The Heads

Liberty Lunch

Thursday, October 17 The myth of Talking Heads was that David Byrne was the band's sole visionary; that's the privilege of a frontman -- no matter what, he looks like the leader. What's so astonishing in the wake of Byrne's refusal to re-group and subsequent lawsuit against his former bandmates, is how strong a musical unit the Heads have emerged on their new record No Talking Just Head, since legally, there really is no more Talking.

That's just fine by keyboard player Jerry Harrison, who along with bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz in the late Seventies, gave the band its poppy but clever rhythms, a quirky bottom line that was the perfect antidote to punk and boasted smart lyrics to match. The classic Talking Heads line-up produced a sound and direction still unmatched, but the band ultimately imploded into other projects: films, acting, film scoring, production, side bands, parenthood. By the mid-Eighties, the band that once had been the best working band in America became a memory.

"Talking Heads didn't just stop, we kept talking about doing things together but David's interest in it just seemed to fade as he got busier and busier," reveals Harrison.

"At one point, Chris and Tina and I said, "Well, if we're not gonna put together an album with David, that doesn't mean we can't do one ourselves. And once we started writing, there was this connection with Talking Heads in the music we were creating: Three-quarters is three-quarters. We were aware this wasn't totally new and yet it wasn't a rehash of the past, either."

But who will listen to the Heads in 1996? Even post-punkers who discovered meaningful lyricism via Fear of Music are 15 years older. Will Eddie Vedderites get their angst yah-yahs with ex-Concrete Blonde mistress Johnette Napolitano at the mike?

"I guess we hope there's enough airplay to get a new crowd," laughs Harrison. "I mean, just as with solo careers, you'll start with old-time fans who are usually smart enough to love the whole band and not just focused on David. This is a period of transition for us -- this is obviously not like [the] Stop Making Sense tour, it's not going to be the hits of five or six records. We do play some old stuff, even some obscure stuff like `Memories Can't Wait' and `Warning Sign' -- for the really longtime fans. It's not the same as having David sing them, but I think our audience understands this and is happy to hear it. We have a shared collective past through this music, let's honor it."

-- Margaret Moser

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