Friday, February 22, 2019

Talking Heads 5: The Name Of This Band

After a pretty busy couple of years, David Byrne was delving further into art-rock on his own, and the Talking Heads rhythm section made an album under the guise of Tom Tom Club, which would prove one day to be more lucrative for them than anything they did in the band. Even Jerry Harrison did a solo album.
Fearing group inactivity for who knew how long, the label smartly issued a double-live album with a twist. The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads spanned their career to date, beginning with a radio broadcast from 1977 on side one (likely not in the living room setting shown on the front cover, sadly), then moving to a larger-capacity theater in 1979 on side two. The other two sides dip into shows from the tour supporting Remain In Light, wherein they recruited extra musicians, some of whom were already known, to translate their evolved sound: Adrian Belew on guitar, Bernie Worrell on keyboards, Steve Scales on percussion, “Busta Cherry” Jones on bass, and backup singers Nona Hendryx and Dolette McDonald.
Despite the difference in sound between the eras, the album is sequenced in such a way that it flows. Of course, it helps that David Byrne’s goofy delivery is up front and center. As a historical document it works, being the first LP appearance of “Love → Buildings On Fire”, as well as offering pre-release versions of “Air” and “Memories Can’t Wait”, plus the otherwise unavailable “A Clean Break”; cassette buyers got a bonus in the form of “Cities”. It also served as a hits overview, with such favorites as “Psycho Killer”, “Life During Wartime”, and “Take Me To The River”, scattered throughout, in familiar arrangements. (Note: this is called foreshadowing. All will be revealed in time.)
For some reason, The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads was unavailable on CD for two decades, despite being able to fit onto a single disc. So it’s to their credit that when it did appear, it was doubled in length, bolstering both eras for a double-CD set packed to the gills.
An early version of “Drugs” appears in the first half, amidst some tracks taken from a promotional LP of a different radio broadcast and other sources, but what were sides one and two appear in sequence within themselves. To make the most of the later stuff, the same shows were mined, but now all the songs appear in an order to approximate the actual setlist, as well as preserve the flow. A couple of songs are repeated in this half, and the first tentative minute of “Crosseyed And Painless” is chopped off, going straight to the familiar groove, but sacrifices had to be made. Throughout, it’s clear—these guys were tight.

Talking Heads The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads (1982)—
2004 expanded reissue: same as 1982, plus 16 extra tracks

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