Talking Heads, Heatwave, talk

The Talking Heads debuted their "Remain In Light" (iTunes) material at the Heatwave Festival in Canada, 1980. As Animal Collective starts to add an Afropop feel to their new songs, it's interesting to go back and see perhaps the most famous incorporation of African sounds into modern American music. Let's read the words of someone who was there, guitar and multi-instrument virtuoso Adrian Belew (wiki), who recounts in his blog how he joined the Talking Heads for this legendary performance in a post titled "How Not To Join A Famous Band":

"in 1980 I received a call asking me to come to new york city to rehearse for four days in order to learn the Talking Heads record remain in light. only months before I had recorded the record all in one day with the heads and brian eno. talking heads had the idea to expand their normal quartet to a thumping funky 10-piece band with two bass players, two keyboard players, two guitar players, two female back-up singers, one drummer and one percussionist (note: added were Belew, Busta Jones (bass), Steve Scales (percussion), Dolette McDonald, Nona Hendryx (both on vocals), and Bernie Worrell (keys). and we were going to learn the very layered studio monster remain in light in four days and then play two shows! somehow we did it, we learned the record and several songs from other records. but just barely. and just in time to board a plane for our first show in toronto. only then did we see the whole enchilada. our first show was a festival of 70,000 people! they flew us to the vast backstage area in helicopters. looking down at the sea of tiny flesh baffles, I was nervous enough to jump out in mid-air. it seemed like all the hip bands of the moment were present. the B-52's, the pretenders, elvis costello, the clash. it was called the heatwave festival, billed as the first "new wave" festival, and was actually in a place called mosport park. dave edmunds and nick lowe played. the pretenders played. the B 52's played. minutes before we were set to play I opened the door to our backstage trailer to discover most of the band snorting lines of coke from the backs of guitars. they quickly shooed me away, knowing I didn't partake. the timing of our performance was fortuitous; just as the sun was setting. I joined the original four heads to play psycho killer, then the full band was brought onstage. we launched right into the new material. no one in the audience even knew the remain in light record as yet but it didn't matter. the band was smoking! halfway through our set we played a song from fear of music called I zimbra. on the recorded version robert had played a fast running guitar line. as soon as we started that song I could tell the coke had kicked in. we played it twice as fast as it was on the record! my fingers had a hard time keeping up and I was worried our 45-minute set might be over in 20. but it all worked out. the band was an instant success. for our second show we played in central park but only 125,000 people showed up! at the time you couldn't go into a bookstore, bar, record shop, or restaurant without hearing talking heads music in the background. (kind of like rascal flatts in mt. juliet nowadays.) it was an exciting time to be in the band. david, chris, tina, and jerry decided to keep the 10-piece funk machine rolling for a whole world tour including japan and europe. it was a wacky cast of characters to live with and we had loads of fun."


Heatwave Festival
August 23, 1980
Ontario, Canada

1 Psycho Killer
2 Warning Sign
3 Stay Hungry
4 Cities
5 I Zimbra
6 Once In A Lifetime
7 Houses In Motion
8 Born Under Punches
9 Crosseyed And Painless
10 Life During Wartime
11 Take Me To The River
12 Take Me To The River (continued)

The soundboard master cut out at the very end, so the remainder of "TMTTR" is from an audience source.

Belew's current post talks about him joining up with Frank Zappa... it's so great to see a legend take the time to share good stories, and Belew is indeed a legend - besides the Heads and Zappa he's played with King Crimson, David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, Tom Tom Club, Paul Simon's "Graceland", Nine Inch Nails, yada yada yada. A freakin legend. Buy his freakin albums (directly from the artist, click "store")!

Everybody needs a physical Talking Heads album in their collection.

Also check out Francey's excellent Taking Heads fan page with a BBC radio doc and loads of other good stuff