Living with…Talking Heads…for a week

Memories of first hearing Talking Heads are intrinsically tied to a short and all but forgotten friendship.  George had moved over to England from Greece to live with his beautiful blonde wife.  The marriage wasn’t going well – maybe it all wasn’t quite so rosy and romantic away from the warmth of the Adriatic and back in the harsh cold of an English winter.  Maybe it was living with the in-laws.  We both worked shifts on a chicken farm in Sussex collecting hundreds of eggs every day and amidst the stench and noise we shared our tastes in music.  Looking back, I think he humoured my crossover from progressive rock, and for his part he introduced me to something new wave…Talking Heads.

George left the farm before me and returned home  to Greece, I think alone.  I travelled across Europe that summer and phoned the number he’d left me when I was in Athens but never got through…in the age before mobiles, texting and emails that was the end of the relationship really.

That time on the farm left me with three things – the desire to always buy free-range having seen factory farming; the ability to count in sixes and an introduction to the weird sound of David Byrne, those pseudo African beats of Talking Heads and songs that just looped and looped.  Since then its been an on and off relationship with the Heads over many years.  The live video of Stop Making Sense is one of my all-time favourite live events,  I love the way the set develops  song by song, extra members of the band joining as they perform.

For this week I’ll live with the Remain in Light album from 1980.

The standout track on the album is obviously Once in a Lifetime for its exquisitely perceptive lyrics overlaid on the beautiful rhythms that fill the whole album

‘And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”‘

Lyrics that captured a moment in our family history and probably so many others.  When the material trappings of life seem to fall away and something else is required.  Its great to think its original title was Weird Guitar Riff Song as if the lyrics didn’t matter.  It was brilliant in the 80s and its brilliant still…

And although I can’t recall the full story of George and his beautiful blonde wife maybe this was the song and the words that swayed him in his decision to move on…’Time isn’t holding up, time isn’t after us. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.’

That’s not to take anything away from the rest of the album- the rhythm and richness of sound draws you in to a different way of listening.  The repetition means that you wallow in the songs letting them wash over you…and it becomes quite addictive.  I struggle to draw any wisdom from the rest of the lyrics but I’m not sure if you’re supposed to…just turn the dial right the way up and as I said wallow in it all.

And this is the first group/ artist that I’ve lived with where I had to get out some other tracks just to recall how much I loved their material…and in the next few weeks I’m going to dust down that DVD of Stop Making Sense and watch it all through again.

After the disaster with Prince last week its a relief to have my faith in 80s music restored again.

I wonder if George is still listening to Talking Heads…I hope so.

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