Thursday, December 31, 2015

Guess I must be having fun

My first awareness of the Talking Heads precisely corresponds to my first awareness of MTV.  In the early 80s I was a young teen who would often come home after school and channel surf.  One day, as I was doing just that, I happened upon something that I found bizarre and fascinating.  Some nerdy looking guy in glasses and a bow tie...dancing, sort front of, alternately, a white background and a wavy, bluish, vaguely watery background.  And singing a catchy tune.

This astonishing display ended, and was followed by commercials, so I went back to channel surfing.  But sometime after dinner that same day I was flipping through the dial once again—pausing from time to time to toggle the A/B switch that doubled the number of channels we could get to a theoretical 24—and happened upon the exact same little bit of wavy weirdness again.  Now I had to know.  Commercials be damned!  I would stick to this channel until I figured out what had gotten into our TV.  And when I did discover what it was, I was smitten.

Talking Heads were the first, but far from the only, wonderful discovery which MTV beamed into my brain.  From straightforward concert videos ("You Better You Bet", The Who), to story telling videos both realistic ("Brass in Pocket", The Pretenders) and imaginative ("Take On Me", a-ha), to the totally goofy ("I Wanna Be a Lifeguard", Blotto; "Feet Don't Fail Me Now", Utopia), to surreal videos for fine songs ("Ashes to Ashes", David Bowie; "Time Heals", Todd Rundgren), to videos that I really appreciated more for their odd visuals than for the song ("Total Eclipse of the Heart", Bonnie Tyler) MTV was my boon companion for many, many hours.

But it is really Tina Weymouth, Jerry Harrison, Chris Frantz, David Byrne, and their occasional friends and collaborators that I have on my mind today.  It is safe to say that most of the music that I listened to and loved in the 80s originated in the British Isles.  The Talking Heads were perhaps the most notable exception.  An American band producing novel and interesting music, combined with thoughtful and amusing lyrics, was just not something that I, at least, came across much.  This was the beginning of my infatuation with the Talking Heads, but there was plenty of reinforcement to come.

Only a couple of years after this momentous discovery, I got my first job: busboy at The Upstart Crow and Company, in the Pruneyard, Campbell.  (I would continue to work there as waiter, barrista, book clerk, assistant bookstore manager, until the day that I came to work and found the doors locked due to bankruptcy.  A very sad day for both the staff and clients who considered the Crow a home away from home.)  I quickly discovered that the slightly older and cooler staff of the Crow also revered the Talking Heads.  It was while visiting a co-worker, Carrie, who lived over the hill, that I first saw Stop Making Sense at the Capitola Theater—a wonderful, old, single-screen, quonset hut shaped theater.  I think that I actually saw this a little before the first time that I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and therefore running around the theater in tandem with Byrne running around the stage on-screen was my first experience of audience participation in a movie theater.  This film was also my first exposure to the funky, fabulous Tom Tom Club.

And my Upstart Crow co-workers didn't just reinforce my fondness for the Talking Heads, they also introduced me to Byrne's solo work (music for The Knee Plays remaining to this day my favorite) and collaborations with Brian Eno, such as My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.  (I also fell in love with The B-52's around this time, and am perhaps one of the few people who truly loves the David Byrne produced album, Mesopotamia.)

During the time that I was working at the Upstart Crow I saw the film True Stories.  It may be some indication of what a peculiar world view I had as a teenager that I not only adored this movie, I truly believed that everyone else would, too.  I still love it.  It is funny, odd, visually interesting and at times moving.  And, of course, it is full of David Byrne's music (sometimes with Talking Heads).

Talking Heads were my very first MTV band.  I listened to them almost non-stop throughout the 80s.  Stop Making Sense and True Stories were two of my favorite films.  However, my awareness of this fabulous band and the start of my concert-going career came just slightly too late for me to ever see them live.  Their last three or four albums were released after I discovered them, but they were already done with touring.  At least they were kind enough to make the best concert movie ever before they called it quits.

So kids, don't worry about the government.  We may be on a road to nowhere, but  just remain in light and listen to some more songs about buildings and food.