Forty years ago – on December 18, 1980 – Talking Heads played a concert in Rome that was filmed for broadcast on Italian TV. The band's fourth album, Remain In Light, had been out for two months.
To bring their new songs to life on stage, Talking Heads – David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth, and Jerry Harrison – hired several additional musicians: Adrian Belew (guitarist), Bernie Worrell (keyboardist), Buster Jones (bass), Steve Scales (percussion), and Dolette MacDonald (vocals, percussion).
If I was allowed only one Talking Heads album, I'd grab Remain in Light. (Actually, I'd take the expanded CD reissue of The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads, but that's cheating.) Side A of Remain in Light is the sole reason for my choice. "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)", "Crosseyed and Painless", and "The Great Curve" comprise one of the most astonishing album sides in rock and roll history.
Frantz always described the band as playing "thinking man's dance music". For this album, with Brian Eno collaborating as a fifth member, Talking Heads added African polyrhythms, funk, tape loops, and electronics to their unique sound, and Byrne's lyrics evolved into something akin to William Burroughs's cut-up technique.
Lost my shape, trying to act casual
Can't stop, I might end up in the hospital
I'm changing my shape, I feel like an accident
They're back, to explain their experience . . .
There was a line, there was a formula
Sharp as a knife, facts cut a hole in us . . .
The island of doubt, it's like the taste of medicine
Working by hindsight, got the message from the oxygen
Making a list, find the cost of opportunity
Doing it right, facts are useless in emergencies
I would have loved to see this band, but my only Talking Heads concert was a few years later: October 1, 1983, on the Stop Making Sense tour.
December 18, 1980 – Set List
Take Me to the River
Crosseyed and Painless
Life During Wartime
Houses in Motion
Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
The Great Curve
November 4, 1980 – Capitol Theater, Passaic, New Jersey
December 20, 1980 – Westfalenhalle, Dortmund, Germany
August 23, 1980 – Heatwave Festival, Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada
December 11, 1980 – Jaap Eden Hall, Amsterdam, Holland
December 16, 1980 – Palasport, Bologna, Italy