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- Posted on Apr 24th 2012 4:30PM by Chris Epting
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The recently released, career-spanning Talking Heads DVD "Chronology" features classic video performances and interviews that date back to the band's groundbreaking 1975 appearances at CBGB in New York City. The viewer gets to see the transition from the early three-piece days (singer/songwriter/guitarist David Byrne, bassist Tina 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.
From the early days at the Kitchen and CBGB in New York City to the massive global success in the 1980s, right up to the celebratory reunion performance of "Life During Wartime" when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, "Chronology" includes everything.
Loaded with bonus features and rarities, "Chronology" is a fascinating, "once in a lifetime" collection that we were thrilled to talk with Heads drummer Chris Frantz about. Frantz, who is married to Weymouth, has had many interesting musical excursions since the Talking Heads, but he seemed to genuinely enjoy the look back.
What is it like for you to journey back to those earliest of days for the Talking Heads?
Anybody who has been in music or the arts in general for 30 or 40 years, that career will have lots of twists and turns and ups and downs. And not all of the memories are rosy, but with the Talking Heads we were very fortunate and we all realized that and I think that the "Chronology" DVD reflects the sort of progress that we made over the years, from a little wobbly and jerky three-piece band that was very interesting, to a full-fledged juggernaut [laughs].
What a great new way for a younger generation to experience the band, huh?
It's a wonderful journey and of course now, there are quite a few people who were not around to have seen us at CBGB or other places. kids born in the 80s or even the 90s seeing the DVD and really digging it, so yes, I love that aspect of connecting generations of fans.
How lucky that someone thought to record some of those more obscure moments, like in 1975.
Amazing, right? Those were students from the NYU film school. They had what was called a Portapak that was made by Sony. It was a big, heavy unit that hung over your shoulder with a camera attached to it by a cable, and it was the first portable video unit. That's how those early pieces were shot, and I'm so happy they did it. Unlike bands like the Clash or the Sex Pistols, we didn't always have a photographer present when we did anything
Being schooled in visuals, we should have thought about it. We should have invested in a camera! Not only that, we didn't even have a tape recorder. It wasn't until our first album that we even knew what we sounded like [laughs].
Did you realize what was happening in New York back then? Did the gravity of that musical movement seem evident as it was happening?
It really did. It was all exciting for us, but we also sensed also that something historic was happening, or at least would be historic someday. I think we became aware of it when we saw people from Japan, Italian journalists and Dutch and French journalists coming in and doing stories about the bands at CBGB. It was a tiny little scene but it had an international impact. And I'll say it again -- we were very lucky to be in the right place at the right time.
The Talking Heads helped make it the right place at the right time
Thank you. I think most of the bands that played at CBGB back then knew something was up. It reminded me of growing up and learning about the Beatles, and I'd read about the Cavern Club and Liverpool and the clubs in Hamburg, the Star Club or whatever, it was like that. It was a place where rock music was raw and vital. And CBGB was like an incubator. Not like today where a band is thrust into the mainstream overnight or whatever. We played there for a few years before we made a record, and so did a lot of the other bands. You had time to make mistakes and you had time to grow artistically. It's a different world now. Like someone said, it's not survival of the fittest, it's survival of the most adaptable.
Are there one or two pieces on "Chronology" that stand out in your view or that you have special memories of?
Two come to mind right away. One is playing "Psycho Killer" at CBGB in the very early stages. Then there was the free lunchtime concert we did at the University of California at Berkeley at Sproul Plaza. That was the birthplace of the free-speech movement with Mario Savio, where all of that happened. We knew that then, and when we came off the stage somebody said, "Oh my god, have you head the news?" We were like, "No, what?" They said, "Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk have just been shot." And so that was a wild experience.
Oh, and being on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand," when we did "Take Me to the River," meant a lot to us. [It was] actually the first time we had ever done a lip synch. That's what bands did on that show. Growing up watching "American Bandstand" on TV, seeing Dick Clark in every possible medium -- TV, film magazines, books -- it meant a lot to us to be a part of that.
Do you ever get tired about questions regarding a Talking Heads reunion?
I would be disappointed if people stopped asking about that. I'm not holding my breath but I still have my hopes that maybe someday David will call and say,"You know, I should give Chris and Tina and Jerry a call and do something with them." And why not, you know? We make a pretty good team.