INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Rolling Stone OCTOBER 30, 1980 - by Jon Pareles
TALKING HEADS CHANGE THEIR SHAPE
Talking Heads, Wollman Rink, New York City, August 27, 1980
As city dwellers with open ears and a fondness for repetition, it was natural for Talking Heads to turn to funk - they were more than halfway there already. But only those who knew about the group's set at the Heatwave festival in Toronto a week earlier expected them to show up in Central park as a ten-piece band with a spare keyboardist (Bernie Worrell, formerly with Funkadelic), guitarist (Adrian Belew, formerly with David Bowie), bassist (Busta Jones), percussionist (Steve Scale) and vocalists (Dolette McDonald and Nona Hendryx). Supporting players joined the four core Heads in familiar songs - Belew and Scale in Warning Sign, the singers in Cities - until the full lineup was mustered or a densely polyrhythmic I Zimbra, an appropriate lead-in to the songs from their forthcoming album, Remain In Light.
The new material - and the Nigerian music that played over the PA before their set - showed that the Heads have been listening to both American and African funk. Like I Zimbra, David Byrne's latest compositions stay on one chord for long stretches but are broken up by all sorts of percussive interplay. The extended band was designed to show clashes in every register: Tina Weymouth's stolid bass line versus Jones' syncopated thunks; Belew's sustained, weightless leads versus Byrne's chopping and Worrell's chattering clavinet; Byrne's reedy voice versus his gospel-toned backups. Most of the new songs also used interlocking vocal lines, with short interjections punctuating long, chant-like phrases. The many layers of cross-rhythm kept the songs from sounding like disco, and while there was jamming galore, the tunes weren't stretched.
With all the people onstage, Byrne acted more like a band-leader than a beserker. In fact, the bigger band robbed Take Me To The River of its psychotic undertones, making it almost celebratory. Old Talking Heads fans may have been disappointed to see Byrne trading in dramatic tension for more rhythm and to hear the band sounding more like P-Funk (especially during Houses In Motion) than The Velvets or the 1910 Fruitgum Company. But it's too early to tell exactly what groove the Heads will stay with; this band found plenty of them.