Talking Heads: Chronology Deluxe (2011)

The Talking Heads: Chronology Deluxe (2011) DVD is now available.

Beautifully put-together with classic performances and interviews, the viewer gets to see the transition from the early three-piece days (singer/songwriter/guitarist David Byrne, bassistTina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz in 1975) to a quartet (keyboardist/guitarist Jerry Harrison joined in 1977), on into an ensemble of multi-cultural proportions. The deluxe edition of the release will include a 48-page hard-cover book with photographs and an essay by the late Lester Bangs, originally published as a review of Fear Of Music for the Village Voice in 1979. The essay is the complete and unexpurgated version, available here for the first time.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1) Mic Test (1976)
  • 2) With Our Love (1975)
  • 3) I’m Not In Love (1975)
  • 4) Psycho Killer (1975)
  • 5) Intros Montage (1976)
  • 6) The Girls Want To Be With The Girls (1976)
  • 7) Don’t Worry About The Government (1978)
  • 8) Dressing room fan footage: Found A Job (1978)
  • 9) Thank You For Sending Me An Angel (1978)
  • 10) Warning Sign (1978)
  • 11) Artists Only (1979)
  • 12) Take Me To The River (1979)
  • 13) Crosseyed And Painless (1980)
  • 14) Animals (1980)
  • 15) Love → Building On Fire (1982)
  • 16) Cities (1982)
  • 17) Burning Down The House (1983)
  • 18) Life During Wartime (2002)

Though it may not seem it, this little project took years to pull together. I had seen much of this footage, and realized there might be an interesting video timeline of the various manifestations Talking Heads went through. But, tracking down all of the owners of these bits of footage and followed by getting the rights of the material was another matter. Some of the early clips were obviously not commercial—the sound and image can be a little rough in those—but you can see the extremely stripped down version of the band playing at CBGB in those days. These bits and pieces of footage coming together into a cohesive chronology morphed into something very different and impossible to predict.

This was very much a live band—at least until the late 80s. The initial recordings emerged out of what we played live, what worked in that context and how we refined our skills playing together. For a lot of musicians in the digital era this is not always the case. These days, the record often comes first and then how it is staged comes later. The Lester Bangs essay is also very much part of this time. Other than some very specific references, it holds up amazingly well as a passionate and idiosyncratic piece of writing. There’s a reason a lot of writers continue to hold him up as a role model (though I hope they bypass some of the substance abuse). Though his piece is in the form of a record review, it is in truth a beautiful existential rant—and I am proud to be in some way associated with it. Come to think of it, maybe many of these songs are partly something else in disguise as well?

With each iteration of Chronology, you can pretty plainly see what came before as well as a hint of what was to come—all easy to spot in retrospect, of course. There are some fashion don’ts as well as some prescient looks—but what you really get is a sense of how tight this band was. Of course, there is more footage to be found from these sources but I thought to myself, “How many versions of the same songs can one view?” I think the sampler approach gives the viewer a sense of the musical and performative changes we were going through, but without the possibly tedious repetition.

David Byrne
NYC

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