the band’s first British top 20 single. Talking Heads toured around the world with their extended line-up.

Talking Heads – Full Concert Here’s some excellent — and essential — Friday viewing: a complete, 80-minute Talking Heads concert from 1980 that was shot on multiple cameras.
The show was held at the Capitol Theatre in Passiac, New Jersey, one of the few mid-sized concert halls equipped with in house multi-camera video system at the time.

This Rare concert footage of Talking Heads performing during their legendary Remain in Light trek has been unearthed after 35 years. featuring the“Afro-funk orchestra” and guitar god Adrian Belew. Filmed four years before the band’s concert film Stop Making Sense, this 80-minute performance was taped in stark black-and-white at Passiac, New Jersey’s Capitol Theatre on November 4, 1980. The show came less than a month after the quartet released their landmark Remain in Light, and five of the gig’s 14 songs are culled from that album.

Songs like “Houses In Motion” and “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” take on a rawer, more frenetic guise on the stage, with the Talking Heads – then at the peak of their powers – aided onstage by King Crimson’s Adrian Belew, who contributes Fripp-ian guitar to the Remain in Light tracks. Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell – who performed with the Talking Heads live throughout the Eighties – also appeared at the Passaic show.

Watch the video below via the Music Vault, a site that has remastered and uploaded thousands of old concert videos.
Setlist:
0:00:00 – Psycho Killer, 0:05:45 – Warning Sign, 0:11:34 – Stay Hungry, 0:15:25 – Cities, 0:20:10 – I Zimbra, 0:24:41 – Drugs
0:29:23 – Once In A Lifetime, 0:35:11 – Animals, 0:39:28 – Houses In Motion, 0:45:56 – Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
0:53:05 – Crosseyed And Painless, 0:59:30 – Life During Wartime, 1:04:56 – Take Me To The River, 1:11:02 – The Great Curve

Recorded Live: 11/4/1980 – Capitol Theatre (Passaic, NJ)

For me, the apex of the Talking Heads’ career was, hands down, Remain in Light and the subsequent tour with the expanded “Afro-funk orchestra”  line-up featuring future King Crimson guitar god Adrian Belew wringing all kinds of impossible noises out of his guitar. When the band released their (excellent) Chronology DVD in 2011, it included a clip of an astonishing 1980 performance of “Crosseyed and Painless” taped at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ, probably one of the few mid-sized concert halls of that era to have installed a multi-camera video system. Where there’s one number, there tends to be, you know, an entire show, as I and many other Talking Heads fans mused upon seeing that tantalizing excerpt and now the whole thing was posted recently at the Talking Heads page at Music Vault.

Setlist:
0:00:00 – Psycho Killer
0:05:45 – Warning Sign
0:11:34 – Stay Hungry
0:15:25 – Cities
0:20:10 – I Zimbra
0:24:41 – Drugs
0:29:23 – Once In A Lifetime
0:35:11 – Animals
0:39:28 – Houses In Motion
0:45:56 – Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
0:53:05 – Crosseyed And Painless
0:59:30 – Life During Wartime
1:04:56 – Take Me To The River
1:11:02 – The Great Curve

Personnel:
David Byrne – lead vocals, guitar
Jerry Harrison – guitar, keyboards, vocals
Tina Weymouth – bass, keyboards, guitar, vocals
Chris Frantz – drums, vocals
Adrian Belew – lead guitar, vocals
Bernie Worrell – keyboards
Busta Cherry Jones – bass
Steve Scales – percussion
Dolette McDonald – vocals

This setlist is as good as any Talking Heads show ever got and the build up to the synapse-burning finale of “The Great Curve” makes this my favorite long form Talking Heads show.  This is so… fresh and joyful sounding. Timeless. If this doesn’t provide you with some sort of MASSIVE eargasm, you simply don’t like music. Or maybe you fear it?